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Old 18-02-2017, 02:29   #1
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WEST method boats – wood and GRP – are they OK?

Does anyone know if yachts built with the WEST method are good? That is "Wood Epoxy Saturation Technique", basically wood encapsulated by GRP plastic. Do they all rot, or can that risk be avoided? The seller of such a boat I am interested in says the WEST method is quite commonly used as a boat building method in Australia.
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Old 18-02-2017, 02:50   #2
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Re: WEST method boats – wood and GRP – are they OK?

Our strip planked epoxy composite hull is sound and rot free after 26 years of heavy cruising usage. No osmosis, no delamination, no corrosion, very strong, pretty light. What's not to like?

And yes, she was built in Australia, but the techniques are used world wide.

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Old 18-02-2017, 03:30   #3
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Re: WEST method boats – wood and GRP – are they OK?

Done right, it is very strong and good construction. I built my first sailboat in 1980 with west system and plywood. Was a 26' thunderbird, and as far as I last heard she is still in good condition. Sounds like what you are looking at was done by a professional yard.
Just be careful with homebuilt boats. Some were built low budget and low skill, so not good results.
It's imperative that boats with this system have no moisture intrusion, which is the #1 reason for issues. But on the other hand, they are fairly easy to repair.
With Jim's boat in the above post being strip planked is probably the best method using the West System.
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Old 18-02-2017, 03:56   #4
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pirate Re: WEST method boats – wood and GRP – are they OK?

West System is great stuff.. have owned boats both ply and timber and used it a few times.. the main cause of any problems is poor cleaning/removal of the 'blush' between coats and inadequately sealed/soaked end grains.
These days there's many other similar products on the market.. but pay close attention to their use by dates.. had problems in Karachi when I was building a small Tiki beach cat.. old product on second coating of 4oz glass..
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Old 18-02-2017, 04:54   #5
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Re: WEST method boats – wood and GRP – are they OK?

It is all in design and in execution.

I would not hesitate to sail a well designed and well built cold molded boat.

I could hesitate to sail a home-/garage built strip planked/epoxy boat offshore.

I think plywood and epoxy is fine (think of RMs) while strip planks and epoxy is a marginal method (for offshore use).

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Old 18-02-2017, 05:24   #6
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Re: WEST method boats – wood and GRP – are they OK?

Quote:
Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
It is all in design and in execution.

I would not hesitate to sail a well designed and well built cold molded boat.

I could hesitate to sail a home-/garage built strip planked/epoxy boat offshore.

I think plywood and epoxy is fine (think of RMs) while strip planks and epoxy is a marginal method (for offshore use).

b.
All depends on what type of strip planking is being used.

Gougean brothers strip planked system typicaly was strip planked with 1/2" thick cedar to form the shape of the hull, and then covered with multiple multi directional layers of 1/8" thick veneer, resulting in a hull skin 1-1/8" thick or more. Pretty much bulletproof and the veneers could be built up in areas that needed more strength thus pioneering a structural directional ply buildup that became the new technology not just for boatbuilding but is used with carbon fiber directional ply layup now in airplane design.

This type of construction far exceeds any plywood design.
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Old 18-02-2017, 09:00   #7
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Re: WEST method boats – wood and GRP – are they OK?

Theirs a '70s Farr designed boat now in SF Bay called 'Sweet Okole' that has probably been campaigned harder than any other boat on the world's racing circuits. She was built in Hawaii in the '70s using epoxy and thin strips of, I believe, cedar called cold molding and finished bright. She's a perennial in the Transpac and is campaighed heavily in the very active racing in the Bay. After all these years, she is still competitive against the latest and greatest carbon fibre machines. She was rammed once, suffered extensive damage but was repaired so well that I couldn't see any evidence of the repair in the clear finish when I discovered her at the Richmond Yacht Club a week ago. Granted she has probably had excellent maintenance but she has also had extreme use and is still going strong. The name means 'Sweet A**'. When she was launched someone remarked that she really looked good from the stern and their was a Hawaiian Song called Sweet Okole popular at the time and the name stuck.

https://images.search.yahoo.com/sear...g&action=click

http://alohavalley.com/sweet-okole/

Until the advent of carbon and other exotic materials, cold molding using wood strips and epoxy was the way to get the strongest and lightest structure possible especially in boats under about 45'. Because of thinness of the wood strips, the epoxy effectively soaks the wood so it can't absorb water or if it does, it's limited to just a very small section of little consequence. Design and quality of construction surely will have an effect on the longevity of cold molded boats but they seem to hold up really well.
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Old 18-02-2017, 10:03   #8
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Re: WEST method boats – wood and GRP – are they OK?

