How To Buy a Cruising Boat Chapter 43 of 49

Planning and Budgeting a Refit—Keels, Part 1, Types I Do And Don’t Like

This encapsulated keel has suffered a grounding, but the good news is that it looks like the ballast is probably lead. If so, the repair will be reasonably easy, but if it's iron, the chances of major problems after this grounding are high.

OK, I admit it, I have been procrastinating instead of getting on with this chapter. The problem is that, unlike say rudders, where I was able to identify the problem and then come up with a good and cost effective solution, keel integrity on older offshore sailboats is a subject filled with ambiguity.

And, worse still, ending up with a keel problem can completely derail a refit.

The good news is that with all that fussing and fuming I think I have come up with a good approach by applying the same sort of risk management thinking that any of us must use to make good decisions in the face of incomplete data.

Making weather-related decisions is a classic example of said situation. We must first recognize the reality:

  • It's a forecast, not a prophecy.
  • A forecast is only the most likely of several possible outcomes.

And then think about probabilities, not certainties, as well as what we will do if the chances turn against us: worst case scenarios.

That said, it can be argued that keels have a worse worst case, in that we can ameliorate weather risk by carrying a series drogue that will handle most any situation a voyager can get themselves into—unless they do something truly stupid like going to sea with a hurricane around—whereas a keel dropping off is not something we can realistically ameliorate, or probably even survive.

On the bright side, if we avoid certain construction methods, as far as I can see the chances of the keel dropping off without warning seem to be pretty small; although, of course, like most things around offshore sailing we have no reliable statistics to prove that assertion.

So what to do? Let's start off with what I'm reasonably sure about, and then move on to the higher ambiguity stuff.

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Meet the Author

John Harries

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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