centerboard sailboats

Centerboard (Swing Keel) vs. Fixed Keel: Pros and Cons

Picking the right sailboat keel takes some understanding of the pros and cons of each. To help you out, I'll list the pros and cons of fixed vs. swing keels on sailboats in this article.

Fixed keels offer better performance than swing keels and centerboards, since they are more comfortable and faster. They require less maintenance. However, swing keels offer a low draft, and are less prone to damage when running aground. Swing keels can also be trailered, making them easier to transport.

Fixed Keels: Pros vs. Cons

Swing keels: pros vs. cons.

Let's see what's hidden under these claims.

centerboard sailboats

On this page:

The difference between fixed, swing, and centerboard keels, pros of fixed keels, cons of fixed keels, pros of swing keels, cons of swing keels, swing keel or fixed keel: which one is for you.

Just to make sure we all know what is being talked about, let's first briefly discuss the terms.

  • Fixed keels are immovable and part of the structure of the hull
  • Swing keels are on a hinge, allowing you to change the angle
  • Centerboard keels are a board that you can lower through a slit in the hull

Brief explanation of fixed keels

A fixed keel is just what it sounds like. It's a keel that stays in its place and is immovable.

No matter its size, shape, or weight, it is a keel that doesn't move relative to the boat. It is also the most traditional one you will encounter.

centerboard sailboats

Brief explanation of swing keels

A swing keel is one that has a variable position. Meaning you can change its angle, you can retract it to the boat's hull, sometimes you can take it away completely.

A typical swing keel will hang on a hinge of sorts while being attached to the boat with a line, a cable, or anything that will enable you to pull it up.

These too come in all shapes and sizes, though they are usually lighter, unweighted.

More detailed look at swing keels: For a detailed explanation of swing keels (also called lifting keels), I recommend reading Shawn's detailed article explaining the swing keel's properties, advantages and disadvantages using clear diagrams and examples.

Brief explanation of centerboard keels

To make things a bit more interesting, let's add another one. Centerboard keels are often being put in the same category as swing keels, but that is not always the case. But since there is a lot of mix-up in terminology regarding this one, I will put them in the same category too.

Not that I'd want to confuse you, but if I go by the correct terms, you might come across different ones when looking up your desired boat's stats.

An example of a typical centerboard would be a keel you see on small sailing dinghies - a board that goes into a slit in the hull's bottom and can be taken out completely, depending on your needs.

centerboard sailboats

Now to help you with your decision - this isn't a matter of better or worse. While fixed keels are kind of the standard, and tend to offer the best performance and convenience, the need for those with variable depth arose from the need for less draft.

Because performance and convenience do nothing for you if your boat runs aground and can't move.

Understanding Keel Design Fundamentals in 10 minutes

There are too many keel types to get into in this article. For a more detailed explanation of keel design fundamentals, I recommend you go through our Illustrated Guide to Sailboat Keel Types . It also contains a full list of the most common keel designs and their properties . Simply skimming it will help you understand the basics in ten minutes or less. Get the full picture on keel design

Fixed keels are more durable

The first point to mention here surely is durability. A fixed keel has no moving parts, so less chance of something breaking, less need for maintenance, and less hassle with mechanical parts.

This might not seem like much of a plus to many, but spend a few weeks on a sailboat, or plan a more ambitious journey such as an ocean crossing and you will find that maintenance is a big part of it all. And you will be thankful for every bit of the boat that doesn't require much of it and can take care of itself.

Fixed keels have a fixed draft

Another advantage is that you have a fixed draft to think about, no need to lift keels, or calculate where you can go - so your sail will be a bit more stress-free. In a way.

centerboard sailboats

Fixed keels are more stable

The biggest point of them all though is performance. Fixed keels are almost always weighted, they offer good counterbalance to heeling and can help you with both sailing upwind and your boat's stability and a smoother ride.

That is why for most long-distance cruisers or racing boats, a fixed keel will likely be the weapon of choice.

But the above point is also relative since there are weighted swing keels - more on that later.

More prone to damage in shallows

What you got is what you got. If your draft is 10 feet, that is how deep you can run before risking damage, end of story. So you are automatically disqualified from entering certain places.

I personally don't see that as an issue but that is mostly owed to where I sail. If I spent more time on lakes or shallow waters, I might rethink my preferences. I've heard Florida tends to be quite depthless.

All the bays that are off-limits for a fixed keel, or anchorages where you pray you won't drag since there isn't much wiggle room … a lifting keel can take quite a lot of pressure off your hands.

If you do want to opt for a fixed keel, take a look at full keels instead of the more popular modern fin keel designs. Surprisingly, the more stable full keel design provides equal stability and durability at a lower draft . William took a very close look at the advantages of the full keel design and has written an excellent article that will run you through each of the full keel's specific benefits.

Fixed keels will damage when running aground

If you do run aground, chances are you will damage your boat. Freeing yourself from running aground is a lot easier with a swing keel. Sometimes you'll have no option but to wait until the tide rises. Not even another boat can drag a well dug-in fixed keel.

Swing keels offer very low drafts

The obvious advantage is the fact your draft will go to a minimum. The numbers depend on the specific model, some keels can be retracted more than others, but having the versatility pays off in many locations.

Lake sailors will appreciate this. So will people who happen to be in naturally shallow areas. There are marinas unsuitable for deep draft sailboats and having the option to change your draft can come in handy in some places.

They are less prone to damage when running aground

And if you do happen to run aground, it doesn't have to be an issue. The swing keel can simply swing as much as needed and you can slide over the bump. More or less. Having a negotiable draft would have saved many sailors annoying and expensive repairs.

They are easy to debeach

And in case you do get beached, getting out of such a situation is easier. Sometimes it can be as swift as lifting the keel and motoring away.

Swing keels can be trailered

Then there is the matter of getting the boat out of the water and trailering it. It can be as easy as popping the keel up, driving the boat on a towable trailer, and voila. Try doing that with a fixed keel. Transporting your boat will be much easier, which is why this design is popular with weekend sailors .

centerboard sailboats

Easier to work on on-shore

Last and also least, since this isn't such a big deal, the ability to minimize the draft can come in handy when working on your boat once it is on shore. You might be able to reach your hull without ladders or scaffolding, making the access way more convenient.

Swing keels are slower and less stable

Putting the precise terminology aside, swing keels, centerboards or daggerboards, are less likely to be weighted. Thus you might end up with one that provides very little in terms of counterbalance and that reduces performance greatly.

Though as hinted before, there are weighted swing keels available. Some so heavy that you won't see a difference between them and fixed keels performance-wise.

For cruisers who don't care about performance that much, as long as they get to their destination, this won't matter. But if you care about speed, well, there is a reason why you won't see many swing keel racing boats.

They require a lot more maintenance

The biggest one though is maintenance. This is such a big part of having a swing keel boat that there are manufacturers who will prompt you to check the keel before every use. And that can get a bit daunting.

There is the line used for pulling the keel up, a winch of some sort (though you can do this by hand on smaller boats), the hinges, and the means of attaching everything together, whatever the system. All of this requires regular maintenance, or your keel might snap of (it happens).

centerboard sailboats

As is usual, it all depends on the way you use your boat. Some boat designs seem nonsensical to many, but there is usually a good reason why they came into existence. A swing keel is no different.

If made to choose between a swing and fixed keel, my choice would be a fixed keel any day of the week, but that is determined by my preferences and where I sail the most (as well as my love for uncompromised performance and unreasonably high fear of capsizing - which is more likely with an unweighted swing keel than one that runs deep and stays there permanently).

Lake sailors, those who find themselves in shallows, or those who like to park their boats on beaches every now and then are better off with a swing keel. Those who know they can't avoid the occasional touchdown, perhaps simply because they sail in unpredictable waters, will probably do well to choose this design too. If you trailer your boat often, have a daysailor that you want to back into your garage after a day on the water, the choice is quite clear as well.`

Helping you decide on the best keel design

There are dozens of keel designs out there, and each type serves a different purpose and excels under different conditions. To understand which keel type is best for your situation , I recommend you read our Illustrated Guide to Sailboat Keel Types , which contains the fundamentals of keel design and an overview for each keel type's characteristics (including diagrams). It will help you understand which keel designs to consider in ten minutes or less.

There are many sailboats to choose from on both sides of the camp and if you are looking for people's experiences, you are in luck - this is one of the rare topics that doesn't divide sailors, so asking a question in an online forum won't bring an armada of fighters for this or that side - rather a bunch of helpful folks.

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You may also like, sailboat keel types: illustrated guide (bilge, fin, full).

The keel type is one of the most important features of your boat. But the different designs can be confusing, so I've set out to create a very clear guide that will …

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  • Sailboat Reviews

New J/95 Centerboard Sailboat is Fit for Shallow Water

J/boats new shoalsailer redraws the playing field for fast daysailers..

centerboard sailboats

Given the grief that poor centerboard designs from the 1970s have caused sailers over the years, we were surprised to learn that J/Boats-known for its measured approach to the boat business (don’t let that radical backslash fool you)-put a centerboard in its new J/95.

Yes, swing-keel centerboards, those bronze, steel, or fiberglass foils that hinge from the keel like the blade on a Swiss army knife, are making a comeback. This is great news for shoalwater sailers who, for lack of other options, have tolerated decades-old centerboarders and the many ailments that plague them-corroded lifting cables, pulverized turning sheaves, and a thunk, thunk, thunk in the centerboard trunk. Fortunately for them, advances in materials and design have yielded a whole new breed of centerboarder. The J/95, it is safe to say, is not your fathers Irwin 38.

The last time centerboards were all the rage, through the 1950s and into the 1960s, it was because Northeast sailors didnt want to leave their good crystal at home when they raced off to Bermuda. In the Cruising Club of Americas (CCA) quest for a rating rule that favored velvet and walnut interiors, centerboarders gained a significant edge, and few boats took advantage of rule loopholes as well as the legendary Sparkman & Stephens-designed Finisterre. The boat achieved myth-like status in 1960, when owner and skipper Carleton Mitchell won the Newport to Bermuda race for an unprecedented third consecutive time.

When Mitchell died in 2007 at the age of 96, he was rightly hailed as a sailing legend. A one-time underwear salesman who married into a fortune, he served as a Navy combat photographer in World War II before pursuing in earnest a lifelong passion for sailing. In the decades after the war, he earned renown not only for his seamanship but also for his talent as a magazine writer, author, and photographer. The museum at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut holds his large collection of manuscripts and more than 20,000 of his photographs.

Today, Mitchell and Finisterre stand as icons from a golden era, doomed to an eternal afterlife in new boat marketing literature. But when J/Boats alluded to Carleton Mitchell and Finisterre in brochures for the J/95, we wanted a bottle of whatever theyre putting in the company watercooler. Except for a hinged keel and an inclination to float, the two boats are as alike as Neil Simons Felix and Oscar.

Introduced last year, the balsa-core J/95 is a lightweight, 30-foot daysailer with a plumb bow, twin-rudders, a sleek hull form, and a Spartan interior. Launched in 1954, 38-foot Finisterre is a double-planked heavy displacement racer-cruiser with a spoon bow, yawl rig, and almost swanky accommodations (the last three are all convenient CCA rule-beaters).

The reference to Finisterre is smart promotional shtick. The name offers J/Boats-and it is hardly the only company that has drafted on Finisterres fame-an instant connection to the sailors it seeks to entice with the J/95.

Like Morris, Sabre, Friendship, and the other makers of high-end trophy daysailers we reviewed in the January 2009 issue, the J/95 is aimed at recession-proof sailors who share Mitchells aesthetic tastes and passion for sailing. But unlike previous entries in this market, the J/95 sails in four feet of water and offers, in many ways, a saner approach to what dealers are calling “right-sizing.” (No salesman worth his salt would utter the more accurate word, “downsizing,” to a potential buyer of these boats.)

End of an era

The J/95 is the brainchild of Rod Johnstone, a man whose fairy-tale success is well known to longtime PS readers. Back in 1976, Johnstone built a fast little boat called Ragtime in his garage in Connecticut. It promptly trounced the local racers, who started asking Johnstone for their own.

At the time, Johnstone was an ad salesman for Soundings magazine and turned to his client Everett Pearson of TPI Inc. to produce the boat as the J/24. (The J is for Johnstone, the slash, were convinced, is meant to torment copy editors.) J/24s started rolling off the production line at TPI in February 1977. Bob Johnstone, the family marketing ace, left AMF Alcort (makers of the Sunfish) to join Rod as a partner, and crank up the boat sales to unprecedented numbers. Still in production, the J/24 remains one of the most popular sailboats in the world.

The mission for the J/95 is one of those hyphen-rich, have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too quests. Rod Johnstone wanted a wind-in-your-hair, but easy-to-sail weekender that catered to the huge population of sailors who must contend with depths of four feet our less. Being competitive in club or Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF), and, of course, a fantastically popular one-design class were also part of the dream.

“We wanted to make this a boat people would want sail, sail right up the river or creek, right up to their dock, sail in light winds, sail in 20 knots,” says Johnstone. “In my view, if you want to turn on the engine, this boat is a failure.”

When held up against the current crop of J/Boats, the J/95 is probably closest to the J/105, a popular one-design class boat launched in 1992. Both boats have similar deck layouts, and both feature a low cabintop and gentle sheer that give them good-looking profiles.

Although the J/105s deeper fin keel gives it a performance edge, Johnstone says that in brisk conditions, the J/95, with 2,250 pounds of lead ballast, can stay with the J/105 in a heavy-weather beat. Johnstones explanation for this sheds some light on why many CCA-rule boats remain popular as cruisers.

While the long bulb keel that is the norm in todays racing boats offers superior lift, it can create a pendulum-like pitch and roll and in a seaway. The J/95, with the center of ballast closer to the flotation plane, resists this tendency, making for a more efficient-and more comfortable-ride.

Of course, any of the J/95s gains during a rough beat are soon relinquished to the J/105s longer waterline on a downwind leg, but the point is made.

Compared to contemporary production shoal-draft boats, the J/95 has a key design advantage: twin rudders angled outward at 15 degrees. This means at least one rudder is always immersed, giving the boat predictable tracking, even when heeled. As pointed out in our February 2009 report on hull design, trying to steer the beamy Open Class-inspired hulls with a single shallow rudder can be maddening. In the most extreme cases, a modest puff of 16 knots sends the boat rounding up sharply to windward.

The price for the J/95s shallower draft is ultimate stability. According to J/Boats, the boat has a limit of positive stability of 126, well within the minimum of 120 recommended for offshore racing and fine for daysailing. The 200-pound centerboard doesn’t lock down, but should the board kick up in a grounding or crash downward a 160-degree capsize, it will connect with the soft lead keel and cause no harm to the hull. J/Boats said such an event would not damage the hull. (With our insurance premiums being what the are, we did not test this feature.)

Deck Layout

J/Boats has had plenty of practice pondering deck layouts on race boats, and those same details translate well to any good daysailer. As Johnstone points out, the features that bring efficiency on the race course-broad sidedecks, ergonomic cockpit layout, plenty of mechanical advantage-are equally kind to a titanium knees and hips.

“It just makes me sad to see people I know-friends, no less!-going out and getting power boats because they feel that they can’t sail anymore,” Johnstone grumbles. “And then they realize, too late sometimes, that they have to put up with all that noise.”

New J/95 Centerboard Sailboat is Fit for Shallow Water

During the design phase, there was some discussion over tiller versus wheel. J/purists might clamor for a tiller, especially those bent on racing, but at what price? Cockpit space would suffer. Comfort and convenience, too.

The 44-inch Edson wheel fits nicely into the wide T-shaped aft section. Two angled chocks provide footing on a heel, and we found the windward rail to be a comfortable spot on a close reach. The transom is open, and the boat we sailed had an optional removable transom-seat locker. Even with the seat-locker in place, theres room behind the wheel.

The cockpit seats arent long enough for snoozing, and an extra inch of back support would be nice, but all in all, the cockpit caters well to crew comfort under way. The seats inside edges are angled upward slightly to anchor the tush, and the seat lockers offer ample space for sail and gear storage. The broad flat coaming is as comfortable a perch as the cockpit seats themselves. Owners can opt for either a full length toerail or one that ends forward of the cockpit. Teak is an option, but one of the appeals of the boat is its ease of maintenance.

The Harken sail controls are geared for minimal effort. The mainsheet (5:1-ratio with a 10:1-ratio fine-tuning adjustment), rides in front of the steering binnacle on an easily-trimmed traveler (4:1-ratio). A Hall Spars Quick Vang (5:1 ratio) handles boom tension.

The jibsheets lead to two 40.2STA two-speed self-tailing winches. The helmsman can easily trim the mainsheet from the windward rail, while the jib sheet winches are placed so that the trimmer can comfortably face forward. Casually seated on the coaming just in front of the wheel, the single-hander can tweak both the main and jib sheets.

The standard working jib is a roller-furling 105 that tacks easily through the foretriangle and leads to a jib track inside the shrouds. We kept the leads pinned just aft of the shrouds during the test sail and saw no need to change them. For PHRF racing, a second track is installed to handle the 150 genoa. (The boats PHRF rating is about 109.)

