Rock damaged plywood sailboat centerboard

Can you patch a damaged sailboat centerboard or should it be replaced?

My wooden sailboat centerboard got chewed up by rocks. Yes, it was my fault. I need to fix it. I could buy a sheet of marine plywood and cut, plane and sand a new one, but I'm wondering if I can fix it with 1/8-in. ply and glue together the pieces to repair the problems. I will still need to cut, plane and sand it to shape, but it may be less work. Any suggestions are much appreciated. - Barney Heller

Chris Marshall: Based on the looks of it, Barney, I don't think you're going to save yourself any time or energy by trying to repair that shredded, broken plywood. And, I'd put money on the probability that a patch job won't last. If your sailboat means a lot to you, build a new centerboard. It doesn't look like a centerboard will be that tough build or the material costs expensive. With the old one removed, you already have a template for shaping the new one. A new centerboard will remind you of a job well done every time you put your sailboat in or take it out of the water. But a repair to the original? I think the outcome will feel like a shortcut to a less-than-satisfying end. You can do this!

Close-up of splintered plywood sailboat centerboard

Tim Inman: You can repair this. It will always look like you repaired it. A repaired board will work just as well as a replacement one, though. So, aesthetics seems to be the key to your choices. Me? I live on a farm far, far, far from water now. I used to live about a block away from a big lake in Wisconsin. So I have limited input with sailing equipment repair, but I do have some connectedness. Let me begin with my usual warning: test first and practice! I would use a suitable marine epoxy, like the West System or MAS materials. Initially, after cleaning away the obvious debris, etc., I would apply fluid coats of epoxy to the wound to let it soak deeply into the crevices and caverns to fortify the remains. Then, working with new wood, I would cut pieces to fit and bond them in with epoxy. If at all possible, I would recommend interlayering with fiberglass fabric for strength and durability. Once all is bonded and built up, then I would sand/grind/surface down the excess materials to shape and size. A gel coat or clear coat overall for the final treatment, and I'd head back towards the water. Remember, this is a landlubber's input! Actual sailors may have better advice.