Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for Keel

by Kim Van Sickler

[Kim's posts will all relate to her MG historical fiction novel with a paranormal twist: MuleskinnerHere's the pitch: An extraordinary canal dog gives twelve-year-old mule driver, Clay, the conviction to fight against a highly suspect Indenture agreement his pa supposedly signed...right before Pa was found swinging from a tree above Lonesome Lock.]
The dry dock at Worcester Marina on the Worcester Birmingham canal.
The keel is the structural member running lengthwise on a boat that attaches to the frame. Think of it as the boat's spine. It strengthens the boat's hull.
The keel converts sideways force into forward force. Diagram courtesy of Wikipedia.

The word might be the first English word ever written. A 6th Century British historian and cleric named Gildas used the word in his Latin sermon "De Exidio et Conquestu Britanniae". However he spelled keel "cyulae", and was referring to early Saxon ships.

In more fun with words, the Latin word for keel is "carina", and is where we get the term careen for the act of cleaning a keel and the hull, oftentimes by rolling the boat on its side.

From Jack Gieck's A Photo Album of Ohio's Canal Era 1825-1913 (describing the State of Ohio's first foray into the Ohio Canal in 1827.)
"With a grinding scudding cry from its keel, Ohio's first canal boat slid sideways down the slanting ways and splashed broadside into the canal--inundating the opposite bank with a small tidal wave."


  1. Hi Kim - I like the historical references ... and carina becoming careen to clean the keel off .. Jack Gieck's book .. looks to be full of interesting history .. cheers Hilary

  2. Since some of those terms apply to a spaceship, I've actually been learning a few for my current manuscript.

  3. I like these details you are using in your novel. I like learning something new, like what the spine of a boat is called. Keel. Neat.

  4. Keel, careen, words that are poetry in your book. I'm rooting for you, Kim. You've done so much research --this has got be an amazing story!