A Harken 32.2 two-speed self-tailing winch and a gang of three Spinlock rope clutches on the port side of the companionway tame the halyards and the centerboard. We didnt need the winch (or anti-inflammatories) to raise the centerboard, as the 5:1-ratio block and tackle gave plenty of mechanical advantage.

Passage fore and aft is wide and clear of obstructions, with stainless-steel handrails on the coachroof adding security. Eight-inch stainless steel cleats and a modest anchor locker round out the very functional deck layout.

Interior and Systems

With the J/95s emphasis on nice lines and a functional deck layout, its no surprise that the accommodations get the short shrift. Though its billed as a weekender, we call it a daysailer.

For boat camping, the layout takes care of the bare essentials. Two settee berths in the main cabin offer room to recline, but headroom, even when sitting, is tight. A Raritan head (served by a 14-gallon holding tank) shares space with a V-berth forward. A forward hatch and two ports keep the cabin aired out.

There is no nav station or galley, not even a stove, although hull No. 1 was equipped with AC shorepower and a microwave oven. A 48-quart cooler or a portable 12-volt Waeco fridge ( PS , May 2007) tucks aft of the port settee. An optional Group 27 house battery will keep the fridge running for a long day without charging.

Optional water tankage is in a 20-gallon bladder that feeds a pressure pump in the head and a cockpit shower. Fuel is in a 15-gallon tank beneath the port cockpit locker. PS generally prefers aluminum tanks for this purpose, but for a tank this small, a baffled polyethylene tank is a tolerable substitute.

The two-cylinder 14-horsepower Yanmar with a saildrive and Flex-O-Fold prop sits beneath slide-out companionway steps. Access is good except for servicing the water and primary fuel filters, when you need to make an awkward reach through a bulkhead cutout. J/Boats says it has worked closely with Yanmar to insure that the saildrive is protected from any galvanic corrosion. Regardless, engine zincs bear watching.

Now for the downers: Like some other Open Class imitators (Beneteau First 10R comes to mind), J/Boats hasn’t yet sorted out how to drain the boats shallow bilge without a sponge. The narrowest electric pump doesn’t fit into the tight squeeze in the sump. It sits on a riser pad, which means the last three inches of water make for an inviting frog pond.

To complicate matters, the hose on our test boats manual pump wheezed at a leaky hose union, rendering the pump useless. A leaky union-or any union at all-in an emergency bilge hose is not the sort of thing wed expect from J/Boats. (The local J/Boat dealer assured us this problem would be fixed immediately.)

We also took issue with the bilges drainage system. A single limber hole less than 3/4-inch in diameter separates the back section of the hull from the main bilge sump. Should a cockpit locker open in a knockdown and seawater flood the aft compartment, most of the water wouldnt reach the pumps until it flowed through that thimble-sized limber hole. In our view, the boat should either have freer flowing limber holes or a pump to serve each large compartment.

Finally, J/Boats was asleep at the wheel when they addressed the emergency tiller on our test boat. There was no dedicated place to stow the tiller, and the deck key used to install it was found in the cabin below, instead of with the tiller. Installed, the rudder worked fine, much better than others weve ranted about.


We test sailed hull No. 10 in the Gulf of Mexico off of Naples, Fla. The boat was equipped with racing cut Doyle Technora sails: a partially battened mainsail and a roller-furling 105 genoa. A 680-square-foot asymmetrical spinnaker can fly from the retractable bowsprit, but with squalls to the east and just two people on board, this spinnaker stayed in the forepeak.

New J/95 Centerboard Sailboat is Fit for Shallow Water

True wind was from the east at 6-8 knots with gusts to about 17 knots when the rain came. Seas were 1-2 feet.

Under power at 2,800 RPM, the boat averaged 6 knots and at 3,250 RPM 7 knots. At wide open throttle in flat water, it held 7.4 knots. Handling under power with the twin rudders was excellent. With the centerboard up or down, the J/95 easily spun in its own length. Not only is this an advantage when docking, but should a crew member fall overboard, a well-drilled crew should be able to execute a near-perfect Quick Stop maneuver (see January 2010 issue).

On a close reach in about 8 knots of breeze, the boat averaged 5.3 knots and tacked through 92 degrees, including any leeway, with the board up. With the board down in about 12-14 knots of breeze, the boat averaged 6.3 knots and gained about 2 degrees to windward on each tack.

J/Boats advertises upwind speeds of 6.5 knots and tacking angles of less than 90 degrees with the board up, and angles better than 85 degrees with the board down. Based on the test boats performance, this is well within reach of a well-sailed, well-tuned boat. The fastest average speed under sail came when a squall brought about 15 knots of wind on the beam. With the true wind at 120 degrees, the boat marched off at 7.2 knots, taking the strongest gusts in stride.

In terms of handling and balance, the J/95 sailed exceptionally well, holding a groove better than many larger boats weve tested. Johnstone attributes the reliable helm control to the twin rudder design. Many good CCA-era boats, Johnston points out, ran into trouble when the wind piped up.

“On some of the old boats, and on many shoal-draft boats today, when the boat heels over, there just isn’t enough rudder in the water for it to do its job,” says Johnstone. “The twin rudders are key to making this design work.”

Board up or board down, the boat handled gusts extremely well, never once heeling excessively or fighting to round up. Close hauled and reaching, the boat balanced superbly, and even with the wind aft of the beam and the sails trimmed for speed, the helm delivered finger-tip control.

Although we could point the boat slightly higher with the 200-pound centerboard lowered, the most noticeable effect of lowering the board was a stiffer ride and a reduced angle of heel.

Given the anemic state of the new sailboat market, J/Boats initially expected to sell one J/95 a month until buyers hopped off the fence. Nine months into production, the company was on hull No. 18, and interest in the boat doesn’t show any sign of waning soon.

Its success can be partly attributed to the J/Boat name and the southward migration of aging Boomers, who are settling into retirement homes on the shallow estuaries of Florida and the Carolinas. No question, if you are a shallow-water sailor looking for a high-performance daysailer thats easy to sail right from your backyard dock, the J/95 has few peers. Whether the model takes off as a one-design fleet or the thin-water sailors preferred PHRF boat will depend on what the future holds.

One question mark is price. True, a bronze centerboard adds significant construction costs (about $15,000 according to Rod Johnstone), but a $180,000 day boat with camp-style amenities is a not our idea of a contender in the one-design realm. And if we were going to pay big money to pursue our passion, wed expect to see a little more attention to detail from the builder.

A second potential hurdle is the allure of a multihull. The Corsair Dash, reviewed in the May 2010 issue, is also well-adapted to shallow water, and goes for less than half the price of the J/95. The two are very different animals, but if a brisk high-performance ride in shallow water is your goal, multihulls have a strong appeal.

Over the long haul, the boat should hold its value well. J/Boats remains one of the most recognized names in performance sailing, and even some race scarred veterans hold their own on the used boat market. No, the J/95 is not Finisterre , but given our own experiences in the Gulf of Mexico, its an exciting option for a wide range of shallow-water sailors-not just the greybeards inspired by Carleton Mitchells exploits.

Bottom line: We like the J/95 concept, and its performance, even with the centerboard raised, is remarkable. Fitting out details could be improved, but we imagine the company will quickly address most of our gripes, which are not expensive fixes.

The J/Boats marketing allusion to Finisterre is just silly, but we suspect that if Mitchell were alive today, he would like the J/95s mission. As he confronted the inconvenient truths of old age, Carleton Mitchell, one of the most passionate and eloquent champions of sailing, spent his last years on the shoalwaters of Biscayne Bay, Florida … reluctantly driving a powerboat.

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Centerboard Sailboats: Everything You Need to Know

by Emma Sullivan | Aug 13, 2023 | Sailboat Maintenance

centerboard sailboats

== Short answer centerboard sailboats ==

Centerboard sailboats are vessels equipped with a retractable keel, called the centerboard, which improves stability and prevents drifting. These boats are highly versatile, allowing navigation in shallow waters by raising the centerboard or deeper waters when lowered. This design is commonly found in small to mid-sized sailing craft.

How Centerboard Sailboats Enhance Sailing Performance: Exploring the Benefits

Introduction: Sailing enthusiasts are constantly seeking ways to improve their performance on the water. One crucial element that plays a significant role in sailing efficiency and maneuverability is the centerboard. Often overlooked or underestimated, centerboards offer a multitude of benefits that can elevate your sailing experience to new heights. In this blog post, we will explore why centerboard sailboats are preferred by seasoned sailors and uncover the myriad ways they enhance sailing performance.

1. Enhanced Upwind Performance: One of the primary advantages of centerboard sailboats is their remarkable upwind performance. Unlike fixed keel boats, which struggle to sail efficiently into the wind , centerboards allow for superior pointing ability. By adjusting the position of the centerboard, sailors can reduce leeway (sideways drift), ultimately enabling them to maintain a higher velocity and achieve better angles when tacking against the wind. This enhanced upwind capability means you spend less time zigzagging across the water and more time smoothly gliding through it.

2. Increased Maneuverability in Shallow Waters: Shallow waters need not limit your adventures anymore! Centerboard sailboats excel in navigating shallow areas thanks to their retractable or adjustable centerboards. When faced with limited depth, simply raise or decrease the draft of your centerboard, allowing you to venture closer to shorelines, explore hidden coves, or access secluded beaches that were previously off-limits. This newfound maneuverability opens up a whole world of possibilities for intrepid sailors eager to discover new destinations.

3. Improved Stability: Centerboards provide an added layer of stability while underway or at anchor compared to fixed-keel counterparts. By increasing resistance against lateral forces like wind or waves, they help counterbalance heeling (when a boat leans due to higher winds) by preventing excessive rolling or tipping over on turbulent waters. This increased stability significantly enhances safety during challenging weather conditions and enhances overall comfort during extended trips at sea.

4. Minimized Drag and Increased Speed: Another key advantage of centerboard sailboats lies in their ability to minimize drag when sailing downwind or reaching (sailing across or perpendicular to the wind). As opposed to fixed keels, which generate significant resistance and slow down the boat’s speed, centerboards reduce drag by retracting fully beyond the hull’s bottom surface. This improved hydrodynamics leads to higher speeds, allowing sailors to cover longer distances in less time – perfect for those who crave exhilarating races or simply enjoy swift cruises on calm waters.

5. Versatile Sailing Options: Centerboards offer versatility unmatched by other types of sailboats . Unlike fixed keel vessels that are limited in their sailing options due to the size and depth of their keel, centerboard sailboats can easily adapt to various water conditions. Whether you’re exploring an open ocean or skimming along a tranquil lake, adjusting your centerboard accordingly allows you to optimize performance and efficiency no matter where your nautical adventures take you.

Conclusion: While often overshadowed by other sailing components, centerboards play a crucial role in enhancing performance on the water. From improved upwind capabilities and increased maneuverability in shallow waters to enhanced stability, minimized drag, increased speed, and versatile sailing options – these benefits make centerboard sailboats the preferred choice for seasoned sailors seeking optimal sailing experiences. So next time you set out on a maritime pursuit, consider how a well-designed centerboard can elevate your performance and unlock new levels of excitement and satisfaction as you chart your course through the vast expanse of the open seas . Safe travels!

Centerboard Sailboats Step by Step: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

Title: Centerboard Sailboats Step by Step: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

Subtitle: Unleash Your Sailing Potential With Our Expert Tips!

Introduction: Sailing is a captivating and exhilarating adventure that allows you to effortlessly glide through the water, feeling the wind in your hair as you navigate through the endless waves. If you’re a beginner looking to set sail on a centerboard sailboat, this comprehensive guide will equip you with everything you need to know. From understanding what a centerboard is to perfecting your sailing techniques, we’ve got you covered!

1. What is a Centerboard? Imagine every superhero needs their distinctive tool or equipment to support their unique power – well, for sailboats, it’s the centerboard! Essentially, the centerboard is a retractable fin located beneath the vessel. Its primary purpose is to counteract lateral force (known as side-slip) caused by winds or tides and helps maintain stability and control.

2. Why Choose a Centerboard Sailboat? Centerboard sailboats are ideal for novice sailors due to their versatility and manoeuvrability. Unlike fixed keel boats, which have permanently attached fins at their base, centerboards can be raised or lowered depending on navigational requirements. This flexibility enables them to traverse shallow waters that would otherwise be off-limits for other types of vessels.

3. The Anatomy of a Centerboard Sailboat: Every sailor must familiarize themselves with their vessel’s anatomy before embarking on unforgettable journeys. Here’s an overview:

a) Hull – The boat’s body; it provides buoyancy and serves as the foundation. b) Rigging – Ropes and cables used for hoisting sails and controlling various parts . c) Mast – Vertical pole or spar supporting sails’ structure. d) Boom – Horizontal spar attached along with the foot of the mainsail. e) Sails – Capturing wind energy that propels the sailboat forward. f) Rudder – Steering mechanism located at the boat’s stern . g) Centerboard – The magical retractable fin we’ve already discussed.

4. Hoisting and Adjusting Sails: Now that you’re familiar with your sailboat’s components, it’s time to learn how to hoist and adjust its sails. Begin by gathering essential sailing equipment, such as a mainsail and jib (or genoa). Focus on understanding different points of sail, wind direction and strength, as these will dictate how to trim the sails for maximum efficiency.

5. Tacking and Jibing Maneuvers: To effectively navigate through diverse wind conditions or change your sailing direction, mastering specific maneuvers is crucial. Tacking involves turning into the wind while changing course against its flow, whereas jibing requires altering your route in line with the wind. These skills will ensure smooth transitions across various points of sail .

6. Understanding Rights of Way: Ahoy! Sailors must abide by specific rules of engagement on the waterways to ensure safe passage and avoid collisions. Learning about port-starboard rules, overtaking regulations, and yielding rules when crossing paths with powered vessels fosters harmonious navigation among sailors.

7. Safety Measures: Before setting off on any adventure, prioritize safety above all else! Ensure you have personal flotation devices (PFDs), know how to recognize potential hazards like weather changes or submerged obstacles, and understand basic first aid techniques relevant for boating accidents.

Conclusion: Embarking on a journey as a beginner sailor can be intimidating but immensely rewarding at every turn of the tide. With this comprehensive guide on centerboard sailboats’ step-by-step techniques, we hope you’ll feel empowered to explore new horizons confidently. So pack your enthusiasm along with your sense of adventure because it’s time to set sail towards a lifetime of unforgettable experiences!

Centerboard Sailboats FAQ: Common Questions Answered

Are you new to sailing or have you been considering purchasing a centerboard sailboat ? Whether you are a novice sailor intrigued by this type of vessel or an experienced sailor looking for more information, we have compiled a list of common questions and answers about centerboard sailboats. We hope that this detailed, professional, witty, and clever explanation will help broaden your understanding of these fascinating boats .

1. What is a centerboard sailboat ? A centerboard sailboat is a type of sailing vessel that features a retractable keel-like appendage called the centerboard. This board can be raised or lowered vertically through the hull to counteract lateral forces generated by wind. By adjusting the position of the centerboard, sailors can optimize their boat’s performance in various conditions.

2. How does a centerboard work? When lowered, the centerboard acts as an underwater wing beneath the boat’s hull. As wind fills the sails and creates lateral forces, the water flowing over the curved surface of the centerboard generates lift, helping prevent excessive sideways drift (known as leeway). By increasing resistance to leeway, it enables sailors to maintain better control and improved upwind performance.

3. What are the advantages of using a centerboard sailboat ? One major advantage is increased maneuverability in shallow waters. Unlike fixed keel sailboats that require deeper drafts, centerboards allow sailors to venture into shallower areas without grounding their vessels. Additionally, raising the centerboard helps reduce drag when sailing downwind or in light winds—increasing speed and efficiency.

4. Are there any disadvantages to owning a centerboard sailboat ? While there are many benefits to having a centerboard sailboat , one potential disadvantage lies in maintaining proper balance while sailing upwind with the board raised fully or partially. The reduction in lateral resistance can lead to increased heeling angles if not compensated for appropriately by adjusting sail trim or crew positioning . However, experienced sailors quickly adapt and learn to optimize their boat’s performance under these conditions.

5. How does a centerboard differ from a daggerboard ? The terms “centerboard” and “daggerboard” are often used interchangeably, but they do have slight differences. A centerboard is typically found in sailboats with larger cabins or cockpits, suitably located near the center of the vessel. In contrast, a daggerboard is longer and vertically slides into a trunk located closer to the bow or stern of the boat . The position of the board influences how it affects stability and sailing performance .

6. Can I race with a centerboard sailboat ? Absolutely! Centerboard sailboats are popular choices for racing due to their ability to navigate shallow waters effectively and adjust their boards as needed for optimal sailing angles. Depending on the class regulations, some racing classes specifically require boats with retractable keels like centerboards or daggerboards .

7. Are there different types of centerboards? Yes! Centerboards come in various designs and materials, including traditional wood, fiberglass, carbon fiber, or even composite constructions. Each type may offer certain advantages like improved durability or lighter weights—ultimately influencing your boat’s performance characteristics.

8. How do I care for my centerboard properly? To keep your centerboard in excellent condition, you should periodically inspect and maintain it based on your specific material type. For wooden boards, regular varnishing or application of protective coatings can help prevent rotting or decay; fiberglass boards may require occasional polishing or repairs if damaged by impact; while carbon fiber boards might necessitate professional attention for any structural concerns.

