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Old 11-06-2015, 09:12 PM   #1
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Wood planked hulls

Ok let me have it . I want to here the pros and cons on wood ( carvel planked ) hulls . I know a lot depends on present condition .
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Old 11-06-2015, 09:19 PM   #2
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Rot. eventually, but unavoidably.
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Old 11-06-2015, 09:36 PM   #3
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There are no cons to you owning one Marty only pro's. For me owning one the cons are monstrous and insurmountable.
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Old 11-06-2015, 10:42 PM   #4
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I have some experience with this since my 1936 boat is carvel planked and my 36 footer is fiberglass. Rot is always a problem on a wooden boat. However, planks below the waterline in salt water do not rot. Above the waterline most rot is caused by deck leaks. If your decks are tight you will have minimal rot.

As far as leaking goes, all carvel planked boats leak when they have been out of the water for a while. Once they are in the water, the planks swell and, if the boat is sound, the leaking stops. For example,after a winter ashore my boat leaks when launched. Immediately after launch my bilge pump cycles once every 3-4 minutes. The cycle rate slows down quickly though so that after 4-5 hours in the water the pumps are only coming on maybe once every 40 minutes. When my boat is fully swelled up the pumps come on for7-8 seconds every eight hours. My boat has quite a lot of 79 year old planking below the waterline,which is sound.

Maintenance is factor with a wooden boat. You will need to recaulk the boat periodically. The time frame ranges from about 10 years to 20+ years. Other than that you want to keep on top of deck leaks (fix them immediately) because fresh water causes rot. Also you should keep the seam putty below the waterline in good shape. That is simple, just use a putty knife to apply new putty if a chunk falls out. Beyond that hull maintenance depends on your skills. Replacing a plank isn't actually hard. I can replace a plank in about 4 hours. Routine maintenance includes painting the topsides. If you want the boat to stay looking great, you should paint the topsides annually. That is a 1-2 day job on my 33' boat. I use Petit easypoxy and the result is quite nice.

Cons - A wooden boat isn't as tough as a glass boat. Pounding through big seas is hard on a wood boat. Even the toughest boats will work a little and will leak more after dealing with rough conditions. Also, if you hit something, you can break a plank which is a definite emergency. I carry pieces of plywood to nail over potential punctures, but you have to be fast to do that and the boat will leak badly until you get it hauled out. I have three bilge pumps with independent float switches. Two are 1500 gph pumps and the third is 8000 gph rated. My big pump is located above the other two so it doesn't come on unless the other two aren't keeping up. It has never come on except in tests. A wooden boat can be difficult to insure and some marinas don't like them. Wooden boats can also be hard to sell and unless they are true classics, they won't sell for much. Most people view a wooden boat as a huge maintenance night mare. However, I spend about the same amount of time maintaining my glass boat as I do my woody. The tasks are different though.

Pluses - I think wood boats are quieter than glass boats. Wood is also a better insulator than glass. Wood boats can be repaired easily by anyone with decent wood working skills. Materials for the repairs are pretty cheap. Finally, wood boats have their own community. If you have a woody, your are instant friends with all the other wooden boat owners, bot pleasure and commercial.

Things to look for in buying a wooden boat. First make sure you get a wooden boat surveyor. I wouldn't buy a boat that wasn't silicon bronze fastened. Check the systems, particularly on an older boat. Some old systems really should never have been used on a boat. If the boat is sound and surveys well, there isn't really much to fear.
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Old 11-06-2015, 11:30 PM   #5
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Most planks are easy to duplicate and replace when needed if you can find suitable wood. Vertical grain is necessary, expensive and scarce. One could use Mahogany to substitute for Douglas fir or redwood to sub for cedar.

But more skills and knowledge would be necessary to replace planks alongside the keel or chines. And of course replacing a part of the stem or keel would likely get even more complicated and finding someone else to do the work is getting really difficult now. Most planks that need replacement are at the water line or on the sheerline.
When you're looking to buy a boat have a preference for boats that have lived in sea water .. not fresh. Salt is a preservative for wood but also consider that salt corrodes fasteners.

Marty you must be still thinking about that monster GB trawler. What do you know about her condition? Have you got a person availible to you that really knows wood boats? Has the boat been surveyed reciently whereas yo have access to the details?

I still think that boat is so big it would be a nightmare for you. It's probably cheap on the market because people that could afford the maintenance would have enough money to buy a much newer boat. If you want a woodie get a 32' GB or something similar. There is one on our float listed for $24'000. It's said her engine is good and otherwise she dosn't look bad. Just an example. There's also a 1937 ChrisCraft w twin Yanmars for $19,000. It dosn't look bad either. People are scared to death of wood boats and they're dirt cheap. So if you bought that old GB you'd never get anything for her when you sell. The guy w the old Chris w the Yanmars will loose a ton of money assuming he put in the Yanmars.

