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Old 03-21-2023, 08:42 PM   #1
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Oh My God Not A Wooden Boat

It seems the prevailing school of thought on this forum is that wooden boats are Iíll advised as they all rot, costs so much money to maintain and repair, and the final nail in the coffin is they are uninsurable. If these conditions were true Iíd have been washed out of the marine surveying business many many years ago. And of course all my boatyard associates and custom builders from coast to coast would have vanished or more likely never sprouted into the wooden boat world. Back in the 80ís a friend published book listing about 150 wooden boat builders coast to coast. In talking with him years later we both agreed that he missed lots and lots of builders in Maine and Nova Scotia, the Chesapeake, panhandle region of Florida and especially the South coast. Perhaps another 50 to 75 builders that werenít found or logged. Bottom line is that is a lot of full time wooden boat builders and Iím certain we can all agree they are building for buyers, no ?

When my office was in Marblehead I could leave in the morning for NH and Maine and drive from one wood boat shop to the next up to about North End Shipyard in Rockland. There are lots more further Downeast but it was time to go home. Next day there was the North Shore of MA from Manchester to Glouchester to Newburyport and probably a dozen boat shops and builders. If I drove South to the south Shore and Cape Cod and Rhode Island there were dozens of shops had crews to repair and maintain fine wooden yachts. Same in CT, NY, VT, NJ, VA, NC, SC all the way to the Keys. There are plenty on the South coast and a decent population from the Bay area to Seattle where the skills and crews have never left.

To those with limited or no experience they rest their opinions of wooden boats on scuttlebutt, or dock-talk usually offered up by a self proclaimed expert who preaches wood hulls are a defective concept and therefore nothing more than rot bombs with the fuse thatís lit once the hull splashes. Unfortunately the proof or examples of such thinking are almost always fifty to sixty year old production twin screw cabin cruisers or larger motor yachts that were built to economy scantlings, of less than optimal materials and for the forty years have been floating apartments. What Iíve just related is a dismal picture but often sad cause somebody often calls these vessels home and due to age, health and no retirement funds have no other option.

But the truth is that excellent wooden boats, those built to standards and lasting scantlings do indeed survive and have been sailing decades longer than any fiberglass boat. When a good builder has sound drawings, good timber and I mean species with some rot resistance, proper plank and frame construction with good fasteners, strong decks with drainage and interior layout with good ventilation a vessel of this type can certainly last fifty plus years with most maintenance being related to coatings, machinery and systems. But step it up and buy a wooden boat built by one of many exceptional builders and with todayís adhesives, preservatives and coatings Iíd venture to say seventy years or more . Compared to glass reinforced plastic, wood really is a superior building material. Itís much lighter so strength to weight ratio will outperform almost all conventionally built fiberglass hulls the exceptions being carbon and Kevlar epoxy lay ups and heavily cored sandwich construction. Iíve not mention cold molding wood hulls with select wood veneers or laminars in epoxy. Much much lighter and stronger.

So with hundreds of wooden boat builders or shipwrights and carpenters there is obviously has to be some work for them. And nice wooden boats are not cheap so am I to believe some posters here they canít be insured or financed ? I find that incredulous donít you ? As a surveyor I can attest to the fact that there are lots of insurance underwriters who will insure good wood boats and banks who finance them. Of course a lot of this depends on the pedigree of the institutions and companies your doing business with. Right now most of the big blanket low cost insurance companies canít even pay or find in-house help that knows a ketch from a ferry boat let alone somebody who can decipher a real wooden boat survey.

So youíve got a fiberglass Taiwanese trawler and not to worry ó life is good no wood ?

Rick
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Old 03-21-2023, 09:15 PM   #2
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Good to hear an informed view based on real experience. One suspected all along that, as with any issue where there are extreme views, the answer lies somewhere in between. Especially as wood has been the mainstay of any vessel construction since biblical times and before..?

I guess all the paranoia about timber boats arises in our neck of the woods because most buying a timber boat nowadays will for sure be buying an old one - not newly built - and often one that has been through a considerable number of previous owners, with dubious maintenance often what has done the damage - not the actual material it was built of per se..? But yes, Garbler, points taken...
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Old 03-21-2023, 09:37 PM   #3
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Rick,

Maybe you're not considering your audience here. Most here aren't buying new and for what most will be spending on used in their size range, the wooden boat isn't going to be in stellar condition.

