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Old 23-10-2005, 21:15   #1
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wood - am I nuts?

I've spent a lot of time recently looking at "sailboats for sale". I've always considered a WOODEN boat to be more than just a sailing vessel, to me, it's a piece of art!. I always find myself clicking on the "wood hulls search" after spending some amount of time looking at fiberglass. I already know some of the positive attributes of fiberglass, but, I'm definitely lured towards wood. I can still remember the creaking of wood on boats I boarded at the wooden boat show in Newport many years ago and it was music to my ears..... and all that brightly varnished wood.

So my questions are:
Am I crazy for looking at wooden boats?
Are they really THAT much more work and expense?
should I come to my senses and realize there's a reason why they are no longer being produced in quantities?

I'm NOT looking at wood in order to find a bargain. I've heard that you can get one for a song and a dance but I just don't see it. Most are "bare bones" in terms of being outfitted for cruising, and by the time you have it updated, you're where you would be if buying glass.

Having said all that, my top 3 priorities are:

1) Safety
2) Safety
3) Safety

after that, the usual priorities; comfort, sailing ability and etc.

Any comments?
Scott
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Old 23-10-2005, 22:20   #2
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Scott, You are not crazy. At least, no more than any other person considering buying a boat of any kind.
I have owned, and currently own wood boats, as well as fiberglass. I do not find the maintenance to be any worse, the cost to be any higher, or any of the other downsides advertised by the anti wood boat people. Nothing sails like a wood boat. There are a number of different types of wood boats, from carvel planked, to cold molded. All have their advantages, but to purchase a classic vessel, carvel is my preference. If I were to build from scratch, I would choose cold molded. I am not a fan of strip planking, but some people swear by it.
Some rules to live by with wood boats:
When you have it surveyed, make sure the surveyor specializes in wood boats.
If the surveyor has found several problems, and indicates that the purchase should not be made, if you may purchase anyway, make sure the surveyor is aware of that, so no issues are overlooked.
Wood boats have a personality. If the boat does not feel good when you come on board, move on.
If you consider a project, try to find one with the interior stripped. Removing the cabinetry in a classic boat, for access to frame repairs is harder than rebuilding the boat. Both physicaly, and emotionally.
If you do not want to buy a wood boat, do not go sailing on one.
If you have concerns about the maintenance, find someone in process of a haul out, and volunteer to help.
As for bright work, my wood boat has less bright work than my plastic boat. It is more the boat, than the hull material. How much is bright work and how much is painted is up to you.
I could continue, but you get the idea.
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Old 24-10-2005, 02:12   #3
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Crazy - depends whether you have the money or the inclination to do a lot of maintenance.

A wooden boat can be a thing of beauty, but there is no escape from the heavy maintenance requirement. There is also the probability that every time you work to windward, the seems will open slightly and you will get water onboard, or even through the deck, hence the slightly damp feel of most wooden boats that are actually sailed rather than hanging on a mooring.

But you will be able to recognise your own boat in a marina, and get lots of admiring looks from other sailors.
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Old 24-10-2005, 05:59   #4
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Early in my sailing life I owned several wooden boats. These were all older boats traditionally constructed (carvel and lapstrake planked boats). Since then I have sailed on literally dozens of wooden boats. There is a very noticeable aesthetic difference between wooden boats and fiberglass boats but wooden boats, simply because they are constructed of wood do not actually offer inherently differ sailing characteristics. (More on that later)

Having owned three traditional constructed wooden boats, I found that wooden boat normal maintenance is not that much more work than a glass boat of the same age, BUT only if they start out in good shape and you keep them that way. Of course this assumes that the fiberglass boat is maintained in the same perfect condition that a wooden boat needs to be maintained in if it is not to disappear before your very eyes (That kind of maintenance on a fiberglass boat is a rarity). The big difference in a wooden boat is that the boat sets the maintenance schedule. You canít put things off. When a finish or a caulking goes bad it must be taken care of promptly or the damage will expand rapidly. You can often afford to let things go on a glass boat and they will come back with little or no expansion in the work.

