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Thread: on the Origin of Centerboards

  1. #1

    Default on the Origin of Centerboards

    I'm in the awkward position of having made a bet with someone regarding the origin of the centerboard.

    This person says no one knows their origin, but that they didn't really exist till the 18th or 19th century.
    Knowing little or nothing about it, but being a contrarian, I said surely not ! I bet you ......

    Have gleaned thus far that they weren't common in the west till about then, but that Heyerdahl discovered a version called the 'guara', but the Peruvians/Polynesians kind of ceased production.,and it didn't go anywhere from there.

    So, how about it ? Anyone here born before 1800, now's the time to pipe up !
    or, in the absence of such an old timer, someone who is simply knowledgeable ?

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    In this case... being a contrarian will pay off. According to Chapelle, the earliest instance of centerboards (in the form of multiple daggerboards on a fairly sophisticated log sailing raft) was documented by Westerners in the 1500's in Brazil. Before that... who knows how early they were developed.

    Now... for my cut... do you need a mailing address, or just my PayPal info? <G>
    David G
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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    The Chinese were using a daggerboard on their junks at least by the 13 century and probably long before that. The rudders also could be raised or lowered.
    "There is nothing - absolutely nothing - quite so worth doing as simply messing about in boats!" and Mandolins!

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    18th century is 1700's, for one quibble. Another is "what is a centerboard?" Are daggerboards centerboards? Are swinging leeboards between logs of a raft?
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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    I have seen daggerboards on some pretty primitive craft, in India east coast and up the Hooghly river. Are we limited to centreboards or do daggerboards or leeboards count.

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    I doubt you'll find any 'official' definition of a centerboard. I cited Chapelle - who seems like a reasonable person to use an an 'authority' - about the Brazilian rafts. FWIW - he defines centerboard to include daggerboards, but excludes leeboards. I'm guessing he's focusing on the 'center' part of the word.
    David G
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    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  7. #7

    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    well we left the terms of our bet a little open to interpretation - the gist of it was that a centerboard is supremely counter intuitive, insofar as it means making a hole in the bottom of a boat, and then dealing with the leaks that are bound to occur over time. In his opinion, a dumb thing, as evidenced by the fact that 'no one' used them up until the mid 1800's.

    I said, no, they're a great thing, cause they keep you from smearing crossways through the water, yet are not a pain like a big old keel.

    Needless to say ( see my only other post here ) The whole thing was brought on because I'm trying to repair the centerboard of my beautiful little boat, and I didn't have the equanimity to admit the shortcomings of centerboards.
    His solution was of course : buy a fiberglass jon boat with an outboard.

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    Indeed, it seems, the Chinese invented the dagger board as well as full batten sails. It is reported that evidence of the use of dagger boards dates back to the year 475 A.D.
    This evidence came from the discovery of a clay model of a junk ,from that time period, found in a burial cave.
    Jay

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    if your going to be that general the first device to prevent lateral side slip was a paddle held in the water, a traditional oar held over the side through an oar lock does double duty as a rudder and leeboard, and is actually a hugely effictive foil.

    but your bet was centerboards and the bove references do not fit the specific definition of the word centerboard... so yes your friend is right they originated around 1800 and not because their inferior but because they involve moving parts and high stresses and 1800 is about when fastener and construction technology made them possible, they became hugely popular in America relatively quickly.

    there is a pattent of some sort issued and it's early 1800's so a search should turn up a reference, your budy is right but for the wrong reasons!

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    Centerboard Technology
    Centerboards on American vessels are a result of the invention of the “drop-keel”
    or “sliding keel,” credited to a British captain named Schank in 1774 (McClure 2003:14).
    During the American Revolution, shallow drafted vessels entering American waters
    would often lose headway when sailing to windward. Schank determined that a dropkeel
    would prevent the vessel from losing headway and provide a method by which
    vessels could navigate upwind while retaining the shoal draft appropriate for coastal and
    inland waters. While the daggerboard had been employed by the Chinese and leeboards
    were used by the Dutch, Captain Schank’s drop-keel is the first documented use of a
    centerboard in North America (Chapelle 1935:166-167, 1951:38-39). The nineteenth
    century centerboard complete with pivoting forward end and hoisting tackle attached to
    the centerboard’s aft end did not appear until 1811 when the Swain brothers of New
    Jersey patented the invention. According to Barkhausen, “We should note that the
    Swains proposed a centered board and stressed that accordingly ‘the keel must be worked
    wide in the middle so as to give sufficient strength after the mortise is worked through for
    the lee board to pass’ (Barkhausen 1990:10)