By exploring these frequently asked questions about centerboard sailboats thoroughly, we hope we’ve shed light on this intriguing aspect of sailing. Whether you’re considering purchasing one for recreational use or racing purposes – remember that while owning a centerboard sailboat offers unique advantages and poses some minor challenges, the endless joy and excitement it provides on the water are well worth it!

The Mechanics Behind Centerboard Sailboats: Understanding the Design and Functionality

Centerboard sailboats are popular among sailors for their versatile functionality and efficient design. The mechanics behind these vessels, particularly the centerboard system, play a crucial role in both steering the boat and maximizing its performance on the water . In this blog post, we will delve into the fascinating intricacies of centerboard sailboats, dissecting their design and uncovering how they work their magic.

At first glance, centerboards may seem like simple appendages attached to a sailboat’s hull. However, upon closer inspection, we discover that they are actually sophisticated mechanisms that contribute significantly to a vessel’s maneuverability and stability.

The primary purpose of a centerboard is twofold: it provides lateral resistance to counterbalance the force generated by the sails while preventing excessive sideways drifting caused by wind pressure. Essentially acting as underwater wings, these carefully designed boards increase stability and combat leeway (sideways movement) when sailing against strong winds or tacking.

Let’s take a deeper dive into understanding how centerboards function . Typically made of fiberglass or wood composite materials, these retractable appendages are positioned vertically within the hull near the boat’s midpoint. This placement ensures optimal weight distribution while also allowing them to be raised or lowered as needed.

Unlike traditional fixed keels found on other types of sailboats, centerboards provide flexibility and adaptability. They can be lowered completely when sailing upwind to maximize lateral resistance, keeping the boat from sliding sideways. Additionally, being partially or fully retracted during downwind sailing reduces drag considerably, enabling higher speeds through reduced hydrodynamic forces.

To control the position of the centerboard on board, a system known as a “centerboard trunk” is employed. The trunk consists of multiple components such as cables or lines connected to winches or handles located within reach from the cockpit area – effectively keeping control at your fingertips.

When navigating shallow waters or avoiding potential obstacles lurking beneath the surface, raising the centerboard becomes necessary. This action effectively minimizes the risk of grounding or damaging the appendage while ensuring safe passage in uncharted waters .

Now that we have gained a deeper understanding of how centerboards work, let’s discuss their significance from a performance standpoint. The ability to adjust the centerboard’s position allows sailors to optimize their sailing experience based on various factors such as wind conditions, boat speed, and water depth.

By strategically adjusting the centerboard, sailors can fine-tune their sailboat ‘s balance and responsiveness. On an upwind course, lowering the board enhances stability by countering lateral forces exerted by the sails, resulting in increased efficiency and improved pointing ability (the ability to sail closer to the wind).

On reaching or downwind courses, partially or fully retracting the centerboard reduces drag – much like a race car driver tucking in behind another vehicle to minimize aerodynamic resistance. This feature ensures that even when sailing at high speeds with powerful gusts pushing against your sails, your vessel remains stable and responsive while maintaining maximum velocity.

In conclusion, understanding the mechanics behind centerboard sailboats reveals their indispensability for any sailor seeking versatility and control on the open seas. From providing lateral resistance to combating leeway and increasing overall performance, these meticulously designed appendages play an integral role in every sailor’s success.

So next time you find yourself gliding across shimmering waters aboard a centerboard sailboat , take a moment to appreciate the ingenious mechanics at play beneath your feet. These unsung heroes of navigation are undoubtedly one of mankind’s greatest innovations for harnessing the power of wind and water simultaneously.

Mastering the Art of Sailing with Centerboard Sailboats: Tips and Techniques

Sailing is an age-old practice that combines the grace of the wind with the skill of navigation . And if you’re someone who has always been drawn to the beauty of sailing, then mastering it can be a truly fulfilling experience. In this blog post, we will delve into the world of centerboard sailboats, offering you valuable tips and techniques to help you on your journey to becoming a skilled sailor.

Firstly, let’s talk about what exactly a centerboard sailboat is. Essentially, it’s a type of boat that features a retractable keel, known as a centerboard, which can be raised or lowered depending on the depth of water you’re sailing in. This design allows for versatility and maneuverability in various sailing conditions, making it an ideal choice for beginners and seasoned sailors alike.

Now that you understand the basic concept behind centerboard sailboats, let’s discuss some key tips and techniques that will set you on your way to mastering this art:

1. Understanding Wind Direction: Just like any other type of sailing vessel, understanding wind direction is essential. Before setting out on your sailboat adventure, take a moment to analyze wind patterns – look at nearby flags or tree movements – as this will dictate how you adjust your sails to maximize their efficiency.

2. Taking Advantage of Shifting Winds: One advantage of centerboard sailboats is their ability to navigate shifting winds with ease. As wind directions change, be ready to adjust your sails accordingly and make use of your centerboard by lowering it partially or fully when needed. This will help maintain stability and speed even when faced with unpredictable gusts.

3. Tacking Technique: Tacking refers to changing direction by turning your bow through the wind while maintaining momentum. Mastering this technique is crucial for efficient sailing with a centerboard sailboat . Remember to coordinate with your crew to shift weight and adjust the sails as you execute a smooth and controlled tack .

4. Utilizing the Centerboard for Upwind Sailing: The centerboard plays a key role in sailing upwind smoothly . By lowering it partially, you create lateral resistance that counters the sideways force of the wind, allowing you to maintain a straighter course and avoid excessive side-slippage. Experiment with different centerboard positions to find the sweet spot for optimum performance.

5. Feathering Technique: Feathering is another important skill to master when sailing upwind in moderate to strong winds. This involves adjusting your sail angle so that it luffs slightly, reducing its power without losing momentum or speed. The centerboard can aid in this process by providing additional stability as you feather into the wind.

6. Practicing Heeling Control: Heeling refers to the leaning or tilting of your sailboat caused by wind pressure on your sails . While some degree of heeling is necessary for efficient sailing, excessive tilting can compromise stability and control. Focus on maintaining balance by adjusting your mainsail’s angle and using your centerboard strategically.

7. Familiarizing Yourself with Safety Features: Before setting off on any sailing adventure, ensure you are well-versed in safety practices specific to centerboard sailboats. Familiarize yourself with emergency procedures, proper use of life jackets, understanding water conditions, and always inform someone about your sail plan.

In conclusion, mastering the art of sailing with centerboard sailboats requires a combination of knowledge, practice, and experience. By understanding wind direction and utilizing techniques like tacking, feathering, and heeling control – while taking full advantage of your centerboard – you’ll be well on your way to becoming a skilled sailor who can glide effortlessly across vast waters. So hoist those sails high and embark upon an unforgettable adventure mastering the art of sailing with centerboard sailboats!

Exploring Different Types of Centerboard Sailboats: Which One is Right for You?

Are you a sailing enthusiast itching to explore new horizons on the open water? If so, centerboard sailboats can be a perfect fit for your adventurous spirit. These versatile vessels offer exceptional maneuverability and the ability to sail in shallow waters, making them ideal for cruising or racing in various environments. However, with numerous types of centerboard sailboats available, it’s crucial to understand their distinct features before committing to one. In this blog post, we will delve into the fascinating world of centerboard sailboats and help you determine which type suits your needs best.

1. Daggerboards: Sleek Efficiency at its Finest Daggerboards are slender and vertically retractable boards found on high-performance boats designed for speed and stability . These boards slide vertically into a slot within the hull, providing excellent upwind performance by reducing leeway. They allow sailors to tack more sharply while significantly minimizing sideways drift. With their streamlined design, daggerboards efficiently slice through the water, helping maximize boat speed even under challenging conditions. If you’re an adrenaline junkie seeking thrilling speed on the open seas – look no further than a daggerboard-equipped sailboat.

2. Lifting Keels: Versatility Meets Accessibility For sailing enthusiasts who crave versatility without compromising convenience, lifting keel sailboats offer an optimal solution. A lifting keel is essentially a retractable fin that can be raised or lowered depending on navigational requirements. This allows these boats to access shallow waters without fear of grounding while maintaining excellent stability at sea due to their ballast weight configuration. Whether you plan to voyage along coastlines or explore idyllic coves hidden among rocky shores – lifting keel boats grant you unmatched freedom.

3. Swing Keels: Maximizing Adaptability Swing keels are pivot-mounted beneath the hull and swing horizontally from side-to-side. This unique design enables them to provide both lift and stability. Swing keels allow sailors to adjust the boat’s draft effortlessly, making them highly adaptable in various water conditions. Sailing on a swing keel-equipped vessel means that you can easily navigate shallow waters or locations with varying depths while still enjoying exceptional upwind performance and maneuverability. If you value adaptability as much as sailing prowess, swing-keel sailboats offer an enticing combination.

4. Centerboards: The Balanced Choice Centerboard sailboats feature a retractable, flat-shaped board placed centrally within the hull. This design allows sailors to achieve a perfect balance between comfort, stability, and maneuverability. Although centerboards do not provide as much lift or upwind performance as daggerboards or lifting keels, they excel in versatility and allow for easy maintenance due to their uncomplicated mechanics. Perfect for leisurely cruising or casual races, centerboard sailboats are excellent all-around companions for those seeking a balanced sailing experience.

In conclusion, when it comes to selecting the right type of centerboard sailboat , consider your preferences and intended usage carefully. Whether you prioritize speed, versatility, adaptability, or an optimal balance of features – there is a centerboard sailboat out there waiting to set sail with you at the helm. Make sure to evaluate each option thoroughly before taking the plunge into this exciting world of sailing possibilities!

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Centerboard or Fixed Keel?

You need to consider many different questions when deciding what kind of sailboat is best for you .

Depending on the general size range of the sailboats you may be interested in, you may need to choose between fixed-keel boats and centerboard (or swing keel or daggerboard) boats. This article will help you choose which is best for your needs.

As only a very general rule, most sailboats over 20-something feet have fixed keels. Most sailboats under 15 feet or so have centerboards. But there is a wide range of boats from 12 to about 25 feet with either a fixed keel or a centerboard. For example, in this photo, ​the boat on the left has a fixed keel, while the boat on the right, of about the same size, has a centerboard.

If you are shopping for a sailboat in this range, you should understand the differences between these fundamental types of keels.

Fixed Keel Sailboats

Virtually all large racing and cruising sailboats have a fixed keel. A keel is needed to keep the boat from being blown sideways at all points of sail except downwind. A keel also provides weight low under the water to lower the boat’s center of gravity below the waterline, which is needed so that the boat bobs back upright if knocked over by wind or waves.

Sailboats have many different types of fixed keels , such as full keels (see photo) and fin keels. If you decide a fixed keel boat is best for your sailing purposes, consider also which type keel best meets your needs.

Centerboard Sailboats

On centerboard sailboats, the centerboard functions like a keel to keep the boat from being blown sideways. (All sailboats need a keel of the board for this reason: the narrow, flat surface of the board or keel produces little drag when the boat moves forward but resists motion sideways.)

The centerboard usually hangs down below the hull from a pivot at one end. It can be raised by pulling a line that swings the centerboard up into a centerboard trunk along the center of the boat, as shown in the photo.

Some small boats, like a Sunfish, have a removable daggerboard rather than a centerboard. The daggerboard has the same function, but rather than swinging down, it is inserted like a blade down through a slot in the hull to protrude like a thin keel below the hull. A swing keel is another term used for a type of keel that like a centerboard can be raised.

A centerboard may or may not be weighted. If the centerboard is weighted, then it also provides weight low in the water, like a keel, to help keep the boat upright (although not as much weight as a fixed keel can supply). If the centerboard is not weighted, like the fiberglass centerboards of many small sailboats, then sailors must keep the boat upright by positioning their own weight on the upwind side of the boat. 

Benefits and Disadvantages of Fixed Keel and Centerboard Sailboats

Fixed keels and centerboards each have their own benefits but also disadvantages. When deciding what type of boat to buy, be sure you have considered these differences:

Advantages of a Fixed Keel:

  • Provides the most ballast to resist capsizing and ensure recovery from a capsize
  • More effective at preventing leeway (sideways movement of the boat)
  • Crew do not have to position body weight to prevent capsizing (see photo)
  • No centerboard moving parts to break or jam

Disadvantages of a Fixed Keel:

  • With deeper displacement, the boat cannot enter shallow water
  • The boat is heavier for its size (usually an issue only when trailering)
  • With deeply fixed keels, the boat may not fit on a trailer at all (25 feet is typically the largest trailerable fixed keel sailboat) - requiring the inconvenience and expense of a boatyard for launching, haulout, and storage

Advantages of a Centerboard:

  • The centerboard can be raised to decrease displacement to allow the boat into shallower water – and it should swing up and back if it hits the bottom when sailing with it down
  • The centerboard can be raised for faster downwind sailing
  • The centerboard can be partially raised if needed to provide better boat balance
  • Most centerboard boats can be trailered and easily launched and hauled out on boat ramps (larger centerboard boats may require deeper ramps)

A popular trailerable centerboard sailboat is the MacGregor 26 , which with its water ballast has the advantages of centerboard boats but not all the disadvantages.

Disadvantages of a Centerboard:

  • Provides no (unweighted board) or less (weighted board) ballast, compared to a fixed keel, to resist capsizing and ensure recovery from a capsize
  • Less effective than a larger fixed keel at preventing leeway (sideways movement of the boat)
  • The centerboard trunk takes up space in the boat’s cockpit or cabin
  • The centerboard pivot and control line involve moving parts and can jam or break

Finally, some historic crafts have leeboards instead of centerboards; these boards, mounted outside the hull on both sides, can be pivoted down like a centerboard to resist leeward motion. And some sailboats have fixed keel-centerboard combinations, which provide ballast and prevent leeward motion even when the centerboard is up but also provide the option to attain less leeward motion sailing upwind when the board is down.e a centerboard to resist leeward motion. And some sailboats have fixed keel-centerboard combinations, which provide ballast and prevent leeward motion even when the centerboard is up but also provide the option to attain less leeward motion sailing upwind when the board is down.

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What’s the deal with Centerboards?

Most of you who have followed our journey for some time are familiar with our somewhat infamous centerboard issue, where we ran aground in the Illinois river in 8′ of water when our boat should only draw 4′ .  This was the most dramatic and expensive example of the issues we’ve had with the centerboard thus far, but that’s not to say it’s been the only trouble our centerboard has caused us.

In this week’s video, This Little Thing could SINK our Boat , we’re highlighting another pain point and some of the additional maintenance that comes along with having a pivoting centerboard. We’d like to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about the pros and cons of the centerboard system and shed some light on how we’ve been using it with real life examples.

Sailors love to talk shop. It seems everyone has an opinion when it comes to boats, and if you’re not too careful, it can lead lead to hours upon hours of enjoyable and sometimes educational discussion. Invariably anytime we get beyond the general pleasantries of “She’s a beaut!” or “What’s the length?” we know with more and more certainty that we’re talking with a sailor. As the questions get more specific e.g. “How much fuel do you carry?” or “How tall is the mast?” we will eventually hit this question: “What’s the draft?”

Up until this point, it’s only a Q&A session, but as soon as we divulge the boat has a centerboard — and that with the board up we draw between 4-4.5′ but when it’s down closer to 8′ — the discussion will turn one of three ways:

  • The questioner wasn’t quite prepared for that answer and is dumbstruck because they didn’t know as much about boats as they thought they did, and were unaware of the centerboard concept or are unaware a boat of our size could have a centerboard.
  • The questioner’s face lights up with a twinkle in their eye and responds with something like: “A perfect Bahamas boat, nice!”
  • The questioner’s face scrunches up with terror in their eyes: “Why on god’s green earth would you want to maintain a system like that!”

And after three years of owning, maintaining and traveling aboard a boat with a centerboard, we’ve been in each of these 3 camps at one point or another. Let’s dive in and tackle each point of view.

centerboard sailboats

What is a centerboard on a sailboat?

A centerboard is a retractable appendage that pivots in and out of a slot (centerboard trunk) in the hull/keel of a sailboat. Having the ability to raise and lower the centerboard allows the the boat to operate in shallow waters when lifted, while maintaining good upwind sailing characteristics with the centerboard down. Similarly, lifting the centerboard reduces the wetted surface area, resulting in lower drag while sailing downwind. This combination of characteristics makes it possible to build a safe, seaworthy boat, capable of easily sailing upwind off a lee shore, while still allowing the boat to tuck way up into shallow anchorages when necessary.

centerboard sailboats

When first looking for our sailboat , weren’t specifically looking for a boat with a centerboard. It wasn’t on any “avoid ” list of ours either; it just wasn’t on our radar. So when we first saw the boat online and noticed it had a centerboard, we were pretty ambivalent about it.

Is that like a Swing Keel?

