Boat Building and Repair

Which Keel is Best?

The two extremes of keel designs are Fin and Full. Fin keels are optimized for performance while Full keels are optimized for durability. Between these two categories are an endless spectrum of variations and in this video, we look at the extremes and some of the common middle grounds that boat designers have come to rest.

Battleship Gray

We are being painted outside and without a tent. This means that the painting schedule is weather dependent, and not very dependable. 


Work in the Azores happens very slowly. This project began in August 2018, early August to be exact! The painter said it would take a few weeks and told me of the rush he was in to beat the rainy season with the project.  


Come late October and the painter finally gets around to starting the project. The frequent excuse for the slow progress is the rain.  


Yeah, rain in the rainy season. Well, the painter managed to get the primer on with a few dry days and now she sits in her gray glory, waiting.  


Just as the rain streaks down her topsides, our hopes of seeing her white also trickle away.  

Thankfully, the longer the painter takes, the more tube I have to earn money while working back in the states. The total bill to repaint the topsides (sanding, preping, fairing, priming, and painting) was a grand total of €2,000! 

At that price, he can take his time and I’ll take mine. Soon or later, it will be finished.  

What is the Purpose of a Stern Overhang


Long overhangs are a common design characteristic of CCA (Cruising Club of America) boats that were very popular back in the 1950s and 60s. These yachts sported short water lines for their length overall and had significantly long overhangs. Wisdom, as pictured when I bought her in 2012 is 45 feet long with a 32 foot waterline. Simple arrhythmic will tell you that we have 13 feet of overhang, most of which is located in the stern.

The idea behind this design is simple, at rest, the yacht has some lovely overhangs that look timeless and classic, but also help cheat the racing rules at the time. The rules measured the boats waterline for its handicap rating, since waterline length directly correlates to maximum speed through the water. A 45 foot yacht has a hull speed of 8.98 knots while a 32 foot yacht has a hull speed of only 7.58 knots.

So, the large yacht with long overhangs gets rated as a smaller yacht with a lower top speed. Then when the wind comes, it heels over and that long overhang goes into the water, giving the speed boost because of the longer waterline.


The stern overhang is the most effective area for this cheating to take place, as it can quickly fall into the water with very little heeling.


We sailed most of the time heeled over to 10 degrees, and the fouling scum on our topside paint is evidence of what parts of the overhang spent the most time underwater. The blue line demarcates the resting (vertical) waterline while the green line demarcates the heeled waterline. The yellow area between the lines is the added wetted surface.


After spending close to a month sailing from Bermuda to the Azores, the fouling growth is very evident on our topside paint. It is plain to see that the bow overhang doesn’t contribute to the added waterline length while the stern adds a considerable amount of length.

Next time you see a yacht with a long stern overhang, imagine how the waterline changes as they sail and that long stern overhang splashes into the sea!


Preparing for New Topside Paint

We made it across the ocean purely by sail, with an electric motor, and most of all, without a diesel motor! While we felt accomplished by this feat, Wisdom was looking pretty tired.


Since we never motored, and instead were under sail the whole journey, we were also heeled over the whole time. We usually sail at around 10 to 15 degrees of heel, and that means that our topsides go into the water on the leeward side. This has never been an issue, even in the pea soup waters of the Chesapeake Bay, because they were never under the water for very much time. We would sail by day and anchor by night, most importantly, we would dry out by night.


Our topside paint was old and beginning to peel, making the surface porous and prime to grow fouling growth. Being heeled over with the topsides under water for days on end the paint grew some nasty fuzzy fuzzies. We knew we needed more than just a good washing; for it was time to repaint the topsides.


Labor in the Azores is very reasonable. 6 years ago, I painted the topsides myself because the cost of having the topsides painted was prohibitive! I received 3 estimates, all ranging around $20,000 to paint the topsides. Needless to say, I painted it myself for a grand total of $800 in materials.

Maddie and I were planning on painting the boat ourselves, until a worker in the yard offered to paint us for € 2,000. We quickly discussed the offer and decided that I could go back to the states and work as a Dentist for the same amount of time that it would take for them to paint the boat, which would pay for the project but be a lot less taxing on my body. The decision was made, and a handshake agreement sealed the deal. I now owed Paulo € 2,000 and he owed me a bright white hull.


Painting is easy, but prepping the topsides is where the real labor lies. The first step for Paulo was to sand off all the old paint and take the hull down to the gel coat, which in our case, was a lovely shade of Fighting Lady Yellow.

The long and laborious project has begun, which has snowballed into a long list of projects that are going to take place while we are on the hard.

Rudder Damage

The rudder did not break during the beaching, but actually during the recovery process. The rudder had dug itself into the sand, and when the boat turned during the salvage, the rudder wanted to stay put. 

The keel rotated around the rudder (instead of the rudder on the keel) and turned past the limits of the rudder. 


The top and bottom of the rudder snaked into the keel and chipped off bottom paint as well as producing some damage on the rudder's skin. 

The first step in the repair process is to sand away the area to reveal any hidden damage or cracks. All cracks are then ground out. The core of the rudder is then inspected for water intrusion and moisture. 

Luckily, in our case, the rudder is filled with a foam that will not accept water, so there was no moisture in the body of the rudder. The bottom only suffered a compression, but no crack. 

The voids were filled in with fiberglass and epoxy with 406 thickening agent and allowed to cure. This was then covered with epoxy and 407 fairing compound, making it easier to sand the final fix into the airfoil shape of the rudder blade. 

Steering is critical, it means the difference between a yacht and a shelter! This was the repair needed for the external damage to the rudder, but we still have to deal with the internal damage that occurred: the rudder quadrant.