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Magaluza 06-25-2012 02:25 PM

Wood vs Fiberglass Maintenance cost/time
Hi, my husband and I are in our mid-40s, still employed (I work from home). We are spending so much on rent in this Area, that we decided to buy a boat and live aboard for a few years, which will actually let us save enough money to hopefully put a down payment on a house (here/somewhere else) in the next 5-10 years. We are pretty adventurous and are very excited at the thought of our new lifestyle.

Of course, neither one of us has boating experience and don't know what the maintenance of a boat entails.

But here is the thing. I have fallen madly in love with a Wood Yacht - the interior is beautiful and will require very little upgrading to fit our lives.

A friend of ours (with extensive boating experience) and just about anybody else we talk to, is telling us how much work, time and money the maintenance of this boat will involve.

Choosing a boat is causing a rift between my husband and I. I feel, that if I'm going to live somewhere for the next 10 years of my life, I should love the place. He, being the guy he is, is less impressed with the stainless steel appliances, how pretty the kitchen cabinets are and how great it is to have an enclosed shower ... all he cares about is that instead of spending his weekends relaxing, he's going to have to spend them painting decks, varnishing and God knows what else. He makes the intensity and amount of work sound so overwhelming, I'm almost ready to give in -- but the reality is we don't know for sure.

So that's my question. Before I start the process of trying to forget that beauty I fell in love with, and agree on the purchase on this, in my opinion, "less pretty" fiberglass boat we've seen, I need to know for sure what it is that I'm giving up.

How often does one have to sand and varnishing the wood?
How often does one have to pain the deck?

It is once a month, is it weekly? it is just once a year?
I understand that if there is a leak, this will have to be addressed immediately, but these can be prevented by calking, etc often (what does often mean?)

I also understand the need to hull out the boat and repaint the bottom once every year or two (and how costly this will be) but, we could budget for this once every two year expense …

And is it true, that having a fiberglass boat means that we get to spend the weekend relaxing for the next 10 years, sipping Margaritas while on the deck of our "Home" (I could be persuaded).

Can someone out there give me a reason to continue fighting for the wooden beauty I fell for?

Tim R. 06-25-2012 02:36 PM

Re: Wood vs Fiberglass Maintenance cost/time
All boats require a fair amount of maintenance. The wooden boat, if in great condition, should not be all that much more to keep it in top condition for someone with wooden boat experience. And for most couples, sanding and painting is the lady's job;)

We live aboard in our "tacky fiberglass boat" with formica counter tops and teak paneling and we love it. We spend a fair amount of time on maintenance and upgrades but we sail our boat a lot. more than most non live-aboards.

For your stated purpose, a powerboat would suit you much better.

TQA 06-25-2012 02:56 PM

Re: Wood vs Fiberglass Maintenance cost/time
If you have to ask this question then you MUST not buy a 47 year old wooden boat.

The deck and exterior brightwork is small stuff compared to the annual haulout and the ongoing war against dry rot, wet rot, shipworm, termites,LEAKING GARBOARD PLANKS, failing caulking and the need to buy the best anti fouling.

Oh yes go price a full length plank in teak, just one. Take a trank first though. Then find out the shipyard cost of replacing it. Plus the difficulty of finding a yard to work on it.

Oh yes yards. Many yards no longer will haulout wooden boats.

Don't get me wrong I love wooden boats William Fife built some of the most beautiful boats in the world. but they need deep pockets and teams of experts to keep them going.

Magaluza 06-25-2012 03:06 PM

Re: Wood vs Fiberglass Maintenance cost/time
Thanks for your reply, Tim.

I edited my post because I have a legitimate question and I don't want the responses to focus on my insensitive, albeit unintentional, comment about how I feel about this particular fiberglass boat we are considering.

Anyway, the maintenance is not going to be just his responsibility, we restored a 1967 mustang and a 1976 VW camper together, and I have broken plenty of nails in the process. Perhaps I can use that as my pitch to get the Stephens! - but I want to know if this will be a weekly task? monthly? or as needed? - I want to enjoy the boat too and not spend my every "free hour" working on it.

I don't see us sailing a lot, so I see your point about the powerboat for us ...

thanks again for your reply!

puddinlegs 06-25-2012 03:18 PM

Re: Wood vs Fiberglass Maintenance cost/time
Think about opening up and running a VW repair shop, then you're onto what it will take to keep a 47' wood boat in order. I love'em for sure, but just don't have either the time or $$$. If you do and it's your passion, go for it. Boating is a lifestyle choice for many. Wooden boats and their care are a priesthood (yes, women most certainly allowed!). Anyone who tells you differently either isn't being honest, or just doesn't know.

