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Old 29-04-2014, 01:08   #1
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Maintaining a Timber Boat

I have always been scared off buying a timber boat.... As soon as I mention it everyone shakes their head and waves their fingers at me telling me that the upkeep will kill me.

Is that myth or reality?

I understand that timber boats have the potential for more problems but what about one that is surveyed in good condition and that I'm prepared to have maintained every year?

If you had to put a dollar value on it, how much extra would I spend a year maintaining a good timber boat vs an average glass boat?
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Old 29-04-2014, 01:19   #2
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Re: Maintaining a timber boat

Topper,

Part of it is involved with the type of timber construction, and I'm not knowledgeable enough to lead you through those hallowed paths. However, if you talk to people from wooden boat schools, in Australia, NZ, the USA, and probably in Britain as well, you will find huge masses of information from hands-on kinds of folks, including timber shipwrights. It is a whole other world, and very different from that of grp boats.

Modern timber construction, particularly composite, can have all the benefits of grp, and the benefits of timber as well. Quite a surprise after the plastic fantastic boats we're used to.

Since you're in Sydney, probably the closest Wooden Boat School is in Tasmania, at Franklin, on the Huon R. Why not Google it and proceed from there? By the way, the next Wooden Boat Festival is going to be in Hobart next February, in case you're interested.

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Old 29-04-2014, 08:08   #3
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Re: Maintaining a timber boat

Thanks Ann,

I was in tassie the year before last and just missed the wooden boat festival unfortunately.

I guess what im getting at is - for someone with a GRP background, is a timber boat (in good nick) a fair proposition or not.

I can handle an additional 10-20% maintenance, but not an extra 200%.

Is it possible to put a $ value on the yearly maintenance required on a 30-33ft timber yacht ? I currently spend about $2k a year maintaining my 27ft GRP boat.
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Old 29-04-2014, 10:52   #4
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Re: Maintaining a timber boat

I have owned a number of wood boats to 48' and have to say that wood boats are many times more expensive to maintain than fiberglass boats. You have to really love them.
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Old 29-04-2014, 11:35   #5
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Re: Maintaining a timber boat

I have been building and maintaining wooden boats for 35 years now and have has three cruising sailboats and 4 power boats in my lifetime.
I have had all the beatings and scoffing from the naysayers that own fiberglass boats over the years.

Terra Nova is correct that it is more expensive to maintain a wood timber boat if that is all you calculate in to the expense. But you need to include all the factors involved.

The main thing with wood is, you need to learn how to repair it yourself if you are not wealthy already. The cost of paying a "shipwright" to replace planks or ribs is cost prohibitive to most people. And working with wood is something you should "love to do".
For me, because I have been doing it most of my life. replacing a plank or even a rib is no big deal. To others it could be a traumatic experience and thus the reason why a lot of wooden boats are abandoned at in the marina boat yard.

I would agree with Ann, that if you do not have the experience already, then going through a wooden boat building school would be a great way to begin your wood timber built boat ownership.

Also it is very essential that you learn how to inspect a wooden boat if you are going to purchase one, an understand how much it will take to repair or restore it.
Many people that sell wood boats that need any repair is because they are tired of trying to keep up with the maintenance, and thus have neglected it and even though it may look fine on the surface, usually if you start digging, you will find surprises.
I have purchased many older wooden boats that always had more repairs needed then what the owner thought. Either they were trying to hide issues, or were just not aware of them.

And then you have owners that try and go cheap on the repairs and make the boat in worse shape than it was before they got started. When taking out previous repairs on wooden boats. I have found bondo, drywall Spackle, duct tape covered up with putty, press-board, fiberglass over planks and all sorts of material that send wooden boats to the crusher if not caught in time.

On the otherhand, do not listen to a person that may have much experience with fiberglass but have never owned a wooden boat. They just do not understand the concept of repairs or the benefits (Which are plenty) of owning a wooden boat.

I can honestly say that over all, including the cost of purchase, I have not spent any more money on my wooden boats as my friends have on their fiberglass boats. Mainly because I purchase them cheap, and do all my own repairs.

Wooden boat ownership can be the most rewarding and fulfilling lifestyle you can live and possibly save a classic that would otherwise eventually go to the crusher.
I have saved plenty
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Old 29-04-2014, 16:59   #6
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Re: Maintaining a Timber Boat

Here's one variable that will up the costs hugely: How much of the deck house is finished bright?

Most of us love the look of the well maintained timber yacht, with all her glossy varnish. But it is a huge lot of work to keep up. Example: The best looking varnish I ever saw was on a Palmer Johnson "gold plater" and it's exterior varnish (just the two 86 ft. toerails) was re-done every 6 wks. to 2 months.

I see the OP lives in Sydney, why not talk to the blokes at Noakes? I'm thinking if you have boat lust for a particular jewel-like woodie, they could give you an idea what it would cost for them to maintain it for you, what time intervals between jobs, and so on. Then perhaps you could get an idea how much extra work you would actually be letting yourself in for.

You also have to consider whether you would be satisfied with less than perfect paint on the hull. Our boat is western red cedar, strip plank, coated inside and out with epoxy and glass. So, we required paint on the topsides, which is an every 8-10 yrs. sort of maintenance. Our hull is very fair. People mistake it for grp all the time, because there's little visible timber. So we wanted a professional job. At that time it cost about $11,000 (AUD) to have it professionally prepared and spray painted. It was done at Bayview in Pittwater.

