What Is The Function Of A Sailboat Keel?

The keel is a part of the sailboat that most of us never see as it is usually underwater when we are sailing, but it is an essential part of the sailboat.

The keel is the part of the boat that is down into the water as a blade or ridge. It is the part of the boat that keeps the ship upright and from tipping or blowing sideways. It is also a critical part of the boat that helps steer and control the sailboat.

Function Of A Sailboat Keel

The keel is part of the boat, like a blade or ridge that sticks down into the water on the sailboat’s bottom. The keel has an essential function to help keep your boat sailing upright.

Here are the primary functions of a keel:

  • Keeps The Sailboat From Being Blown Sideways – The keel helps to keep the boat from being blown sideways in the wind. Without the keel, the boat can be blown sideways in the wind.
  • Keeps The Sailboat Upright – The keel holds the ballast so that the boat will remain upright.
  • Critical To Help With Steering And Control – A keel is a critical element of the sailboat to help you with the steering and control of the sailboat.

The keel is a significant and essential part of the sailboat since without the keel, it would be complicated to sail and keep the boat upright, especially in the wind.

Oxford dictionary defines the word keel as:

“the longitudinal structure along the centerline at the bottom of a vessel’s hull, on which the rest of the hull is built, in some vessels extended downward as a blade or ridge to increase stability.”

Oxford Dictionary

Keels have long been an essential part of the sailboat. The name keel is a Norse and Dutch word that means part of the boat.

The word keel shows us how long the keel has been an essential part of the sailboat. The Pirates and Vikings of old would have had a keel on their sailboats.

Just like different kinds of boats are used for sailing, different kinds of keels can be used for different types of sailing. The size and shape can vary according to the type and kind of boat.

Sailing And The Under Keel Clearance

Sample keel at the sailboat © SV Delos

Just like there are all kinds and sizes of the keel, it is vital when sailing your sailboat that you understand the size of your keel. In other words, how far down your keel goes so that you know you will not hit the bottom of the ocean or lake.

Here are some terms that anyone sailing needs to understand about the keel and their sailboat:

  • Under Keel Clearance (UKC) – Under keel clearance is the distance between the lowest point of the ship’s hull, which is usually some point on the keel, to the seafloor.
  • Minimum Under Keel Clearance – The Minimum Under Keel Clearance or Minimum UKC is that your boat must have enough clearance to avoid grounding your sailboat. Many ports will tell you what that minimum distance must be. So it means that you must know how long your keel is and understand the depth of the sea or lakebed of the area you are sailing.
  • Grounding Your Ship – Grounding of your ship occurs when your ship’s hull, which is usually the keel, scapes on the bottom of the ocean or lake floor. This kind of accident can damage your ship and the ecosystems of the ocean or lake.

There is a calculation for the Under Keel Clearance, which is calculated as follows:

Under Keel Clearance (UKC) =

(Charted Depth of Water + Height of Tide) – Draft

Here are some terms that you need to understand to calculate this and understand the Under Keel Clearance:

  • Charted Depth Of Waters – The Charted Depth of Waters is the depth to the seabed or lakebed you are sailing. This may not be the actual depth of the water but the Charted Depth of the Water.
  • Height Of The Tide – The height of the tide is, as the name implies, the height of what the water tide is. It is essential to understand the tide to know whether or not it is safe to go in or not with the tide.
  • Draft – The draft is the distance between the waterline and the deepest point of the boat. In another way, it is often said as the minimum amount of water required to float the boat without touching the bottom. A draft is essential to know when sailing a boat in shallow water.

The charted depth of the waters plus the height of the tide gives the total depth of water. You need to minus that number from the ship’s draft, which will then provide you with the under keel clearance of the ship.

Once you have that number, you will be able to know if the water is safe for you to bring your ship into without you risk grounding your ship.

The keel and the water can all seem a bit complicated for a beginning sailor, but the truth is that it is not once you understand the reasoning about it. You need to understand that your keel is essential to help you steer your ship and stay upright.

You also need to understand the size of the keel and the height of the water you are sailing in so that you do not run the ship aground or cause the ship to get stuck as you are trying to sail in shallow water.

Keel Laying

The keel is an integral part of the sailboat, so it is the first part constructed with the ship hull. When the keel laying takes place, there is often a ceremony that goes with the start of the keel construction or keel laying.

Keel laying is usually recorded as the date that construction on the ship started. The keel laying is such an essential part of the boat’s construction.

The function of the keel is an essential part of any boat but especially a sailboat. Even though we do not see the keel as it is underwater, we could not keep our boat upright and steer it properly without the keel.

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The Philippines has long been a sailors’ paradise for cruising and learning to sail a boat. For 7000 islands, there are many places that you can explore within the Philippines. It can be an area that can hit many typhoons, so to cruise or sail the Philippines, you need to understand the best time to go there.

By clicking here, you can discover All About Sailing In The Philippines.

How Much Wind Is Too Much For A Beginner Sailor?

For a beginner sailor, the wind is usually recommended to be under 10 knots. Those who are more experienced or with a larger boat can consider going up to 12 knots of wind. A knot is not the same as miles per hour or kilometer per hour but is faster than these measurements.

By clicking here, you can discover How Much Wind Is Too Much For A Beginner Sailor?

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If you are going to take up sailing, then the first thing you must do is get on a boat and find out if sailing is suitable. The best sailors can handle their boats in all kinds and types of weather. Find a class that you can join and get certified. Sailing requires knowledge and skill. Find yourself a sailing community that you can be part of.

By clicking here, you can discover No Experience Sailing, 6 Tips To Get Started.

Anita L Hummel

Hi, I live in Hanoi, Vietnam but spend time traveling the region. I love to share with you things I see and learn through my travels.

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Function Of A Sailboat Keel