Many people have incorrectly referred to our boat as having a swing keel, and for good reason as they are quite similar on the surface. Before finding our boat, we were aware of other boats with swing keels (specifically Southerly Yachts  popularized by “ Distant Shores “) and some of their unique benefits. While the swing keel is similar on the surface, it’s an entirely different animal from our centerboard. They both feature large underwater wing-shaped appendages that pivot from underneath the boat to provide additional wetted surface area to reduce leeway and increase lift for sailing upwind. The main difference is that in a swing keel boat the pivoting appendage is actually the keel. In cruising boats, swing keels weigh several thousand pounds, while centerboards weigh a couple hundred. Thus, a swing keel also contains a large part of the boat’s ballast, so the position of the keel can have a substantial effect on the stability and motion of the boat. Additionally, when retracted all the way up into the hull, the boat can be left to dry out while sitting upright in the sand — pretty cool.

centerboard sailboats

Distant Shores II, a Southerly 480

The flip side is this: In the fully retracted position, the keel needs somewhere to go — which takes up interior volume of the boat. Additionally, moving an extremely large and heavily ballasted keel up and down requires some serious mechanical gear, and unless the swing keel is lowered to some extent, there is nothing counteracting the force of the sails to prevent leeway and the boat will not sail to windward.

Whereas with our boat, in addition to the centerboard, we have a shoal draft keel (which actually doubles as a housing for the centerboard). Even without the centerboard down the boat will still sail to windward. Dropping the centerboard only serves to increase the pointing ability and windward performance. The centerboard does not contribute meaningfully to the ballast of the boat (as it weighs about 200lbs), so its effects on stability in the up or down position are muted. It is designed primarily as a hydrofoil to prevent leeway when sailing upwind and is significantly lighter than its swing keel cousin. Lastly, by retracting into the keel instead of all the way into the hull it does not have any negative effect on the interior volume of the boat.

What are the benefits of having a centerboard on a sailboat?

Besides increased upwind sailing performance, the major benefit of a boat with a centerboard is a shallow draft. For our needs navigating the inland river system, sailing the notoriously shallow Gulf of Mexico , and cruising Bahamaian waters, these are fantastic qualities to have in a boat.

The inland river system has a controlled depth of no less than 9′ in the channel from Chicago to Mobile, Alabama, but most of the channel is significantly deeper than that. However , s earching for marinas and anchorages for the night where you have to exit the channel means the depths start changing quickly. With our shoal draft keel we were able to sneak into a number of marinas with sub 5′ depth at their entrance or at the dock that would’ve been impossible in many other sailboats of our size. Even in Mobile we ran aground twice while moving through the marina to get to our dock.

centerboard sailboats

In the Bahamas we find ourselves anchoring way up towards shore with the catamarans instead of much further out near the monohulls. Yet when it comes time to sail to windward, we’re able to drop the board and point much higher than we otherwise would’ve been able to with the shoal draft keel alone. This can shave miles off long passages and minimizes the number of tacks required in a tight channel.

Additionally, dropping the centerboard just a little bit can give us much better handling in tight quarters, as it prevents the bow from falling off downwind when trying to dock in strong crosswinds.

This all sounds pretty good, right? Why would you not want a boat with a centerboard?

What are the issues with centerboards?

With all the apparent benefits, you’d think the centerboard would be a no-brainer. And if you’re purely concerned with performance, then absolutely, it is. However, the centerboard represents an added layer of complexity that just isn’t absolutely necessary for the operation of the boat. Along with this added complexity comes additional maintenance to ensure the system continues operating normally, and even then, when everything is operating correctly, the maintenance itself can create some stressful situations. Below are a few of the negatives of having a centerboard we’ve discovered so far:

General Maintenance

centerboard sailboats

Our centerboard is raised and lowered via a control line, or centerboard pennant. The line is always underwater inside the centerboard trunk, and is incredibly difficult to inspect. The line exits the boat below the waterline meaning we have an unprotected thru-hull without a seacock to close, should there be a leak. The through-hull is connected to a hose and the hose connects to a conduit in the mast that rises well above the waterline.

centerboard sailboats

The centerboard line runs through this conduit and then exits the mast through a sheave at the deck level. It then runs through a turning block and clutch/winch to lock it off. Each of these items require some level of maintenance and/or at least inspection on a regular basis. These are all fairly simple parts, and the system is quite well-designed. However you can probably already imagine some of the issues…

Stepping & unstepping the mast is more difficult

centerboard sailboats

Because the line runs through the mast, stepping and unstepping the mast requires a few more steps to ensure everything goes smoothly. When unstepping our mast, we need to temporarily slacken the centerboard pennant to allow the mast to be raised out of the boat. To ensure we can run the line back through the mast we need to run a messenger line in the mast to be able to retrieve it again when re-stepping.

When re-stepping the mast, extra care needs to be taken to ensure the mast doesn’t get hung up on the centerboard pennant or the conduit it runs through. We’ve heard of other boats stepping their mast only to realize later that they pinched their centerboard control line.

Naturally (or accidentally) slackening the centerboard pennant allows the centerboard to drop, increasing our draft to 8′, unless it’s secured in some other way. We did this at the start of our river trip by securing a line athwartship from each of the midship cleats to act as a set of suspenders to keep the centerboard pinned up inside the trunk. Unfortunately this wasn’t tight enough and slipped off the centerboard allowing it to drop into the fully-down position. This set us back a few days as we fabricated a much stronger system to secure the centerboard line using an exit sheave at the mast partners.

centerboard sailboats

The centerboard trunk is difficult to clean & paint

While our boat was hauled out, we repainted the bottom with CopperCoat . However we were unable to paint the centerboard or the trunk with the same. Had we known better, we would’ve pulled the centerboard immediately after hoisting the boat out of the water with the travel lift. But since it was our first time hauling the boat for storage, we didn’t realize that once we were moved to the hydraulic trailer which the yard used to position boats, we would not be able to get enough height to drop the board and remove it.

centerboard sailboats

We did hang in the slings over the weekend prior to splashing, which gave us time to get underneath the boat with the board down to clean the centerboard trunk and repaint the board and trunk with ablative bottom paint. But we couldn’t repaint with CopperCoat because of how long it needs to dry before being splashed.

The centerboard pivot point is difficult to inspect

centerboard sailboats

The centerboard pivots on a large stainless steel hinge. This plate is bolted into the keel of the boat and has a large pin that runs through the centerboard allowing it to pivot around this point. There is also a heavy duty stainless eye on the backside of the centerboard that the pennant line connects to. Both of which are always submerged in water, and while they are stainless, stainless corrodes in environments lacking oxygen. So these parts need to be inspected on a regular basis, and this means removal of the entire board, which is easier said than done.

centerboard sailboats

The centerboard can get stuck in the up or down position

The centerboard is designed to pivot up and down in the trunk with fairly small tolerances on either side. Any more space than what is needed to get the board out, and it will interfere with the flow of water over the hull, increasing water resistance and drag. Any extra space will also allow sea life to make its way up into the trunk.  Thankfully it’s very dark up in there, there isn’t much water flow carrying nutrients into that space, and we have been diligent about keeping it clean. While we haven’t run into this particular issue yet, we’ve heard of some boats that have had so much growth in the trunk that they can’t get the board to move.

While, we haven’t had our board stuck in the up position, but we have had the board stuck down. The centerboard is a hydrofoil, so the leading edge is a bit wider than the trailing edge, much like an airplane wing. And whereas dagger board trunks (where the board drops in vertically) can be contoured to follow the shape of the board almost exactly, our centerboard trunk is rectangular, as it needs to accomodate the width of the leading edge moving all the way through it. This means the trailing edge of the board (which is on the top when in the retracted position) leaves a lot of extra space between it and the trunk, creating a wedge shape… Maybe you can see where I’m going with this…

A perfect storm scenario can brew under just the right conditions. Imagine for a moment you are loosening the centerboard pennant line to drop the board down, but for one reason or another, the sideways pressure of the water against the board when sailing upwind, growth in the centerboard trunk, stops or slows the dropping motion of board — perhaps it even gets pushed back up slightly as the boat pitches forward and backward in a large wave. You, as the unsuspecting crewman, continue to slacken the line thinking the board is dropping, but in reality what is happening is the line comes to rest on the top of the board, and because of the wedge-shaped trailing edge, the line slips down ever so slightly between the board and the trunk, and gets trapped .  Once there it wedges in between the board and the trunk making it extremely difficult to move.

This has happened to us twice. The first was an easy fix, which occurred during a daysail after purchasing the boat. We could’ve easily addressed it without getting into the water, but it was hot, the water was clear, and despite being warned about this particular scenario, I didn’t have a good visualization of what was happening and wanted to see it for myself.

centerboard sailboats

There is actually a built-in mediator of this problem which saved us considerable effort: A short section of exhaust hose with a diameter that almost exactly matches the width of the centerboard trunk serves as a conduit for the last 18″ of line of the centerboard. This prevents the slacked line from getting wedged in too tightly and allowed us to break it free with a tiny bit of force.

The second time however, was much worse, and is covered in detail in Episode 24 . We were in the Illinois Sanitary & Ship Canal, in incredibly disgusting water with no visibility, and because we hadn’t secured the centerboard line properly, the board unbeknownst to us dropped all the way down, and under zero tension actually hung forward of its pivot point. In this position, the geometry for pulling it back up is all out of whack.  With the protective hose completely out of the trunk, pulling the control line, only wedging it further in between the trunk and the centerboard.

So is a centerboard actually worth it?

While we’ve been both super happy we have a centerboard and a shallow draft, we have also been exasperated by the extra maintenance, sometimes wishing we had a “normal keel.” But at this point we’ve circled back around to mostly ambivalent.  The maintenance while sometimes stressful is all part of owning a boat and the benefit of having a shallow draft when needed are immeasurable.

In reality, we probably only use the centerboard 15-20% of the time we’re actually sailing. If you think about the benefits discussed above, it’s really only necessary in moderate upwind scenarios, which we often avoid anyway. It’s just way more comfortable sailing downwind! We’ve also found in light wind conditions the extra drag created by the centerboard outweighs the pointing ability it generates, so we leave the board up. To top it all off, when we’re not actually sailing (which is most of the time when the boat is at the dock, at anchor, or hauled out for storage) the centerboard is always in the retracted position. For the actual lifespan of the boat, the centerboard is in the down position much less than 10% of the time.

On more than one occasion I’ve thought that I’d rather have a keel full of lead where the centerboard trunk exists now. It would give us added stability 100% of the time, we’d have no additional maintenance, and we’d only miss out on the benefits 10% of the time. However that 10% of the time could potentially make all the difference if we really needed to get off a lee shore. Whenever we are using the board — i.e. upwind especially in a narrow channel or maneuvering under power in tight quarters — we’re often saying to each other “Thank goodness for the centerboard!”

In the end, as with everything on a boat, it’s a trade-off.  There’ll always be pros and cons of every design decision. There isn’t one right design for every boat or every boat owner. Overall, we’re happy with our Tartan37c  and would not pretend to know more than the S&S design team who dedicated their lives to designing these spectacular boats.

Let us know what you think!

Do you have any experience with a centerboard? Did we miss anything? We’d love your feedback.

This ONE LITTLE THING could SINK our Boat

How to Run Aground in 8’ of Water When You Only Draw 4’

About the Author: Kirk

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We had a centerboard on our very first keelboat, a William Tripp designed Polaris 26. Sailing in Michigan on Lake St. Clair, it was a great feature as we could gunk-hole into all kinds of places. Our horror story was that we once forgot we had it down when sailing into a shallow bay and we touched and pivoted under a pretty brisk wind. That was enough to slightly torque and twist the centerboard foil such that it would only retract about 1/3 the way up before getting jammed in the trunk. We had to sail the rest of the season that way until we were hauled out for winter and the yard could bend it back flat. Our subsequent three boats have all been shoal draft versions, which opens up a whole ‘nother discussion of the merits of shoal keel versus deep keel on the same boat model. Fortunately, we switched our home port to Charlevoix 20 years ago, where sailing depths are almost never an issue on Lake Charlevoix/Lake Michigan/Lake Huron. As you said, everything is a compromise with sailboat design. We were glad we had the shoal draft when we delivered our current boat from Annapolis to Charlevoix last year. We draw 6′-6″ and we bottomed out three or four times in the Erie Canal (supposedly a 9′ controlling depth, but who’s counting?). The deep keel version of our boat draws 7′-6″, so we would have never made it back to the Great Lakes. We are eventually going to be bringing this boat back out to the Atlantic permanently when we retire and plan to cruise the Bahamas and the Caribbean, so even the 6’-6″ shoal draft is going to be less than ideal. But hey, if Delos can do it, hopefully we can. Best to you and Lauren.

Jeff W SV Échappé Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 54DS Charlevoix, MI

centerboard sailboats

Thanks Jeff, 6’6″ is the shoal draft?! We were so thankful for our 4’6″ draft in the Abacos. We could anchor in so many great places!

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Yeah as usual your videos and blogs are so helpfull to use on my tartan too, you guys are my teachers, when I bought the boat I had the problem with growth inside the trunk, I left the line loose by unexperience and in a sail trip it went down with the shocking waves, I didn’t know it happened and then on another short trip we ran aground because I didn’t know the keel was down. But after that it got cleaned and all works perfect, thanks!!!

Good to hear! Rest assured, if you’ve done it, we probably have as well!

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I had many maintenance issues with the centerboard system on my T 37. I managed to drift into shoal water while anchored with the centerboard half down – a position I often used to reduce roll. This resulted in breaking the lower 3/4 of the centerboard off. I recovered it and on next haul out, epoxied it back together and reinstalled it. Next haul out, the SS pivot assembly had a problem in the flange that received the pin – had to be re-fabricated. A couple of years later (I went way too long without a haul out from this point) the bolts holding the pivot assembly became loose and I was unable to lower the centerboard as the pennant was the only thing keeping it in the boat. Sailing with it up didn’t seem problematic.

It all sounds pretty familiar. I think we have a love/hate relationship with ours. 😉

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Hello and love your information, site, etc. Your trips are completely unique to me and the blogs and video are welcome adventures. Keep on cruising and writing. Please.

Centerboards: I was raised sailing all manner of boats with them. We had a 48 Alden yawl with a centerboard. I think it went down twice! We cruised Cape Cod, the US East Coast into the Keys, and Bahamas in that boat and all the reasons to have a board were apparent. I was a kid then and wondered why anyone would build a boat without a centerboard.

Then, I started racing and fell in love with deep draft. Our boat now is 32 feet long and draws 6 feet. Oh my, do we go to windward! We have raced a T37 (same handicap) and we out point him but he out foots us and usually finishes ahead. Cruising is not about hours of close hauled sailing. I get it now!

In our harbor and on the next mooring is the referenced T37 that I am coming to love. Pretty boat and shallow draft. Back to my youthful exuberance for a centerboard. If you guys find you way up to the Cape, I hope we see you. Look into Stage Harbor.

Norm Martin Averisera

Hi Norm, thank you for sharing your story. It’s interesting how some boats just reach out and speak to certain people. All the best!

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I have a membership in a sailing club with a collection of Capri 22’s that are not all identical. We have weekly races with them, where you show up and draw boat names out of a hat. One of them has a shoal draft keel, it is always the least favorite draw. Typically, while you might be able to point the bow upwind, it’s moving sideways far more than they other boats (regular keel versions of the same boat). But every now and then the wind is just right, and she’ll clean up, just own every race, but this is rare, relies on just right wind (5-10 knots) and tide conditions that allow her to get speed without being pushed leeward. Downwind, she also has a slightly shorter mast (several others also have shorter masts), but still usually keeps up. Possibly an advantage, but not sure. A centerboard would clearly help her upwind in some conditions. But it’s often going to be hard to really see those conditions without head to head comparisons and if your not caring you can just start the engine.

Sounds about right. That shoal draft boat likely does well on downwind legs given there is less surface area under the water.

We’re definitely not the fastest boat to windward, but we’re not racing. There some shoal draft boats that simply can’t sail upwind at all when the wind picks up. They have too much windage and not enough leverage on the water. We will hit hull speed at 30 degrees apparent in 15 knots apparent wind, which I’m quite happy with 🙂 All the best!

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A daggerboard is a centerboard, just as one is an integer and a whole number. If the daggerboard is off center it is a leeboard.

Is that so? I always heard it as a centerboard pivots and a daggerboard slides up and down. But I suppose your explanation makes sense!

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You guy’s are such centerboard rookies, but then again, most sailors are. I cruise the extremely shallow waters of the Southeast coast of the US and have always sailed centerboard boats for over 40 years, In fact my present boat is a Presto 36, a 18,000 displacement, ketch rigged, true or pure centerboarder, designed in 1884 by Ralph Middleton Munroe. I have no external keel at all, except for a 9″ X 6″X 12′ long lead grounding shoe, designed for “taking the Ground upright”. My draft, board up is 2′-6″ and approx.. 5′-6″ ” board down. The board weights approx. 400 lbs. My centerboard pendant, a 3/8″ super synthetic line runs upwards from the aft end of the centerboard trunk, to the cabin top via 1-1/4″ SS tube and is attached when it exits the top of the cabin, to a simple 6 to 1 tackle to help raise and lower the board. My centerboard trunk runs almost the entire length of the main cabin and has a 2″ dia. hole in it’s aft end. That hole and a short length of broom handle are extremely helpful for for coaxing a resistant board into going down as needed. I have spent many days pleasantly aground on a convenient sand bar, for recreation or maintenance needs and many a night secure in the knowledge, that no matter how busy the surrounding water are, I’m freed from the worries of getting “run” down in the night. Incidentally, I oft use the board along with my mizzen in assisting in self-steering. Never needed any auto-pilot. Up wind, she’s a drag, but any other course, with her sheets eased, she simply can’t be caught..

