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MatthewM 03-27-2011 04:51 PM

A Discussion of Wooden Boats
Hello all,

I am interested in hearing your opinions of wooden-hulled boats. I am specifically wondering about sailboats in the 26-40ft range. All opinions are welcome, even if you have no personal experience with them. I am currently a student at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding, and would like to hear opinions from the general sailing public on wooden boats.

Thank you,


ilikerust 03-27-2011 05:29 PM

If you haven't checked it out already, check out the Wooden Boat Forum: The WoodenBoat Forum

This subject can be highly polarizing. Some wooden boat "snobs" sneer at fiberglass/plastic boats; some modern GRP boat people think wooden boat sailors are masochistic nuts (and there's a kernel of truth to that).

I have an older (1968) fiberglass boat (Pearson Wanderer) and would love someday to have a cool wooden boat. But for now, it would be too much of a commitment. Heck, the Pearson is a huge commitment.

Your question is really very vague and general, though. When you say you're looking for "opinion," what are you looking for specifically? And when you say "wooden-hulled", that includes a whole lot of different types of construction.

MatthewM 03-27-2011 06:26 PM


Originally Posted by ilikerust (Post 713487)
Your question is really very vague and general, though. When you say you're looking for "opinion," what are you looking for specifically? And when you say "wooden-hulled", that includes a whole lot of different types of construction.

I intended to be vague, although maybe I was too much so. I am interested in why people own, or don't own, wooden boats. I am thinking of carvel, lapstrake, and strip-planked construction in 26-40ft sailboats. Do people think, "that's beautiful, but too much work for me.", or "I would own one if I had the money", or "why would anyone buy a wooden boat when fiberglass is a much better material."

Thanks for the response,


Siamese 03-27-2011 07:15 PM

One of the things I like about my Catalina 309,like a lot of modern boats, is there's not even any wooden trim. I can't imagine a bigger waste of time than sanding and varnishing a material that no longer has a practical place on a boat, other than the interior. And boy, do love my vinyl floor!

My Stratocaster guitar is made from wood. It gives the guitar much of it's tone. Pretty, too. But I keep my guitar inside, so the upkeep is zilch.

I'm a fairly good woodworker too. Furniture, sheds, a pole barn, lots of home remodeling. I know my mahogany from my poplar from my ash. But for me, sailing's about sailing, not fretting over whether the horizontal surfaces are ready for another coat of varnish. I had a wooden tiller on my holder 20...painted it. The guy that sold me the boat saw it and got mad?!?!

Oh, I forgot. Modern boats use end grain balsa to stiffen their decks. Of course, when you buy a used boat make sure you inspect carefully for soft spots in the deck.

So, make my boat outta glass. And keep the wood inside to a minimum. Yeah, I can appreciate the beauty of a mahogany interior, but what's up with that anyway? Why do we equate a quality interior with non-stop wood? I'll take fiberglass and formica, and some fabrics inside and enjoy the savings.

Remember, this is just my opinion and no dolphins were harmed in the making of this reply.

Lendow 03-27-2011 07:20 PM

Interesting question.
I own a wooden and fiberglass boat. My cc29 MII needs a lot of care to remain in excellent condition. My much smaller wooden boats need constant attention. I would own a large wooden boat if the cost and maintenance were not so prohibitive. Wood boats are the ultimate sailors , however, many wooden boat designs have been produced in glass and are quite beautiful.
Show me the money and time and I would own wood. Untill I win a lotery I will love my cc29 and enjoy sailing.

PaulfromNWOnt 03-27-2011 07:35 PM

I ADORE a well made/finished wooden boat. They are things of beauty, and should be appreciated as such.

Truth be told however, I have more love for a cheap Mac that get's beaten like a race horse every weekend then a Swan that might see 2 weeks use per year and all the pampering she can handle.

If they're your thing, then I thank you from the bottom of my heart for keeping them alive and well for all to enjoy. Truly I do.

Other than a one-sheet-wonder though, wood isn't for me.

mitiempo 03-27-2011 07:47 PM

I have owned 2 wooden boats and 6 fiberglass boats over the past few decades. My first was a very old 18' carvel planked design unknown boat that I had for a few years.
My second wooden boat was a 35' custom design built by Jesperson in Sidney. Strip planked and glass over. The warmth of the varnished strip planks below and bulkheads and major panels in off white paint and laminate with teak trim. Certainly not dark below - my fiberglass boats have actually been darker below.
Maintenance was not excessive, there being about the same amount of wood trim on deck as most fiberglass boats and more than my current boat has.

Wood has a lot to offer but I would choose strip planked with diagonal planking over using epoxy as an adhesive and epoxy and glass over. Or multi layer diagonal planking with glass over. A properly designed and engineered wooden boat is stronger for its weight than conventional fiberglass - though not as light as the exotics but also not as expensive.

If I were to have a custom design built my material choices would be aluminum first and modern wood construction second. For a custom boat I would consider fiberglass less suitable.

Fiberglass excels in series production, for bringing affordable mass production products to the market at low prices. It was fiberglass that fueled the boom in boating in North America and Europe starting in the late 50's and early 60's, making boating within reach of many who couldn't afford something like a Concordia Yawl or its maintenance.

deniseO30 03-27-2011 07:50 PM

Just a reminder.. before fiberglass, wood was used for thousands of years. I watched a 100+ year old birchbark canoe running rapids one time. all the big explorations of the world that lead to world as we know were discovered and colonized/settled by use of wooden boats and ships.

Sublime 03-27-2011 08:08 PM

Wooden boats are gorgeous. I've seen plenty of fiberglass/plastic boats that are gorgeous too. Recently someone showed me pics of a boat his brother built custom from metal. It too is a gorgeous boat.

There's more than one way to skin a cat. People who get into huge arguments over which is better have too much time on their hands. Sailing is about sailing, not the hull materials.

Classic30 03-27-2011 08:54 PM


Originally Posted by Sublime (Post 713533)
People who get into huge arguments over which is better have too much time on their hands. Sailing is about sailing, not the hull materials.

Whilst I agree with your first point, I wouldn't the second.. ;)

Owning a historic wooden boat (or even better - just sailing on someone elses!) takes sailing to a whole new level. A different level to, say, fibreglass cruising to carbon-fibre racing, but a different level anyways.

Wooden-hulled boats react differently to the waves, flex and move differently to other constructions and just generally "feel" different - more "alive" - as does welded vs. rivetted steel. It's a bit difficult to describe, but all of a sudden, on a wooden boat, sailing is more than just getting to a destination quickly (you can do that better in a stinkpot) and working on the thing is (supposed to be) part of that enjoyment.

Try it sometime.

Just 5c from a wooden boat owner.. :cool: :)

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