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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am considering buying a boat planked in 1958. Pitchpine on Oak, Copper rivets. Seller claims the planking is "perfect." Is that too old for a wood boat? Let me know your experiences, because the price is right, and the boat looks beautiful and well maintained.
 

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Tartan 27' owner
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I am not a certified surveyor of wooden boats but I would suggest that any wooden boat that has not been re-planked in 50 years is well overdue - no matter what kind of fasteners were used.
As Bubb has suggested, this is not the kind of boat you just buy and sail off on; it is a boat that you marry - big time.
If you like the wooden boat 'ethos' then go for it you crazy man! You will never be poorer or happier!
Enjoy.
 

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I happen to know first hand a thing or two about wood boats.
Here are some facts.
All traditionally built wood boots are in some stage of rotting. The only question is how far it has progressed.
A plank can look perfect and be beautiful but the fastener holding it to the rib may be almost gone.
The plank may be fine and the fastener may be fine but the rib is hollowed out in a groove only visible from the plank side of the rib.
All older wood boats have to be refastened. When was yours last refastened. If never check the fasteners. There is a lot of dead wood in the stern and stem. It likes to rot there. It likes to rot in the bilge, especially around the keel boats.
The only way to survey a wood boat is to remove a plank.
I would recommend at least two. Make one of them a garboard plank.
No I'm not kidding. If the couple hundred dollars or lack of skill prevents you from removing the planks and replacing them you have no clue as to what you are getting involved in. Removing a plank and replacing it is the wood boat equivalent to changing the oil in your car. If the idea scares you, you are not ready for a wood boat.
If the boat is old enough and you keep it long enough you will replace every stick of original wood.
You didn't mention the size. If it is 20' with everything visible you may be able to figure out what you are getting. If it is a 35' yacht you have to take some things apart to find out what is inside.
Wood can last for hundreds of years with little loss of strength as long as it is kept dry and protected from the sun. This is unfortunately not the environment of a boat.
 

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You did say rivets not nails so maybe your boat is small. If so you should be able to see most everything and the the risk is small too. I was commenting on larger wood boats.
 

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It's not too old for a wooden boat, particularly if the boat hs been in salt water rather than fresh. They tend to last longer in salt water as long as they have not been through the Caribbean and acquired teredo worms.

You should expect to see some indication that repair work has been done to the boat.

You mention that the planking is pitch pine. This could indicate that the boat was built in the northeast and was not a luxury craft. It's not so common to see it used anymore - some is grown in Central America but it's not quite the same stuff as we grew here in North America.

Go look at the boat. If she is out of the water and there are slight gaps between the planks in some places do not be unduly alarmed, as they swell considerably when they get wet. They need to be caulked on a regular basis though and doing so is a bit of an art form as you need to get just the right amount of oakum or horsehair or whatever you choose to use into the seam.

When you are first looking, take a car key and press lightly on the wood to get an idea of the strength of it. Don't leave marks on the boat, but if the vendor has indicated that there is nothing wrong with the craft, and if a gentle push on your key manages to bury the key in one of the frames - don't feel too guilty about it. The vendor has not been honest.

If you are going to buy and maintain a wooden boat, you need to be willing to invest a lot of time and patience. If you are willing to do so then it's great. The wooden boats are floating pieces of history and it's important that we preserve them properly and maintain their authenticity. But don't underestimate the amount of work that it takes to do that.

Realise that there is no such thing as a wooden boat that does not take on water to some extent. Usually it's not a big problem, but you're always going to have something in the bilges and pumps become more important.

Good Luck !
 

