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post #1 of 4 Old 04-22-2006 Thread Starter
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Offshore Small Keel/Centerboarders

I just donít seem to be able to shake the idea of sailing away. But if it is going to happen my lifestyle choices (read money) will mandate that it happens in an older and smallish sailboat. I am willing to make compromises such as no standing headroom, no engine (no compromise really) and keeping the boat light. My thinking has gone through the older Alberg and Folkboats but I keep wondering about the small keel / centerboarders. In particular the S&S designed Yankee Dolphin and her big sister the Tartan 27. Are the centerboards problematic for offshore sailing? Are they easy to clean and service? And can they be locked down? My cruising area is the Pacific Northwest so any offshore sailing I do will be in the Pacific.

So does anyone have any opinions or experience with sailing offshore in these types of sailboats? Also, does anyone know what points of sail these boats can sail with reasonable efficiency with their boards up?

One other question that hopefully Jeff will jump on. I keep running into boats that were designed for the Midget Ocean Racing Club (MORC) rule. How successful was this rule in producing seaworthy, offshore capable sailboats?

Thanks, Bill
Lopez Island, WA
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post #2 of 4 Old 04-23-2006
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BOOK: Two Against the Western Ocean (P.Ellam & C.Mudie)

Read this book (circa 1950) and it will answer your questions.

Two Against the Western Ocean (Patrick Ellam & Colin Mudie)
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Minim Books (July 9, 1997)
ISBN: 097153215X

Editorial Review:
The Times (of London, England)
Uffa Fox wrote: "This is the best account of such a voyage we have ever read."

Boat: Soporanino (1950)
LOA:19' 8"
LWL: 17' 6"
Beam: 5' 4"
Draft(fin): 3' 8"
Draft(hull): 10"
Disp(cruise): 1/2_Ton
Designed: Laurent Giles
Built: Wootten Bros., Cookham Dene, UK

Book Description
For centuries boats had been built as strongly as possible to withstand the enormous power of the sea. But Patrick & Colin had a theory that if you built one as lightly as possible, she would lift over the tops of the waves and so survive. To prove it they had built the smallest boat that would carry two men and their stores. Then they sailed more than 10,000 miles, to four continents before arriving in New York, their destination. This is a true tale of high adventure in our time, and takes you away from the problems of this century into a world where man by his skill and judgement must make use of the vast elemental forces of nature to bring him safely to the place where he would be.

About the Author
Patrick Ellam was born in England, joined the army at the start of World War II then volunteered to drop alone by parachute behind the enemy lines and spent the rest of the war in the Special Operations Executive, as he described in his book Things I Remember. Then after crossing the Atlantic Ocean in Sopranino, he married June Emery and they spent 10 years in the yacht delivery business, as described in their book Wind Song. Colin Mudie was a hostage from the designer's office.
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post #3 of 4 Old 04-23-2006
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Bill, people routinely go to sea and circle the globe in pretty much everything. Part of that is knowing the capabilities of what you are on, anticipating the weather, and staying out of trouble.

A centerboard offshore is a vital moving part that is someplace where you can't reach it. If you roll (which can happen to any boat offshore) the centerboard is going to retract violently if it was down. that may be a problem.

Centerboard boats need the board down to go upwind well, to point. On the other hand, with the board up you can get into shoal water that a keep boat can't.

Traditionally? I don't think anyone chooses a centerboard boat, unless they are planning to take advantage of the shoal water capability.

But any first (boat, etc.) is not necessarily the right whatever. If everything else on the boat feels right, and you learn to manage the tradeoffs....If not, you chalk it up to learning and pick something better before you set off.
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post #4 of 4 Old 04-24-2006
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Hi Bill,

I don’t see a problem sailing offshore with centerboard boats, assuming the boat was originally designed for offshore passage making. If you decide to purchase a centerboard boat, I would recommend that you thoroughly inspect the centerboard pin and centerboard line before heading on a long trip. The pin is, I believe, usually bronze and may be in good shape, even on an old boat. I recently lived aboard a 1985 fiberglass boat with my family; before heading out, I inspected the centerboard pin and found it to be in excellent condition. If the pin shears while under way, repairs would be difficult at best and the potential for damage great.

I also replaced the centerboard line. In this case, the steel cable had begun to show wear. Again, I compared the cost of potential damage underway and the safety issues associated with a broken line while sailing, possibly while trying to claw off a lee shore, to the ease and cost-effectiveness of replacing the line while I did all of the other restoration to my boat. It was an easy decision.

Centerboards make a lot of noise in heavy seas. While sailing hard on the wind, a fully deployed board can make a lot of difference. Depending on sail configuration and conditions, I saw as much as a 20 degree difference. It’s worth it to have them down, but the first time I sailed with one, I thought the trunk was going to come apart. Every time we slammed into a wave the board slammed into the trunk with a loud bang.

Cleaning the board is easy when the boat is in the slings and the board is down. If you’re trying to avoid cost, and you don’t see the boat being hauled on a regular basis, it will obviously be more difficult to clean the board and the inside of the trunk. You may find, however, that cleaning the hull and keel are easier. I don’t know specifically about the Tartan 27 or other boats that you mentioned, but many centerboard boats have flat keel bottoms and can sit in a vertical position when the tide goes out. I would use offsetting anchors to brace the boat.

In addition to the obvious advantage of the shallow draft that centerboards offer, they also allow another means to help balance the boat when sailing. I don’t think in terms of up and down, but rather, in terms of how much up or down. I experimented when sailing and often found that I sailed with the board deployed only partially. I think you will find the same.

Hope this helps and good luck.
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