In addition, HOGFISH was impossible to dock or to maneuver in and out of a slip with the centerboard up. This was a mistake I made on multiple occasions, and at one point I even wanted to make a little brass plaque, to screw to the dodger right above the companionway; something along the lines of “Remember to lower the centerboard, you idiot!” With the centerboard up, the rudder would quite effectively alter the orientation of the boat, but not its direction of drift. Luckily, dropping the centerboard only required ripping a line out of a jam cleat and could be done in about 3 seconds, so the embarrassment was generally short-lived. With the board down HOGFISH happily pirouetted within its overall length.
And so QUIDNON has to have a centerboard—the same kind I had on HOGFISH, since that design worked so well. It was a kick-up centerboard: when it hit things underwater, it bounced up. It was ballasted with a slug of lead embedded between its layers of plywood, and the amount of lead was calibrated so that the centerboard was almost neutrally buoyant when immersed in salt water. It descended through gravity, was reasonably easy to haul back up using a 3-part purchase, and didn't get damaged when it hit something underwater even when moving at hull speed.
In addition to providing lateral resistance and good tracking, the centerboard also served as the depth sounder of last resort: by keeping the centerboard purchase under a bit of tension, I could get a warning of an impending grounding. When it started to droop and jingle, it was time for a quick 180º course correction. Working together with the kick-up rudder blade, the centerboard also made for very responsive steering when being dragged through mud or sand. Thus, even when I found myself in barely 4 feet of water and heading for 0, I did not lose hope, because I could still execute a 180º course correction and head for deeper water.
The design of the centerboard on HOGFISH had the following major shortcomings:
1. The centerboard trunk took up the entire middle of the cabin—the most prized piece of real estate in the entire boat. Going from the v-berth to the heads required a circumnavigation of the entire boat—all the way to the galley and back again on the other side. The centerboard trunk made the already narrow cabin feel even more cramped.
2. Having been made of 3 layers of ¾-inch plywood screwed and epoxied together and sheathed in fiberglass (3 layers of cloth) and suspended on a pivot made of 3-inch bronze pipe, the centerboard was relatively indestructible—except for its forward edge. Coral heads were especially hard on it, taking big chunks out of it, which I had to fill in with thickened epoxy during subsequent haul-outs. The obvious solution is to screw a stainless steel rub-rail to the leading edge of the board. The screws have to be long (3 inches) and bedded in epoxy, so that they don't pull out even if the rub-rail takes a big enough hit to crimp and drive it into the plywood.
3. The centerboard was quite difficult to service even with the boat hauled out. Fully extended, it protruded by about 6 feet out of the bottom if its trunk, and blocking the boat at that height is not possible using standard jacks. Dropping the centerboard and putting it back in would have been quite an adventure. And so the top of the centerboard, or the inside of the centerboard trunk, was never serviced in any way or even looked at. This didn't seem to matter much, but in general it would be better to make the centerboard easy to service. This I intend to do by making the top of the centerboard trunk into an access hatch, so that the centerboard can be hoisted out for service with the boat in the water. The lid of the access hatch can be made sacrificial, so that if the boat hits something underwater while sailing fast and the centerboard goes flying into its trunk, the resulting damage will be confined to heads sheared off a few bolts that hold the hatch in place, which will be easily replaced.
Problem 3 will be solved by providing an access hatch at the top of the centerboard trunk, with hoist attachment points screwed into the cabin-top above for lifting the centerboard out for service with the boat in the water. Since the bottom of the boat will be surfaced with copper sheet, it will never need to be hauled out, and so the ability to service the centerboards in this way will be essential.
Both centerboards will be lowered for maneuvering in tight quarters, but when sailing to windward on a given tack for any great length of time, only the leeward centerboard will need to be deployed. This will cut down on drag somewhat. Of course, this is not something one would want to do when short-tacking through a channel or out of a crowded harbor.
What remains is a very, very minor problem: the problem of “clunking.” On HOGFISH, when tacking, or when temporarily lying ahull with the centerboard down, it would clunk back and forth in its trunk. This wasn't dangerous, but some people found it unnerving. It also interfered with sound sleep while underway. I would like to solve this problem by providing packing along the pipe that serves as the centerboard pivot, restricting the motion of the top of the board, and by surfacing the board with a strip of HDPE plastic (cutting board material) on each side at the point where it contacts the aperture at the bottom of the centerboard trunk. This should reduce clunking to a sub-audible level.