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Wind and pie move my boat.
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So far everyone here has given you the good advice on wood boats . That having been covered , let me give you the bad advice . First let me make clear that I know next to nothing about boats compared to most in here . I did however buy a 40 foot cutter that's 76 years old last year & have been on the water since that day . Now she does have some issues , but given that I'm pushing 60 , I'm sure she'll outlast me . There are some intangibles in regards to wood boats though you want to know about . They have souls . I can't be more sincere when I tell you that . They will also speak to you & tell you what they want if you will listen . No one is more surprised then me to discover that . Everyone talks about the work & the bother . So what else are you going to do that's more spiritually uplifting in life ??? Why would you not be willing to give an old gal a little loving care that's willing to give so much back . Water in the bildge ?? Who care about a little water in the bildge . I find the sound of the bildge pump coming on every now & again comforting & reassuring . Someone above in this thread pointed out their historical value . That's true too . They do need to be preserved . My hope is to leave the Skipjack better then she came to me & when she goes to my son & I expect no less from him . Hell...pull her out of the water & go through her tapping the whole hull not looking towards finding " fault" but with a mind to identifying where you can give healing care . You say she looks good , well maintained , & the price is right ??? Say I do & let the marriage begin . Age is not an issue with a wood boat . Her care though is of paramount importance .
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Well... the unfortunate twist of this tale is that the boat is sold. I inquired about the ad, and it was taken down without a response. C'est la vie...

but 27 is a little big anyway
 

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Tartan 27' owner
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Kjango,
Points well made about the 'soul' of an older sailboat. I would add that 'classic plastic' boats also have a 'soul' but just not quite as deep as your 'Skipjack' with its period pieces. My 'classic plastic' Tartan 27' from 1967 requires work but a lot less then the equivalent sized wooden hulled boat from the same era.
Your 'Skipjack' got you from the North East down to the Chessy and has proved herself both beautiful and functional. I am just going to guess that she has had all her planks re-fastened once in her lifetime. If not, that is something you should be looking into when you do haul out in the spring. Don't get me wrong, I love wooden boats but I get enough of a workout with my plastic hull (11 years younger then me) and all her systems and rigging that I am happy enough to just admire boats like yours (rather then own them).
Classic lines of older boats just can't be beat in my book though.
Cheers.
 

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Wind and pie move my boat.
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Morning CalabD,
You know I'm not really an advocate either way regarding wood vs glass . I think maybe the trick for anyone is finding what suits them . I can't take any credit for being smart in that arena either . When I was in the middle of implementing my escape plan last year I had pretty much decided on a Southern Cross 31 . The Skipjack had been on my short list & for some reason I kept coming back to her . The critical mass deciding factor had nothing to do with glass vs wood . I got taken back to court for the 7th final settlement in the desolution of my now infamous 14 month marriage & half my buget disappeared under color of law 2 years after my divorce was " final " . Who knows how the Southern Cross would have worked out . I am not where I am today from being smart & calulating , but by the luck of circumstance . Having said that though , I think the Skipjack is a great fit . Interestingly enough I just got a call from the previous owner last week & he just bought a 31 foot Southern Cross . It's too funny really . He sold the Skipjack to appease his family who was pushing him out of the boat under the guise he was getting old & they were worried about him . Well...I guess they weren't appeased for long so the old guy just decided hell with em & bought another boat . Anyway....the boat he bought is in MD . so we sorta have a plan if I can make it to meet there in the Spring & sail both boats back to Onset together . He says I'll have to go slow so he can keep up . The guy is a prince among men so if I can make the trip I'll be proud to " go slow ". Anyway.....wood ....glass.....who cares.....the importent thing I think is to go with what speaks to you . Thanks for the kind sentiments you expressed in your post . Have a good one.....Jim
 

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Sailing Junkie
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I would like to second the importance of re-fastening the planks. Several years ago on the Chesapeake, there was a charter fishing boat(wooden) out of Point Lookout that was lost due to the planking opening up and several people were lost. The boat sank immediately. This was of course in late fall when the water temp was very cold and I believe that it was blowing a bit so it was choppy. :(
 

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I would second much of what Kjango said. After a certain point buying a boat is not a logical decision. How many times times have you heard someone talk about how a boat "speaks to them"?

When you walk down the dock or dingy away from a mooring do you glance back over your shoulder for one last look? Are you content with what you see? Life is too short for ugly boats.

As for fiberglass boats having souls - I think the soul comes from the experiences you share with her good and bad. You have to have busted knuckles in the bilge, cold spray in your face and beautiful days on the water first. Only then can she speak to you.

Jim McGee
94 C22 Island Time
95 C30 Goin' Coastal
 

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Wind and pie move my boat.
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Thanks for worrying about me guys . Most people could care if I suck my next breath .....hahaha....Skipjack was re-fastened 2002 . Oh my God Jim....have you been watching me . I have a specific place on the pier where I pause for my " one last look "
 
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