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Old 21-05-2021, 10:57   #1
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Who has owned a cat with daggerboards?

I've read numerous articles on the advantages and disadvantages of daggerboards on a cruising catamaran, and I'm guessing a lot of those articles are regurgitated and rewritten by people who haven't actually done extensive sailing with them (and I've never even been on a boat with daggerboards fwiw).

So, figured I'd get some opinions from people here who have actually owned both daggerboard and keel catamarans.

I like the idea of having them, being able to point higher, better performance, etc.

But out in the real world, how easy is it to make a mistake and shear one off? Or to make a bad decision and find yourself grounded with the weight of the boat resting on half way lowered daggerboards and/or rudder or something like that?
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Old 21-05-2021, 13:54   #2
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Re: Who has owned a cat with daggerboards?

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...
But out in the real world, how easy is it to make a mistake and shear one off? Or to make a bad decision and find yourself grounded with the weight of the boat resting on half way lowered daggerboards and/or rudder or something like that?

We have a daggerboard cat. It also has fixed skegs in front of the props and rudders. We can ground the boat by sitting on the deepest part of the hulls and the skegs - she sits slightly bow down so itís most comfortable on a sloping beach.

Other than hitting something I canít imagine any Ďmistakeí that would cause a daggerboards to shear off. If that were to happen, the case is stronger than the board, so the major damage would be to the board.

Our daggerboards are heavy and only need a hold up line - if we were anchored and grounded, the daggerboards would get pushed up their cases. But in any case, we lift our daggerboards most of the time and only use them while sailing upwind and sometimes for slow speed manoeuvring when thereís a breeze. So if we grounded weíd just sit on our hulls and skegs. Not great if itís a rough bottom.

Those with lifting rudders would lift them when moored. If your rudders donít have protection and canít be lifted, then youíre in the same situation as almost every other boat.

The biggest negative is that the daggerboard cases use up interior space. Otherwise, no issues and after four years we donít have to think about how to use them.
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Old 21-05-2021, 15:29   #3
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Re: Who has owned a cat with daggerboards?

6 years locally cruising New England (NE USA) then 4 years and 25,000 miles around the Atlantic, Med and S Pacific and we never had any problems with our daggerboards. We did lose a rudder on a passage in the S Pacific due to I suspect corrosion in the shaft, but that was nothing to do with draft or the boards.

And to be fair it is clear that a previous owner had replaced one of the dagger boards at some stage, so one had presumably broken. But given the construction that should be a non-issue as they are designed to break before the case, and you can sail happily with one if need be.

But small sample sizes are problematic. Most boats cruise around the world happily without any major issues, regardless of type, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't consider them when planning. We carried a drogue, a liferaft, a big medical kit, an EPIRB etc all of which we never used, but we had in case of issues that never arose.

I would also caution that it's not usually dagger boards alone that give you the performance aspects you are looking for. It's more that boats that are designed to be better performing under sail also tend to have dagger boards as part of the package because of their advantages. There are a couple of exceptions to this where you can get the same model boat with either daggerboards or mini-keels.
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Old 22-05-2021, 02:35   #4
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Re: Who has owned a cat with daggerboards?

I own a daggerboard cat and owned one previously. I have sailed/delivered around 40 different cats all but one had keels.

Big advantages are:
1. superior pointing ability

2. higher speed with better safety margin when reaching.

3. downwind control. in big seas when running with the boards up the CR will be at the rudders, very far aft. Provided the rudders are large enough and do not cavitate there is no tendency to "broach" (turn through 180) when cresting a wave or surfing at high speeds that can be an issue with keels.

3. when the s**t hits the fan lifting the boards and rudders will allow you to 'lay a hull' in the worst possible conditions. The boat becomes a raft and waves simply push you sideways.

4. access to very shallow areas.

5. extra balance control and adjustability in difficult current or wave conditions on all points of sail.

Disadvantages:

1. marginally more maintenance.

2. can't anti foul or get to the bottom when dried out.

3. "some" daggerboard cats are prone to breakages and "their" board replacements are very expensive.

4. underwater projections are more vulnerable. properly designed release mechanisms and sealed compartments are more important.

5. to benefit, boats have to be kept light and are more expensive.
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Old 22-05-2021, 10:21   #5
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Re: Who has owned a cat with daggerboards?

I owned a Manta Cat with fixed keels, sailing it 60knm including rounding Cape Horn and the boat was always manageable and never frightened me.
I have now owned a daggerboard cat for four years, about half the displacement and two feet shorter. I have not travelled as extensively in that boat, though did sail to Cuba and Bahamas and back to Toronto with it.
They are very different. The heavier fixed keel boat hove-to and lay ahull very well and was a comfortable sea boat, did not point as well and slower in light winds (crossed the Equator twice) and was a better load carrier.
The daggerboard boat is more fun to sail and easier, still heaves to and lies ahull.
Has more spartan accommodations and both rate (by me) all-round good boats.
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Old 22-05-2021, 10:40   #6
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Re: Who has owned a cat with daggerboards?

A couple of things that you might not think of...