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My wife and I have a Bristol 35.5 with a centerboard. Our installation is much simpler than the one Tartan came up with – I was very surprised when I saw that yours comes up though your mast. Ours is on a wire winch on the cabin house that runs through sealed pipes over sheaves to the board. I’d say that the vast majority of the issues you’ve had with your board are due to that somewhat quirky design. That said, I’ve always loved the look of the Tartan, and you guys have definitely made fantastic improvements.

My wife and I thoroughly enjoy your channel and following your adventures. Keep them coming!

It is a bit of a quirky system, but running it through the mast is kind of a neat way to hide the control line, which needs to enter and exit the hull and deck. It does present some challenges, but it’s neat out of the box thinking. As you know everything on the boat is a tradeoff, and overall we’re extremely happy with the boat. Thank you for watching!

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Hi, how confident are you with the centre board in heavy weather … blue water … hove-to? We are going to look at a 47′ sloop with one tomorrow. I love our current smaller steel boat with a full keel but who knows …

Hi Melissa, Tartan 37s have sailed in every ocean on the planet, there have been multiple circumnavigations. As long as we keep the boat properly maintained, I have confidence in it. I don’t know what type of boat you’re looking at or what type of sailing it was designed for, but I don’t think there is anything fundamentally wrong with a centerboard. Good luck!

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We have a 79 Irwin 39 with shoal draft an centerboard, the pennant is mid deck and runs through the sole to cabin top” stripper pole” that is attached to the galley and also serves as handhold under way, the pivot is a SS pin that runs abeam and is puttied over, I need to remove this soon as there is a bit more play in this joint than I’m comfortable with, The boat is very tender and we are contemplating the best way to add ballast to the keel as it heels very quickly and carries a lot of sail. The centerboard isn’t very effective when she’s on her ear for limiting leeway losses . She draws 4’3″ up and 9’6″ down, I never thought about partially dropping to improve turning so am excited to try that when maneuvering around docks. I’m hoping adding some lead will make it less tender and will be pursuing this after haulout.

centerboard sailboats

Peter, sounds like you’re at the beginning of a fun adventure learning more about your centerboard and how it can improve the handling of your boat. It was a fun learning journey for us, and we really began to respect the purpose and design of the CB.

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I have a 1966 Morgan 34. The bronze centerboard has deteriatiated beyond repair. Especially in the hinge pin and pennant attachment area Draft board up 3 1/2 ft, board down about 7 ft. Bronze board is at least 250 lbs, about 5 ft long, and is a great template

1..Any guidance on where I can get a replacement , perhaps Foss Foam?

2. Is the weight important to proper deployment. Sure cranks hard..a challenge for an old fart to raise

Hi Capt Ron, sorry to hear of your CB woes. Unfortunately I don’t have any sources for replacement. Weight is important, the heavier the better, to an extent. You obviously want to be able to lift/lower it under your own power. At a minimum you need some weight at the bottom of the CB to prevent it from floating and get it to drop down and stay down while underway. But the more weight you can drop down there the better.

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Best Centerboard Designed Boats

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I see a lot of people discussing centerboarders which I have always been very sttracted to due to their capability to go gunkholing but still be able to drop the board down and really increase stability and windward ability. But I have no experience with these boats. I have never owned one or sailed on one. Here are my questions 1) How are the centerboards raised and lowered? Is it hard to do? Do they all swing down on a pivot or do some slide down (like a daggerboard)? 2) Are there different designs? What is there to look out for ? What is the maintanence? Will they last the life of the boat? Are they troublesome? 3) Can I sail with the centerboard partially down if I want? 4) What are the best designed Centerboard boats out there? Which ones are the boats that are to be avoided? Why don''t we see more boats manufactured with swing centerboards?...It seems like the ideal configuration for cruisers that like "thin water" anchorages. 5) Any other comments?...Pro''s Con''s  


To answer your questions: 1) How are the centerboards raised and lowered? Is it hard to do? Do they all swing down on a pivot or do some slide down (like a daggerboard)? Most centerboards either have a small winch that tensions a cable that raises the centerboard. These winches vary from trailer type cable winches (electric and manual) to normal sheet winches in which case there is often a block and tackle on the end of the centerboard penant. The centerboard cable either acts through a tube that is sealed at the bottom and or deck or through a variety of pull rod designs that pass through a packing gland. Centerboards are usually not too hard to operate but drop keels because of their weight take a fair amount of cranking to pull up and down. Most cruising centerboard boats have pivoting centerboards (just weighted enough to cause them to be heavier than water) or Swing Keels (which pivot and are weighted significantly enought to help act as part of the boat''s ballast.) There are daggerboard boats out there but those are mostly small boats. There is a current trend in small race boats to have a dagger board with a bulb on the end. These are very efficient sailing wise but are much more difficult to raise and lower and really cannot be partially raised lowered under sail. 2) Are there different designs? What is there to look out for ? What is the maintanence? Will they last the life of the boat? Are they troublesome? They vary very widely in design, quality and execution from crudely cast iron swing keels, or a rough cut steel plate, to nicely fabricated lead keels, to nicely fabricated fiberglass foils, to crudely fabricated glass over plywood. In my mind, The best cruising boat set up is a keel/centerboard where these is a small shoal draft keel that the centerboard emerges from the bottom of. When fully retracted the centerboard is wholely cased in the trunk and is not exposed below the bottom of the short keel. This design gives up a little performance but offers the most protection for the centerboard and represents a good compromise in performance. If performance is your thing than a daggerboard with a bulb is a better option. (I am thinking of building a small daysailor overnighter to putter about with and will probably do that kind of a CB.) There is more maintenance. The centerboard penants, winches and packing glands need maintenance. The pivot bushings and penant attachment points need regular maintenance and at some point replacement. There are often flaps across the centerboard slot that need periodic replacement. Centerboard often have minor damage to their fairing materials and barrier coats as the seem to be used as a depth sounder more often and there is some wear of centerboard against the side of the trunk. Even painting the Centerboard is a little harder because the boat needs to be high enough to let the whole board down. Whether they last the life of the boat depends on maintenance and how the original board was constructed. 3) Can I sail with the centerboard partially down if I want? Most boats can be sailed with the board partially down. One nice thing about a centerboard is that it can be partially raised or lowered, i.e. shifted in position to balance the helm in heavy air or even raised some to allow more leeway in heavy air reducing heeling. For most keel centerboarders the best performance is with the keel down for beating and close to beam reaching, partially raised when broad reaching and all the way up on a run. 4) What are the best designed Centerboard boats out there? Which ones are the boats that are to be avoided? Why don''t we see more boats manufactured with swing centerboards?...It seems like the ideal configuration for cruisers that like "thin water" anchorages. I don''t have time to do a good and bad list this morning but keel/centerboard boats are more expenive to build than their fixed keel sisters, expecially in sizes over about 25 feet.They require more ballast and more hardware to work well. Most people seem to be willing to accept a wing or bulb keel. 5) Any other comments?...Pro''s Con''s Keel centerboards give up a fair amount of performance over a well designed fin keel but if well designed generally offer better performance than other forms of shoal draft keels including wing and bulbs. They are harder to build properly and harder to maintain, but offer a lot of advantages to a cruiser. Jeff  

I own a 28ft Soverel(1965), it has a long shoal draft keel in which a centerboard swings out.It uses a gear to crank it up and down. This is a straight shot to the centerboard trunk through a stainless tube (this mounts from cb trunk to below cockpit floor above waterline).It is not super easy or fast to raise. The cable should be checked or replaced every few years I would guess. My centerboard is lead incased in fiberglass. I know this because the cb was left all the way down at dock(it should never be that far down)and the boat sat on it at low very low tide and bent it in half, the repair was not easy! Anyway I love my boat I can steer the boat with cb adjustments, all but down wind. It is nice to singlehand I can make sail changes or go below without having to hand steer. These are the good point of this boat I have no clue about others boats. Paul B  

I think the keel/centerboard designed, as mentioned above, is the best CB configuration. This design is used by Hinckley, Bristol, Little Harbor, Cheoy Lee (Pedrick 41) and Alden to name just a few builders. Many K/CB boats can be sailed equally as well with the board up as down, on almost all points of sail. Downwind there is the advantage of having the boat up, upwind, having the board down can be a significant advantage. I would say (since I just got one) that the most beautiful and well designed K/CB boat of all time is the Hood 38 built by Wauquiez. Sisterships were built by Bristol (38.8) and Little Harbor (Ted Hood''s company). She is a delight to sail, very well thought out, well built and nicely finished. I could not be happier. Thus, I will recommend to you Ted Hood''s K/CB designs. Perhaps one of the most significant advantages, aside from the obvious ability to sail into skinny water, is the wonderful tracking ability of these boats. This is not to be taken lightly if you plan to do some distance cruising. I can take my hands off the helm for long periods of time, not even bother to lock it in, and have the boat track on any point of sail. To me, with a K/CB, you have all the advantages of a full keel boat and a fin keel boat with none of the disadvantages of either. Maintenance is really very minimal and does not occur on even an annual basis. Just keep inspecting the cable when the boat is pulled. As to the placement of the winch for the cable, there are several different designs. Some use lines to the cockpit, some have a winch with cable in or just out of the cockpit. I hope this helps.  

Regarding the stability question in the original post, as Jeff says most boards are only slightly heavier than water, and so do not significantly lower the center of gravity when in the lowered position. There is a school of thought which says that a centerboarder is more stable with the board raised in heavy weather; as Jeff mentioned this allows more leeway. In theory this reduces the chance of the boat "tripping" over her keel. I personally am a great fan of centerboarders. Partially raising a front pivoted board moves the center of lateral resistance aft, thereby reducing weather helm, and is very useful in balancing a boat.  

Regarding the question on the weight of the CB. I believe the CB on the Hood 38 is 800 lbs. A friend with a Cheoy Lee Pedrick 41 told me his CB was also very heavy. Hope this helps  

I''ve had a C&C 40 for 21 years. She is now for sale and is a keel centerboard. The board weighs about 700# and is pulled with a winch and a five part tackle connected to a cable, which pulls the board. We seldom use the board, unless we are trying to make a point and avoid two tacks. With the board down, she will really put her nose into the wind. With the board down she draws 8''6" and up 4''8", so she goes where the seven foot keels can''t. Are you interested in a boat?  

Doublee44, Well I''m not in the market to purchase a boat right now, but I am doing "Mental Research" on what Features/Types of boats I would be looking to get as my "next boat". If I was to get a next boat I would be looking for one to cruise extensively down to the "Islands" (carribean, Central/South America And I am known to be a crusing type sailor that loves to gunkhole. I have a newer Catalina 36MKII with a wing keel that I love dearly. I think it is an awesome boat for extensive coastal cruising with periodic juants offshore. No boat is perfect for all situations and though it would be a fine boat for what I described above, I feel there are a few features that I would like to have that would make it even "more ideal" (everything is relative.....and so are the costs). I am slightly enamored on a keel/centerboard design as it give the best compromise in what I like to do. I am not "super" concerned on the extra bit of maintenance needed for the centerboard, just as long as the design was a "decent" one. Thus the questions on how some are raised and lowered....(Though, I''m still not sure which is the "best" design). So on my "next boat" I might be looking for a keel/Centerboard configuration if it was well designed and less likely to keep me hanging (Pun intended). And I am starting to become interested in possibly a fractional rig as per some of the reasons Dave_H has mentioned (if done properly easier to depower main and smaller headsail to deal with.....yes I am listening Dave) But I am still not overlooking Masthead Rigs for their sturdiness and simplicity and if done correctly (Right sized sails, lines to cockpit, etc, etc) they can be able to be singlehanded well by a competent skipper...... I think the C&C is a nice boat. Is it listed somewhere on the net?, just for a quick look...;-)  

Ahoy Jeff_H, To your point of "small race boats with daggerboards with bulb attached", do you know how this type fares in a grounding? Art (I''m assuming a boat such as a Melges 24, Ultimate 20,etc.)  

Properly designed and all other things being equal a daggerboard with a bulb should do as well or better than fin keeler. The only example that I know of was a Melges 24 that took to the ground at speeds thought to be in excess of 8 knots. The description that I heard was that she hit hard and with the large chute up, spun and took a hard down which carried her over the hump. Damage was described as cosmetic. I don''t think that is a representative fair sampling of the concept. I suspect that depending on the design of the boat and the nature of the grounding there could easily be more extensive damage to the drop keel or its scabboard. Modern daggerboards with bulbs are next to non-existent in larger production boats but they are a concept that I would love to see more often. It is comparatively easy to design a structure that could absorb the engery of a major impact. It might include a large rubber impact block that could take buffer most of the force of impact rather than deliver the loads into a rigid structure. Longer than usual leverage into the boat perhaps with SS tubes sliding an a SS scabboard could also reduce the loads felt by the boat. I had designed a quick release lock down system that would permit the keel to be released under pressure allowing it to be retracted when aground but which would automatically engage if the boat took a knockdown, locking the keel so that it can''t retract due to gravity. If I were wealthy enough to build a custom boat (which is not likely in this lifetime) a lifting dagger board with a bulb would be high on my list. Jeff  


Jeff_H said: Properly designed and all other things being equal a daggerboard with a bulb should do as well or better than fin keeler. The only example that I know of was a Melges 24 that took to the ground at speeds thought to be in excess of 8 knots. The description that I heard was that she hit hard and with the large chute up, spun and took a hard down which carried her over the hump. Damage was described as cosmetic. I don''t think that is a representative fair sampling of the concept. I suspect that depending on the design of the boat and the nature of the grounding there could easily be more extensive damage to the drop keel or its scabboard. Modern daggerboards with bulbs are next to non-existent in larger production boats but they are a concept that I would love to see more often. It is comparatively easy to design a structure that could absorb the engery of a major impact. It might include a large rubber impact block that could take buffer most of the force of impact rather than deliver the loads into a rigid structure. Longer than usual leverage into the boat perhaps with SS tubes sliding an a SS scabboard could also reduce the loads felt by the boat. I had designed a quick release lock down system that would permit the keel to be released under pressure allowing it to be retracted when aground but which would automatically engage if the boat took a knockdown, locking the keel so that it can''t retract due to gravity. If I were wealthy enough to build a custom boat (which is not likely in this lifetime) a lifting dagger board with a bulb would be high on my list. Jeff Click to expand...

I own a Soverel 36R built in 1967. It has a full keel with the centerboard stowed in the keel. The board on these are solid brass. I read somwhere that it was thousands of pounds of brass and I don't doubt it as it's HUGE in all dimension. I don't believe there are going to be many boats built today like this. She sails like a dream. My draft with the brass up is 4.25' and down 9'. And 9 feet of thousands of pounds of brass hanging under my boat makes me feel real comfortable in rough weather. Sometimes it feels like she can sail straight into the wind with the brass down. Brass up she can take me into shallow water where many 26' boats have trouble. I will admit that I'd love to throw a power winch on her as that much weight obviously takes a serious arm to raise. And sorry, but the plan is for her never to be for sale again. If you look around for a Soverel, keep in mind that Bill Soverel ( the dad ) designed and built ocean cruisers through the late 60's. The son, Mark designed and built them from the 70's on as racers. Not that there's anything wrong with Mark's boats. He also built them well and from what I read his Soverel 33 owned the races for many years and sometimes still do.  

Must be Viva sailing Yachts (Sasanka) from Poland. Off course I`m owner of a VIVA 600. Very suitable for Swedish Lakes and Channels.  


Very cool. Never heard of the Viva 600 before, so I looked it up. 19' boat with an enclosed head. Awesome.  


Currently my favorite centerboard design is Boreal. They start in the 40’s and go into the 60’s. As regards daggerboards AKA lifting keels the B50 is nice but the K&M besteavers in the mid 50s comes close to my idea of an ideal cruising boat. For older boats thought the Ted Hood centerboarders were cooler than dirt. Was surprised how well they pointed. Sailed a B40multiple times in the Marion Bermuda. Hated listening to the board slap in light air and she was wet in a seaway. More than once have seen debris get into the slot and jam it. On one occasion it was gravel and the boat needed to hauled to clear it. Hydraulics maybe better than a pendant/winch set up depending on design when dealing with bigger centerboards Changing out a pendant can be real hard. Just my thoughts. If you go with a lifting keel play attention to how it will handle a grounding. There are some very ingenious ways that have been thought out to handle this mishap.  


We have a board on here. We draw 6 and change with it up and 10 and change with it down. I was told by the PO that he had added about 2500# to the board, but I have no way of confirming this until we pull it out. With 6' of draft, our board isn't so much about leeway as it is trim and comfort. It definitely stabilizes the boat (underway or at anchor, by the way) which helps the boat sail better. Alternating the depth of the board (visualize an upside down shark fin) moves the center of lateral resistance a bit forward or aft. Off the wind it is also a stabilizing factor and a deeper point around which to turn the boat. There are two major drawbacks to centerboards, IMO. One is that at a certain point down, they will begin to move about in the trunk and make noise. Maybe that's less of a problem on other boats, but this one slips through the water so silently that sometimes the noise from the board can be a little bit bothersome. Solution: pull it up a few cranks. The other much more serious problem that can develop with a board is the trunk leaking. I don't care if it is a day sailor or a 50' ocean going cruiser; this is a serious problem. In some cases it can be prohibitively expensive to repair and on those boats you will find the trunk sealed up and the board decommissioned.  

