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Old 20-07-2014, 09:09   #1
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Problems with Centerboards?

We are looking at an O'Day 30 as a coastal cruiser. We like pretty much everything about this boat (with the exception of the orange striped interior), BUT it is a keel/centerboard model. Not that I am saying this is a bad thing, and in fact it may be a very good thing since our eventual sailing area will be Florida and the Bahamas. We currently sail the Chesapeake. Shallower draft could definitely be an advantage here also. But we have never owned a centerboard boat and I think my mind may be conjuring up all the worst case scenarios when it comes to operational problems and maintenance issues.

I would like to hear from people who actually do own or have owned centerboard boats who can share their experiences, good and bad.

I'm not looking to start another thread about hull design and sailing characteristics of various boats. I just want to know about issues relating to centerboards and their operation/upkeep specifically.

If you have owned a centerboarder, but don't now, would you own one again??
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Old 20-07-2014, 13:29   #2
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Re: Problems with Centerboards?

Have a Pearson 35 and owned a Morgan 35, center boarders. Have had very view problems. A couple with the boat/board, the other with a boat yard. The Morgan went through CB cables annually. Some weird electrolysis problem that only effected the board pennant. Dyneema pennant would solve that problem. The SPOT galvanized cable lasted 6 plus years on my Pearson. Replaced it with a dyneema line that is working fine after 3 years. Ran aground way too often on the ICW with the Morgan. Small stones jammed the board up once. A few minutes with a screw driver pried them out and all was fine with the world. Other than that, no actual board problems.

The other was with Gentry Marine Yard here in Kona. They doubled the haul out cost to let the boat hang in the slings over night so I could paint the board. No other yard has charged extra to do that as long as they lifted the boat last thing in the workday and launched first thing the next morning. They didn't spring the additional charge on me till just before launch so had to pay it to get launched. Gentry saw a chance to rip me off which seems to be typical of there operation. Lesson learned is get the cost of the haul out pinned down including hanging to paint the board before the boat is hauled.

FWIW, seldom put the board down. Really only needed for hard on the wind. More than one C/B boat has removed the board without major trauma. One even sailed around the world.
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Old 20-07-2014, 14:33   #3
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Re: Problems with Centerboards?

I think Peter gave you good info. Wherever you can minimize rust and built up marine growth in the trunk of the CB and on the outside of the CB the better. I'd change everything to do with the winch apparatus to non metallic below the waterline and a non-corrosive metal above the waterline.

Gentry marine in Kona used to be a bargain but has been doing a bit of underhanded business lately. I'd be cautious of any boatyard where things are not spelled out in writing and agreed upon beforehand.
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Old 20-07-2014, 16:09   #4
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Re: Problems with Centerboards?

Thank you both very much for your replies.
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Old 20-07-2014, 16:58   #5
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Re: Problems with Centerboards?

I have a 1974 Bristol 30 with a keel/CB. You're correct that the shoal draft is a very good thing in South Florida and the Bahamas.

I have 3,500 pounds of lead ballast and a 90-pound CB. Frankly, I don't use it much, except on rare occasions when I need to point really high. Otherwise, it slows down the boat.

The tricky thing about CBs is the SS cable, which usually has a Nicropress fitting on the end to form an eye that attaches to the CB SS and Nicropress don't do well in saltwater; corrosion can cause the cable to fail unexpectedly.

I solved the problem by replacing the cable with Amsteel Blue high-tech line. After four years, it's like new.

You'll want to examine the CB mechanism to see how difficult it is to replace the cable. On the Bristol, it's a bear -- a long tube with two interior sheaves that make it really difficult to replace the cable.
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Old 20-07-2014, 17:12   #6
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Re: Problems with Centerboards?

Broken cables and clunking noises while rocking at anchor or on the hook are the biggest pains with any centerboard.
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Old 20-07-2014, 19:46   #7
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Re: Problems with Centerboards?

Good information. Thanks!
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Old 20-07-2014, 20:23   #8
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Re: Problems with Centerboards?

I used to own a Paceship 23 keel-centerboarder. According to my recollection -

Pros: Few worries about water depth. If you feel/hear the board touch the bottom, just raise it up and turn back towards deeper water. Also, you can get pretty close in to the beach when anchoring, in my case in hip-deep water or less.

Cons: As mentioned, some rattling from the board. Some extra maintenance involved regarding antifoul painting, lifting tackle, and pivot pin. I learned that when the lifting line broke I could run a bight of rope under the boat, one end on each side of the boat, get it under the board and lift it that way. If the board gets jammed in the up position by running aground, it can sometimes be a pain to get loose depending on the particular design. And last, the center of gravity is higher on a centerboard boat because all the ballast is just under the hull instead of lower down in a fin keel. So, all else being equal (and it never is) the boat is a little more tender.

One thing I don't understand is the comments about not using the board, or removing it entirely (!). You would really have to care not one bit about performance, especially upwind. I'm sure my boat would have taken all day to sail 5 miles upwind with the board up. I even left it down sailing downwind, because it damped the rolling noticeably.

All things considered, I prefer the simplicity, robustness, and generally better sailing characteristics of a fixed keel, unless water depth is a real concern. I say this knowing there are some really good centerboard boats out there, such as the Pearson 35, Tartan 37, and Morgan 34. As with any boat, it's all about tradeoffs and personal preferences.
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Old 20-07-2014, 20:32   #9
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Re: Problems with Centerboards?