Back to your question. The carvel boats have an advantage in that usually only small pices of the boat will need wood replaced at any given time. So the work comes in relatively small job sizes. Unless a boat is neglected over a long time. There could be an OMG situation if an entire keel needed to me replaced. But except that there is the fastener issue. Even that can be done over several years time probably depending on fastener condition. The carvel wood boat is held together w hundreds or thousands of fasteners. Quality wood boats have Monel screws and bolts. Galvanized can be substituted I think .. but aren't sure. But several hundred Monel screws will be very expensive ..... if you can find monel screws.

I've just been rambling and there could be an error or two but the essence is there. I'd like to see you looking at smaller boats and have a really good wood boat person to evaluate what you find.

Then there's the insurance and other pitfalls of wood boats in this industry that is basically ignorant of wood boats. Some marina's won't even put a wood boat on their travelift.

But if you kept saying as you read this "I can do that I can do that" if you have a fair idea of the mony involved and have said money ..... perhaps a wood boat is for you. But like a plastic boat or any other boat knowing the condition of the boat is paramount.
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Old 11-07-2015, 01:15 AM   #6
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My last two vessels were both timber / wooden boats. The last was a 50 foot bridge deck cruiser.
One of the biggest advantages is at Anchor. You do not hear anything on the side of the hull , especially with the round type bilge. It can be blowing 20 knots and you will not have any hull Noise. Our planks were 1 and 1/2 inch thick and our ribs were 2 inch by 1 1/4 at 8 inch centres , she was heavily built .

Ventilation is a must to maintain a timber vessel in good nick. And stoping any freshwater leaks in decks cabins etc.

We enjoyed ours , but the cabin sides were varnished teak , so up keep was on the high side.

Like all things methods and technology have made great improvements to Boat Building , but will a Hatteras be around in 70 or 80 years , this is a good question. I don't have the answer.
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Old 11-07-2015, 06:34 AM   #7
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The wooden boat will last as long as any boat BUT the maint must be perfect.

A plastic boat can leak like crazy and not dissolve.

A woody needs to have perfect paint and seals to keep it dry inside at all times.

See a drip? it needs to be fixed NOW , not sometime.

Internal ventilation of the hull can not be compromised.

Some concepts like an unvented propane or kerosene heater are a no no.
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Old 11-07-2015, 08:41 AM   #8
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Today few boat yards know how to haul and work on wood boats.. A great old woody sank not long ago because the yard launched it and didn't know enough to keep watch on leaks. Another hull was broken by jack stands.


Old wood boats may be very fragile.


I miss wood boats in boat yards today. Years ago all boatyards had a pleasant non chemical smell.


The smell of old boats slowly returning to the earth.
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Old 11-07-2015, 08:53 AM   #9
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Thanks for all your helpful comments . We are not on a quest for a WOOD boat . We are wanting some more indoor living space and maintain at least half the outside covered space we have now . It's a tuff combination when you add a boat with some character and no flybbridge without getting over forty feet . A pilgrim 40 hits everything we are looking for but they don't come on the market very often and hardly never on our waterway .
As much as I hate to admit it we are at the dock most of time working on the boat . It's what we like to do . We've added a bunch of wood to William and still are . I guess it's because it's the one thing we can do . I have enough projects left on William to last a while but it would be nice to have more comfort during the process .
Eric we spent a couple hours on the GB Alaskan last weekend and yes it has some normal wood boat issues . Not sure where this is going to go , maybe nowhere but thanks again .
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Old 11-07-2015, 09:50 AM   #10
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I've owned an old classic woodie, maintained another for years and repaired quite a few.

I agree with most of what the other's have said above.

I disagree that wood won't rot below the waterline in salt water. Simply not true. The wood will fail faster and more often from fresh water. But it does rot in salt water.

I also caution against Grand Banks woodies and Chris Craft woodies. In my opinion and after having worked on quite a few they are lightly built and not well built. Escpecially the Chris Crafts. Sure the joinery is beautiful, I'm talking about planking and framing. If you want a woodie take your time and learn the local boat building history. Lean which yards had a rep for good boat. Not just beautiful joinery, good solid, long lasting construction. The bones of the boat. Search out boats built by those yards, carvel planked, bronze fastened. Planks and frames as heavy as you can find. They're rare but they're out there.

In general avoid old wooden work boat conversions. They've mostly been "rode hard and put away wet".