Modern finishes make a big difference in the amount of maintenance. Modern alkyd and urethane paints can last many more years than the older lead based paints. Modern caulks are a lot better bedding than Dolphinite.

You do have to paint the hull but that is no worse than polishing and waxing a glass hull. You still have to bottom paint both. Teak Decks are a royal pain on both glass and wooden boats. (I'd avoid them at all costs.)

One critical point is to look for a boat that was well built to begin with. It should be Everdur bronze fastened or copper riveted construction. Ideally it is a rot resistant wood such as Northern White Cedar, Port Orford Red Cedar, Teak, or Atlantic or Abaco Pine.

The easiest to maintain wooden boats have interiors that can be removed to provide access to the interior of the hull for inspection. Ventilation is critical on wooden boats and there are time honored construction details that guarantee that ventilation of the bilge and the interior of the planking.

Much is made of the fact that wooden boats sail differently than fiberglass boats. That is not inherently true. That perception comes from comparing early fiberglass boats to sisterships built in wood. These early wooden boats had lighter wooden hulls than their F.G. sisters and so had more ballast and more stability, but this resulted from poor engineering in these early F.G. boats. Today, it would be very easy to build a glass boat with similar sailing characteristics to a wooden boat of the same design.

There are some very distinct disadvantages to traditional wooden boats. No matter how well maintained and no matter well-constructed eventually traditional wooden boats need major maintenance. At some point you are facing stripping and building back the finishes, refastening, recaulking, and depending on the age of the boat reframing and replanking. No matter how vigilant there is bound to be some rot somewhere.

And since traditionally constructed wooden boats are typically older boats there is bound to be a whole range of deferred maintenance issues, some major and some minor. The deferred maintenance issues give wooden boats their bad reputation for high maintenance and poor structural reliability.

The other problem with traditionally constructed wooden boats is that they are typically very traditional designs with traditional hardware layouts that are generally inferior in both light air and for offshore sailing. If safety is your prime concern then you should probably look somewhere other than a traditional wooden boat. These days traditional wooden boats make the most sense as coastal cruisers in northern climates where the sailing seasons are short and the maintenance seasons are longer.

I want to emphasize that up until now I have been discussing traditional boat built wooden boats but wood is only a material that can be used in a wide range of construction techniques and modern wooden boats are often constructed using one form or another of epoxy saturated cold molded construction techniques.

I am a huge fan of cold molded construction. Cold Molding produces the lowest maintenance, and one of the strongest hulls for a given weight of all of the normal potential construction materials. Cold molding is the generally considered the least expensive way to build a one off boat. It does require some care in construction but it is highly suitable to amateur construction.

Jeff
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Old 24-10-2005, 09:02   #5
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Anyone contemplating a Wood Boat should review these 2 on-line guides:

Guidance on Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance of Wooden Hulls (NVIC 7-95):
http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-m/nvic/7_95/n7-95.htm

MSC Guidelines for Review of Structural Plans for Wooden Vessels (H1-13)
http://www.uscg.mil/hq/msc/PRGuidance/h1-13.pdf

David Pascoe also has a couple of interesting articles on surveying wood boats: http://www.yachtsurvey.com/

HTH,
Gord
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Old 24-10-2005, 11:53   #6
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Your 3 top priorities

