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Keel Or No Keel

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by JonE, Jul 29, 2018.

  1. JonE

    JonE Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I've recently seen some restorations that are totally lacking of a keel. Accordingly, they don't have stem pieces on the outside of the bow and stern. What is the thinking, here? I've always thought a canoe would go sideways without a keel. Not to mention screwing up a nice paint job every time the canoe his a rock.
  2. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Personally, I really dislike keels on canoes. When I ordered my Old Town Guide in 1972 I specifically custom ordered it without a keel. None of the canoes I ever bought or built had keels and whenever possible the canoes I sold as a dealer for most of the major brands were keelless. Part of learning to become a really good paddler has to do with being able to move your canoe in directions other than just forward in a straight line, including purposely going sideways. A keel then may become more of a hindrance than a helper. Native Americans and Voyageurs did pretty well without ever having keels on their canoes. The canoe keel was a later, white man's invention, and not likely his best one. Perhaps it was to offer a bit of damage control, perhaps as an attempt to make up for lack of paddling skill. As for rock damage - hit a rock and it will likely damage something to some degree, and keels neither prevent that entirely, nor are immune to damage themselves.
  3. mccloud

    mccloud Wooden Canoe Maniac

    After spending a couple hundred hours on a restoration, making an old canoe watertight again, it has always struck me as incredibly stupid to poke 15 holes into the bottom to attach a keel. Having said that, I have sometimes put a keel onto a restored canoe when it had one originally and particularly so if I feel the hull needs 'stiffening' for strength. I don't believe the keel is a help to a person with poor paddle technique, nor does it provide much protection to the bottom. It adds weight :(. The keel is an impediment to moving the canoe sideways. My preference is no keel and no holes. Tom McCloud
  4. MGC

    MGC Paddlephile

    Both Todd and Tom have hit the nail on the head as far as I'm concerned. I only put a keel on a boat if it originally had one. I prefer a canoe without the keel. The keel not only makes a canoe harder to paddle, it also can catch objects in the water. I have one canoe (a Chestnut) that has a shoe keel, a much lower profile and wider keel than one typically finds. I also had such a keel on my Old Town sailing canoe. If you must have one, these seem to interfere less with paddling and do offer a bit of hull protection with less chance of snagging on something.
    If you want to entertain yourself, search this site for other threads about keels. Talking about keels is reminiscent of the Abbot and Costello Susquehanna Hat Company bit...the reactions are entertaining at least....
  5. OP

    JonE Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I've been a sailor my entire life, sailing mostly on inland lakes. We use center boards, side boards, hull shapes, etc. to keep the boat moving forward in a direction that it is intended. My take on the keel for a canoe is that if there are no forces to act on the canoe then a keel is a hindrance. But if you are on a lake with wave action and wind, then not having additional stability can kill headway that you are making through paddling.

    I fully understand both of your posts. But I do quite a bit of canoeing on my home lake as well as other larger bodies of water. My home lake is 1 mile by 1.5 miles. And my paddling technique is not terrific. I do much better when there are two of us in the canoe and then the front end is not moving around alot.

    Your posts have given me something to think about. And I thank you for them.
  6. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    I side with Tom, Todd, and MGC here... a keel on a canoe is a white man's addition to (subtraction from?) an absolutely incredible invention, handed down from First Nations peoples. Learn good paddling technique, and you'll see that the keel is a hindrance... beyond that, your arms, back, and sides will thank you, as the pain factor will be reduced considerably... Oh, and you'll look really cool, paddling across the lake...

    If at all possible, come out to the Upper Great Lakes Regional Assembly:

    Aside from all the other great stuff accessible to attendees, there will be paddling skills learning opportunities to be had... If I do say so myself, and I'm probably biased, I think we do a pretty nice job here in the upper great lakes region... :)
  7. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    X5 to all that has been said.

  8. OP

    JonE Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Where and when is the UGLRA? The one you pointed me to was in 2014.
  9. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    Hate when that happens... Upper Great Lakes is Aug 24- 26, Camp Widjiwagan, near Ely, Minnesota... Facebook link: There isn't a real web site, that I've found (Alex? What have I missed?). If that link doesn't work, let me know, and I'll PM info to you...
  10. Craig Johnson

    Craig Johnson LOVES Wooden Canoes

    It is always fun to stir up the "keel, no keel" question. I think part of the question was missed in the rush to respond. the question mentioned canoes with outside stems. The outside stems turn into the keel and therefor a canoe with outside wooden stems should have a keel. That is not to say that a keel is good or bad, just that if you are restoring a canoe with outside stems you probably want to put the keel back on. If you leave the outside stem off the entry point of the canoe is too wide and ugly. Many canoes do not have outside stems and therefor have narrower entries so the keel question is more relevant. So if you are talking about canoes without outside stems you may proceed.
  11. Blott

    Blott Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    The shoe keel on my Chestnut Playmate did snag and broke the seal and then the canoe leaked. I re-canvassed and so left the keel off. The canoe appears to paddle far better but that may be me having a dream but having put a nice canvas back on I was not then going to drill a load of holes through it. I chopped the keel up and burnt it so I would never be tempted to refit it!
  12. Craig Johnson

    Craig Johnson LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I have 4 canoes with keels and 2 without keels, never had a leak in any of them. I suppose no one screws their stem bands on either. Again I prefer some canoes without keels but I am not afraid to poke a few holes in the canvas. Bed it properly and paint when required and it should be no problem.
  13. OP

    JonE Curious about Wooden Canoes

    What is a 'Shoe Keel'?
  14. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Shoe keels are usually somewhat wider, but not as deep. If you have to have a keel but run rivers and whitewater, shoe keels hang up less on rocks and limit maneuverability less than a normal keel would.

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