As mentioned get a good wooden boat surveyor. A suggestion is find a good local well respected wood boat shipwright. There are very few left, and hire him to take a look and tell you what repairs the boat needs. Do not use the word survey, he'll run and hide. In a very short amount of time, far cheaper than a survey, you will know if the boat is worth surveying.

Unless you are fabulously wealthy bringing an old woodie back to life is a bank account killer. I learned that lesson personally the hard way.

If the boat is right for you and you are the right kind of boat owner there is nothing better than wood. Nothing. They have a beauty that fiberglass with wood joinery will never equal.

One final comment. If you want a varnished classic in all glorious beauty be prepared to spend a lot of time and money on the brightwork. It it's worth to you, then go ahead. I prefer painted finishes, easier to touch up and keep up.
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Old 04-30-2016, 04:11 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Portage_Bay View Post
I've owned an old classic woodie, maintained another for years and repaired quite a few.

I agree with most of what the other's have said above.

I disagree that wood won't rot below the waterline in salt water. Simply not true. The wood will fail faster and more often from fresh water. But it does rot in salt water.

I also caution against Grand Banks woodies and Chris Craft woodies. In my opinion and after having worked on quite a few they are lightly built and not well built. ..................
I know this is an old post but I just have to say I think this may be the first time I have read someone saying the Grand Banks are not well built.
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Old 04-30-2016, 06:59 AM   #12
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I know this is an old post but I just have to say I think this may be the first time I have read someone saying the Grand Banks are not well built.
My take is Portage is saying the GB woodies were not as well put together as the expensive art and science of the sixties and seventies would allow. Wood yachts of that era quickly died out for a reason or five. I know, I owned one
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Old 04-30-2016, 07:28 AM   #13
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I have had my GB woody coming up on two years from a PO that had her 40 years. One great benefit we have is the PO allows any question anytime which was the most valuable part of the purchase. She's had had very typical repairs but nothing out of the ordinary.

We recently replaced all through hulls as requested by the insurance company. There was nothing wrong with the valves but they were not recognized by today's standards. She surveyed out in "GOOD" condition for the entire vessel.

Our first year we have learned quite a bit and has others have said making small repairs on the top sides keeps things happy everywhere on board. We are having a great time and would not have it any other way.

Jerry Land
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Hull #28

Jim & Linda
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Old 04-30-2016, 08:15 AM   #14
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Lots of very good guidance above [except for the comment on chris craft construction maybe?].
Rule #1 get a reputable ''wood boat'' surveyor.
Don't buy a project boat. Buy the boat that was someones baby and that has been well cared for over the long haul.
Beware of the wood boat that has been only owned for a few seasons & ''restored by owner'' end then put up for sale again.
If possible find a covered slip it is worth the extra money when it comes to reducing maintenance.
I am in the process of buying a 1982 PT38 Cheer Men fiberglass trawler since I couldn't find a good wood trawler that fits the criteria above. I have no expectation that the maintenance on this glass trawler will be less than I had on the 1963 Chris Craft Constellation we sold. Case in point, with a wood hull you paint every five years and have a great shine. With glass hulls you spend every spring waxing and few 30+ year old boats polish up with a shine like a good coat of marine enamel. Chris Craft had varnished mahogany trim and a varnished transom, all of which if kept maintained is remarkably durable. All it took was a light sanding and one fresh maintenance coat per year. The glass trawler has teak trim, teak rails & teak decks etc., I know that the teak will be more work than the mahogany was.
Finally, we sold our Chris for close to our asking price and it was on the market for less than 1.5yrs which is better than many folks trying to sell newer glass gas powered cruisers the same size, so do not think if you buy a wood boat you'll have to give it away someday.
Buy the best one you can find and keep her that way - enjoy.
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Old 04-30-2016, 10:18 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by mplangley;
I know this is an old post but ....
An interesting and timely resurrection of an old thread. Thanks mp.
Had a broker at the show try extremely hard to talk me into a woodie. I'm sure he sensed I had little knowledge and was circling, drooling, dreaming of a new BMW. He fought hard to down play "any negatives you might have heard about wooden boats."
How long on the market?
Don't know, we just listed it.
Ever surveyed?
Don't know, we just listed it and...do da do da.

Then I talked to a broker that was not only a classic lover but knew the history of the other boat, above. He loved talking wood boats and pretty much said what has been written in the prior posts. Also explained why the woodie above had been on the market for nearly 5 years.

Knowledge rules
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Old 04-30-2016, 10:47 AM   #16
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For any here that have lived in the Era of wooden (when marinas had 20 wooden for every glass hull...well maybe 30...).....and worked on them enough to know the good, bad and ugly about them.....

Most will have a love, hate for them.

As someone in the rescue and salvage business for around 35 years....it only cemented that love, hate and ownership of a glass boat.

