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Matt Hopkinson

I want a centerboard

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I bought a fiberglass peapod a few years ago and it's been in my shop getting new gunwales.  I'm thinking about rigging it for sail.  It has a centerboard box and a reinforced spot for a mast step.  I think the boat was manufactured by New England Fiberglass Repair in CT but attempts to contact them have failed.  I guess I'm casting about for a source for a ready-made centerboard replacement, or diagrams, how-to-build and rig a centerboard.  Or just some good talk about the subject.  I already have a great sail from a vintage Mad River sailing canoe with a 2 piece aluminum mast.

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Matt:

First check the inside dimensions of your centerboard trunk. The width of the trunk will define the maximum thickness of the centerboard.  The board should be thin enough to move easily in the trunk and not get hung up if it swells of warps a bit. Choice of materials comes down to three: wood, plywood, or aluminum. If you live anywhere near northeast New Jersey, I have an aluminum board that you could have. But I can't recommend it. When the wind is light and you're rolling some, it sounds like a bell buoy. Plywood may sound easier than wood at first, but as Pete Culler points out in his marvelous book "Skiffs and Schooners," the edges of plywood tend to splinter, the edges must be sealed, and use of fastenings in the end grain is problematic. Then you think about fiberglassing it, which has a whole other set of tasks. I replaced the aluminum centerboard in my Sea Bright Skiff with one made of quarter-sawn fir stair treads. It's lasted over 40 years. There are lots of books about boatbuilding, but check out "Boat-building" by Howard Chappelle and "Building Classic Small Craft" by John Gardner.

Have fun, Andy

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