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Homemade Trimarans

 

Presented by "Dr. Frank" Smoot, and dedicated

to DIY boat builders everywhere!

  

                    "Why I Love Leeboards!"

 

12 Reasons (OK, 13) Why I'm Convinced That Leeboards

Are Just Plain Better Than Daggerboards / Centerboards

 

 

 

Leeboard On Laura's Boat - It works beautifully

 

"New & Improved" Leeboard On My Newest Hull

 

All my boats now have leeboards. Why? You'll soon see why I love 'em so much.

 

 Yes, I 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).

 

I 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!

 

So to 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 beautifully.

 

Over 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…

 

1. Leeboards Give You Flexible / Dynamically Adjustable CLR. 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.

 

[Note: CLR - center of lateral resistance of the hull and appendages, and COE = center of lateral effort of the sail plan.]

 

2. 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!

 

3. 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?

 

4. 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.

 

5. Leeboards Can't Foul The Boom. For 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!

 

6. 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 that?

 

7. 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…

 

8. Leeboards Can't Damage Your Hull (Or Trunk) From Impact With The Ground Or Other Underwater Obstacles. 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…

 

9. 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!

 

10. Leeboards Can't Break Off Because Of Impact With Underwater Obstacles. More 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.

 

11. 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!

 

12. Leeboards Are Infinitely Superior For Sailing In Very Shallow Water. You can 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!

 

13. 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 good time?

 

Bottom line? What's not to love about leeboards?

 

 

 

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