Building the Keel


From Fred’s Blog:

Ethics is not so much about solving conundrums and making impossible trade-offs as it is about building a keel that will withstand the storms.

In 1992, Michael Plant, an experienced sailor, set off on a solo crossing of the Atlantic in his custom sailboat, the “Coyote.” He had spared no expense in outfitting the boat with all the latest equipment and features. It was prepared for anything. There was nothing not taken into account when he embarked.

Eleven days into the voyage his friends lost contact with him, but they waited a few days to issue an alert because they were so certain he was in control. He wasn”™t. Days later the crew of a passing freighter spotted his boat capsized and floating upside down. Inside was a partially inflated lifeboat.

It”™s a hard and fast rule that sailboats must have just as much weight below the waterline as there is above. For that reason the keel of the “Coyote” had 8,000 extra pounds of weight bolted to it when it was built. However, when the boat was found the weight was completely gone. Michael Plant had disappeared as well. As Gordon puts it, “The loss of the weight ended his life.”

It was the perfect image for these young professionals, and I asked them to talk about what their own weights were beneath the waterline because it was clear they were all planning to sail far and fast.

In building a boat, everything is built around the keel. First the keel and then the boat. The keel is not added later. I wanted them to be clear about the keel around which they were building their boats.

2 replies
  1. captn highliner
    captn highliner says:

    actually, on the type of sailboat pictured, (an IMS type high aspect ratio fin w/ bulb and post hung keel) the keel is the last thing that is added to the hull. In fact, this type of keel is often modified after wet trial runs, including adjusting the shape or weight of the bulb, and the length of the keel shaft – it can be added and removed from the hull often. Now, on a traditional fin keel boat, indeed the keel is the first thing that is built, (ie. the Bluenose Schooner) as the keel it is part of the hull itself, and the stem is basically the backbone of the ship. I appreciate the analogy Fred is trying to make, he just used the wrong picture or the wrong sailboat tragedy to make his point.

  2. Steve Bell
    Steve Bell says:

    Let`s be clear, on an IMOCA sailboat, (pictured) the keel is almost always added after the hull is finished. On a full keel boat, yes, the keel (bottom) is built first. Good sermon, bad analogy to the tragic sailing event referred to.


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