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Old 03-21-2023, 09:46 PM   #4
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Rick,

Maybe you're not considering your audience here. Most here aren't buying new and for what most will be spending on used in their size range, the wooden boat isn't going to be in stellar condition.

Ted
I appreciate your view on this but I think I have a grasp of this crew. What I canít understand are the constantly derogatory statements by people who honestly donít have a clue. If I could load a buss full of these crusaders Iíd turn them around in a day of boatyard boat shop visitations.

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Old 03-21-2023, 09:48 PM   #5
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The 80’s were 40 years ago.
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Old 03-21-2023, 10:20 PM   #6
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Rick, thank you for writing that thread. I know everything you have said to be true and love a good wooden boat but my last purchase was a fiberglass boat. I am through with wooden boats. I do not have the energy to fight your fight anymore.
What I have found out is that perception has more to do with reality than does the truth. The trend of everything continues. More specialists and fewer craftsman. More people whom do not understand wooden boats. Everything from dockage to resale values are suffering as a result.

Let's put the Chris Crafts, Owens and Pacemakers aside. I am seeing more quality wooden boats that are in deplorable conditions. Not because of general care or build quality either. What I am seeing is more idiots doing work on them and installing things that literally destroy the boats from within. In the rust belt it is difficult to find good wooden boats that have not had work done by a CFM (Complete Frigin Moron).

I gave up with the last wooden boat that I worked on. A few year previous the boat had been in great shape and fast. A 65' with a 16' beam of carvel plank western red cedar over double bent oak frames and sawn floor of all silicon bronze fasteners with twin full blown Detroit 12-71's. A flush deck with pilot house and a beautiful traditional layout below. I was asked about replacing a few deck boards and a few roof leaks.
So, what improvements were made a few years before? The boat was insulated with fiberglass insulation and a heating system installed without even a vapor barrier. From waist high up the boat was literally rotted from the inside out behind their nice wall and ceiling coverings. The news did not go over well and the gentleman offered me the boat for free and I turned it down. It was then I knew that I was done fighting the good fight. I have lost my passion for working on them. I want to enjoy the lifestyle boat bring instead of make them works of art. Years ago I never would have guessed that I would get to this point in my thinking. My apologies if this offends you.
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Old 03-21-2023, 10:34 PM   #7
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I also posted this on the Advice needed thread. There are 2 thread’s going on about this right now. I absolutely agree with the above post by Pierre. And that was my intent on posting originally about checking on being able to get insurance and a slip.


Rick,

I take your word for it that you are an expert in wooden boats. However almost all the people here are not based on what they post. When someone comes here and asks advice on buying a large old wooden boat that is listed for a relatively small price, you have to assume that they too are not an expert in wooden boats. So when they ask advice on how to proceed the best advice is to tread very cautiously. Like make sure you can get insurance, make sure you can find a place to dock it, make sure you can find a yard that is willing to haul it. That isn’t being a wooden boat hater, so to speak, but just trying to make the OP aware of some of the negatives that come with a big, old wooden boat. Many people see a big boat that fits their budget and not understanding that the purchase price will eventually end up being a small part of the cost of owning this big, old wooden boat. The problem is that they most likely don’t know that the eventual cost will be enormous. Then they will maybe put the boat up at a fire sale price and pass it on to another unsuspecting buyer. What do you think the boat that Peter (Weebles) showed photos of and posted about will cost to put in running condition? Even at the lower costs of Mexican labor the cost will be staggering. Most people looking at a $40K big old wooden boat won’t have pockets deep enough to do it. So please temper your love for wooden boats with a bit of caution for the newbie boat owner and maybe help steer them away from a potential personal disaster.
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Old 03-21-2023, 10:54 PM   #8
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I also posted this on the Advice needed thread. There are 2 threadís going on about this right now. I absolutely agree with the above post by Pierre. And that was my intent on posting originally about checking on being able to get insurance and a slip.