Cold molding is not planked and a different animal. Modern done correctly, and I would say nothing against it anymore than any other materal.

I would also say, modern planked boats may have certain improvements over yesteryear.....but the typical production boat from those years is lucky to even still be floating. Someone did a lot of things right for a long time....and that may have left a fine vessel for someone...but if at any point neglect was the program....all I will say is...good luck with her.
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Old 04-30-2016, 11:13 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Portage_Bay View Post
I've owned an old classic woodie, maintained another for years and repaired quite a few.

I agree with most of what the other's have said above.

I disagree that wood won't rot below the waterline in salt water. Simply not true. The wood will fail faster and more often from fresh water. But it does rot in salt water.

I also caution against Grand Banks woodies and Chris Craft woodies. In my opinion and after having worked on quite a few they are lightly built and not well built. Escpecially the Chris Crafts. Sure the joinery is beautiful, I'm talking about planking and framing. If you want a woodie take your time and learn the local boat building history. Lean which yards had a rep for good boat. Not just beautiful joinery, good solid, long lasting construction. The bones of the boat. Search out boats built by those yards, carvel planked, bronze fastened. Planks and frames as heavy as you can find. They're rare but they're out there.

In general avoid old wooden work boat conversions. They've mostly been "rode hard and put away wet".

As mentioned get a good wooden boat surveyor. A suggestion is find a good local well respected wood boat shipwright. There are very few left, and hire him to take a look and tell you what repairs the boat needs. Do not use the word survey, he'll run and hide. In a very short amount of time, far cheaper than a survey, you will know if the boat is worth surveying.

Unless you are fabulously wealthy bringing an old woodie back to life is a bank account killer. I learned that lesson personally the hard way.

If the boat is right for you and you are the right kind of boat owner there is nothing better than wood. Nothing. They have a beauty that fiberglass with wood joinery will never equal.

One final comment. If you want a varnished classic in all glorious beauty be prepared to spend a lot of time and money on the brightwork. It it's worth to you, then go ahead. I prefer painted finishes, easier to touch up and keep up.

As Walt says ..... "Can't agree more".

In the PNW getting a Vic Frank or a boat built by another one of the very highly respected yards is probably very good advice. Re the quality of GB and CC if you think about it they were cookie cutter boats punched out as fast as people would buy them.

And re the Asian built boats they knew their local woods and methods but were quite isolated from the mainstream of the boat building industry around the world. It was probably a +- situation as they (the Asian men, women and families) that built the boats took the time to do boat building w methods that would be too time consuming in the western world of boat building. So I think it's a mix. Some aspects of building and materials of very high quality and other aspects lacking. They say if you want to become a very fine artist you must go and learn among other artists. Usually at a learning institution like a college or university. You must read a great deal written by others w varying ideas and methods. Without this input from others your knowledge and skills will be limited.
Boat building is science and technology as well as art. If you're not part of the great pool of science and tech you will be unaware of some of the best knowledge and methods available re building boats.
Re the GB's I'm not familiar enough w them and don't know enough about fine boat building to know if a GB is lacking in quality. But the elements for not being the best they can be is indeed present.
But w the US built boats like CC most of the lacking quality will probably be related to production costs. Like my Willard the boats were built to a price and shortcuts in methods and materials are made in any product addressed to a specific market. I think CC's were built almost entirely out of Philippine Mahogany. The best Mahoganys were far too expensive for production boats. And the cost of labor was almost as dear as it is now so a production boat built to a price will always be of average quality or less.
Richardson, Owens, Mathews and many other boats of the time could be or were of a higher quality than CC.
The best boats are always custom built.
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Old 04-30-2016, 11:29 AM   #18
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A little thread drift here, but not much. The following link will take you to a beautifully photographed movie that was fascinating to watch. The whole movie was about one guy replacing a plank on a large wooden boat. No words are spoken. The sound of the tools say everything needed to be said.
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Old 04-30-2016, 11:38 AM   #19
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I have had my GB woody coming up on two years from a PO that had her 40 years. Jerry Land
GB Alaskan 46 Hull #28 Jim & Linda
For the 40 years was the vessel hauled every winter and cover stored? In the NE and Great Lakes hauling and dry storing every winter for 6 to 8 months is quite an advantage vs warmer climes where immersion occurs year around.
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Old 04-30-2016, 12:40 PM   #20
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Many custom boats in the NJ were clinker built plywood with copper nails and washers.

They suffered the worst from neglect, but tolerated the annual hauling better than solid planked boats and we much cheaper and faster to build than Carvel planked boats. They were also faster as they were lighter.

Many skiff designs, but others as well.
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