Very bad luck in the Great Lakes region with dozens of "restored" mahogany planked runabouts (Chris Craft) rotting out after a few years.

The onlymethod that has shown long-term durability is thin veneer layers laminated with epoxy (preferably vacuum-bagged).

Epoxy does not penetrate wood to any depth and as a surface coating only traps moisture, resulting in a perfect oxygen poor environment for rot.

The so-called "West System" is actually not recommended by Gougeon Bros. for planked construction.
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Old 18-02-2017, 10:17   #9
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Re: WEST method boats – wood and GRP – are they OK?

I built (I was captain and Project manager, not the physical stuff) a 154’ cold molded Ketch in Maine a few years ago. We used Douglas fir taken from the Olympic peninsula of Washington states. It was several layers of diagonal planking using West system and vacuum bagged in many places. The hull was about 4 inches thick. We also vacuum bagged the teak deck down so there were no bung holes.
All in all I was pretty happy with the construction. Anytime you mounted something inside it needed to be epoxied to prevent water ingress. It was an expensive way to build a boat but it was a privilege to work with fine craftsmen.

Wood boats seem to have a bit more…soul.

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Old 18-02-2017, 11:17   #10
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Re: WEST method boats – wood and GRP – are they OK?

That is one beautiful boat!
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Old 18-02-2017, 12:24   #11
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Re: WEST method boats – wood and GRP – are they OK?

French RM Yachts are built this way. See here Exclusive concept - RM Yachts

Not sure if they use WEST or a different sort of epoxy. Nor do I know anything about their durability. But I would have thought they are going to have to be durable if the company is going to stay in business (and it's been around for quite a while).

RM claim their boats to be light, fast and quiet. The RM970 was voted the 2017 "European Yacht of the Year". I have not sailed one, but have been aboard at boat shows and they are very spacious and a refreshing change to most GRP boats on the market which seem very similar and formulaic. And no, I’m not a shareholder.
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Old 18-02-2017, 12:30   #12
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Re: WEST method boats – wood and GRP – are they OK?

Quote:
Originally Posted by captmikem View Post
I built (I was captain and Project manager, not the physical stuff) a 154’ cold molded Ketch in Maine a few years ago. We used Douglas fir taken from the Olympic peninsula of Washington states. It was several layers of diagonal planking using West system and vacuum bagged in many places. The hull was about 4 inches thick. We also vacuum bagged the teak deck down so there were no bung holes.
All in all I was pretty happy with the construction. Anytime you mounted something inside it needed to be epoxied to prevent water ingress. It was an expensive way to build a boat but it was a privilege to work with fine craftsmen.

Wood boats seem to have a bit more…soul.

Michael
Wow! That is some piece of boat!
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Old 18-02-2017, 12:36   #13
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Re: WEST method boats – wood and GRP – are they OK?

Quote:
Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
It is all in design and in execution.

I would not hesitate to sail a well designed and well built cold molded boat.

I could hesitate to sail a home-/garage built strip planked/epoxy boat offshore.

I think plywood and epoxy is fine (think of RMs) while strip planks and epoxy is a marginal method (for offshore use).

b.
Barney, since my observation of other's boats and experience with my own boat are completely at odds with your last sentence, I'd like you to provide some data to back it up. Otherwise, it is just another unjustified internet folk story that flies in the face of reality.

Jim
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Old 18-02-2017, 14:42   #14
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Re: WEST method boats – wood and GRP – are they OK?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Kelly View Post
French RM Yachts are built this way. See here Exclusive concept - RM Yachts

Not sure if they use WEST or a different sort of epoxy. Nor do I know anything about their durability. But I would have thought they are going to have to be durable if the company is going to stay in business (and it's been around for quite a while).
Just for the record, RM yachts are multi chine plywood boats, built like my old Thunderbird. They cannot afford to build vacuum bagged directional veneer over strip plank system and sell their boats at a reasonable price as they do.

Still a good strong boat though and would be fun to sail one sometime.
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Old 18-02-2017, 17:04   #15
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Re: WEST method boats – wood and GRP – are they OK?

Sam Devlin was the first stitch 'n glue builder in the US. You would never guess his boats are plywood & epoxy.

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