17' Chestnut Pleasure?


Chest Nut
There is a canoe available locally that I may be interested in. I am curious as to the center board (dagger board?) running down the length of the canoe.

Would the board be original? Purpose of the board? Is there any advantage of it... I'd sooner it not be there but wouldn't remove it if it was original.

It is thought to be a 17' Chestnut from the 40' or 50's.



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The strip of wood running down the center of the outside bottom of the canoe is known as a keel. It provides some strength, some protection to the bottom, and some directional stability -- keeps the canoe going straight. It also makes the canoe harder to turn (the trade-off for directional stability), and makes it more likely that the canoe will hang up on shallow river or lake bottom, especially a rocky bottom.

A centerboard or dagger board is a completely different critter. A slot is cut through the center of the bottom of the canoe, a casing is built up around the slot to keep water out and to support the board, and a long (3-4 feet) narrow (typically 8 inches or more wide) is inserted through the casing to project below the hull. A centerboard may be hinged for easier raising and lowering; a dagger board is pulled completely out of the case to raise it. The purpose of both is to limit leeway -- to keep the canoe from blowing sideways when sailing with the wind coming from the side, rather than from the rear of the canoe.

Because of the increased turning effort and the slightly greater draft, many people dislike keels, especially those who canoe in shallow, rocky rivers with white water. Those who cruise mostly on lakes and quiet rivers may prefer to have a keel.

Some canoes have what is known as a shoe keel, which has a wide and thin section, rather than the section of a typical keel (such as the one on your canoe) which is roughly equal in width and height. A shoe keel provides some protection to the bottom, and some strength, while affecting handling less than a standard keel.

Those who dislike keels often remove them when recanvasing -- the loss of strength is usually not great enough to be concerned about.

Your canoe appears to have a keelson, an interior strip of wood which is structural (adds strength) down the center of the canoe; most canoes do not have a keelson.

Most sailing canoes use leeboards -- a pair of long narrow boards hung outside the boat to serve the same purpose as a a center board -- to limit leeway in a cross wind -- because the casing required for a center/dagger board gets in the way, and is a regular point of leakage, although some older sailing canoes, especially those built for racing, were built with centerboards.

If you remove the keel without recanvasing, you will have to figure out how to deal with the holes through the hull where the screws holding the keel on now pass.
keelson it is.....

Thanks Greg.

It was the keelson that I was refering to. I wasn't sure of the proper term to use. Could a keelson also be know as a bilge keel?

This is the 1st keelson I have seen that looks like it may have actually came from the factory. I have seen a few canoes with keelsons but most look like they were installled as a quick fix to reslove structual issues.

Either way the keelson is an eyesore :). If I buy the canoe, i'll just have learn to live with it.

Bilge keels -- they usually come in pairs -- are on the exterior bottom of the boat just at or before the turn of the bilge, the point where the bottom of the boat begins to wrap upward to become the side of the boat.

The usual primary reason for a bilge keel is to support the boat when on the ground, keeping the actual bottom of the boat just above the ground, acting a bit like sled runners.

They are common on sea-going boats in areas with extreme tides, where the boat sits on the ground when the tide is out.

They are not common on canoes, and generally would be used only on canoes expecting hard use and a lot of dragging over the ground -- summer camps, or on rivers with lots of shallow water and rocky bottoms, and there may be more than one pair if extremely hard use and abuse is expected.

They would affect handling the same way a regular keel would.

I would speculate that the use of a keelson has more to do with the tradition that a boat-builder is part of. Keelsons are, I believe, unknown in birch bark canoes, and most wood/canvas canoe builders are part of a tradition beginning with bark canoes. However, some canoe builders come more from the tradition of western European boat building, where keelsons are a common structural element. But canoe builders have generally felt free to mix and match practices of any tradition they are familiar with.

I would expect that a canoe (or other boat) with a keelson would have considerably more stiffness than a comparable canoe (or other boat) without one.