I Love Leeboards!"
12 Reasons (OK, 13) Why I'm Convinced
Are Just Plain Better Than
Daggerboards / Centerboards
Laura's Boat - It works beautifully
Improved" Leeboard On My Newest Hull
boats now have leeboards. Why? You'll soon
see why I love 'em so much.
know this puts me in a very small minority of
designer / builders. I have owned several boats with
daggerboards and centerboards, and yes, they work
just fine. But they also have some huge
disadvantages, especially in our
sometimes-very-skinny local waters (central Florida
Gulf coast area - Sarasota / Bradenton / St. Pete).
started using leeboards partly because all of my
boats were 100% experimental in the "early days" (30
months ago…) and because I was SO much of a novice
that I had no clue about how to build a boat that
had a balanced helm. I didn't understand the CLR /
COE relationship at all in the beginning, so I made
every conceivable mistake. Some of my boats had
either weather helm or lee helm so severe you could
hardly get them to go in a straight line!
cover my butt, I started building boats where I had
a big range of control over both COE and CLR. That
meant more than one mast step, and moveable CLR.
Pivoting leeboards solved the latter problem
time, I have learned to actually create boats where
I can install just one mast step, and have the
leeboard in the right place on the first try. I have
also come to love leeboards so much that I would not
even consider building a boat with a centerboard or
daggerboard. Why? I'm not sure I can list the
reasons in order of importance, but they include…
Leeboards Give You Flexible / Dynamically Adjustable
Leeboards can pivot as need to perfectly balance the
helm. This, all by itself, is enough to make
leeboards better than centerboards or daggerboards.
I can still have virtually all the functional length
of my leeboard in the water (to provide lateral
resistance) yet shift the CLR fore and aft - by 24"
or more if needed -- to balance the helm. This takes
strain off the rudder, thereby adding speed. It also
provides maximum CLR under all conditions, thereby
improving upwind performance.
CLR - center of lateral resistance of the hull and
appendages, and COE = center of lateral effort of
the sail plan.]
Leeboards Require NO Cutting Into The Hull
or special care or attention during framing. How
much simpler does this make life for the builder,
especially amateurs? Now much less can such a boat
weigh? How much more likely is a hull to say intact
when it doesn't have a big hole or slash in a
critically important section of the keel? Leeboards
don't require any of that stuff!
Leeboards take up no space in the already-small
cockpit of a trimaran, small dinghy, etc.
Being entirely outside the boat, the entire cockpit
is available for feet, seats, stuff, whatever. If
you've ever experienced a small cockpit with a
daggerboard / centerboard trunk, you know all too
well how annoying and inconvenient the obstruction
can be. How much more enjoyable would it be to sail
in a wide open, completely unencumbered cockpit?
Leeboards Are Never In Your Way.
I remember the first time my wife and I took out our
Laser II dinghy (it was also to be the last time, as
we dumped it within 15 minutes of launch). I clearly
recall how the daggerboard always seemed to be in
the way, either as a tripping post, something to
snag lines, or something to block free movement fore
and aft or side to side. I didn't like that at all,
and neither did Laura.
Leeboards Can't Foul The Boom.
reasons I guess I can understand, lots
of small dinghys are designed so that when the
daggerboard is raised (as alas it must be in shallow
water) it invariably is in the way of the boom
swinging from one side of the boat to the other. Not
only is this very annoying and inconvenient, it is
also dangerous. Not being able to put the sail where
you want it -- need it -- is a shortcut to disaster.
Just as bad, you have also eliminated your main
source of lateral resistance, so your boat goes
wherever the wind blows!
Leeboards Kick Up Instantly (And With No Drama) When
They Hit Anything.
Is that a big deal? Maybe you just have to sail with
leeboards for a while to appreciate how incredibly
flexible they are. You can have "business" portion
entirely in the water, entirely out of the water, or
anywhere in between -- in a fraction of a second,
with no effort, and without moving from your seat.
When I come into the beach launch point, I don't
even have to give a thought to my leeboard. It will
instantly and automatically adjust itself to the
ever-decreasing water depth. Can your daggerboard do
Leeboards Can't Stop Your Boat In Its Tracks.
Maybe there's always a ton of water beneath you
where you sail. But hereabouts we have to contend
with very shallow launch areas, sandbars,
oysterbars, and other assorted underwater obstacles.
I recall with trepidation bringing my Laser II back
to the launch point a few years ago. The daggerboard
was all the way down -- as it must be to make any
progress upwind. Well all of a sudden, the boat
slams to an abrupt halt. Yep, the daggerboard
smacked the bottom, about 500 yards from shore. Had
to paddle in! One more reason to hate centerboards…
Leeboards Can't Damage Your Hull (Or Trunk) From
Impact With The Ground Or Other Underwater
I have heard endless (horror) stories about
daggerboard trunks being damaged when the board
smacks bottom, a reef, a bar, or anything else down
there. What can happen to your boat -- and to your
otherwise enjoyable sailing experience -- when that
happens? I leave it to your vivid imagination…
Daggerboard / Centerboard Trunks Can Leak!
I was at a meetup just a week ago where somebody's
homemade boat started leaking around the daggerboard
trunk. Hard to fix, and very annoying to experience
out in the middle of the bay! Admittedly, on a
monohull, you'd need two leeboards to do it right.
But they would never cause leaks! BTW, my boat, No Commotion, actually has twin leeboards,
connected by a small beam so they always act in
tandem. Maybe overkill (hey, it was my first shot at
leeboards) but boy are they effective!
Leeboards Can't Break Off Because Of Impact With
horror stories come to mind. I'm constantly reading
online where somebody's daggerboard snapped off at
the keel because it was overstressed by impact or
lateral loading that exceeded design specs. You know
what a leeboard does when it hits an obstacle? It
just moves gently up and out of the way -- still
intact, still fully functional, and ready to be
rotated back down.
Leeboards Weigh Less Overall Than The Combined
Weight Of A Daggerboard / Centerboard And Its Trunk.
Maybe that's not very important to you, but I'm
trying to make the lightest boats possible. Lighter
boats sail faster, draw less water, and are easier
to load / unload / handle overall. And since my "new
generation" of hulls weigh just 60 lbs, every pound
matters a lot. Leeboards to the rescue!
Leeboards Are Infinitely Superior For Sailing In
Very Shallow Water.
easily, instantly, and continuously set your
leeboard at the ideal depth for whatever shallow
water you're in, providing not only maximum lateral
resistance at all times, but also maximizing your
ability to steer and get the boat where you want it.
How important can that be? You tell me!
Bonus Reason: Daggerboards Just Won't Stay Put!
This reason probably shouldn't be
last, because it can be SUCH a pain in the butt to
get your daggerboard to stay up -- or down -- or
wherever the heck else you want or need it to be. I
mean, do you really need all that aggravation when
all you really wanted was to go sailing and have a
line? What's not to love about leeboards?