    From Chapter 4 - REGIONAL WATERCRAFT AND THE DOMINANCE OF THE CENTERBOARD SCHOONER

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Noyes View Post
    if your going to be that general the first device to prevent lateral side slip was a paddle held in the water, a traditional oar held over the side through an oar lock does double duty as a rudder and leeboard, and is actually a hugely effictive foil.

    but your bet was centerboards and the bove references do not fit the specific definition of the word centerboard... so yes your friend is right they originated around 1800 and not because their inferior but because they involve moving parts and high stresses and 1800 is about when fastener and construction technology made them possible, they became hugely popular in America relatively quickly.

    there is a pattent of some sort issued and it's early 1800's so a search should turn up a reference, your budy is right but for the wrong reasons!
    How would you define the word 'centerboard' then... and based upon what reference/authority?
    David G
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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    Centerboard is ... well you know! a centerboard.

    the key traits seperating it from other lateral resistance are;
    the trunk as long as the board
    a forward pivot to allow the board to swing back into the trunk
    a construction and weight of sufficient strength to resist the forces on it but not enough weight to act as significant ballast for the hull
    and the central location, near or at the mid line

    my reference/authority is tradition, this is how the word has been used by generations of boat builders and watermen along the coast of Newengland...

    when these men called a centerboard a centerboard they are refering to real world differences between it and other lateral planes, both from a construction point of view and opperationally.
    in theory a centerboard is similar to a dagger board in that it prevents the boat from sailing sideways, but in opperation it is something very different... try running aground with a daggerboard VS a centerboard, completely different experience, also in terms of interior space consumed a centerboard takes up probably twice as much. In raising and lowering there are huge differences, a dagger may require tackle well above the board and when raised protrudes from the trunk by it's depth in the water, possibly interfiering with the set of sails and swing of the boom, a Centerboard sits quietly out of the way in it's trunk...

    these old words have real meaning, and we equivocate at our own peril.
    Last edited by Daniel Noyes; 07-24-2012 at 07:37 AM.

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    Daniel,

    Thanks. One certainly has to draw the line somewhere. Are all manner of lateral resistance centerboards? Obviously not. You have chosen the most rigorous and constrained definition. I have no particular attachment to the definition - but will point out again that Chapelle, in "American Small Sailing Craft" includes 'daggerboards' in his definition of 'centerboards'. That's good enough for me. You may argue with him... at your peril <G>
    Last edited by David G; 07-26-2012 at 11:24 AM.
    David G
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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    You can (and did!) say that again.
    Goat Island Skiff and Simmons Sea Skiff construction photos here:

    http://s176.photobucket.com/albums/w...esMan/?start=0

    and here:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/37973275@N03/

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    I'd be inclined to include any movable form of lateral plane, as opposed to a lifting hull or permanent lifting keel projection.

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    I' say about an hour after the first raft went in, somewhere in Africa BC, someone shoved a plank of wood or paddle down between the bound logs of the first raft, to stop it sliding sideways down the beach.

    They could put this anywhere in any number, on the raft fore and aft, laterally or midline, controlling total and the aggregate position of lateral resistance.

    Delightfully sophisticated.

    Since then.

    Ed
    Last edited by keyhavenpotterer; 07-24-2012 at 10:46 AM.

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    Interesting - when I think about "centerboard" my brain limits it to the pivoting style. When I change the word to the British "centreplate", my brain includes daggerboards, etc. (but not leeboards...).
    Probably an artifact of how I grew up... but aren't those words often used interchangably?
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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Duke View Post
    Interesting - when I think about "centerboard" my brain limits it to the pivoting style. When I change the word to the British "centreplate", my brain includes daggerboards, etc. (but not leeboards...).
    Probably an artifact of how I grew up... but aren't those words often used interchangably?
    right on, the pivot and ability to retract easily makes a centerboard much easier to handle on larger boats and in rough conditions.
    a center plate is a center board made of metal, traditionally Iron "Plate" the Sandbaggers sailed with "boiler plate" centerboards, a board pined up of oak planking would not have been structurly capable of handling the stresses exerted by the old bag wagons of the 1860-80's.

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    "the Sandbaggers sailed with "boiler plate" centerboards, a board pined up of oak planking would not have been structurly capable of handling the stresses exerted by the old bag wagons of the 1860-80's."


    If the stresses were so high that an oak board was not sufficient,and they used boiler plate...what did they construct the centreplate/board housing/box from???

