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File:Keelboat and flatboat.jpg
Barges twice: A long cigar shaped keelboat passing a "flatboat" on the Ohio River.

Keelboat has two distinct meanings—related to two different types of boats—one a riverine cargo capable working boat, and the other a classification for small to mid-sized recreational sailing yachts.

Historical keel-boats

A Keel boat[1], Keelboat[1], or Keel-boat[2] is a type of usually long narrow cigar-shaped riverboat,[1] or unsheltered water barge which is sometimes also called a poleboat—that is built about a slight keel and is designed as a boat built for the navigation of rivers, shallow lakes, and sometimes canals that were commonly used in America including use in great numbers by settlers making their way west in the century-plus of wide-open western American frontiers.[1][2] They were also used extensively for transporting cargo to market, and for exploration and trading expeditions, for watercraft transport was the most effective means to move bulk or weight before the advent of the modern post-world war II transportation networks.

Keelboats were similar to riverboats, but like other barges were unpowered and were typically controlled with oars or poles—usually the latter. Keelboats have been used for exploration, such as the Lewis and Clark Expedition, but were primarily used to transport cargo or settlers in the early 19th century. The process of moving a keelboat upriver was extremely difficult, though current dependent. Most of these keelboats were 50 to 80 feet (15 to 24 m) long and 15 feet (5 m) wide. They usually had a cabin in the middle, but were sometimes constructed with an open deck. Mike Fink is probably the most noted keelboater in history.

Modern keelboats

A keelboat is technically any sailboat with a keel—as opposed to a centerboard or daggerboard.

ISAF (International Sailing Federation) usage differentiates keelboats (including the 12-meter class) from generally larger yachts, despite overlap in the sizes of boats in the two classes. The Olympic Games uses keelboat to describe keeled boats with up to a three-man crew, as opposed to larger-crewed boats such as the 12-metre class.

A yacht can also be differentiated from a keelboat with the addition of a toilet or "head" as the term "keelboat" is commonly understood mean a sailboat with a keel that is designed purely for recreational / racing purposes and "yacht" describe a sailboat with a keel designed for overnight transport.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Keelboats". Retrieved 2009-07-02. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Official town website, history. "welcome to Brownsville". Retrieved 2009-07-02. "Brownsville situated, at the western most point of Fayette County, on the National Road and overlooking the Monongahela River was the gateway to the west. Thomas Brown, realizing that pioneers would be drawn to the Brownsville area to get to the Ohio Valley and the state of Kentucky, purchased land in the 1700's and by mid 1700's a town was being mapped out. It was then, that the town of Brownsville (named for Thomas Brown and formerly known as Redstone Old Fort) became a "keel-boat" building center as well as other businesses for travelers. The businessmen from Brownsville supplied transportation and supplies to the traveling pioneers, and the town became very prosperous. The steamboat industry soon took over to facilitate traffic along the Monongahela River. The very first steamboat, the Enterprise, to travel to New Orleans and return by its own power was designed and built in the Brownsville boatyards and launched from the Brownsville Wharf in 1814." 

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
[[Commons: Category:Keelboat

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