Think technique and potential troubles vary widely depending on if your talking about a Daggerboard ( no real ballast component) lifting keel (major ballast component commonly in a bulb) Keel centerboard ( no trunk intruding in to accommodations or even bilge to a significant degree) Centerboard Also impact on how the boat handles varies. Most of the daggerboards I’m familiar with have been on multis. Can anyone comment on daggerboards in ocean going vessels?  

My Clearwater 35 is a swing keel boat. It has lead enclosed within the leading edge of an elliptical fiberglass foil keel that weighs about 3000#. The keel retracts completely into the hull, allowing the hull to sit on the bottom (with the swing rudder up.). The boat was originally spec'd to draw 1' 10" with everything up, but it draws at least 2' when loaded for cruising. Draft is 6' with the keel down. The aft end of the keel is faired to fill the hull aperture when the keel is fully down. It is lowered by gravity and raised via a winch on the coachroof that hauls a pennant attached to a block and tackle arrangement with 6:1 purchase. I've been in caught in some rather high winds (39 - 45 kts) several times in the 21 years I've owned her, but never came close to a knockdown. The boat tends to head up in strong puffs and does not like to have the rail buried. The Clearwater 35 is not a tender boat and typically reaches close-hauled maximum speed with a max of 20° heel. Form stability is part of the design equation along with weight discipline by the designer, Craig Walters, who also designed similar Sequin boats of 40' and over. With inboard shrouds and a low aspect fin keel, the Clearwater 35 goes to weather better than most. It has a shorter WLL and displaces at 2000# more than a J-35, so it isn't a real race boat. However, the swing keel allows shortcuts and anchoring where most can't. And I can keep it at my shallow water (2.5' MLW) dock--no J-35's allowed! Maintenance has been minimal. I did replace the original SS keel pin, about 17 years ago when it appeared to be weeping at the seals. The new pin is 316 SS, whereas the original appeared to be 304 SS, and it hasn't leaked since. The 17 yr old seals are still going strong. The only other maintenance item is the pennant, which is 1/2" Dacron braid, and lasts over 10 years before it gets worn from winching. The keel trunk is the elephant in the main salon, extending all the way up to the coachroof, so it isn't for everyone--just those who need adjustable draft in a boat that sails very well.  


There are several French boats with variable draft. Alubat Ovni, Allures, Garcia Expedition, Boreal...... They are typically ‘expedition’ boats rather than fast cruisers but they command a very loyal following and are great for high tidal ranges and going anywhere that ‘dries out’. Not sure what your objective is in looking for lifting centerboard or swing keel but worth taking a look anyhow.  


Wow! An 18 year old thread that's been dead for over 10 years comes back to life!  

And unlike electronics, most of the old comments are still relevant!  

Tele from talks with owners of these boats another aspect that draws people to these boats is behavior in extreme weather. Apparently with board up even if sideways to a wave they will slide not broach and turn turtle. With a jsd out and companionway closed the storm tactic is totally passive. An excellent feature for a couple. Also trade wind sailing is downwind so the decrease in wetted surface with board up is helpful. Boreal had the centerboard but also two small daggerboards way aft. Downwind the configuration is centerboard up daggerboard(s) down. Given they are Al and coatings are expensive although marketing photos show them beached from what I understand beaching is avoided. Sand is very abrasive and if in surf the boat will settle some. However in places where anchoring stern to beach and bow in shallow water would have been very convenient. Going off the sugar scoop into waist deep water to wade to the beach would be slick.  

Outbound, you are right on all counts. I confess that I did not quite have the guts to pull the trigger on any of the boats listed and instead went with a fixed keel on an Aluminum boat. But I sailed a few before making the decision and was very nearly ready. In the end, I was prepared to sacrifice the Bahamas for simplicity (did not go for air-con, generator or any high maintenance systems other than an autopilot)  

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11 Best Pocket Cruiser Sailboats to Fit a Budget

  • By Cruising World Staff
  • Updated: August 9, 2021

Looking for a trailerable pocket cruiser that offers that liveaboard feeling? This list features 11 small sailboats with cabins that have the amenities often found on larger vessels. They may not be ocean crossing vessels, but they’re certainly capable of handling big bays and open waters.

What is a pocket cruiser? It’s a small trailerable sailboat, typically under 30 feet in length, that’s ideal for cruising big lakes, bays, coastal ocean waters, and occasionally bluewater cruising. Pocket cruisers are usually more affordable, compact, and offer a level of comfort that’s comparable to bigger liveaboards.

Small cruising sailboats are appealing for many reasons, but if you’re like most of us, you want to maintain a certain level of comfort while on the water. We took a poll and these are what we found to be the best cruising sailboats under 30 feet.

Andrews 28

Open and airy below deck, the Andrews 28 doesn’t sacrifice comfort for speed. Designed by Alan Andrews, the Southern California naval architect renowned for his light, fast raceboats, this 28-footer will certainly appeal to the cruiser who also enjoys a little club racing. Sporting a total of 6 berths, a galley, head and nav area, you might forget you are on a boat small enough to be easily trailered. The retractable keel allows the Andrews 28 to be easily launched and hauled and ensures it’s as comfortable as a daysailer as it is a racer. Click here to read more about the Andrews28.

Beneteau First 20

First 20 at sunset

Small sailboat with a cabin? Check! Fun to sail? Modern design? Capable of flying a spinnaker? Check! Check! Check! The Finot-Conq-designed Beneteau First 20, which replaced the popular Beneteau first 211 nearly a decade ago now, is a sporty-but-stable pocket cruiser suitable for newcomers to the sport who are eager to learn their chops before moving up to a bigger boat or for old salts looking to downsize to a trailerable design. The boat features twin rudders, a lifting keel, and a surprisingly roomy interior with bunks for four. Click here to read more about the Beneteau First 20 .

Ranger 26

Conceived as a way to bridge the gap between a safe, comfortable, family cruiser and a competitive racer, Gary Mull’s Ranger 26 does exactly as it was designed to. Undeniably fast, (one won the 1970 IOR North American Half-Ton Cup) the boat sails as well as it looks. However speed isn’t the Ranger’s only strong-suit, with over 7 feet of cockpit there’s plenty of room for socializing after an evening of racing. The Ranger 26 sports a nice balance of freeboard and cabin height ensuring that a handsome profile wasn’t sacrificed for standing headroom. Click here to read more about the Ranger 26.

Nonsuch 30 left side

Catboats were once a common site in coastal waters, where they sailed the shallow bays as fishing or work boats. Their large single and often gaff-rigged sail provided plenty of power, and a centerboard made them well-suited for the thin waters they frequently encountered. In the late 1970s, Canadian builder Hinterhoeller introduced the Nonsuch 30, a fiberglass variation of the catboat design, with a modern Marconi sail flown on a stayless mast, and a keel instead of a centerboard. The boat’s wide beam made room below for a spacious interior, and the design caught on quickly with cruising sailors looking for a small bluewater sailboat. Click here to read more about the Nonsuch 30 .

Newport 27

Debuted in 1971 in California, the Newport 27 was an instant success on the local racing scene. For a modest 27-footer, the Newport 27 has an unusually spacious interrior with over 6 feet of standing headroom. With 4 berths, a table, nav station, head and galley the Newport 27 has all the amenities you might find in a much bigger boat, all in a compact package. While quick in light air, the drawback of the tiller steering becomes apparent with increasing breeze and weather helm often leading to shortening sail early. Click here to read more about the Newport 27.

Balboa 26

First splashed in 1969, the Balboa 26 continues to enjoy a strong following among budget-minded cruisers. Built sturdy and heavy, all of the boat’s stress points are reinforced. The spacious cockpit comfortably seats 4 and is self bailing, ensuring that sailors stay dry. While only 26 feet, the Balboa still has room for a double berth, galley with stove and freshwater pump, and an optional marine head or V-berth. The Balboa has the ability to sleep five, though the most comfortable number is two or three. Under sail, the Balboa is fast and maneuverable, but may prove a handful in heavy breeze as weather helm increases. Click here to read more about the Balboa 26.

Cape Dory 28

Cape Dory 28

While the sleek lines and the teak accents of the Cape Dory 28 may grab the eye, it is the performance of the boat that make it unique. The Cape Dory comes with all amenities that you might need available, including a V-berth, 2 settees, and a head. Safe, sound and comfortable as a cruiser it is still capable of speed. Quick in light wind and sturdy and capable in heavy air, it is off the wind where the Cape Dory 28 shines with a balanced helm and the ability to cut through chop and still tack perfectly. Click here to read more about the Cape Dory 28.

Islander Bahama 28

Islander Bahama 28

On top of being a real eye-catcher, the Islander Bahama 28, with its 5-foot-6-inch draft and 3,300 pounds of ballast, sails beautifully, tracks well, and responds quickly to the helm. Inspired by the International Offshore Rule, it is unusually wide, offering stability in breeze without sacrificing the sheer and lines that make it so attractive. Below deck, the Islander Bahama 28 comes standard with plenty of berths and storage space and a galley complete with stove, icebox and sink. Click here to read more about the Islander Bahama 28.

S2 8.6

Much like its older sibling, the S2 8.6 still holds its contemporary style, despite its 1983 introduction. Like all other S2 Yachts, the 8.6 is recognized for the quality craftsmanship that allows the boat to hold up today.The S2 8.6 is a very comfortable and easily managed coastal cruiser and club racer. It’s relatively stiff, its helm feels balanced, and it tracks well. On most points of sail, it compares favorably with other boats of similar size and type. Click here to read more about the S2 8.6.

Contessa 26

Contessa 26

When the Contessa 26 was released in 1965, it immediately proved itself to be a strong, seaworthy vessel. The Contessa has continued to prove itself throughout its lifetime, being the boat of choice for two solo circumnavigations under the age of 21. While upwind performance leaves some wanting, the boat is sturdy and can carry full sail in up to 20 knots of breeze. Suited more for single-handing, the Contessa lacks standing headroom and the accommodations are sparse. Nonetheless, the Contessa 26 performs well as a daysailer with guests aboard. Click here to read more about the Contessa 26.

Hunter 27

The Hunter 27 perfectly encompasses the pocket cruiser ideal. Even if you don’t want a big boat, you can still have big boat amenities. With the generously spacious layout, wheel steering and a walkthrough transom the Hunter feels much larger than 27 feet. Step below deck and any doubts you had that the Hunter was secretly a big boat will be gone. The amenities below are endless; a full galley including stove, microwave and cooler, head with full shower, several berths and not to mention a saloon with seating for 6. The Hunter 27 has reset the benchmark for 27-footers. Click here to read more about the Hunter 27.

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What is a Swing Keel? Advantages & Vs Centerboards, Lifting Keel, Canting Keels

Swing keels are an often misunderstood sailboat feature. They stand unique as a capable offshore sailboat with good windward performance – but they also can provide access to places that few other sailboats can venture.

What is a swing keel, and what makes it so unique? Let’s look at a few examples and weigh the pros and cons.

Table of Contents

Swing keels versus centerboards, swing keel versus lifting keel, swing keels versus canting keels, bilge keels, shoal draft cruisers, daggerboards, advantages of swing keel yachts, disadvantages of swing keels, is a swing keel right for you, faq – questions about swing keel sailboats.

swing keel yacht in the boatyard

What Exactly are Swing Keels? And What Are They Not?

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what a “swing keel” is—so let’s start by clearing a few things up. Swing keels are a rare feature found on larger cruising boats. It’s an expensive and specialized item that a boat buyer has to seek out if they want one!

A swing keel is a weighted fin keel that pivots up into the hull of the boat. It can be adjusted from a deep-keel design for optimum sailing performance to a flat-bottomed boat with no keel at all for “drying out” on a sandbar or motoring in extremely shallow water.

In short, a swing keel sailboat gives you the best of all worlds—excellent sailing performance, even upwind, and shallow water access to get in and out of virtually any anchorage or marina in the world.

To be effective, these yachts have very heavy keels. You cannot lift them manually—a proper swing keel requires an electric or hydraulic lifting mechanism. The keel is shaped like an airfoil for maximum performance and is cast out of lead or iron. They usually weigh as much as a couple of automobiles.

Swing keels are effective for two reasons. First, they are ballasted, so they provide righting momentum and stability for the yacht. Secondly, they are shaped like an airfoil, so the water moving over them creates a hydrodynamic force like a regular fin keel does.

There are currently only two major manufacturers of true swing keel yachts— Southerly (now owned by Discovery Shipyards in the UK) and Sirius Yachts from Germany. In 2020, Jeanneau announced a new swing keel version of their Sun Odyssey 410. However, it’s unclear as to precisely what type of keel it features.

The confusion isn’t helped by many sailors using multiple terms interchangeably. The truth is, swing keel sailboats are so rare that most sailors have never even seen one in person! Additionally, some manufacturers use many terms to misdescribe their products as swing keels, adding confusion and taking advantage of the ill-informed.

Sailing Away

First, and perhaps most importantly, a swing keel is not a centerboard. The two may look similar, but their likeness ends there.

Centerboards are extremely common on small sailboats, especially trailerable sailboats . A centerboard sailboat has a flat bottom and a simple board that pivots back into the hull.

The centerboard itself is usually lightweight and lifted with a simple cable and winch system. More often than not, it’s a flat board made of fiberglass. The effectiveness of a centerboard comes entirely from the pressure of the water moving over it since its light design does not provide any righting momentum of its own.

Some larger and very capable cruising boats do have centerboards. However, these boats are usually fitted with internal ballast to improve the boat’s stability beyond what only the centerboard could provide.

There are many monohull fiberglass boats with centerboards, some of 40 feet or more. Usually, the centerboard option is a less common option from the factory for people who want to use the boat in very shallow water. On bigger boats, the board is usually retracted into a ballasted stub keel that doubles as the centerboard trunk.

The Gemini 105MC Catamaran has a pair of centerboards, each of which can be lifted with its own winch. This setup enables Geminis to operate in shallow waters, even by catamaran standards. The Gemini is a lightly-built coastal cruiser from the US.

Some other interesting examples are the Alubat Ovni and Allures aluminum sailboats made in France. These two companies produce different takes on the rugged “go anywhere” sailboat. To that end, they focus on using a centerboard to reduce the draft to make beaching the boat easy. Both of these boats are capable world cruisers.

A man wearing overalls and standing on a plank works on repairs and maintenance to a yacht in dry dock.

Lifting keels look like a conventional fin, bulb, or even wing keel, but they have one significant design difference. Using a high-power motor, they can lift vertically up into the hull. This allows the yacht to have a conventional ballasted fin keel that adjusts in draft.

With this arrangement, the yacht can squeeze into shallow slips or even shoaly anchorages. But, with the keel fully extended, it has upwind sailing performance similar to a full keel version.

Lifting keels are very rare since the cost of manufacturing the lifting mechanism is so expensive. Plus, the interior of the boat must be designed to accommodate the trunk the keels lift into.

Compared to swing keels, lifting keels are more susceptible to damage from a hard grounding. A swing keel will simply pivot and retract partially. A lifting keel, in contrast, can easily damage the tracks and lifting mechanisms.

Another term that is often batted around is “canting keel.” A canting keel is found only on the most cutting-edge ocean racing boats. They swing not aftward, like a swing keel, but instead side to side.

Why would you ever want your keel to swing to the side? Their purpose is to flatten out the boat when sailing upwind. By getting a flat-hulled racing yacht to sail level, its hull will perform better and overall speed will be increased.

Other Shallow-Draft Designs to Consider

The list above is just a few ways that boat builders have found to reduce the draft of a sailboat. Depending on the purpose, there are other ways to do the job.

Bilge keels boats are most common in the UK. They are sometimes called twin keels because they feature two shorter keels mounted at slight angles below the hull. The main advantage of a bilge keel is that the boat can be allowed to “dry out” in areas of big tidal swings. In other words, the boat can stand on its own after the tide goes out.

A small coastal town near Kirkcaldy, Fife. The quiet sombre time where the tide is out and only the noise of distant seagulls can be heard.

Boat design is all about the give and take. While one buyer might want the ultimate in offshore performance, another might say they want a decent sailing boat that can fit into their slip—which only has four feet of water on the approach. What to do?

If yacht designers were allowed to draw their boats without considering shallow areas, most would attach deep, high-aspect-ratio fin keels. Then the boat would be limited to areas with seven or more feet of water. In some parts of the world, like The Bahamas or the Chesapeake Bay, that limits the number of places they can visit.

So boat builders often make at least two conventional keel versions of a boat. One has the best performance characteristics and a deep draft. The other has a slightly reduced draft and a few design tweaks to make it work. Often, the amount of ballast will be increased to compensate for the change in lateral resistance.

A fixed keel shoal-draft version of a sailboat does have a few advantages over other options. It is just as sturdy as any other keel design and has no moving parts or expensive lifting mechanisms.

Small boats that use centerboards have a few other options. Leeboards are a traditional design that uses pivoting boards mounted on each side of the boat. The classic Herreshoff Meadowlark is a good example.

Daggerboards are similar to centerboards, but instead of pivoting, the boards move directly up and down. Also, like centerboards, the daggers are not ballasted.

