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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail
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Old 04-10-2002
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Centerboard Position

My son and I were almost across Lake Michigan approaching South Manitou Island on a reach with a storm main and jib, our Lightning moving along well, heeling a fair amount, in maybe 6 foot waves when I saw a large wave bearing down from starboard. I eased the main, the wave smashed to starboard, and I figured we were going over but an amazing thing happened as the boat began to slide sideways in the water instead of capsizing. I believe the reason it skidded sideways was because I had the centerboard slightly more than halfway up. If the board had been down much more I think we would have capsized.
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Old 04-10-2002
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scnicklefritz is on a distinguished road
Centerboard Position

You were able to steer a straight course with the centerboard more than half way up????
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Old 04-10-2002
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Centerboard Position

Lots of funny waves & things off Manitou. It''s quite likely your leeway kept you from going over. I''ve seen Lightnings moored in Larchmont(NY) with their sails & rudder off, but which left their boards fully down, capsize because they couldn''t swing around fast enough in a stong, shifty wind. Having the board down part way may have helped dissipate the force of the wave with more leeway, and the raised board tip may also have made a less powerful fulcrum point for the boat to pivot around, resulting in less heeling too. Theoretically, the centerboard keeps the boat from slipping sideways though the water. Since the boat can''t slide sideways, the wind on the sails makes the boat heel instead. Having the board up can mean less heeling -- you slide sideways more, but stay upright while you do. Sailing is a balancing act, all the time.
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Old 04-10-2002
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Centerboard Position

Yes, I could steer a straight course but I did head higher up to compensate for the drift which I am sure was considerable being the distance sailed on this reach was about 45 miles ( Washington Island to South Manitou).
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Old 04-21-2002
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Centerboard Position

The higher you point into the wind, the more leeway you will experience, and more centerboard is needed to keep you tracking straight. The converse is also true: the farther your point is off the wind, the less board is necessary. You don''t mention whether your reach was a close, beam, or broad, but I''m guessing broad (wind was behind the beam), in which case you can often get by with less than half the board down in a small boat. Sounds as if you had it positioned correctly.
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Old 04-21-2002
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Centerboard Position

The actual point I have been unsuccesfully trying to make is that in heavy weather it is critical to use only enough board to maintain your course so that when you are hit with a big gust, or wave, your boat will slide sideways helping to prevent a capsize. I have learned this sailing a Lightning in sustained winds up to 40 with gusts to 50. I simply hope to help someone make the correct decision in heavy weather instead of the more obvious wrong decision.
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Old 04-29-2002
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Centerboard Position

Excellent point to make. I sail a centerboard boat and knew the only thing preventing a capsize is the beam; knowing that it can slip sideways with a large wave or gust when the centerboard is up partway is another tool in the kit for heavy weather.
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Old 04-30-2002
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Centerboard Position

Just out of curiosity, how many other sailors would sail across the northern end of Lake Michigan in the first part of April in 6 foot seas in an unballasted boat with 1 foot of freeboard?
Assume a water temperature maybe in the high forties, add the wind....
Just curious.
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Old 05-01-2002
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Centerboard Position

If the boat was self-bailing and self-rescuing (meaning that it won''t sink and if righted will drain) and if I were wearing a survival suit, and my back was nota cting up, and I got to pick my weather window, I might consider this, although probably more when so twenty years ago when I was in my early thirties than I would today.

Jeff
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Old 05-01-2002
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Centerboard Position

Probably none in April, May or June. We and I used to do it from the 2nd week of July to the end of August. Even so probably no one else would even consider doing what I, we, have done. It is extremely important to wear polypropelene long underwear under your foulies because it takes 8 hours to get across and one gets very cold. In winds over 20 this boat was almost always sailed with a "special main" (actually a jib with slides) run up the mast in place of the main and no regular jib. To bail (sometimes over the leeward seats--maybe more than 60 gallons) I let the sails fly, and actually left the boat sideways to the 4 to 6 foot waves while I bailed without the boat even coming close to capsizing (that particular day was a nasty port beat from Chambers Island in Green Bay to Washington Island which took if I remmember right 10 hours, maybe 12). My wife and I now sail a "big" boat a Freedom 21 and cruised for 50 days last summer. We went up the St. Marys river to the Sault and liked it so much we did it over again ( this boat has a third reef which is great for really windy days). The boat is on the trailer and needs some work so I have to go ( I hope to launch in 2 weeks). Happy sailing.
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