Can a Sailboat Rest on its Keel?

Are you thinking about if it’s safe and structurally sound to rest your sailboat on its keel? While each boat is different and requires different considerations, in general, it is possible to rest a sailboat on its keel. 

Can a sailboat rest on its keel? While some boats might sag a bit over their length when resting on a keel, as a general rule, most boats should be able to rest on their keels. A boat owner should determine how soft the boat shell is before resting it on its keel. The best type of sailboat to rest on its keel has a long, hard, and straight keel.

Some of it is dependent on the placement of the rig and keel, as well as the length of the keel chord. The boat might balance perfectly, but it might also lean towards the bow or the stern. The stern would be more concerning, as there is then an issue of the boat resting on its rudder. 

Read on for more information about how and when to rest a sailboat on its keel!

Resting on a Full Keel or a Fin Keel

Whether your sailboat has a full keel or a fin keel will determine whether you should rest the sailboat on its keel or not.

  • Full keel: It is safer to rest the boat on its keel if it is a full keel and not a fin. Sailboats regularly rest on their full keels in low tide. In this case, ensure the rudder is clear of the bottom. If there are multiple keels, this also makes it easier to rest the sailboat on the keel. 
  • Fin keel: It is not recommended to moor your boat on its keel if the keel is just a single fin. A fin keel is very narrow, essentially just a skinny plate made of wood or metal, but is only fixed to smaller, shallower boats. This type of keel would not provide adequate support for resting the sailboat.

Before deciding to rest your boat on its full keel, it is ultimately best to know both the size of your keel and what types of keels should not be used for support.

When You Should Not Rest on the Keel

There are some instances when it would not be considered safe to rest a sailboat on its keel. Precautions should always be taken to ensure it is safe. It is best to determine what type of keel your boat has.

  • Standard keel: If the keel is a standard keel and does not pivot, it should be safe to rest on. If the ground is soft, it might be necessary to insert solid planks on the ground to rest the keel on and add additional support.
  • Articulated keel: If the keel swings or swivels, for example, the Volvo Maxis, it could be dangerous to rest the sailboat on its keel. 
  • Hydraulic keel: Any boat with a hydraulic keel should not use the keel as its sole source of support.
  • Multiple keels: If there are multiple keels, it is safer to rest on the keels than if there is only one keel. This will help properly balance the boat, and a solo keel might require a brace or some other additional support.

In addition, if your keel is showing any signs of damage then you should not rest the weight of your boat on it. Use common sense, and when it doubt, just bring the boat to a dock an tie it down until you can get it looked at and repaired.

An Alternative to Resting on its Keel

If resting it on its keel isn’t feeling particularly safe, or you find yourself in high winds or other risky scenarios, it might be best to seek another option for resting your boat. Bring the boat right up to a dock and tie it down there. Be cautioned – this can bring out the best sailor in you or the worst! It can be nerve-wracking trying to angle your boat just right and steer her into the dock.

If your boat has power and is not solely operating via its sail, here are some basic steps to pulling up safely to the dock:

  1. Approach the dock at a slow speed and at the right angle.
  2. Before getting close to the dock, tie your fenders in place with the bow line secured to the anchor cleat, and the stern line attached to the aft cleat.
  3. No Crazy Tricks! Never place body parts between the boat and the dock, unless you want to lose a limb.
  4. Step carefully onto the dockagain, we’re doing this slowly and carefully, leave your Air Jordan jumping skills at home.
  5. Toss the dock lines to a helper – even if you’re solo sailing, a lot of times there will be other boaters milling around the marina who will be happy to catch your line and help you tie off.

Just because you can rest a sailboat on its keel doesn’t mean you always should do so. If you need to pull up to a dock and tie her off, don’t be afraid to do so! 

Safety Precautions 

It is recommended to take the following safety precautions when resting the sailboat on its keel: 

  • Low Tide: It is recommended that your boat is secured and moored during low tide. During high tide, there are too many variables regarding water speeds and current to easily moor your sailboat. Unless you are feeling particularly like superman that day, your life will be a lot easier if you choose to work with low tides and low winds.  
  • Secure to a wall: If possible, tie your boat up while it is moored. This is just recommended as a precaution. If you have the proper balance and your boat is secure, it might not be necessary. However, if a wall or other support structure is available, it just makes sense to take advantage of the extra foundation. 

Taking these precautions will help with ensuring the boat is secured properly, which lowers the risk of it tipping over. 

Types of Sailboats that cannot rest on their Keels

Not all sailboats should rest on their keels. Some types of boats that should not be rested on their keels:

  • A soft wooden boat – it is possible that a boat made of softer material, like certain woods, could shatter or crack under the weight of the boat. Best way to avoid this is to not do it!
  • A canting keel racer – canting keels by definition must be able to swivel, and swivel keels cannot safely support the weight of the boat do the fact that they might swing or swivel.

Here is a video showing the different types and functions of sailboat keels: Types of Sailboat Keels

How Much of Your Sailboat Should Rest on the Keel?

What percentage of a sailboat’s weight should be resting on the keel when it’s out of the water? The manufacturer should list this information in the owner’s manual for the boat. Most likely, most of the weight will rest on the keel, with the jack stands and side supports only providing balance. The supports are mainly there just to keep the boat vertical. 

Yes, You Can Usually Rest a Sailboat on its Keel

As long as proper precautions are taken, you can usually use your keel to support your boat. When in doubt, you can always double check with the owner’s manual or ask around at your local marina.


I am the owner of sailoradvice. I live in Birmingham, UK and love to sail with my wife and three boys throughout the year.

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