This arrangement is used on many sailing dinghies, like the Sunfish. For bigger cruising boats, they are popular on performance cruising catamarans like the Maine Cats, Outreamers, and Catanas.

Simply put, a swing keel yacht will allow you to go places that nothing else will. If you eliminated lightweight centerboard designs from your list of options, there are very few shoal-draft ocean-going sailboats to choose from.

Most centerboard designs are inadequately designed for bluewater sailing. Those built heavier and mounted on larger vessels tend to be mounted in stub keels. While they certainly have a shallower draft than other similar-sized vessels, they are still a far cry from “shoal-draft.” As a result, the list of true bluewater centerboard boats is extremely short.

Swing keels are robustly designed, heavy enough, and stable enough to handle ocean crossings. At the same time, they fold up to access very shallow water. That allows the skipper to get into pretty much any anchorage or marina—even places that other sailboats can’t get into.

There are also times when sailing that the variable draft feature will have its plusses. When sailing downwind, for example, having the keel in the fully lowered position makes little sense. By reducing draft slightly, you might be able to sail fast under spinnaker.

It also enables some swing keel sailboats to be dried out. This is standard practice in some harbors with big tide swings. In other places, it means that you can perform maintenance on a sandbar in the right conditions. And that means fewer trips to the boatyard!

Maybe one of the neatest tricks that will make those with fixed keels jealous is what happens if you run aground in one of these boats. First off, bumps are unlikely to damage the keel. The keel swings on its pivot point. The skipper can then just reduce draft a little, and carefully proceed.

Sailboats moored at Land and Sea Park in The Exumas

It’s not all good news, of course. If swing keels didn’t have some minuses, chances are there would be a lot more of them out there.

While sailing performance is very good on these boats, it does not match a hull with a full-depth fixed fin keel. The design of the swinging keel does not allow for the same distribution of weight, so the balance of the boat will always be a bit different.

The system required to raise and lower an enormous and heavy keel is not trivial. It is a complex system made up of expensive parts. Experienced boaters will immediately understand the problem with this. It means that it will break one day, and when it does, it will be difficult and expensive to repair.

Routine maintenance is not a burden, however. Beyond checking the hydraulic level, keel threads, and swing keel cables occasionally, there is little to do.

The other significant disadvantage of this system is the initial purchase cost. These boats target a very niche market and only sell a few boats a year. As a result, they’re hard to find, which means that good examples are expensive to purchase. If you’re building a new yacht, then a swing keel system is a costly option.

There are also slight day-to-day considerations with a swing keel. As with any complicated boat system, the keel lifting mechanism will require occasional maintenance. The entire system will likely need to be overhauled by the yard every 20 or 30 years.

Finally, the interior of the yacht must be designed to accommodate the lifted keel. Southerly often solves this by featuring a raised salon area where the central dinette sits higher, on top of the keel enclosure.

While swing keel sailboats are pretty rare, this is no lack of information available about them. The trick is to make sure that the boat you are looking at and talking about is indeed a swing keel and not something else.

Luckily, one of today’s most experienced and knowledgeable cruising couples has several decades of experience on Southerly swing keel sailboats . Paul and Sheryl Shard of the Distant Shores television show have documented their experiences extensively. They have cruised Europe, the Caribbean, and North America and made at least five Atlantic crossings various Southerly sailboats.

Clearly, these boats are not for everyone. Most people don’t need the extra expense or complexity of a swing keel. But if you want a boat that can access shallow water while at the same time not sacrificing offshore or sailing performance, then swing keels should be on your shortlist.

Are swing keels good?

As with all things boating, the answer is, “It depends.” Swing keels are an expensive feature to add to any boat, and as such only well-built boats will bother putting it in.

A swing keel is a good option if you’re looking for a shallow-draft sailboat that does not sacrifice sailing performance. And unlike most centerboard-equipped designs, these boats are bluewater-capable and very robustly built.

centerboard sailboats

Matt has been boating around Florida for over 25 years in everything from small powerboats to large cruising catamarans. He currently lives aboard a 38-foot Cabo Rico sailboat with his wife Lucy and adventure dog Chelsea. Together, they cruise between winters in The Bahamas and summers in the Chesapeake Bay.

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centerboard sailboats

Centerboard Sailboat Boats for sale

2010 Rhodes Rhodes 19 Centerboard Sailboat

2010 Rhodes Rhodes 19 Centerboard Sailboat

Harwich Port, Massachusetts

Make Rhodes

Model Rhodes 19 Centerboard Sailboat

Category Daysailer Sailboats

Posted Over 1 Month

2010 Rhodes Rhodes 19 Centerboard Sailboat R19 Compass mooring cleat bouble chock kit outboard bracket kit R19 MAINSAIL Jib Sail R19 Boom cockpit tent Pr spreader boots Masthead wind indicator gusher bilge pump kit Fir Extinguisher 2012 Honda 2hp 4 cycle outboard with bracket Anti foulingg bottom paint Blue bottom with blue boot stripe VERY NICE BOAT LIKE NEW OFFERS ENCOURAGED

1978 Pearson 35 Centerboard

1978 Pearson 35 Centerboard

New Bern, North Carolina

Make Pearson 35

Model Centerboard

Category Racer Boats

1978 Pearson 35 Centerboard SEAQUEL is a well cared for, very sharp and graceful 1978 Pearson 35.  She sails beautifully, accelerates quickly and is a very efficient sloop rigged vessel.   This boat in beautiful condition and has been constantly upgraded.  She shows exactly how the pictures look! This is a golden opportunity to purchase a very well made classic  Pearson 35 in beautiful condition!  With its’ Center Board keel your draft range is anywhere from 3'9" to 7'6" which allows opportunities to anchor in those great anchorages that others will miss while having great windward performance.  If you want a wonderful sailboat, “just buy a Pearson!” Seaquel won't last long.

1977 O'Day Sailboat 25ft Centerboard

1977 O'Day Sailboat 25ft Centerboard

Morehead City, North Carolina

Length 25.0

1977 O'Day sailboat in very good condition for sale. 5 horsepower Honda long shaft outboard with very low hours. Outboard motor starts on the first pull and brings the boat to hull speed even against current. New high thrust prop on the motor. Includes original prop. Completely new shore power system with Blue Sea ELCI panel and GFCI receptacles. New DC panel and wiring. New standing rigging - replaced all 6 stays with new old stock. The 35ft mast has new wiring, a new Shakespeare antenna, new LED anchor light and new LED running light. Centerboard has a new pendant line. New Saturn bulkhead compass wired with light for night sailing. Hauled out completely scraped and painted this last November '14 with ecominder copper free ablative paint. Rudder has brand new heavy duty guntles, so the rudder is very secure. Working VHF radio. Comes with good mainsail, good hank-on jib. Porta potty in good condition included. Water system is a nice jabsco pump system with a new 25 gallon water tank. Through hull beneath galley replaced last November with a brand new covered flange ball joint with a mounting plate. Has all the anchors and lines you need. This boat is trailer-able. Ready to go! Is a very roomy boat would be great for weekend trips and overnights. Draws 27" with the board up and 5' down. Equipment List:: Anchors VHF radio 50ft shore-power cord 10" brass Lewmar winch handle New water tank New shore power New compass new Shakespeare antenna new masthead light new LED running light new Groco flange valve through-hull Recent Improvements: $250 - Standing rigging replaced with new old stock from another O'Day (in excellent shape). $100 - Rudder guntles have been replaced top and bottom and bolted through the hull - this rudder won't come off. $250 - Through hull beneath galley replaced with Groco flange ball valve, so the one through hull below the waterline is very secure. $250 - New water tank and pressurized water system. $700 - Hauled scraped and painted November 2014. New Saturn bulkhead compass. $500 - New shore power Blue seas AC panel and system with ELCI and GFCI receptacles. New DC panel and wiring. $175 - New masthead light, running light and Shakespeare antenna on top of mast, mast was rewired. $40 - New Pendant Line for centerboard. $200 - New bulkhead Saturn Compass. $100 - New DC panel and wiring including 2 good batteries. $60 - 3 good anchors. Located in Adam's Creek across the Neuse from Oriental Day sailer sailboat liveaboard

1984 O'Day 26 Centerboard Sailboat

1984 O'Day 26 Centerboard Sailboat

Oyster Bay, New York

O'DAY 1984 26' SAILBOAT includes mooring for the spring/summer season in Oyster Bay, NY!!!! Centerboard makes South Shore Sailing a breeze and you can also pull up to the beach! Great entry level sailboat for daysailing, cruising, or overnight stays on the water. Motivated seller; price is negotiable. Perfect sailing for Long Island Sound or Great South Bay - draws only three feet. Can be easily trailered (no trailer included) with her centerboard keel and mast head rig. Designed for comfort and ease of use. The cabin area can sleep four comfortably. Great shoal draft/centerboard with new 2014 Tohatsu, 6 hp engine, four stroke outboard long shaft, barely broken in with portable, 3 gallon fuel tank. Anodized aluminum mast is deck-stepped. This is a highly manueverable sailer, with ease in comfort, launching and the pedigree of O'Day. LOA: 26 Beam: 8.0 Draft: 2.6 Board Up and 6' Board Down Displacement: 4,800 Ballast 1,850 internal lead Vessel is equipped with Quantum sails: 2011 Quantum main sail 2011 Quantum 135% Genoa 2011 Harken Roller Furler Lazy Jacks and reefing system, yard installed Vessel has double v berth forward w privacy door, port and starboard settees in main cabin, port settee pulls out and forms double berth, quarter aft berth and there is storage under all berths and behind settee backs. Head compartment is fitted w porta-pottie, hanging locker, vanity w sink and lockers above and below. Galley area is starboard aft w two stainless steel sinks, one 20 gallon water tank, one folding table, two burner alcohol stove and deep insulated ice box. Vessel has Horizon VHF radio, bulkhead mounted compass, 12 V DC electric panel, battery 12 v, running lights and interior lights. In addition, horseshoe, throw-able PFD, flares, distress flag, air horn and fire extinguisher. There are dock lines, two boat hooks, and one winch handle. New bottom paint 2015. Photos:

24' 2013 Raven Class Centerboard

24' 2013 Raven Class Centerboard

Riverhead, New York

Please call boat owner Warren at 631-255-5900. I have 24' Raven Class Sailboat reconditioned totally in 2013 ,Awgrip paint hull & deck with new sails from Doyle Sailmakers,( 2013), Fully rigged ready to go . The trailer has new wheels and springs ,totally reconditioned ,custom to cruise down the highway . Easy show Riverhead, NY .All new hardware, centerboard, seats from Cape Cod Shipbuilding. If interested please leave ph# and I will call promptly!

Alcort Sunfish Sailboat Boat, Mast, Sail, ropes, Rudder, and 2 Centerboard s

Alcort Sunfish Sailboat Boat, Mast, Sail, ropes, Rudder, and 2 Centerboard s

Mashpee, Massachusetts

Make Alcort Sunfish

Model Alcort Sunfish

Category Sailboats

I paid $1,575 for this boat 7 years ago. It had sat in someones garage for 30 years. It was in fantastic shape when I bought it. It was used 2 times the first year I got it. I had grown up sailing a sunfish and bought it hoping I would use it a lot at the lake in Mashpee Massachusetts summer cottage where it has been stored. It has been stored year round underneath tarps completely covered year round. This sale includes the boat, the sail, the ropes, the mast, 2 centerboards, and the rudder. The rudder was missing the last segment when I bought it-the part you hold on to, so I invented a last segment which worked fine for me. One centerboard is in great shape, the other in ok shape. The one piece of damage is seen clearly in the photos- one piece of metal strapping has peeled away from the edge. I am sure someone who knows what they are doing can bend it back. I would rather not attempt it myself. It was watertight when I sailed it. It is sold as is.It is a great deal.Cape Cod Mashpee on the shore of a lake.

17 ft. Gaff Haven 12 1/2 Sailboat.  Centerboard version of the Herreshoff 12 1/2

17 ft. Gaff Haven 12 1/2 Sailboat. Centerboard version of the Herreshoff 12 1/2

Grosse Pointe, Michigan

Make Custom Built

Length 17.0

The Haven 12 1/2 is Joel White's centerboard version of the Herresshoff 12 1/2. This boat was built to the highest standards, completed in 2006. It has a white oak keel and steam bent oak frames. It was built with plank on frame construction over molds at each frame with Atlantic White Cedar. The front deck is 3/8" marine plywood with teak marine grade plywood laminated on top and scribed with lines to represent deck planking. The rest of the wood is all mahogany and teak. The gaff rigged sails (main and jib), are from Center Harbor (Maine) sail makers. The metal hardware is all silicone bronze as are all the screws. All the spars are Sitka Spruce, which is very light weight and very strong. She has Sunbrella main and jib sail covers. There is a marine grade deep discharge 12 volt battery which powers Minn-Kota electric trolling motors for auxiliary power. There is also an AM/FM/Marine stereo system with iphone/ipod input and two mounted speakers. A galvanized wire lifting harness is also included. It comes with a custom built galvanized Triad trailer (~2006), which has a custom mast holder and "sail off" capability. New paint and varnish was completed inside and out in April, 2015 using Epifanes Varnish and George Kirby Jr. paint. The boat is located near Detroit, Michigan - worth the trip! $20,000. Reasonable offers considered. Shipping and payment: Cannot deliver boat. Payment required in full at time of purchase.

1981 C&C 40 Centerboard Cruiser/Bristol

1981 C&C 40 Centerboard Cruiser/Bristol

Daytona Beach, Florida

Make C&C

Model 40 Centerboard Cruiser/Bristol

1981 C&C 40 Centerboard Cruiser/Bristol PRICE REDUCTION!YOU WILL NOT FIND A BETTER 40' SAILBOAT AT THIS PRICE!!!IF YOU ARE READY TO SAIL TO THE ISLANDS, SO IS THIS BOAT! EQUIPPED AND REAY TO GO!This is your chance to own a RARE & GREAT C & C Performance Cruiser, Centerboard Sloop at a Great Price with TONS of NEW Items! PERFECT LIVE ABOARD!New NS Triple Reef Main Sails (2015)Bottom Painted (March 2015)Engine Serviced: Valves Adjusted, New Thermostats, New Hoses, Injectors Cleaned, Oil Changed, etc. (2015)New Raw Water Pump (2015)Storm Jib Brand New, Never UsedGenny Sail Re-sewn & certified with Sunguard (2015)Most Lines just replaced (2015)New Life Jackets (2014)New 8 1/2 ft. Zodiac PVC Dingy (2015)NEW West Marine Jacob Toilet (April 2015)NEW Macerator Pump (April 2015)NEW Cockpit Bimini (October 2015)

26' Clipper Marine Sailboat

26' Clipper Marine Sailboat

Paso Robles, California

Make Clipper

Model Marine

Length 26.0

For sale is a 26 foot Clipper Sailboat. Great condition, ready to sail. Comes with two main sails, a genoa and a storm jib. Swing keel, extremely easy to tow (folding centerboard and removable mast). Serviced 8hp two stroke engine that starts every time. Pop top to allow for 6 feet of head room. Sleeps four comfortably. Ice box, sink, water bladder, porta-potty, and cabinets for storage. Table folds down to allow for sleeping area. Licensed through Dec. of 2015. Title in hand. Comes with an older trailer (functional but an eyesore) for free.

