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How large of a sail boat can one person sail alone and what type of keel is best?

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2012-04-12 12:38:50
2012-04-12 12:38:50

My father sails a 40 ft. sailboat, solo at times!

Statistics have the majority of coastal solo-sailors in boats between 27 and 35 ft. However, with the advancements in sailing technology, several yachtsman are solo-racing boats to 60ft and some even larger.

If you are considering a boat for yourself, I recommend you do a skills assessment, and step onto a few boats rigged for short-handed sailing, and see where you are comfortable.

Good luck...happy sailing!

As to the keel, I'm sort of a fan of wing keels in that they provide improved lateral resistance and yet don't draw as much. They also seem better able to withstand a grounding.

It also depends on the type of boat if it is a cat then you can run lines back for solo and you usually have mini keels.

Most sailboats have a swing not wing keel. Having a fixed keel makes beaching a boat very hard. Anyway on a trailer the fixed keel will be very high (The height of the boat AND the keel). With a swing keel JUST the height of the boat. Have fun and stay dry!

Keels -- different approaches.

My thinking goes like this:

I don't expect to do a lot of portage personally, so highway transport of the boat isn't, for me, a factor. If it is for you, by all means include that into your calculations. I selected a wing keel in that the lateral resistance is quite high in ratio to the draft ... so you run less risk of unintentional grounding, and you can actually safely beach the boat on its keel under the right circumstances, although you wont be able to take up up on dry sand without an impressive tide.

Two major factors, however, inform my selection. First is that dynamic or swing keels just aren't as strong as fixed keels. There's a movable joint involved, which weakens the keel, no matter how you work things out. On trailer, no problem. Far from land, however, and a loose or worse -- lost -- keel can be deadly, as it's VERY hard (and depending on the boat, potentially impossible) to sail without a keel. If you're a coaster and never far from shore, the risk is lessened. Blue water passages, however, are more risky.

Second, it's difficult to add what I consider sufficient weight to a swing keel without making it unwieldy. Lower than ideal weight reduces righting moment, which in turn causes a cascade of unpleasant effects. Among these, knockdowns change from scary but usually harmless events to potential disasters, as the boat has a far greater chance of not righting. Also, you tend to heel more in higher winders, which makes for a wetter, more dangerous ride and the loss of a few points closer to weather that you can sail with deeper, heavier keels.

So -- are you strictly weekending, trailering, coasting? Swing keels may be for you. However, if you're planning on being at sea for a while, rarely portaging, and doing more blue water passages, you might want to think harder about a fixed keel.

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