The Bristol 30 already has a substantial full keel with cutaway forefoot. On most points of sail, it works perfectly fine without the CB.

The CB is there mainly because the Bristol 30 was designed as a racer (!) back in the '60s.

I'll bet the O'Day also has a substantial keel stub, which would make the CB optional instead of mandatory..
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Old 20-07-2014, 21:42   #10
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Re: Problems with Centerboards?

I looked up a line drawing of your boat, and I can see where it would sail perfectly fine with the board up, just better upwind with the board down. I think the O'Day is an entirely different type of boat, in fact similar to my old Paceship, and I would expect at least 10 degrees of leeway upwind with the board up.
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Old 20-07-2014, 23:03   #11
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Re: Problems with Centerboards?

A center board boat without a board or the board up will sail as well or better than a deep keel boat of similar design on all except windward work. You don't have the additional drag of the extra keel depth. Used to race in a chance 30/30 deep keel IOR boat. Our biggest competition was a Morgan 34 center boarder. If we didn't put a lot of distance between us on upwind legs, they would eat us up on the reaches and were slightly faster with the spinnaker up DDW. IIRC, the water line lengths were about equal so theoretical speed was about the same.

Neither the Morgan or the Pearson made/makes a sound with the board up which it almost always is especially at anchor. The Pearson is pretty quiet even with the board down on the wind. Only when you crack off and the boat rolls a bit does it begin to clunk. By then, you don't need it anymore and i've cranked it up where it's silent. Some people on other designs feel the board helps trim the boat off the wind and partially lower it. Don't know what there experiences are.

There are a lot of different winch hardware situations. The Pearson has a simple double sheave arrangement, one small for the C/B pennant and a large one that gives mechanical advantage for the rope pull. Pull on the rope and the board comes up, let go and it goes down via gravity. Others have a wire reel winch or some form of winch to lift the board but are still gravity actuated.

Some have positive up and down actuation. The board is fixed in position by the actuator. Not sure I like this unless there is an auto release in the event of an accidental grounding.

Most boards are ballasted fiberglass so they sink. Wooden boats usually had a bronze or iron board. Often it was a pie slice affair rather that a foil dagger shape. Some glass boats like the Seabreeze 35 from Allied had bronze boards on the early boats and an aluminum board on later boats. Think the Hinckley C/B boats were also bronze. These would be very heavy and take serious tackle to haul up.

A true center board boat would be designed with harder bilges and/or wider beam than a keel boat. That would give the boat better form stability and could be stiffer than a similar but not identical keel boat. Boats like the Bristol 39/40 that were built as either a C/B or deep keel would be more tender in the C/B version. The had the same hull design and ballast, just cut a foot and a half off the keel and fitted a center board.

Having said the above, the reason there were so many centerboard boats designed prior to 1970 was they received favorable rating treatment by the CCA rule for racing. The IOR rule that followed didn't treat the C/B as well and they fell out of favor. Ted Hood and Dieter Empacher continued to design C/B IOR boats that were very competitive but other than the Pearson 40, weren't much much emulated. Later keel designs like the Scheel, winged, etc gave decent windward performance with shoal draft without the mechanical hassle of a C/B.
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Old 21-07-2014, 06:55   #12
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Re: Problems with Centerboards?

One of my business partners bought a Jeanneau 48 with a centerboard. The board was fouled with marine growth, would not move at all. It took him 8 days of lying on his back with a long thin rod to knock the barnacles out of the center board box to the point that it would move.

Moral of the story, lower that centerboard on a regular basis, and it is worth painting the board and the inside of the box. Beats lying on your back for 8 days with crushed barnacles raining on you.....
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Old 21-07-2014, 13:57   #13
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Re: Problems with Centerboards?

"I looked up a line drawing of your boat, and I can see where it would sail perfectly fine with the board up, just better upwind with the board down. I think the O'Day is an entirely different type of boat, in fact similar to my old Paceship, and I would expect at least 10 degrees of leeway upwind with the board up."

While the O'Day 30 has more of a fin keel than a Bristol 30, it also has 4,700 pounds of ballast and a 3-foot-6-inch draft. That's plenty for sailing with the board up.
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Old 28-07-2014, 05:31   #14
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Re: Problems with Centerboards?

Had an Irwin 42 for about a decade sailing in the Chesapeake, Potomac and Patapsco areas… other than at haul-out, no serious issues – other than it usually wouldn’t fully retract (left about 4” trailing edge much of the time, so had to be careful backing down in shallow water). The stuffing box would leak a touch, but easily stopped… Didn’t actually use the board much and frankly couldn’t notice a whole lot of difference unless I was truly trying to pinch upwind… Enjoyed the shoal draft (scraped the bottom many times, grounded more than once but always got off – hey, it’s the Chesapeake and we loved to sneak into places we probably should have known better), but the centerboard on the heavy cruiser with a longish keel I could take or leave…
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Old 28-07-2014, 05:39   #15
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Re: Problems with Centerboards?

A lot of nice informational and detailed posts here and I am sure they will prove beneficial for someone. Fortunately, for us, the thread is moot now as we bought a Cape Dory 33 this weekend. Yes, I am grinning from ear to ear.
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