Addressing your 3 top priorities (safety,safey,safety) the only reasonable wood boat for you is cold molded construction else all other building materials are "safer" in terms of strength over time, especially for mounting things like winches, windlass, cleats and masts (wood mast is just about the worst wood part to maintain and keep safe when cruising for long periods even in spite of the poor moment of inertia that they give you compared to composites or aluminum).
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Old 24-10-2005, 19:06   #7
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After sailing on our Angleman Sea Spirit, and a Magellan 36, I can say without reservation, that the difference between how a wood boat sails, and how a fiberglass boat sails is noticable.
That being said, I agree with everything else Jeff just said.
I will not admit to how many wood boats I have owned, but it is more than 3 and more than the number of fiberglass and other material boats I have owned, combined. I will differ on the issue of teak decks. I agree that they are more hassel than fiberglass, or sealed ply, but I prefer them. I like the feel, and the footing. They do get a bit hotter than fiberglass decks, but you can wear shoes without worrying about slipping on a teak deck.
My perspective is different than allot of those who critisize wood boats, as I am not in a hurry, do not mind small boats, and am very comfortable with a plane in my hand.
Of all the types of fasteners, Copper rivets are the best. If I were to build a boat from scratch, I would not consider any other type of fastening.
As for safety, Ask any Colin Archer owner if he thinks wood boats are unsafe.
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Old 24-10-2005, 21:22   #8
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A Tip!

If you do decide on a wooden boat and it's carvel and lapstrake planked, during the survey, pull out several of the fasteners below the waterline. If you can't get them out or they break off, walk away from the boat. Fasteners last about 10 - 15 years depending on how it was maintained. Bronze fasteners are twice as expensive as SS and there are a whole hell of alot of them. Don't ask!

Cold molded with epoxy would be my choice.

Wood boats are quiet, smooth and comfortable when heavy but unless they are in good shape when you get them they'll work you and they can't set for long unattended................_/)
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Old 24-10-2005, 21:24   #9
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Wood

Excuse me for having a problem with some of the posts. The original question does not specify what kind of wood or construction. Neither do some of the replies.
If you use a quality wood and cold mould it, then cover the complete outside with cloth and fiberglass, please tell me how there can be more maintainence.
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Old 24-10-2005, 21:25   #10
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An aside to that, if the surveyor you hire does not insist on removals, run the other direction. The one exception is copper rivets. They do not fail and they are a big deal to remove, but almost all riveted boats have some screws that can be removed.
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Old 24-10-2005, 21:29   #11
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Just saw your next post Mike. The simple answer is there isn't. That is why so many people here are recommending cold molded boats. If this is the plan, there are allot of good options out there. I have to admit that when someone starts on about wood boats, I go of on my classic tangent. But, you didn't specify
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Old 24-10-2005, 22:14   #12
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Boats

I have now narrowed my choice of a larger boat to an older 36 fiberglass US built boat. But before I make that final decision I will make a trip to NZ and look at wooden boats. The NZ boats are more $$ at least the adds I have seen so far.
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Old 24-10-2005, 22:17   #13
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Good luck Mike
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Old 25-10-2005, 12:39   #14
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scott - i have owned several wooden boats of various construction methods. i have never owned cold mold. for my ten cents, you can look all you want but if you buy an old traditional wooden boat, the answer to all three is yep, you are or will go crazy. i, too, keep looking at wood and i have the tools and talent. the pardeys have shown us all that wood works.
if i do again go to wood, i will observe the two following rules. it shall be (almost) new and it shall be small (32 foot max).

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Old 25-10-2005, 19:22   #15
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Thanks for the input! I don't know if I'll end up buying a woodie or not, but after hearing all that has been said, I wouldn't walk away if the right one came by. Three weeks ago (before finding this BB and doing some research on my own) I could have written down everything I knew about sailboats on a match book cover, now I could probably fill TWO match book covers

I initially thought I wanted a heavy displacement boat for safety. I now know that it is not necessary or even desirable for my intended usage (Chesapeake bay and coastal cruising / live aboard). I've come to learn that as long as you have an appropriate boat, good seamanship is equally, if not more important, than the boat it's self, (although Pat and Alli seem to be a contradiction here). Never the less, I still do like the aesthetics of wood and don't mind sanding, and who knows....maybe the right one will come my way. Anyway I'm not going to close the door just because the boat is wood (if it should happen to fill all requirements). But what ever I end up buying (wood, composit or other) I need to have confidence in it.

Thanks for all replies!

Scott
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