So what I'm trying to get at is that the boat might satisfy you with self rolled and tipped paint, but that is a personal, individual kind of thing. We don't have a feel for how meticulous you are as an owner, what would make you happy.

The poster above who said he was comfortable doing all his own work, I think made a very good point. Do you see yourself ever wanting to trust your life to a plank you, not a pro, installed? or frame? Because those jobs are high labour rate jobs. And it also depends on the type of timber construction, too.

Sorry, the OP's question, is for me, one with too many variables to take a serious go at.

Ann
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Old 29-04-2014, 17:37   #7
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Re: Maintaining a Timber Boat

Having had both, I found that the purchaes price of a wooden hull was about 50% of one built of GRP on a cost/foot basis. Our last boat was a 54 foot wooden hull DeFever trawler that we lived aboard for about 6 years. Because we were aboard 24/7 and cruised regularly, she had constant care which was considerably more intensive than a plastic fantastic. The feeling of accomplishment and pride in ownership was worth every minute and dollar we put into her, though. If you have the time and inclination and can do much of the work yourself, a timber vessel is very rewarding. However, if you are restricted to 3-4 weeks holiday a year and weekend cruising, you will find yourself spending almost every minute aboard on maintenance and have little time for sailing or driving the boat. Pick your poison... Phil
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Old 29-04-2014, 18:55   #8
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Re: Maintaining a Timber Boat

Yep, yep to all the above :thumbup:

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Old 29-04-2014, 19:48   #9
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Re: Maintaining a Timber Boat

Few casual yachtsmen have the courage, stamina and seemingly unlimited funds to properly care for a large timber vessel. Most owners are nearly crushed to death under the burden of ongoing maintenance and repair. Unless they just neglect its true needs.

Yachting builds strong character.
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Old 29-04-2014, 20:00   #10
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Re: Maintaining a Timber Boat

I've seen some nice wooden boats that look very tempting to get but unfortunately, funds are in short supply.

While I may not be able to get one myself, I do appreciate the work people put into theirs to keep them ship-shape. I'll just remain an admirer of them.
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Old 29-04-2014, 20:23   #11
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Re: Maintaining a Timber Boat

If I were to return to liveaboard status I would definitely consider a wood hulled boat. I've owned them when a liveaboard and the maintenance is easier if you are there every day. If there was ever a future where I would be away from the boat for more than a month I would not consider owning wood. Wood needs constant consistent maintainance. If you are not into that then don't consider wood.
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Old 29-04-2014, 20:41   #12
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Re: Maintaining a Timber Boat

Quote:
Originally Posted by SkiprJohn View Post
If I were to return to liveaboard status I would definitely consider a wood hulled boat. I've owned them when a liveaboard and the maintenance is easier if you are there every day. If there was ever a future where I would be away from the boat for more than a month I would not consider owning wood. Wood needs constant consistent maintainance. If you are not into that then don't consider wood.
SkipperJohn is absolutely correct... when we were gone to, say, visit family for a month or so, on our return we always found a couple of areas that needed attention immediately. The boat was moored in Mexico or San Diego so it wasn't inclement weather that was the issue, it was just that wooden vessels need constant maintenance. This isn't the case with GRP constructed boats in my experience. However, the upside of owning and living aboard a wooden boat, besides the honor of maintaining a masterpiece, is the quiet, easy motion underway and pure joy of constantly messin' around with boats. Phil
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Old 29-04-2014, 21:42   #13
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Re: Maintaining a Timber Boat

What happens when wooden boats are neglected, they deteriorate fairly quickly when moisture gets into the wood. I saved our schooner from certain death from the previous owner a year ago and when I stripped her down to the waterline she needed 20 frames and completely re-planked from about 1 foot below the waterline all the way up.
But this kind of work will either get you praise or cursing from bystanders hahaha. I could never afford it if I had to pay someone to do this

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Old 30-04-2014, 05:27   #14
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Re: Maintaining a Timber Boat

I would have to concur with the mainly positive comments so far.

The main points IMO are:

Do the maintenance yourself (learning curve can be intense).
Maintenance is best done little and often - never let it lapse.
Brightwork is best kept below.
Serious issues can be well hidden until it becomes very serious.

A point not yet mentioned is how much climate plays in the upkeep of a wooden boat. In general, the tropics are pretty tough on traditional timber construction as is hot dry summers and cold wet winters. Temperate climates are kinder. I would think Sydney would be reasonable on wood climate wise .

The timber species and construction methods also influence the maintenance requirements.

And at the risk of upsetting Ann, I don't consider an epoxy saturated wood boat to be a timber boat in the sense of maintenance requirements; before the arrows start flying, I also have an epoxy saturated plywood boat . Perhaps should also mention, previously owned a traditionally built carvel hull.
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Old 30-04-2014, 09:11   #15
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Re: Maintaining a Timber Boat

+1 Leightonyachts... you can be proud to have given new life to an old classic. Even though only you will know what you had to do to bring her back to her prior life as a floating princess, those of us who are enamoured with these old treasurers know what goes into their revival... cheers, Phil
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