In boats and ships, keel can refer to either of two parts: a structural element, or a hydrodynamic element. These parts overlap. As the "laying down" of the keel is the initial step in construction of a ship, the construction is dated from this event, with only the ship's launching considered more significant in its creation.
A structural keel is a large beam around which the hull of a
shipis built. The keel runs in the middle of the ship, from the bow to the stern, and serves as the foundation or spine of the structure, providing the major source of structural strength of the hull. The keel is generally the first part of a ship's hull to be constructed, and laying the keel, or placing the keel in the cradle in which the ship will be built, is often a momentous event in a ship's construction—so much so that the event is often marked with a ceremony, and the term "lay the keel" has entered the language as a phrase meaning the beginning of any significant undertaking. Modern ships are now largely built in a series of pre-fabricated, complete hull sections rather than being built around a single keel, so the start of the shipbuilding process is now considered to be when the first sheet of steelis cut.
The keel contributes substantially to the longitudinal strength and effectively local loading caused when docking the ship. The most common type of keel is the 'flat plate keel', and this is fitted in the majority of ocean-going ship and other vessels. A form of keel found on smaller vessels is the 'bar keel', which may be fitted in trawlers, tugs, and smaller ferries. Where grounding is possible, this type of keel is suitable with its massive
scantlings, but there is always a problem of the increased draft with no additional cargo capacity. If a double bottom is fitted, the keel is almost inevitably of the flat plate type, bar keels often being associated with open floors, where the plate keel may also be fitted.
Duct keels are provided in the bottom of some vessels. These run from the forward engine room bulkhead to the collision bulkhead and are utilized to carry the double bottom piping. The piping is then accessible when cargo is loaded.
If a ship suffers severe structural stress—classically during a
shipwreckwhen running aground in a heavy sea—it is possible for the keel to break or be strained to the extent that it looses structural integrity. In this case the ship is commonly said to have 'broken its back'. Such a failure means that the entire structure of the ship and its machinery has been compromised and repairing such damage would require virtually re-building the ship from the ground up. A ship that has broken its back is virtually unsalvagable and almost certainly written off by its insurers.
The keel surface on the bottom of the hull gives the ship greater directional control and stability. In non sailing hulls, the keel helps the hull to move forward, rather than slipping to the side. In traditional boat building, this is provided by the structural keel, which projects from the bottom of the hull along most or all of its length. In modern construction the bar keel or flat-plate keel performs the same function.
sailboats, keels use the forward motion of the boat to generate lift to counter the lateral force from the sails. Sailboats have much larger keels than non-sailing hulls.
Contrary to popular belief, a keel does not provide a stabilising effect but instead actually applies a capsizing force to the boat. This capsizing effect needs to be countered by hull design; weight is also added to the keel to assist the righting effect of the hull's hydrodynamic forces.Keels are different from
centerboards and other types of foils in that keels are made of heavy materials to provide ballast to stabilize the boat. Keels may be "fixed", or non-movable, or they may retract to allow sailing in shallower waters. Retracting keels may pivot (a "swing keel") or slide upwards to retract, and are usually retracted with a winchdue to the weight of the ballast. Since the keel provides far more stability when lowered than when retracted (due to the greater moment arm involved), the amount of sail carried is generally reduced when sailing with the keel retracted.
There are many types of fixed keels, including full keels, long keels, fin keels,
winged keels, bulb keels, and bilge keels among other designs.
Types of non-fixed keels include swing keels and
canting keels. Canting keels can be found on racing yachts, such as those competing in the Volvo Ocean Race. They provide considerably more righting moment as the keel moves out to the windward-side of the boat while using less weight. The horizontal distance from the weight to the pivot is increased, which generates a larger righting moment.clear
The word "keel" comes from Old English "cēol",
Old Norse"kjóll", = " ship" or "keel". It has the distinction of being regarded by some scholars as the very first word in the English language recorded in writing, having been recorded by Gildasin his 6th century Latinwork "De Excidio Britanniae", under the spelling "cyulae" (he was referring to the three ships that the Saxonsfirst arrived in). [cite web |url=http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/gildas_02_ruin_of_britain.htm |title=Gildas, The Ruin of Britain &c. (1899). pp. 4-252. The Ruin of Britain.] [cite book |title=Collected Essays |author=G. W. Whittaker |page=44 |isbn=0836916360 |publisher=Ayer Publishing |year=1970 |url=http://books.google.com/books?id=P94dqHC91DMC]
"" is the
Latinword for "keel" and is the origin of the term careen(to clean a keel and the hull in general, often by rolling the ship on its side). An example of this use is Careening Cove, a suburb of Sydney, Australia, where careening was carried out in early colonial days.
Keelhauling- a type of sailor's punishment
Bulbous bow- the bulb that protrudes under the water line in large modern ships
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