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Old 12-28-2009
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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...
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Old 12-28-2009
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Keep trying, Charlie, and eventually you'll convince yourself!!
(kidding, of course)

Seriously, Good post!
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Old 12-28-2009
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Charlie,

Thanks for the post. I've built a wooden sailboat before, and my father built several wooden boats, including a great Joel White shellback dinghy (cold molded).

Two questions: I'd like to know more about the c-flex on your hull. Is that like a fiberglass skin put over the wood, or is it a cold-molded layer?

Secondly, used wooden boats I've seen have often had wood rot issues that were pushing the limits. Fiberglass can have rotting cores, but in most cases it seems to happen more slowly. Excellent wooden boat owners are always on top of the small issues and deal with them before they become any type of issue, but owners who walk away from the wooden boat for a couple of years seem to be taking a real risk.

I think everything you say is true, but it seems like a lot of owners don't take the time to prevent or head off the issues the way they need to.
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Old 12-28-2009
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Jim, on that we can agree. However, Oh Joy had multiple hidden issues that I dug out during what was supposed to be a refit. What's cool is that I, with the few skills I possess, can do all of this work myself. When I'm done, it'll be simple maintenance to keep ahead. Anything on a wooden boat can be fixed, anything.

The C-Flex is an interesting piece of technology. It was developed as a way to build boats but soon found use by shrimpers and fishermen to extend the life of wooden boats that had hull issues. It's a cloth that has fiberglass rods running through it. It's very flexible, which makes it perfect for sheathing wood boats, if done right. The previous owners decided to go with it to protect Oh Joy (then Liberty) from torredo worms and because the new fasteners they put in only lasted 18 months because of electrolysis.

They way it's done is to strip the outside of the hull of all paint and let the boat dry for 60 days. You then caulk the boat and replace planks or refasten as needed. Then you trowel on 3M 5200. You roll the C-Flex over the 5200 and staple it down with monel staples. After this is done you wet it in with resin. Lastly you fare the hull with a fairing compound. After this you seal it with an epoxy barrier coat and paint.

The end result is a light, flexible sheathing that's bound both chemically and mechanically. Now all ya have to do is keep fresh water out.
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Just as you say, Charlie, I follow your restoration avidly and enjoy it vicariously, much as I would someone's account of solo backpacking through northern Alaska. Love reading about it, not gonna do it.

Am I scared of wood? Of course. Your defense aside, I've never read anything that suggested that the maintenance on a wood boat was similar in effort or regularity to that on a plastic one. I guess if all the wood boats out there were made of locust, we'd have it made, but I'm betting they aren't. It's cool that wood boats are so fixable--an excellent feature for the skilled and motivated. But how many have the time or $$ to do all that fixing?

I suspect it's like cars of 30 years ago vs. now. New cars are not nearly as easy to work on as the old ones, but cars used to need so much more fixing to keep them going! I no longer can just go out and replace the points when the car is running rough, but then again it never runs rough. The magic of unknowable electronics--Yay!

My 22-yr-old plastic boat took quite a bit of neglect with hull and deck intact and unharmed, which left me time for all those other systems that all sailboats have. I don't think most plastic owners are as accepting of major fiberglass repair as you think.

When you're done, you say your boat will be fine as long as it is cared for properly--and it's obvious from your excellent work that you'll do it and do it right! But FG boats seem to hang in there a little better even when they aren't cared for properly, which, outside of all the caring owners on Sailnet, is more the norm in the world.

Love your boat, love your project, and enjoy the huge amount of satisfaction such a resto must bring. But that level of effort would be beyond most of us whether it was plastic or wood.

My hat's off to you, Charlie. Keep us posted and enthralled!
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Charlie,

Besides feeling more solid, do you expect any other performance benefits?
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Well, she's a more narrow design more easily driven through the water. She's 35' on deck and 40' overall with a displacement of 14,500, including the 5,325 worth of lead in the keel so she's fairly light. She rides through heavy seas with relative ease but that's likely more due to design than materials. There's no pounding on a heavy beat nor wave slapping on the hook, again mostly design. She's warmer and quieter than a fiberglass boat too. Smells better in my opinion. There's nothing quite like the look and feel of a wooden yacht. I never thought I'd own one myself. It just worked out that way.
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Old 12-28-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlieCobra View Post
..........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.......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......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......So is there really maintenance in a wooden boat than a glass one?............
All you say is true, but there is more to consider. You are sailing (or is it working?) in the Pacific Northwest. At around 30 degrees latitude and south we have clams that have evolved to use their bivalve shells like teeth and bore through wood (toredo worms). You say you like working with wood and properly applying varnish. Many of us rather be cruising than working on the boat. How many weeks of the year is your boat out of the water? I'm hauled out for maintenance on the average of two weeks every three years. I did repair a delaminated rudder in 1996. That's the only fiberglass repair I've had under the waterline since buying my first liveaboard fiberglass boat in 1971. I have removed the teak toe rails on my 37 year old Morgan and epoxied all the fastener holes. This left me with a largely maintenance free exterior. I still work on my boat. I'm currently removing, inspecting and refinishing my chainplates. We cruised back to Florida from Maine for the winter and in March we're off again for the Bahamas. For many of us, function defines beauty; therefore, my fiberglass boat that simulates a bleach bottle is beautiful. I do appreciate the beauty of a wood boat and 'would hope to have a picture of a boat like yours mounted in a plastic frame fastened to my plastic laminate bulkhead. 'take care and joy, Aythya crew
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Old 12-28-2009
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Are you scared of wood?
Yep. I spend more time on my teak toe rails and hand rails than I do on the rest of the hull. Wish they made a nice looking plastic wood replacement for those parts so I could spend more time boating and less time cetoling.
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Old 12-28-2009
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All you say is true, but there is more to consider. You are sailing (or is it working?) in the Pacific Northwest. At around 30 degrees latitude and south we have clams that have evolved to use their bivalve shells like teeth and bore through wood (toredo worms). You say you like working with wood and properly applying varnish. Many of us rather be cruising than working on the boat. How many weeks of the year is your boat out of the water? I'm hauled out for maintenance on the average of two weeks every three years. I did repair a delaminated rudder in 1996. That's the only fiberglass repair I've had under the waterline since buying my first liveaboard fiberglass boat in 1971. I have removed the teak toe rails on my 37 year old Morgan and epoxied all the fastener holes. This left me with a largely maintenance free exterior. I still work on my boat. I'm currently removing, inspecting and refinishing my chainplates. We cruised back to Florida from Maine for the winter and in March we're off again for the Bahamas. For many of us, function defines beauty; therefore, my fiberglass boat that simulates a bleach bottle is beautiful. I do appreciate the beauty of a wood boat and 'would hope to have a picture of a boat like yours mounted in a plastic frame fastened to my plastic laminate bulkhead. 'take care and joy, Aythya crew
Capt Force. One of the main reasons that Oh Joy was C-Flexed was the concern for toredo worms. They can't eat what they can't get to. Don't get me wrong. As I said in another thread, I would've bought a plastic boat IF I had been able to afford it. Considering I paid about $700.00 USD for Oh Joy including the back slip fees, I couldn't pass her up. I got more than my money's worth before the engine blew in sailing time. I figure that even when I'm done and have about 25K in the boat including yard fees, I'll be way ahead of the curve.
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