Lifting Keels

A few months ago, I suggested that anyone thinking of buying a boat should focus on use to identify the boat that is right for them. I’m taking my own advice and looking for a boat with a lifting keel.  Why? Some years ago I had a 33-foot sailboat that I truly loved. While the boat itself was great, I learned that a boat that size requires a professional boat transporter to get it from my yard (where I enjoy doing my own maintenance) to the water, and that a boatyard with a commercial lift to launch and retrieve it costs money. The boat stayed in a marina during the season, incurring additional expenses. And, when I wanted to go racing, I had a list of 15 people to juggle to ensure that I had a full crew of eight on race nights; it was a full-time job managing the crew.

The Ultimate 24 is a lifting keel sailboat with good performance characteristics

So I determined to buy a smaller boat the next time around, something that I could daysail by myself or race with 3 or 4 people—something in the 24 to-30-foot range that I could leave on a trailer between uses. I enjoy going to regattas and I spent a lot of time moving my old boat by water to each venue. So my reasoning evolved; I need a trailerable boat that can quickly and easily be moved to each location and launched by one person (me) from a yacht club hoist or public boat ramp.

And, oh, yeah, one more thing, it had to have a shallow draft so I could go exploring afloat in out-of-the-way places.

Now there are hundreds of small sailboats on trailers, but few that include all the criteria on my wish list: size, trailerability, a small cuddy cabin for overnights and stowing gear, performance, and shallow draft.

Brigadoon VII, a Bill tripp Jr. design is an example of larger offshore performance cruisers using lifting-keels

Lifting-keel designs are not that common. In a quick search of boat listings I found only a handful of lifting keel sailboats—a Beneteau 311 and a couple of Hunter 216s. That’s too bad because, in my opinion, lifting keels in sailboats don’t get enough love. They provide their owners with the same shallow water access and easy trailerability that centerboard and shoal-draft keels provide, but lifting keels far surpass the performance of either of these due to the improved wing design of the keel.

Trailerable sportboats in the 20 – to 30 foot range seem to be more commonly fitted with lifting keels, but I have known much larger boats to take advantage of this design–in particular, the offshore designs of famous naval architect Bill Tripp Jr.

I’ve started my search–I’d love to hear from anyone with ideas about good performing lifting-keel sailboats.

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