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bmacey 10-13-2001 02:06 PM

Opinions Please: 1940''''s Wood vs. 1960''''s Fiberglass
I am in the market for a 30ish foot boat for great lakes weekend cruising. I have about 25k to spend. There are a lot of older 1930-1950''s wooden hull boats for sale. Many designed and built by classic shops such as Alden etc. In this same price range there are lots of 60''s fiberglass boats such as Cal''s, Ericsons, Columbias, Pearsons etc.

The trouble is that my sailing experience has been limited to modern era fiberglass boats. I cannot afford these. And since I have never sailed an older boat, I do not know what to expect.

If it was your choice, would you seek out the 60''s fiberglass boats or the 1940''s wood boats? Why?

Thanks for your opinion.

ndsailor 10-13-2001 08:29 PM

Opinions Please: 1940''''s Wood vs. 1960''''s Fiberglass
Wooden boats take an extreme amount of maintenance to keep them in good sailing condition and good appearance. The spars alone, it they are wood also, are enough to keep a person busy most of the time. Also, since you are going to be sailing on the Great Lakes you will most likely be taking the boat out of the water every winter and that tends to dry out a wooden hull and create leaks at the beginning of every season while the hull swells. For the amount of money you intend to spend you should be able to obtain a 30 ft fiberglass sailboat into the early 80''s models. In my opinion, if you want a boat that looks absolutely beautiful and are willing to work on it virtually every week of the sailing season to keep it looking beautiful, get the wooden boat. If you want to spend more of your time sailing...get the fiberglass boat.

Jeff_H 10-14-2001 04:44 AM

Opinions Please: 1940''''s Wood vs. 1960''''s Fiberglass
A lot of this answer depends on you. I have owned both wooden and fiberglass boats in my life. If you try to maintain the fiberglass boat (especially a 1960''s era boat) in the condition that you must maintain a wooden boat, it is about the same amount of work. The difference is mainly if you let something go on a fiberglass boat it can be brought back easily. On a wood boat it is harder to bring things back.

You live in an area with a comparatively short sailing season. If you are handy and enjoying messing about with boats, the winter becomes a fun time renewing finishes and making repairs. If you are not handy or don''t enjoy working on boats then the winter becomes a time of drudgery or a lot of expenses.

Boats of the 1950-1960 era (wood or glass) give up a lot to more modern designs. They are comparatively cramped and hard to sail. They are slow and wet. They don''t handle heavy weather as well as more modern designs. (I routinely sail on boats of both eras)

Launching a wooden boat in the spring is always a tricky business with the boat trying hard to sink before she swells up.

Then there is the matter of sailing in fresh water. Fresh water actually takes a harder toll on wood than salt water, but is easier on fastenings and hardware.

Wooden boats of the 1940''s and 1950''s were at an awkward time. Boat designs and constcution techniques were at a point of change from the pre-war thinking. There were some really lousey boats built in the 1950''s as designers played with their ideas of the future. This was not a time of great across the board classics. On the other hand there were some neat boats built in this era as well.

The really bad news is that boats of this era (wood or glass) are approaching the point of needing major refits (Boats that have been through total restoration are probably more than your price range.)Its not hard to visualize a boat of this era needing some combination of refastening, keel bolts, standing and running rigging, new deck hardware, new sails, new galley and electronics, and engine rebuild or replacement, new upholtery, some new planking and sistered framing, and so on. Depending on the mix this can quickly double the cost of buying either a wood or glass boat.

With both a detailed survey is critical. If you buy wood you need to have a surveyor that really knows wooden boat construction.

To me owning a wooden boat (or an early fiberglass boat for that matter) has its own aesthetic. You give up a lot but older boats give back their own kinds of rewards. If that appeals to you then by all means pursue either. Keep a reserve of a third to half of what you pay for the boat for repairs and upgrades and enjoy your piece of the past.

Best wishes

whisper40 10-19-2001 12:54 PM

Opinions Please: 1940''''s Wood vs. 1960''''s Fiberglass
wood vs fiberglass is not even a question,a good fiberglas s boat in your price range will be a much better investment all around,

Jeff_H 10-19-2001 06:37 PM

Opinions Please: 1940''''s Wood vs. 1960''''s Fiberglass
I would not necessarily agree with that but i would love to hear your thought process on that.


mattf 10-23-2001 11:26 AM

Opinions Please: 1940''''s Wood vs. 1960''''s Fiberglass
I do not know how much effort it would take to maintain a wooden boat in the Great Lakes area. I have a 30'' Cal built in 1969. It is in very good shape. It has had upgrades over the years. (diesel engine, lines led aft, winch upgrades, electronics, etc. For your budget, you should be able to find a glass boat that has had upgrades, but plan on doing more. (I am looking to replace my standing rigging in the spring. Boats from this era were often overbuilt, as FRP was relatively new in boat design. My hull is solid glass and very thick. There is no oil canning, it is stiff and fast. I am most happy. My fear of wood is simply that I have not owned one. Like a previous reply, I would be afraid that I would miss something, let it go, and have a difficult time getting it back.


knome 10-29-2001 03:34 AM

Opinions Please: 1940''''s Wood vs. 1960''''s Fiberglass
I definitely don''t agree that having a fiberglass boat is necessarily better than a wooden boat, based solely on maintenance.