Tim R. 06-25-2012 03:27 PM

Re: Wood vs Fiberglass Maintenance cost/time
No problem Magaluza, but with little experience, a fiberglass boat would be much better suited to your needs.

Older mustangs are known for rotten frame rails and being a unibody design, this was either the kiss of death or a very expensive and complicated repair. Very similar to a wooden boat. There are simply parts of the hull structure that will either kill the boat or will be very costly to repair. A fiberglass hull will keep you afloat for much longer with minimal maintenance. Keep looking, there are many beautiful FG boats with warm wooden interiors. I have owned a few.

TWA has a good point about yards willing to work on wooden boats. Living in Maine this is not a problem but other parts of the country it is.

Something else you should know is that living aboard a boat may not be cheaper than renting an apartment. Slip fees and maintenance can easily surpass rent costs. Talk to the folks currently doing it to get an idea what it could be like in your area.

If I am looking at the same boat I would be leery. The price was just recently reduced by nearly half. If this boat is in such great condition, someone would have snatched it up by now.

Give us a budget and we can help you find something beautiful, with relatively low maintenance needs. You should also be considering something a bit shorter in my opinion. A 35ish ft. boat should suit a couple well and be much cheaper than a 46 in terms of slip prices. Besides, the interior volume of that wooden 46 ft. boat is probably the same as a 35ft. FG boat.

Here is my former boat, an Ericson 35-3. FG with wood interior.

Magaluza 06-25-2012 04:02 PM

Re: Wood vs Fiberglass Maintenance cost/time
Sigh! -- judging by your answers (and considering our little experience) - it looks like I need to be realistic and agree to go the Fiberglass direction. We certainly don't have the kind of time you talk about (or unlimited funds!) to maintain the boat as you describe it --- @TQA, I actually shivered reading your response!

It will be hard to get over it, though. The boat seems in great shape, but of course we wouldn't know for sure until we do the survey.


Thanks all for your answers, and help!

PS: we have already calculated the budget for slip cost, additional live aboard fees (plus the storage, utilities cost, etc) and it saves us a huge chunk of money (rent in the San Francisco Bay Area is out of control!)

Faster 06-25-2012 04:03 PM

Re: Wood vs Fiberglass Maintenance cost/time
I'd second Tim's suggestion to fully research the REAL costs of 'living aboard' - and get the real picture of the availability of legal, sanctioned liveaboard moorage. Living aboard on the hook or a mooring is usually not all that practical, esp if commuting to work is an issue for your husband.

[EDIT] - I see you've already addressed that... good...

That said, any wooden boat is going to be a great deal more upkeep than any glass boat... any boat in pristine condition will be easier (and cheaper) to keep that way than to turn a TLC project into that pristine boat.

Given your admitted lack of boating know-how I'd be looking for the coziest interior you can find with the space you need in a fiberglass boat. There will still be plenty to clean/wax/buff/fix along the way. And if you're not 'sailors' at heart, the added space per lineal foot of a powerboat makes way more sense. Esp if you're tied to the dock and not having to fill the fuel tanks.

CalebD 06-25-2012 04:14 PM

Re: Wood vs Fiberglass Maintenance cost/time
I'd guess that many of us love the way some of the older wooden boats look. Even with my older fiberglass hulled boat I find that the maintenance chores list is never empty; there is always something to be done. That said, there are folks who have the love, money, stamina and time to own wooden boats: The WoodenBoat Forum

Forgetting about maintenance for a moment you might try to figure out an annual budget for keeping a 40' +/- boat (wood or glass) at a slip all year in the SF bay area.

Your plan sounds great to me but you need to crunch some numbers to get a realistic idea of what it will cost you to live aboard.

How to make a small fortune?
Start with a large fortune and buy a boat.

Tim R. 06-25-2012 04:21 PM

Re: Wood vs Fiberglass Maintenance cost/time
BTW, here are some sample prices on wooden Kettenburgs and Stephens.

kettenburg (Sail) Boats For Sale

I think your idea of moving aboard is great. But I guarantee you that you better know something about wooden boats before getting into one. I have been sailing for 40 years. The only wooden boats I ever owned were dinghys and for good reason.

Good luck with your search and please give us some criteria so we can help. I love helping folks find the right boat, especially for LA.

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