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    Daniel,

    Thanks. Once certainly has to draw the line somewhere. Are all manner of lateral resistance centerboards? Obviously not. You have chosen the most rigorous and constrained definition. I have no particular attachment to the definition - but will point out again that Chapelle, in "American Small Sailing Craft" includes 'daggerboards' in his definition of 'centerboards'. That's good enough for me. You may argue with him... at your peril <G>
    like Eskimo's with 22 words for snow, the words describing types of lateral resistance have real, significant and specific meanings, you seem to be straining at Chapelles "definition"... I'm not sure that you aren't taking him out of context (was he really defining the meaning of the word "centerboard" in the passage you quote?), but regardless every one of the boat builders I've worked with around here knows what a centerboard is and is'nt.

    If the bet was for the invention of the "centerboard" then your looking at the early 1800's.

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    Quote Originally Posted by skaraborgcraft View Post
    "the Sandbaggers sailed with "boiler plate" centerboards, a board pined up of oak planking would not have been structurly capable of handling the stresses exerted by the old bag wagons of the 1860-80's."


    If the stresses were so high that an oak board was not sufficient,and they used boiler plate...what did they construct the centreplate/board housing/box from???


    the box was made of planking, but the box did not carry the stress, it simply kept the water out, the stresses are carried by the hull at the keel and at the deck where the centerboard box is built into the deck... time to get back to work
    Last edited by Daniel Noyes; 07-24-2012 at 04:48 PM.

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    Daggerboards are quite ancient, and were invented independently in China and the New World. Centerboards -- boards pivoting at their forward end, which kick up when you run aground -- are an American invention patented by the Swain brothers of Cape May, N.J.

    http://notorc.blogspot.com/2011/09/t...son-river.html
    A U.S. patent for a centerboard was granted on April 10, 1811, to three brothers from Cape May, N.J. Henry, Jacocks and Joshua Swain,\. Hudson River boat builders added centerboards to sloops five years later. A centerboard made it possible for a large and heavily laden vessel to have a draft of only six feet, and clear the Hudson's shifting shoals.

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    No, im not trolling, im just surprised that an oak board couldnt handle the stress. What i know about sandbaggers can be written on the back of a postage stamp in marker pen. Cheers

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    sorry

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    Daniel,

    Here's the source and the quote --

    "American Small Sailing Craft - their design, development, and construction" copyright 1951 pp. 38 (emphasis mine):

    The Centerboard

    One of the very important fittings in American small boats is the centerboard, which was employed very extensively throughout the country after 1850. It would be risky indeed to assume that the centerboard was really an American invention, though the Americans can at least claim the greatest interest in the device. Two types of centerboard have been used in this country: the rectangular board pivoted at the fore end and controlled by a lanyard or lift handle, and the dagger board. The latter is a blade-shaped board in a short case and is lifted out of its case when raised. The dagger board is suitable only for very small boats, of course.
    Looks to me like he pretty clearly defines centerboards as coming in two styles - the type you mention, and the daggerboard.

    Bolger was also a historian who knew a good bit about small boats. I wonder if he ever commented on the issue. Of course... in the end... it's fairly arbitrary... and I wouldn't argue too awful much if someone wanted to regard the pivoting type as the 'real' centerboard type... and all others as 'secondary' versions.
    David G
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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    Yeah, your right.
    I just read the passage... sloppy wrighting, you really can't read too much into it.

    Like you say, Chapelle starts by saying there are "two types of centerboard"... then describes the principle characteristics of one type with-out nameing it, then goes on to mention the other type by name "daggerboard" this begs the question what is the tecnical name for the first type of centerboard described...

    Two types of centerboard have been used in this country: the rectangular board pivoted at the fore end and controlled by a lanyard or lift handle, and the dagger board.


    Also consider the rest of the book, through out the entire book where ever Chapelle uses the word "centerboard" he means "the rectangular board pivoted at the fore end and controlled by a lanyard or lift handle," and seems to see no need to clarify it VS a daggerboard.

    Where ever he is referencing "a blade-shaped board in a short case that is lifted out of its case when raised" he simply says "daggerboard"

    Chapelle does seem to think that the Centerboard is an improvement on the daggerboard/drop keel, wich makes sense.
    cheers

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    So the bet's only settled if you can agree on what's a centerboard. And I was so proud of myself when I found out about that patent.