If you hole a fiberglass boat, it costs lots of $$ to fix. If you hole a wooden boat, you can fix it yourself with some lumber. If you bump a FG boat against the dock a little hard, you could crack the gel coat and end up paying $1000 to fix it, with a wooden boat its a simple patch.

In fact, that''s why wooden boats are so nice.. you can easily fix them yourself with cheap materials, and use techniques that are not hard to utilize (wood working techniques). Sure, it takes longer to maintain, but that''s only because FG boats can be ignored and they will still go through the water. Wooden boats are more finicky.

There is also the fact that you could buy an old wooden boat hull for cheap ($5k or less) and fix it up yourself. Lots of labor, but not alot in the way of materials.

It is definitely a personal preference issue, and you need to ask yourself, ''do I want to have the $$ and aesthetic advantages of owning a wooden boat, or do I just want to take a tub around the lake for a spin?''


Jeff_H 10-29-2001 09:42 AM

Opinions Please: 1940''''s Wood vs. 1960''''s Fiberglass
While I basically agree with much of what you say, having replaced a few planks in my day, I can tell you that is not light duty to do well. Matching thickness and getting a fair shape can be a pretty big job. Also proper planking stock is anything but cheap.

I think that the damaged plankingvs punctured fiberglass example is a good one. It demonstates the difference between maintainable and low maintenance. In the case of the glass boat, while things are in good shape they are little easier to maintain but once things go really wrong (major delamination or bonding failures) there is only so much that you can do to restore a glass boat to its original condition. On the other hand, you can pretty much replace parts on a wooden boat forever. So if you crack a plank you simply replace it and you are good as new as long as the boat has not been refastened and so the frames are ''fastening sick'' and need to be sistered which can be done but that usually means removing the interior, which can be done unless it was glued and screwed, in which case it can be replaced....but you see what I mean.


shipley 11-01-2001 09:23 PM

Opinions Please: 1940''''s Wood vs. 1960''''s Fiberglass
I''ve cruised and raced both, large and small. In my opinion, nothing feels better then sailing a wooden boat (any size). Can''t put it in words but its like driving a heavy BMW 740, then getting behind the wheel of a Chevy Vega or similiar. Can''t beat the graceful lines and sound the water makes along the hull. Despite the new epoxies/varnishes/bottom coatings yadayada that help maintain them better now a days, I would only go back to wood if I was retired, in great physical shape, bored, no wife and kids and had endless cash to pay someone to help with the upkeep. Pulling them in and out every season doesn''t help their life either. I recommend trying the maintenance of a glass boat first. After you''ve compounded, or stripped your first good sized bottom to the gelcoat (and maybe repaired a few blisters) imagine how thankful you''ll feel that all you have to do is apply paint and you''ll launching in days instead of now detecting rot, worms, and a few other things that will cost $, time, and a few more months of stiff necks and bruised nuckles. "Been there, done that". I say this because you''ll have to look hard for a truely solid wood boat that has been taken care of at that price. In any case, spend at least $1,000 on a very good wooden or glass boat & engine survey. It has always helped me, at least, renegotiate the boat price lower as something is always detected. You''ll also need the survey for a good insurance company anyway. Also, unless it is a classic like Alden, Hershoff may stand to loose allot $$$ in the end (instead of loosing $$). On the other hand, if once you removed the cancer causing paints and dust particles from your boat and say to your self, I want more to do and don''t care that this is probably the only weekend day in the summer with perfect weather conditions for a sail (lived in MN) then go for it.

PS. - once I changed from wood to glass we were able to afford the BMW and most important, my wife and kids no longer cringe and the dog doesnt run to the basement when I say "lets go down to the boat" as the word now actualy means sailing and cruising fun to them, not sanding and cursing. Good Luck

bmacey 11-02-2001 04:58 PM

Opinions Please: 1940''''s Wood vs. 1960''''s Fiberglass
Thanks to everyone for taking the time to give me their opinions. I kinda knew that wood boats require significantly more effort to maintain, but I was hoping to be told otherwise because I simply love the vibe of a wooden boat.

So I will indeed purchase a fiberglass boat. But I am not disappointed at all...I look forward to cruising Lake Superior if not next summer, than the one after as I plan to take my time in my search. Thanks again.

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