Boat Ketches

While the cat-ketch-rigged boat has retained a fair amount of popularity, the fully rigged ketch is a very popular sailboat among sail enthusiasts.

Today's ketch is likely to combine the sleek lines that one sees in 50- to 100-foot motor-driven yachts with the beauty of sail.

Having seen both, there's a symmetry between the lines that makes today's ketch not only an easy boat to sail, but also one that's quite easy on the wallet.

One thing that can be said about the ketch is that it can't be mistaken for a sloop. The ketch, like the cat-ketch-rigged sailboat, features a mainmast about midway between the cockpit and bow. A bowsprit can be used as the anchor point for a jib as there is no boom and the sail is usually weatherly and helping to move the ketch along.

The key to ketch design is its two-sail appearance. The mainmast is often quite tall, followed by a mizzen. The shorter mizzen which can, in effect, function as a mainsail if pressed heavy weather control is one reason you may reef the main and, flying only the jib and the mizzen. This configuration is known by old-timers as jib and jigger and refers to the days of square-rigged ships when masters would drop their mainsails, running only the jib and rear mizzen (jigger). Like today's mizzen, the sail was triangular

The ketch is also an interesting light wind vessel. Because you can mount as much sail as a sloop, just in different configuration, you are likely to be able to take advantage of a light wind by running closer to the wind with a shortened mainsail and jib and a free mizzen. The mizzen will pickup the light wind and help move your craft along quite nicely.

Someone made an interesting point in an article we read recently that while the ketch may not be as popular or as powerful as the more glamorous sloop, it is an easier ship to sail. The author made no bones about the why of it, the length of the booms. In a sloop with its multiple sails and long booms, you need to holler when you are tacking or jibing. This isn't true in a ketch-rigged ship as the shorter booms mean you can say out of the way as you tack or jib. The mizzen is in back of the cockpit and there's no reason for anyone to be back there when it is deployed.

Likewise the shorter and somewhat higher boom of the mainsail is well forward of the cockpit so all it takes is turning into the wind for a tack and you should just be able to turn the helm and she will tack or heel the helm over and she will jibe without touching crew or captain. It's an interesting point, but for safety's sake we'd still point out, that it is possible someone could be walking forward when you are tacking and so it might still be a good idea to remind them of the tack.

As for cost, it is something to watch, several authorities have pointed out, because while you may be able to mount the same yardage of sail as a sloop and even run closer to the wind and weather, the extra sail and mast cost can get expensive and with the price of all materials skyrocketing, it is tough to predict when it will stop or where it will be next sailing season.