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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 10-15-2007
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Wooden boat maintenance

I'm just getting started in the search for small cruising boats--my wife and I spend our time blasting around on Lake Michigan in a 17' trimaran. I read somewhere, maybe from one of the Pardeys' articles, that wooden boats didn't really require more maintenance than the more modern fiberglass boats. I have been specifically avoiding wooden boats (although I love their looks and remodeling potential) in my search, because I thought they would be a bear in the maintenance department (not that any boat doesn't require its share of upkeep). Can anyone supply me with real life answers? The context here is if a wooden boat could be found that was in good condition to start with, not a giant fix-me-up boat.

Thanks,

SteveM
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Old 10-15-2007
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Steve, the love of wooden boats can affect you deeply in the pockets. If your serious about it, I'd first take inventory of your skills, be realistic. Sooooo many people get wooden boats thinking the same way... next thing you know it's sitting for yrs in a backyard, back of a marina. or just being cut up for firewood. I would suggest you join a Seaport museum that has an active boat restoration dept. Join some wooden boat organizations. When you see what is involved in restoring wooden boats you may change your mind. Maintaining them is not all that differant than fiberglass unless they are left on the hard to dry out/fall apart which is often.

Any kind of lumber is very expensive, Boat woods even more so. The skills of steam bending, caulking, and planking are fun if you like working with your hands.

A note of caution: Many wooden boats have been covered with fiberglass below the water line. While it can be a waterproof solution, the long term problems of rot in the bilges can actually accerlate!

Other questions about where to keep it? Will you be able to get it insured? Can you keep the love affair with wood going long enough to reap the rewards? Sailing such a vessel, the adoring looks from others, the almost mystical "feel" of being on a wooden boat that you built/restored/own and the pride that comes with it.

I've been in love with wooden boats all my life, studied all kinds of plans, volenteered at a boat museum. Have way too many books on the topic too! Actually got into building canoes and kayaks. I had dreamed of building bigger boats but left it as a dream. I own a FG 30ft sailboat now. keeping the teak trim bristol is all the love I need now.

Opps Steve.. if you find a boat in "good conditon" You would be very very fortunate indeed!
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Last edited by deniseO30; 10-15-2007 at 02:45 PM. Reason: oops..
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Old 10-15-2007
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Take a look around any marina and make a count between the numbers of fiberglass boats both in water and out of water . . . then do the same with wooden boats. You will find far more wooden boats to be rotting on the hard - most in an unfinished state of repair or maintenance, then you will floating and in use.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand why this is the case. If you put a dollar value on your time, there is no such thing as an economical wooden boat.

But you can choose to ignore this bit of wisdom, buy that low-cost wooden boat (some can't be given away) and look back in remorse, thinking that you could be sailing every day with a fiberglass boat, instead of being a prisoner of the perpetual repair and maintenance necessary with a wooden hull.
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Steve,
I build design and repair wooden (more fiberglass but lots of wood) boats and have been for over thirty years. My own boat is fiberglass and I would no longer consider wood for myself. I did when I was younger but now I want to sail instead of maintain. Now add to this a wood boat not only requires more maintenance for which you need some skill but using a wood boat requires some skill and you can damage a boat by sailing her too hard or improperly.

Now having said all that some people enjoy the wood working and are willing to do what t takes. Wood is nice and I do enjoy working with wood and a wood boat does sail differently and I would say more comfortably. It all depends on what you want but wood is high maintenance.
Good Luck and all the best,
Robert Gainer
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Old 10-15-2007
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Ah yep. Spend all day Saturday fixing things, go out Sunday and break two more. That's a wooden boat for ya.
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If you have a wooden boat, then you like to work on boats that are pretty. If you have a glass boat, then you just like to sail...!!!
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Old 10-15-2007
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Been there, done that!

You don't buy a wood boat, you adopt it. You will be working on it all the time. The only way they make sense if if you have more money and time than you know what to do with.

Wood boats are special in many ways, like a fine piece of antique furniture. The difference is this piece of furniture sits outside in the worst possible environment.
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Thanks

It looks like the responses are unanimous and confirm my suspicions. I appreciate the accumulated wisdom in your responses. Incredible resource we have here! This forum is almost live time--I think some of the responses started coming in as soon as I clicked the "Submit" button.

Thank you very much. You've helped me prune one branch off my decision tree.

SteveM
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Old 10-15-2007
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My $0.02 worth from someone who currently has a wooden boat:

There are advantages and disadvantages with any type of construction, be it plastic, steel, cement or wood - which one you choose will depend entirely upon your lifestyle (how often you plan to sail and how handy you are at fixing things), where you keep it and what you want from the boat.

One major advantage of wooden construction is that it is comparitively easy to fix: eg. want to shift a deck cleat? A drill, screwdriver, a spot of varnish and 5 minutes and it's done! - with cored GRP it can be a major exercise..

I'm not sure that the quantity of rotting wooden boats on the hard is a good guide - many of these may be just really old boats that have been let go that the owners don't want to part with. Osmosis-riddled fibreglass can be a total loss whereas it is always possible to fix a properly-built wooden boat no matter how bad it gets (if you have the will and the $$$).

I wish you many pleasant hours on whatever you buy..

--Cameron
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