THERE IS A DIFFERENCE!
Montgomery 17's have cruised the Bahamas, the Caribbean, the Sea of Cortez, and have made countless trips to the Pacific Coast offshore islands. A Montgomery 17 has sailed from Cape Hatteras to San Diego, via the Panama Canal. A Montgomery 17 sailed the length of the Mississippi, from St. Paul, Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico, and was possibly the first sailboat to have done so. Properly outfitted and prepared, she is a very capable boat. Her beamy lapstrake hull is tremendously strong and her modern underbody, with low wetted area, fine entry, and displacement well aft, allows her to move, fast and point high in light air as well as to excel in a blow. Her racing record is outstanding and her handicap (Portsmouth 104) is favorable.
The Montgomery 17 is a different kind of boat. We are all conscious of the fact that every day we are assaulted by printed material trying to sell us on things that we may or may not want. In the case of sailboats, nearly every builder clai'ms that his products are faster, stronger, safer, and more comfortable than all the rest. Common sense tells us that all these claims can't be so. In this brochure I would like to tell you, in detail, some of the more important reasons why the Montgomery 17 stands above the rest.
The Montgomery 17 is a true keel/centerboarder
Most small daysailors have no need for a ballasted keel because the weight of the crew is adequate. When the boat starts heeling too much, the crew simply sits on the windward side. With even more wind, the crew will hook their feet under the hiking straps and hang out even farther. In a small boat, this works out very well because the crew weight is as much or more than the weight of the boat. The keel is still needed, but only in the form of a centerboard and only for lateral resistance to keep the boat from slipping sideways. On a larger boat, however, ballast is needed. The rig is higher and heavier, the sail area is greater, and the righting moment available from the weight of the crew becomes less significant. On a small cruising boat, a very general rule of thumb is that at least one-third of the weight of the boat should be in ballast. In a well designed boat, the ballast/displacement ratio is very carefully calculated and takes into consideration the weight, beam, and center of gravity of the boat itself the shape of the hull, the size of the rig, and the location of storage. The proper amount of ballast is a compromise, but a very critical compromise with a curve of diminishing return working in both directions. Less ballast might make a boat faster in light air because of less overall weight, but will also make it slower in heavy air because of excess heeling. On the other hand, too much ballast will slow the boat in light air, and even though it may be faster in heavy air, it might not be enough faster to make up the difference. All around performance is the key.
There are three types of keel configurations in common use on trailerable boats.
First is the shallow-draft fixed keel. The advantage of this configuration is simplicity and low cost of manufacturing, which obviously is reflected in a lower cost to the buyer. The shallow draft keel is fine for reaching and running, and when well designed actually offers very good control downwind in rough water. The better ones will do a marginally adequate job upwind in flat water, but they are poor upwind in light air and even worse when it's necessary to beat back to the dock in heavy winds and a bad chop. One good thing about this type is that they are reliable: they have no moving parts and there is nothing to break.
Next is the "retractable keel," which is usually a heavy iron casting that pivots in a trunk inside or partially inside the boat. These offer very shallow draft, which is convenient for launching and for loading the boat with gear and provisions while on the trailor, and are generally a far sight better in performance than the shallow-draft fixed keel. Their problem is one of engineering. A heavy slab of iron hanging from one pivot bolt places a very heavy load on that bolt and on the bolt's supporting members, especially in big, pounding waves when the boat is pitching badly. They have a reputation for leaking, usually at an awkward time, and have occasionally hammered themselves right out of the boat. They generally have the pennant (lifting line) drooping behind the lowered keel, creating draftand often humming. When the keel is down, the large slot in the bottom of the hull creates turbulence and drag. The better retractable keels are satisfactory for all but dangerous waters, but there is a better way.
The shallow draft fixed keel, in conjunction with a centerboard, is the logical answer. It is better in all respects except for cost, and is enough better to justify the cost. Here we have the ballast in a shallow draft fixed keel that is molded as part of the hull, with the accompanying strength and reliability. The lateral area that is so necessary for upwind ability is supplied by a relatively light centerboard which is housed in the keel. The centerboard is light enough to not be an engineering problem, the pivot bolt is down in the keel, underwater, and it cannot leak. With the board up, the boat has excellent control downwind in heavy seas, and with the board down it has the necessary draft and lateral area for performance upwind. In the Montgomery 17 we use a quadrant shaped board of cast iron. Look carefully at the drawings; with the board down the slot is filled at all times and the pennant is up in the trunk, out of the water flow. The bearing surface of the board is spread out over the full length, adding strength and reducing play. The keel/centerboard is far superior to the retractable keel in terms of safety and reliability. Even in the highly improbable event of the centerboard falling out of the boat while at sea, the boat still has ballast, will not leak, and will still sail well enough to return to land. The centerboard is light enough (170 lbs.) to be removed and carried by two people, and it can be over-dropped for inspection of the pennant attachment by simply tapping out a pin. The keel/centerboard as used on the Montgomery 17 is very clean and effective, simple, well proven, and supremely reliable.