Visual inspection is a good start, if you can get under the boat well enough to look up into the centerboard trunk. Looking for staining will often give you a good clue about conditions, as a damaged trunk or rusting pivot pin will often have some external signs of the damage or corrosion.
Unfortunately, to really see what is going on, requires lifting the boat and lowering the swing keel or centerboard.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.
—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)
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Still—DON'T READ THAT POST AGAIN.