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    Quote Originally Posted by johnw View Post
    So the bet's only settled if you can agree on what's a centerboard. And I was so proud of myself when I found out about that patent.
    Oh... I think we have a clear definition, from a reputable and knowledgeable source. Until someone comes up with a more more authoritative reference that contradicts Chapelle... I'm hanging my hat on pp. 38. I still want my cut of the big winnings, doncha know <G>
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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    Oh... I think we have a clear definition, from a reputable and knowledgeable source. Until someone comes up with a more more authoritative reference that contradicts Chapelle... I'm hanging my hat on pp. 38. I still want my cut of the big winnings, doncha know <G>
    Breaking down the term, the centreboard is literally a board in the centre, so I would think lee boards are out, and (as per Chapelle) dagger boards are a type - with a much older history, so I guess the bet hinges on dagger boards being in or out.

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    If center board is a general term I put it to you, what is the name for " the rectangular board pivoted at the fore end and controlled by a lanyard or lift handle". ? Because daggerboards are less common than the previous type and have a specific name.

    Dave you are reading meaning into the Chapelle quote that simply is not there...

    Do they use the word Centerboard interchangeably with daggerboard out West?
    I'd think that there would be enough traditional boat knowledge out there, that you could access, that such basic terminology wouldnt be so confusing.

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    I wonder when did the term "Daggerboard" come into use?

    It sounds like 1960's slang...

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Noyes View Post
    If center board is a general term I put it to you, what is the name for " the rectangular board pivoted at the fore end and controlled by a lanyard or lift handle". ? Because daggerboards are less common than the previous type and have a specific name.

    Dave you are reading meaning into the Chapelle quote that simply is not there...

    Do they use the word Centerboard interchangeably with daggerboard out West?
    I'd think that there would be enough traditional boat knowledge out there, that you could access, that such basic terminology wouldnt be so confusing.
    When I was racing with the Snipe fleet, they called their daggerboards centerboards. Haven't heard that in other contexts.

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    Obviously settling this bet can only come about once the term "centerboard" has been clearly defined, and the only person who can do this in the context of the bet is the person who made the statement to begin with. Short of that, it seems to me that for the purposes of this discussion centerboard would be the actual assembly in question, the one on CCKL's boat.

    Altogether though this is an interesting thread.

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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Noyes View Post
    If center board is a general term I put it to you, what is the name for " the rectangular board pivoted at the fore end and controlled by a lanyard or lift handle". ? Because daggerboards are less common than the previous type and have a specific name.

    Dave you are reading meaning into the Chapelle quote that simply is not there...

    Do they use the word Centerboard interchangeably with daggerboard out West?
    I'd think that there would be enough traditional boat knowledge out there, that you could access, that such basic terminology wouldnt be so confusing.
    The name I've heard most often for a pivoting centerboard is... 'pivoting centerboard'.

    I don't believe I'm reading anything into the Chapelle quote that isn't there. He specifically defines TWO types of 'centerboard'... the pivoting sort and the dagger sort. On the contrary... you seem to be doing contortions to avoid the plain and simple meaning of the quote:

    "Two types of centerboard have been used in this country"

    BTW - your position is not advanced by insults about the ignorance of boatbuilders out West. This is particularly true since you haven't offered up any evidence or authority to contradict the Chapelle reference (a New England fellow, wasn't he?) except your own provincial version of 'tradition'. Forgive me, but as authorities go... I'll take Chapelle and his life of copious research and his breadth of knowledge against your personal interpretation of tradition any old day.
    David G
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    Default Re: on the Origin of Centerboards

    Reviving this old thread, and not quibbling about the pivots or daggers, I ran across something of relevance. Seems that before 1820 along the shore of Woodbury Creek ( enters the Delaware opposite the Schuykill) at Red Bank, Mark Whitall a nd the Wilkins boys, sons of neighboring farmers, started experimenting with "sliding keels" thru a trunk on their skiff. The first large boat they built in about1820 was used to carry produce to Philly. By that time the Red Bankers were calling these centerboards. Boat out sailed all of the local boats, and two more were built in 1821/22; Benjamin Wilkins built a 4th in 1828 which became the model of the CB boats on the Delaware. Benjamin was the father of Rufus ( who was interviewed for this story about 1903, published in Forest & Stream); Rufus started building boats in the 1840s. The story goes on to state why they didn't patent it and does state that a New Yorker who did want to patent a centerboard that had been developed in RI about 1850 found out about the Wilkins / Whitall board and dropped his claim.

    For me this story does pass the skeptic test as you can see why a centerboard would take off fast in the Delaware river and Bay, and was eminently suitable for Jersey.

    Anyway thought it was too good not to share.
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