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Old 05-11-2012, 20:21   #1
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Centerboards, good? bad?

I have been looking for a boat and have found that quite a few have a lot of respect and good "numbers" but unfortunately, they also have centerboards. I've always been suspicious of centerboards in a cruising boat. I'm concerned that they can get stuck in the up or down position and essentially totally ruin your day. I've also heard that in a storm they can get stuck down and the boat can trip over the centerboard and get dis-masted, etc. I've also heard that owners of these boats are forced to dig a deep hole in the yard where they are hauled so the board can be serviced. For these reasons I had more or less eliminated any centerboard boats from my search for a good cruising / liveaboard boat. However that dumps a bunch of other wise great boats such as a Bristol 34, Morgan 34 and several of the Allied boats.

Some have told me that they never put the board down. Is that reasonable to do when doing a crossing? Island hopping? Would it be reasonable to fix it so the board can't be lowered? Somehow I feel they are just one more thing that can go wrong, They are not at all easy to service and are usually inaccessible without diving.

What's your opinion of centerboard boats?

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Old 05-11-2012, 21:36   #2
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Re: Centerboards, good? bad?


You have taken some technically true, but very minor concerns and raising them to serious issues.

1) as with anything if you don't maintain centerboards they can get stuck. But they are o more prone to getting stuck than a rudder is to get stuck. Functionally they are pretty much the same thing turned 90 degrees from each other.

2) a centerboard is no more likely to trip in a wave than a keel of the same size. Possibly less since you could pull it up.

3) sure any boat that is deep enough may need a pit. Regardless of why. A centerboard may or may not be able to be lifted on the hard though.... The only boat I worked on that needed a pit was an Andrews 70 with a 17' deep keel, unless your board is in this range I wouldn't worry about it.

4) it's your boat you can do whatever you want. Proper racing trim would suggest pulling up the board when tring to dig deep, but few cruisers worry about it.

5) a number of cruisers have glassed in their centerboards. I don't understand why, we used ours for more than a decade with no problems.

6) again you need to know the specific boat. Ours was serviceable from inside the boat. Other designs may need diving. But what needs servicing?


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Old 05-11-2012, 21:40   #3
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Re: Centerboards, good? bad?

Originally Posted by Usagi View Post
What's your opinion of centerboard boats?
Back before I could grow facial hair, everything I sailed had a centerboard. Or a daggerboard.

Since then, it's been all keelboats.
cruising is entirely about showing up--in boat shoes.
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Old 05-11-2012, 21:46   #4
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Re: Centerboards, good? bad?

We have a centerboard, 12 feet board down, and quite like it. Besides helping to windward it is excellent for balancing the boat so that the Monitor vane can work more easily. Think power reach where the weather helm builds up, the cb takes it away. You do need to be careful with maintaining the cable and you can get growth in the slot and it does make some noise at times. We probably have it down less than 10% of the time but it is worthwhile
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Old 05-11-2012, 21:55   #5
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Re: Centerboards, good? bad?

My parents in law have lived aboard and sailed their Adams 40 centrboarder for the last 17 or 18 years. Tehy seem very happy with it and have never complained about the design as such. Sure, potentially it can get stuck, up or down, but on the other hand it allows access to shallower waters / anchorages than a conventional keel might afford... I certainly wouldn't let a centreboard be the sole reason for writing of a potential purchase.
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Old 05-11-2012, 23:48   #6
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Re: Centerboards, good? bad?

A couple of positives on CBs

They allow you into shallower anchorages.
They allow you to move your CLR aft when reaching, running. (less chance of "tripping"- and who made up that term?)
They can be beached in many cases. (depending on rudder and prop design)
They can be parked in a yard with the CB down or up- no hole in the ground needed.

Now to other thoughts.
The CB is there to be used!!! Anyone who doesnt, is going to have a lovely trip sideways when going to windward.

If it were ever to lock into place, I would prefer it locked down rather than up- but its rare.

If i was being blown onto a lee shore, one could raise the board and the boat would nestle nicely on "the beach" (hopefully its nice and sandy ) Keels rarely stand upright on the beach
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Old 06-11-2012, 06:03   #7
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Re: Centerboards, good? bad?

Agree with Stumble. You are looking at a few very minor issues and blowing them all out of proportion. A centerboard needs a certain amount of maintenance. In exchange you get the ability to point high when going to windward, and to reduce wetted surface when going downwind. You get a shallow draft when you want it, which allows you into anchorages and marinas that other boats can't use.

Personally, I very much like centerboard designs. But then, I live on the west coast of Florida. Most of my sailing is here, in the Keys, and in the Bahamas. Shallow draft is a major benefit in these areas. A centerboard gives me shallow draft when I want it, and better sailing qualities when the water is deep than most boats with a short, but fixed, keel can provide.
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Old 06-11-2012, 06:09   #8
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Re: Centerboards, good? bad?

I'd love to have a centerboard in my boat........useful when trying to go to weather. But I'm also fond of the relatively shallow draft, that makes going to weather difficult.........why didn't Gilmer design a centerboard into this boat???
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Old 06-11-2012, 06:29   #9
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Re: Centerboards, good? bad?

Tradeoffs: the keel version of the same boat will usually sail a little higher and faster upwind. The centerboard version will draw a little less. Plus the other differences already mentioned.
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Old 06-11-2012, 06:58   #10
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Re: Centerboards, good? bad?

Center boards are like most things a trade off. I'd suggest that you ask in a forum that has center board vessels, Bristol 34, Morgan 34 and several of the Allied boats, for the opinions of the owners..

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Old 06-11-2012, 07:49   #11
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Re: Centerboards, good? bad?

I currently own a Pearson 35 with a centerboard. The centerboard went in the plus category when I was shopping for this boat, for the reasons stated above, especially shallow draft and ability to balance the helm when sailing.

The Pearson actually sails upwind better than my old boat, a Dufour Arpege, which had a fin keel with a heavy bulb on the bottom of it. Go figure.
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Old 06-11-2012, 08:39   #12
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Re: Centerboards, good? bad?

I had a Bristol 35.5 with a centerboard. Just a wonderful boat. Folks have sailed them offshore. They raced to Bermuda and did well.

I had a Nimble 30 with a centerboard. Difficult to heave to with the c/b. I have heard that the fixed keel version is more sea kindly.

I sailed both boats in the Chesapeake, where the centerboards opened up many great gunkholes.

As with any boats, it depends on the designer. And, of course, on the sailor.

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Old 06-11-2012, 18:34   #13
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Re: Centerboards, good? bad?

All the pluses above are true, but many other points have not been mentioned. We use our centerboard almost every day (we do not use marinas; we're at anchor every day, when not underway). At anchor it helps a great deal with rolly anchorages. A centerboard is an adjustable item, it does not need to be all the way up or down; there are many times when we play with it to get better balance on almost any point of sail. Even down wind, it will slow rolling and in very heavy weather running it can be dropped just a bit to move the deepest point slightly aft for greater control.
We always pull it up when entering a new anchorage, especially in the coral areas, but it goes back down at anchor if we've the depth.
As for hauling, so far we've been able to drop it all the way in the slings or have the boat blocked high enough to access the board. No problem.
If you find a boat you like, do not let a board prevent you from buying it, but make sure your surveyor checks it out carefully. Try one, you'll like it.
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Old 06-11-2012, 21:33   #14
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Re: Centerboards, good? bad?

Great, You've all brought up many interesting points that I had not considered, many had not even entered my mind. I certainly won't cross centerboards off my list now.


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