On the hard
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Bellingham, WA.
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Are you scared of wood?
Many people follow my threads on the restoration of Oh Joy it seems. Most just read them and go on, either because they don't know enough to comment or don't see anything to comment on. Some comment about how HUGE the project is and that they are amazed by the undertaking.
Why is that? Now that I've dug into the old girl I'm finding that repairing and restoring this fine old wooden yacht is really quite simple. Folks who own fiberglass boats in particular are usually intimidated by the thought. They don't think anything of stripping the skin off the deck of a glass boat to repair a section of rotten core or cutting out a section of busted glass and repairing it so why would they find a wood boat so intimidating?
I think it's a matter of perspective. As I've gotten into the bones of this old boat, I've discovered that EVERYTHING is repairable or replaceable. Nothing on a wood boat cannot be repaired or replaced. A wooden yacht is just a collection of a thousand little jobs done right, to borrow a phrase. Each component can be taken apart and fixed. Granted, some parts are buried and you have to peel the connecting parts away like the layers of an onion but given enough time, it can be done.
Oh Joy is even more complicated because of the C-Flex sheathing. When doing a rib replacement, I can't just pop the bungs, remove the fasteners and replace the rib like on a true wood boat. I have to carefully cut and peel away a strip of the C-Flex , pop the bungs, remove the fasteners, replace the rib, refasten and then reglass. Everything else is fairly simple. Just don't forget how and where something went. Typically, you can't do that because there are several installations of whatever it is you pulled off right next to it.
Could I do the same with a plastic boat? Maybe... I'm sure I could figure it out. Would I enjoy it as much? Probably not. I hate fiberglass work.
I like working with wood. It's forgiving and it does not care how many times you repair or scarph in a new section or piece. Can the same be said of a section of glass, kevlar or carbon? I don't have to worry about delamination with the exception of the C-Flex and that has proven to be blister and delamination free for 16 years now so I guess I'm safe there.
What about maintenance? When Oh Joy is complete, the only maintenance will be the normal wear and tear a boat has plus the brightwork. Rot? Wood rots. If it's exposed to nature, yes. if it's sealed and cared for properly then no. Part of this restoration is to insure the areas of rot I ran across (mostly caused by really poor repairs) don't come back. Black Locust doesn't rot. You can stick it in the ground for over 100 years and it'll look new when ya pull it. Bugs don't like it and it has all of the qualities you want from a piece of wood for building boats. That's why I'm replacing any marginal wood structural members with it. Also, modern sealants such as Sanitred, which adhere at the molecular level, which are waterproof and UV proof will keep the enemy (fresh water) from the wood.
So, back to the maintenance issue. Varnish, plenty of it too. If properly applied, varnish, when refreshed with a couple of annual coats, will last up to 10 years. Stripping the brightwork of varnish or "wooding" CAN SOUND INTIMIDATING BUT IT'S REALLY NOT THAT HARD. It is time consuming but it only has to happen once a decade if you do it right and perform some simple maintenance. Planking? Planking is an issue with a traditional wood boat but not so with my girl. the planks don't see any water nor are they free to move around and work loose because of the C-Flex. Planks really aren't that hard to replace on a wooden boat either so that wouldn't scare me, not anymore.
So is there really maintenance in a wooden boat than a glass one? Not really. It's a matter of perception. Is there a difference in the lifespan between the two? That depends on the luck of the boat. If a wood boat has owners that care then no, it will last longer than a plastic boat because it won't experience delamination, crazing or general breakdown like glass will. Fiberglass does not last forever in a seaworthy form. It can only take a finite amount of flexing and stress before it starts breaking down. Can you fix it? Yes but how do you do that? Don't ask me. Will a glass boat take neglect better than a wooden one? You betcha. Wood boats that are ignored for long periods of time tend to fare far worse than their plastic counterparts.
So it's a trade off. A decently maintained wood boat will last forever, provided a piece here and there is repaired or replaced as needed. I don't know if the same can be said about a plastic boat because they really haven't been around long enough to say. There is a difference in the way the two materials sail though. Wooden yachts are quieter and just feel more solid than glass. I've sailed on both and the difference is undeniable.
What stops folks from owning a wooden boat? Pre-conceptions usually. They hear about how much maintenance is involved from folks who either bought a boat in poor condition or who've never even OWNED a wooden boat. Wooden boats are out there in all shapes, sizes and prices. To me, it's the cheapest way to get into a good boat. If you're intimidated by the prospect of fixing or maintaining one because you don't think you have the skills to do so, read the internet. Go to the WBF. I didn't know much of anything about wooden yacht s when I bought Oh Joy and started this project. I had some mechanical ability and a bit of wood working experience but nothing spectacular. I learned on the job, one little piece at a time. That's all a wooden boat is. A bunch of little pieces tied together. Nothing to be intimidated by at all.
So if you are wanting a sailing or motor yacht and like me, can't afford the latest and greatest, think about wood. Wood boats ask for your time and love and what better way to spend some spare time than on your boat...
Baggett and Sons Marine Restoration
The Landing at Colony Wharf
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