Upgrading the Potter 15 Centerboard
Small Craft Advisor|January - February 2021
When I bought my Potter 15, Blue Knot, in 2014, it already had more than 25 years on its clock.
Jerry Culik

The hull was in great shape, and it came with two sets of original sails and a nice genoa…but the boat was due for some replacements and upgrades. According to Potter lore, the early boats and those built in the 1990s (and later) all have galvanized centerboards. But boats produced during the economically difficult 1980s were built without galvanizing to save costs. And since the previous owner of my Potter kept it moored in the water on Chesapeake Bay, the centerboard was in pretty rough shape. After consulting the Potter forums for advice, I scraped, beat and ground the rust off, converted the oxide using phosphoric acid, and coated it with epoxy and fairing compound. Then painted it bright orange. My repairs lasted two or three years; and then I was ready to start all over again.

There had to be a better solution…maybe sandblasting? Powder coating? Repurpose a centerboard from an old racing skiff? Buy a new board? Unfortunately for me, International Marine, the builder of Potter 15s and 19s, by this time was no longer a going concern; so buying a galvanized replacement was not an option.

Back to the drawing board…

The centerboard on the Potter 15 is a simple design and has some good features. From a sales brochure circa 1995, Potter centerboards “...retract completely into the hull, flush with the bottom of the boat to provide the lowest profile possible for easier trailering and sailing up on your favorite beach.” The steel blade has a machined “keyhole” slot, and it pivots on a glassed-in stainless-steel pin. Another neat feature is that the centerboards “...have an internal, easily-inspected keel-retraction system with no cables or ropes which dangle under the boat…” An arm welded to the blade and a multi-block tackle is used to raise and lower the centerboard. Everything, except for the pivot itself, is right out in the open. And yet, there remained a mystery: If you don’t remove a centerboard pin—like on a normal boat, how exactly do you get the dang thing out?

Answer: The top of the centerboard slot is open, and the centerboard is removed by lifting it upwards. But there is a twist. The T-slotted keyhole cut into the centerboard’s bottom edge prevents the board from jumping off the pivot. And to remove the board it is necessary to shift it forward just enough to get the pin to enter a short slot before the board will clear the pin. The process is a lot clearer when you see what the board actually looks like, and the photo on the next page shows Blue Knot’s original centerboard, and the corroded condition it was in. Note the T-slot on the top, right side (in the photo, the centerboard is upside down). If the board is horizontal and in the retracted mode, perhaps resting on a trailer support, then you slide the board forward and pull up -- at the same time -- until you find the exit slot. If you happen to have the board sitting vertically, then pull up and back. Got it? Much easier said than done, and just as confusing out on the boat as it is in the photo. Suffice it to say, losing a Potter centerboard out on the water seems to be a rare event (please write and tell me if you know of a time it happened, and why…).

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