Chrysler Mutineer Sailboat

Chrysler Mutineer Sailboat

Make Chrysler

Model Mutineer

Length 15.0

1975 Mutineer Sailboat built by Chrysler Marine. Centerboard day sailor. Hull weight approx. 475 lbs. Made for two sailors but will hold four. Hull good. Most of standing rigging has been replaced with new SST wire. Running rigging mostly all new. Sails professionally cleaned and re-resined 3 seasons ago. Main and jib sail area 150 sq. ft. Roller furling jib. Trailer was reconditioned with new lights, new coupler and swing up trailer jack. Tires OK and rims have bearing buddies. Pick up only - near Dayton Ohio

ZUMA Sailboat and Trailer

ZUMA Sailboat and Trailer

Jackson, Tennessee

Make Vanguard

Category Dinghies

Length 12.8

This is a beautiful ZUMA sailboat with a Trailex aluminum trailer. It is a Vanguard built boat that has only been sailed a few dozen times. It has been covered or garaged for most of its life, and it shows. As the pictures taken in the last year or so attest, it looks wonderful. The ZUMA was made by the same folks who build the Laser; but the ZUMA, in my opinion, is much nicer to sail with two people than the Laser. It is a fun boat that is not as high in performance as the Laser, but is easier to set up, and requires, perhaps, less athleticism too. It does move along quite nicely. Beginners can sail this boat; or folks like me, with over thirty years of sailing experience, can enjoy it too. The ZUMA is good for any age sailor that has been properly taught. It takes just minutes to set up, and requires little maintenance. It has a zippered luff, so that the sail can be raised and lowered with a halyard; meaning the mast does not have to be lifted in and out every time like a Laser. The boat only weighs 130 pounds and can be towed by most any car out there with a hitch (check your manual, though). Trailer and all, the towing weight is only around 275 pounds; thanks to the lightweight trailer. This boat looks like it is only a year or so old, and comes with nifty extras. The NORTH sail is in wonderful, almost new, shape. But that's not all. I include a virtually new Neil Pryde sail too. Both sails are very nice looking. It has a Harken tiller extension on a beautiful laminated tiller, and the single bulkhead port has been expanded to two, with storage bags in each. The lines are all like new and bright in color. The traveler block set is upgraded to the one piece design from the Laser. This package includes a new rudder cover and a new centerboard storage bag. I include a HAWK wind indicator and other little extras. The SILVA compass was standard on the ZUMA, and is, of course, included. The Trailex aluminum trailer supports the boat by the gunwales to avoid stress on the bottom. The tires (with galvanized rims) are less than two years old, and I will include a brand new spare with galvanized rim. Spare tire is not mounted on trailer; but can be stowed in trunk of car or such. The trailer comes with LED lights, too. There is also a custom Sunbrella boat cover included. The cover, as would be expected, is the one thing that shows the most signs of wear. It has done its job of protecting the boat, though, and should continue to so so for quite some time to come. New covers should be readily available when this one needs replacing. Pictures tell a good story; but here is some additional information regarding those pictures. The sailing pictures were taken in 2014 on the Intracoastal Waterway near Pensacola Beach. Most pictures show the boat before the second port was added. Some ZUMA's had either one or two, for seemingly no rhyme or reason. The boat looks much more balanced with two, and it's handy for extra storage too. Storage bags for the ports are included; along with a small oar that can be stored inside the hull. The oar was sized to fit right through the port. The ZUMA logo on the top of the boat was removed earlier this year. I hated it, and thought the boat looked much more refined without it. I had no intention of selling it when it was removed, but you could always have a sign shop do a logo to pretty much match it, if you were so inclined. The boat has some crazing of the gelcoat here and there, and there are a few scratches, but none of that detracts from the overall beauty of the boat. There is normal wear and tear on the trailer, but once again, it looks like a year or two old package. You have to see it to appreciate it. The boat is in Tennessee and if you are within driving distance, it awaits your inspection. I have sailed for over thirty years and take really good care of my boats. This boat was owned originally by a friend who takes, perhaps, even better care of his boats. It is almost impossible to believe how good this boat looks for its age. Nothing's perfect, but this boat could be a Christmas gift come true for someone wanting to mess about in small boats. New boats of this type start at prices of 5,000 and up; and the Trailex trailer alone sells for about 1,100.00. A spare sail and extras make this all even more worthwhile. I have title papers for both boat and trailer. Please email me with any and all questions. There is video of this boat being sailed also available; if you want to see it in action. The entire package is ready to be towed away by the buyer. I want you to see it, look at the gear, and be completely satisfied before you drive away. You will be pleased.

1980 Pearson 35 Sailboat

1980 Pearson 35 Sailboat

Classic 1980 Person 35 w centerboard shoal draft and equipped w Fairclaugh custom canvas cover and 400 lb mooring. On the hard in Oyster Bay, New York - ready for viewing. Well maintained vessel. Masthead sloop w deck stepped mast and aluminum spreader. Equipped w Harken roller furling on jib (new 2004), Main sail (very good condition), Genoa 110 and 135. All sails are in good to very good condition. Lots of storage, great u-shaped aft galley, large sink, expansive counter space makes for ease in entertaining. Mast, standing rigging were replaced in 2003/2004. Summer of 2010 new motor mounts, alternator, water pump, water separator, fuel pump and added 2nd fuel filter. 2014 new bilger pump and fresh water pump, 2010 new heat exchanger, muffler system and 6 gallon hot water tank as well and black water holding tank, head and pipiong. 2007/2008 replaced Spectra line and rollers for raising centerboard. Vessel equipped w Garman GPS Model 500 (purchased 2011), VHF radio, depth sounder and speed indicator, hot/cold pressurized water, shower, new (2004) Lerwmar external mount anchor windlass, fresh water wash down in anchor locker, private bathoroom has head, shower and sink. Must see. Well maintained vessel. Make an offer. Owner negotiable. Photos: Contact: Steve/Patty (631)896-6212

Traditional Beetle Cat Sailboat

Traditional Beetle Cat Sailboat

Rochester, Massachusetts

Traditional beetle cat sailboat. Hull number 1024 which means it is from the late sixties. Made of wood and in very good shape. Hull has been refastened with stainless steel in the recent past. Needs new canvas and some deck repair. There was a hole in one plank and a Dutchman repair was started. It needs the new piece installed. I cannot stress what good shape the hull is in. I would keep it but I need the room. Some hardware and centerboard included. Willing to negotiate.

18’ American Sailboat & Trailer

18’ American Sailboat & Trailer

Vincentown, New Jersey

The American 18 Daysailer is ideal for those who are seeking a spacious and comfortable daysailer which is also designed for speed and performance. Design features include a self bailing cockpit, molded in drink cooler storage areas, three storage compartments, kickup rudder and centerboard, adjustable jib tracks, Harken hardware, and stainless rigging. The American 18 is constructed of hand-laid fiberglass with positive foam floatation for a durable and safe boat. The wide beam and flat bottom planing hull allow for exceptional performance in a light breeze or in a heavy wind. This boat is designed to sail flat with minimal heel. Seats 6 people. Includes bumpers, main sail, jib sail, custom seat cushions, motor mount and swim ladder in excellent condition. Boat has been kept in dry storage and mainly used in fresh water. Trailer is in excellent condition and includes spare tire.

1971 Bristol 30' Sailboat

1971 Bristol 30' Sailboat

Branford, Connecticut

You are looking at a 1971 Bristol 30’ Sailboat. This sailboat is ready to sail! It just needs some cleaning, maybe some paint on the top deck and just some overall TLC. This boat comes with some incredible features not found on most other sailboats. Who can argue with a loaded classic Bristol! Features: Shoal Keel with Centerboard Atomic 4 Gas Engine Updated with Electronic Ignition Updated with Electric Fuel Pump Three NEW self-tailing winches Raymarine Speed, Depth, Wind and Autopilot Used only once to test function Roller Furling Sails – Main, Jib and Spinnaker with Pole Alcohol stove/sink and ice box Bottom barrier coated and painted Sleeps 6 This boat is on land and needs to sell. The stands are not included and there is no trailer. The price listed is best offer, but would like to get as much money back on the investment as possible. Check the market, no other Bristol is this cheap READY TO SAIL. Put it in the water and catch some wind! Please call Pete at (203) 494-4570. The boat can be seen in Branford, CT. Please call to schedule appointment.

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Biggest Trailerable Sailboats

Biggest Trailerable Sailboats | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 15, 2022

Many sailboats up to about 27 feet in length can be trailered safely on American roads. These vessels are limited by weight, beam, and overall height.

In this article, we'll go over ten of the best large trailerable sailboats on the market. These vessels feature comfortable cabins, excellent sailing characteristics, and they all meet the requirements for towing on U.S. highways.

The best and largest trailerable sailboats are the Cal 20, the Catalina 22, the O'Day 240, The Islander 24, the Moore 24, the Cal 25, the Helms 25, the MacGregor 26, and the Nor'Sea 27. Most of these vessels can be towed behind a well-equipped truck or SUV.

We sourced information and vessel specifications for this article from sailboat manufacturers and record books. We also considered the opinions of sailors who own these vessels and sail them regularly.

Table of contents

What Makes a Sailboat Trailerable?

Trailerable sailboats must meet certain requirements in order to operate on American roads. The primary limitations are width (beam), as the vessel and its trailer must fit in regular traffic lanes and through tunnels. Another consideration is weight, as the vessel should be light enough to be towed by a 3/4 ton or 1-ton pickup truck.

Generally speaking, there's not a specific limit to boat weight in order to be towed. That said, most single and tandem-axle trailers can't exceed about 3,300 pounds per axle. With that in mind, the upper limit for a trailerable sailboat is around 7,000 to 8,000 pounds.

Keel type is an important factor to consider, as it determines how high off the ground the boat has to ride on the trailer. The majority of trailerable sailboats have a centerboard or swing keel that retracts for towing and beaching. Some vessels have shorter displacement keels or fin keels.

The maximum allowable for a trailerable sailboat is 8 ft 6 in. This is because these dimensions are the maximum limit for standard trailers on American roads. A larger boat can be transported on the road, but only as an oversize load.

In practice, very few trailerable sailboats have a beam of exactly 8 ft 6 in. The majority of large trailerable sailboats have a beam of between 7 1/2 ft and 8 ft 3 in. This makes it easier to negotiate tunnels and tighter traffic lanes.

Overall Length

The maximum trailer length for standard trailers is 65 ft, but it's nearly impossible for a trailerable sailboat of this length to meet the width requirements. In practice, the longest trailerable sailboats are around 30 ft in length or shorter. The average is about 20 to 25 ft.

In most states, the maximum height for a trailer load is 14 ft. This necessitates that the mast folds down and that the keel and vessel height combined doesn't exceed 14 ft. You must also take into account the height of the trailer, as a tall boat may not be able to clear highway overpasses.

10 Largest Trailerable Sailboats

Trailerable sailboats come in all shapes and sizes, including some large and roomy configurations. The vessels we chose range in length from 19 ft to 27 ft, and they offer the best accommodations on the market. Here are ten of the best large trailerable sailboats.

1. West Wight Potter 19

It's impossible to write an article about trailerable sailboats without mentioning the West Wight Potter 19. This vessel is perhaps the best and most capable in its class, and it offers surprisingly comfortable accommodations for a lightweight trailerable sailboat.

The West Wight Potter 19 is easy to sail fast and features a roomy cabin with a sink and space for a head. It's considered a pocket Cruiser, and it is very popular in coastal areas. Due to its lightweight construction, this fiberglass sailboat is trailerable behind an SUV or half-ton pickup.

The West Wight Potter 19 has positive buoyancy material throughout the whole, making it effectively unsinkable. Additionally, the mast and rigging collapse and set up in minutes. These vessels were produced up until recently, so they're common on the used market.

  • Lightweight
  • Rigs up fast
  • Roomy cabin
  • Relatively slow

The Cal 20 has been around for decades, and this capable racing boat is ideal the coastal cruising and sailing in semi-protected waters. That said, it's also quite seaworthy, as several have participated in TransPac races between San Francisco and Hawaii.

The Cal 20 is known for its low-profile cabin and easy trailering. At 20 ft in length overall, the Cal 20 is well within limits for trailering on American roads. While not the lightest trailerable sailboat on the list, a well-equipped pickup truck should tow it without issues.

The Cal 20 isn't the boat to choose if you're looking for the most spacious accommodations. That said, the cabin is functional, and the boat excels in handling. It's fast, safe, and agile, thanks to its long and thin profile. It's also a joy to sail in all kinds of weather conditions.

  • Easy to sail
  • Stable in high winds
  • Spartan cabin
  • Deep draft from the fixed keel

3. Catalina 22

The Catalina 22 is one of the most famous large trailerable sailboats ever built. It's one of Catalina's most popular models, and it was a big hit in the 1970s and 1980s. The Catalina 22 has a spacious and thoughtfully designed cabin with a wide companionway and a comfortable V-berth.

The Catalina 22 is a centerboard boat. This means that the keel retracts into the hull for trailering and lowers down easily using a system block-and-tackle or a crank. The vessel is 7.67 feet wide, making it easy to tow on typical American highways.

The vessel is still produced today, and over 15,000 have been built since 1969. This makes it one of the most popular sailboats ever, and hundreds are available on the used market for reasonable prices. Thanks to its superior handling and excellent design, the Catalina 22 is one of the best large trailerable sailboats available.

  • Well-designed cabin
  • Affordable iconic sailboat
  • Minimal headroom
  • Finicky companionway hatch

4. O'Day 240

The O'Day 240 is one of the more seagoing trailerable sailboats on our list. It's beamy and stable, and it handles well in rougher weather conditions. It has a surprisingly comfortable cabin for its size and measures just 24 feet in length overall.

The vessel's wide beam contributes to its stability. However, with a width of 8 ft 3 in, the O'Day 240 approaches the upper limit of trailerable dimensions. The vessel weighs more than comparably sized boats, so you'll need a more powerful vehicle to tow it.

The cabin of the O'Day 240 stands out. It features a V-berth, berthing aft, a galley, and space for a head. There's ample headroom throughout the cabin, which makes the O'Day 240 ideal for extended coastal cruising.

  • Stable Spacious cabin
  • May be too wide for comfortable trailering
  • Unusual cabin design

5. Islander 24

Islander is known for its larger sailboats (28 feet and larger), though it has produced a few excellent trailerable models. We chose the trailerable Islander 24, as it's known in the sailing community for its speed, comfort, and easy handling.

The phrase "they don't build them like they used to" applies to the Islander 24. When this vessel was designed in the early 1960s, boat manufacturers used more fiberglass and produced thicker hulls. This practice is costlier and made the boat weigh more. But it produced stronger vessels that last much longer than their flimsier contemporaries.

This fiberglass sailboat is thoughtfully designed and is well-suited for coastal cruising in the 21st century. It features stronger construction than similar models, and its keel design encourages stable and comfortable sailing.

  • Strong hull and deck
  • Stiff sailing
  • Great windward performance
  • Small cabin
  • Heavy trailer weight

6. Moore 24

The Moore 24 was the first in a new class of vessels called the ultralight displacement sailboat. It has the handling characteristics have a large keelboat but the dimensions of a coastal cruising trailer-sailer.

From the outside, the flush deck of the Moore 24 looks like it couldn't possibly accommodate a cabin. Closer inspection reveals that the vessel has a roomy cabin that resembles that of much larger boats. It features a galley, a head, a V-berth upfront, and attractive paneling throughout.

The Moore 24 is a pocket cruiser by all definitions. It's

an excellent choice for those looking for a trailerable and seaworthy sailboat. Though a bit taller than some other models, the vessel is still well within limits for on-road transportation.

  • Excellent handling
  • Large cabin
  • Heavier than many other 24-foot sailboats

The Cal 25 is essentially a stretched version of the Cal 20. It features the same basic hull design with the iconic flush deck and streamlined cabin. However, it's faster, offers superior accommodations, and it's more seaworthy.

The Cal 25 is known for its stiff handling characteristics in high winds. This is primarily due to its 1,700-pound lead keel, which keeps it upright and tracking straight. However, this does increase the overall weight of the vessel, which is an even 4,000 pounds dry. Thankfully, this is within the towing capacity of most standard pickup trucks.

The interior of the Cal 25 resembles the cabins of larger boats. In other words, it doesn't feel cramped. There's a large sitting area across from the galley and partitions separating the V-berth from the rest of the cabin. Overall, the Cal 25 is an excellent compact sailboat for racing or cruising.

  • Good accommodations
  • Marginal headroom in some areas

8. Helms 25

The Helms 25 is a compact vessel with a true swing keel. Unlike a centerboard, which descends through the hull straight down, a swing keel swings down on the hinge and occupies less space inside of the vessel. With the removal of the centerboard trunk, the Helms 25 retains its trailerable properties while freeing up living space in the cabin.

The Helms 25 is long and fast but not particularly tall. It fits well on a trailer, and its rounded hull doesn't pound in choppy water. The cabin is comfortable and features a small but usable galley, a table with two seating areas, a V-berth, and additional berthing aft.

Some versions of the Helms 25 also feature a separate head area between the V-berth and the central living spaces. The Helms 25 strikes the perfect balance between comfort, seaworthiness, and trailerability. It's safe and fun to sail and sells on the used market for affordable prices.

  • Spacious cabin
  • Long, narrow, and shallow
  • Not ideal for offshore sailing
  • Too long for some trailers

9. MacGregor 26

The MacGregor 26 is larger and more modern than most of the sailboats on our list. As a result, it takes advantage of recent design developments that make it an excellent large trailer-sailer. At 26 ft overall, the MacGregor 26 is also one of the fastest vessels on our list.

At first glance, the dimensions of the MacGregor 26 seem unusual. The hull shape resembles a bathtub, and the vessel's high profile is notable. These characteristics make it stable and easy to handle, and they also give it exceptional headroom in the cabin.

The McGregor 26 came in numerous configurations, which are designated with letters such as '26D' and '26M.' These include various cabin window orientations, colors, accessories, and interior layouts. Some versions of the MacGregor 26 came with a dual rudder setup, which is uncommon in its size range.

  • Modern design
  • Excellent headroom
  • Unusual shape

10. Nor'Sea 27

The final trailerable sailboat on our list is also the most capable. The Nor'Sea 27 is a true offshore sailboat with accommodations that rival any mid-size cruising sailboat. the Nor'Sea 27 is a full-keel displacement sailboat that's designed for stability and motion comfort. It's one of the beefiest sailboats that still fits on a trailer.

The Nor'Sea 27 features standing headroom throughout the cabin. It has a head, galley, and berthing area forward that converts into a table. The cabin is lined with attractive wood paneling, and the entire vessel has a very high level of fit and finish.

The Nor'Sea 27 is built for cruising, and it's ideal for longer voyages and offshore passages. If you're looking for a true cruising sailboat that stores well on a trailer, you can't go wrong with the NorSea 27. Due to its size and capabilities, you'll need a larger vehicle to trailer this vessel safely.

  • Biggest cabin
  • Full-size accommodations
  • Offshore capable
  • Too large for SUV towing
  • Slow to rig and disassemble


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