Not all cats with daggerboards are equal. I have sailed cats with daggerboards where the real world advice was to never lower the boards more than half way or they'll break. Daggerboards can take a lot of force, so they have to be made very well and their trunks even better. My Outremer has well made daggerboards and I have had no issues so far.

When sailing off the wind at deeper angles, a benefit that I had not thought of before I bought the boat is that you can raise the boards and let the boat slide sideways, which means you have to point higher to maintain the desired COG, so the boat sails faster than it would otherwise in lighter winds. This doesn't make so much difference in stronger winds as the narrower hulls really carve through the water and the boat tracks like it's on rails once you get up to 14/15 knots when sailing at deeper angles.

You definitely have to be more wary of shallow water than you might with keels as, from my point of view, you never want to ground the boat. But frankly, most cats with keels do not have keels that would handle all but the lightest abuse. It's not like having a big cast iron depth finder like you have on a mono

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Old 22-05-2021, 13:27   #7
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Re: Who has owned a cat with daggerboards?

I had a cat with daggerboards in the 80s. I never cruised it because it was a 16' Isotope, but I raced it extensively across the Southeast. It was incredibly fast at about 25 knots.
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Old 23-05-2021, 15:46   #8
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Re: Who has owned a cat with daggerboards?

https://schionningdesign.com/arrow-1360-sdi/

I own the predecessor, wilderness 1320, but Schionning has some nice design considerations there and yes, his sailing cats have very light dagger boards.

I had 2 breaks in muddy waters drifting sideways in the first year, chart showing 15m but not the coral head, the other in a river, but easy to repair, no damage on the hulls thanks to several layers kevlar. I leave the boards half way down at rudder level, they are easier to repair than propeller and rudder but no more damage since I installed a forward looking sounder 9 years ago.

I like this design, my last one belonged to the heavy variety, this is much more lively. Other advantages have been written already
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Old 23-05-2021, 17:53   #9
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Re: Who has owned a cat with daggerboards?

I have dagger boards and agree with the above but I would like to add that mine were impossible to move once underway. I hope I have fixed the problem but won't know for a little while. They run on a sliver of timber in the back of the case but can jamb with a small load.

I have shortened the cord length a little and will fit some acetyl guides front and rear in the hope they will slide. I also plan on running nylon lines so I can load them up and when I tack the elastic in the lines should move the boards when the load comes off them.

Some people have issues and some don't, I hope to be the - some don't - soon.

I have touched on a sand bank and had no drama, the board cut its way through without damage.

I'd also say I get no growth worth worrying about on the boards or in the case.
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Old 23-05-2021, 18:38   #10
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Re: Who has owned a cat with daggerboards?

Dont forget that minikeel boats from some manufacturers have had issues, I know of a orana or Helia that had its mini keel come off mid ocean
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Old 24-05-2021, 07:52   #11
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Re: Who has owned a cat with daggerboards?

They take up space, can make a knocking noise in the casing underway and create extra lines to be run somewhere.

So they are not for the cat-owner that does not prioritise sailing IMO, in part because they only become a problem when you forget to set them.

If you are using them properly all other aspects of having them are extremely positive, including using them at anchor to react to adjust resistance to swell and wind direction.
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Old 24-05-2021, 15:40   #12
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Re: Who has owned a cat with daggerboards?

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You definitely have to be more wary of shallow water than you might with keels as, from my point of view, you never want to ground the boat. But frankly, most cats with keels do not have keels that would handle all but the lightest abuse. It's not like having a big cast iron depth finder like you have on a mono

Hamish
Again, it depends. We have daggerboard, outboards and kick up rudders. We can easily and often do operate in depths minikeel boats simply can't get into.

And grounding those cast iron depth sounders can have serious consequences. Often a slip and survey at least, to make sure it's going to stay attached.
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Old 24-05-2021, 15:56   #13
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Re: Who has owned a cat with daggerboards?

we have mini keels and quite happy with this

however i have heard it said many times that daggerboards can cause a boat to trip over them - esp if the leeward board is fully down in good wind pressure / significant sea. by design & intention, daggerboards do not allow a boat to slide sideways like mini keels will...

at least this seems to be the consensus of opinion concerning the cause for the 2 spirited 380's that have capsized in this area in the last 5 years

what are the views here about this ?

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Old 24-05-2021, 15:59   #14
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Re: Who has owned a cat with daggerboards?

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we have mini keels and quite happy with this

however i have heard it said many times that daggerboards can cause a boat to trip over them - esp if the leeward board is fully down in good wind pressure / significant sea. by design & intention, daggerboards do not allow a boat to slide sideways like mini keels will...

at least this seems to be the consensus of opinion concerning the cause for the 2 spirited 380's that have capsized in this area in the last 5 years

what are the views here about this ?

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The opposite, In extreme conditions - Boards up, no lateral resistance, minikeels do not give you that option, they are are always down
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Old 26-05-2021, 07:43   #15
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Re: Who has owned a cat with daggerboards?

The only practical downside I have found to daggerboards is that they tend to collect Kelp. We spend a lot of time in higher latitudes and this is a real annoyance, but in balance it's worth the trouble.
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