Rick,

I take your word for it that you are an expert in wooden boats. However almost all the people here are not based on what they post. When someone comes here and asks advice on buying a large old wooden boat that is listed for a relatively small price, you have to assume that they too are not an expert in wooden boats. So when they ask advice on how to proceed the best advice is to tread very cautiously. Like make sure you can get insurance, make sure you can find a place to dock it, make sure you can find a yard that is willing to haul it. That isnít being a wooden boat hater, so to speak, but just trying to make the OP aware of some of the negatives that come with a big, old wooden boat. Many people see a big boat that fits their budget and not understanding that the purchase price will eventually end up being a small part of the cost of owning this big, old wooden boat. The problem is that they most likely donít know that the eventual cost will be enormous. Then they will maybe put the boat up at a fire sale price and pass it on to another unsuspecting buyer. What do you think the boat that Peter (Weebles) showed photos of and posted about will cost to put in running condition? Even at the lower costs of Mexican labor the cost will be staggering. Most people looking at a $40K big old wooden boat wonít have pockets deep enough to do it. So please temper your love for wooden boats with a bit of caution for the newbie boat owner and maybe help steer them away from a potential personal disaster.
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Old 03-21-2023, 11:23 PM   #9
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garbler, thank you for your post on the topic. wood boat bias will never be changed.
Boats wood or plastic if not cared for will rot away. I have no problem getting insurance on my woody GB, maybe it is my track record with insurance, I don't know. There is quite a few wood boats in my area. But it is not just a wood boat people speak against, it is also the wood accents, hand rails, teak decks. It is the work involved with wood that creates the bias. Plastic boats can go years neglected and then be cut waxed to new condition. And that is acceptable.
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Old 03-21-2023, 11:36 PM   #10
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[QUOTE=Comodave;1162293]I also posted this on the Advice needed thread. There are 2 threadís going on about this right now. I absolutely agree with the above post by Pierre. And that was my intent on posting originally about checking on being able to get insurance and a slip.


Dave

Thank you for writing this.
I have had two wooden boats and have had the same issues. It is just not worth the problems.
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Old 03-22-2023, 12:03 AM   #11
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I understand that some people absolutely love wooden boats but my point is that newbies buying boats see an inexpensive big boat and jump into the deal without full knowledge what they are getting into. People here are trying to raise their awareness so they donít get into a money pit.
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Old 03-22-2023, 12:20 AM   #12
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I understand that some people absolutely love wooden boats but my point is that newbies buying boats see an inexpensive big boat and jump into the deal without full knowledge what they are getting into. People here are trying to raise their awareness so they donít get into a money pit.
Dave, I question why there are so many newb posts on this topic. But it does keep the banter going and that serves well for the forum.
Yet I never see anyone offer alternate plastic boats at the same price the newb has budgeted for a purchase.
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Old 03-22-2023, 12:45 AM   #13
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I think, IMO, that it is because you can get a much larger woodie for the same price as a smaller glass boat. Maybe people get a dream of having a big boat and maybe donít realize what the implications of a big, older and lower priced wooden boat. Add big, older and low price wooden boat and it implies that something has to give. There are older big wooden boats out there, but just not at this price point.
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Old 03-22-2023, 12:47 AM   #14
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But the truth is that excellent wooden boats, those built to standards and lasting scantlings do indeed survive and have been sailing decades longer than any fiberglass boat.

....
Compared to glass reinforced plastic, wood really is a superior building material. Itís much lighter so strength to weight ratio will outperform almost all conventionally built fiberglass hulls the exceptions being carbon and Kevlar epoxy lay ups and heavily cored sandwich construction. Iíve not mention cold molding wood hulls with select wood veneers or laminars in epoxy. Much much lighter and stronger.
The very first fiberglass boats ever built are mostly still floating. Not so true of the very first wood boats, or in fact most wood boats built when the first fiberglass boats were built. Sure you can build a nice wood boat, but it will require far more maintenance than a fiberglass boat over an equal lifespan. Nothing wrong with maintenance, if that is what you enjoy doing.

On the second point, that is pretty dated information. There is a reason racing boats, even casual racing boats, are built of composite these days, not wood. Expense and maintenance isn't a concern at least in high end racing no matter the material. Same with aircraft where weight and strength are paramount. Not done in wood for a long time now.

You can like wood boats for what they are, but don't oversell them on what they aren't. They are not low maintenance.
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Old 03-22-2023, 12:54 AM   #15
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" Next day there was the North Shore of MA from Manchester to Gloucester to Newburyport and probably a dozen boat shops and builders. If I drove South to the south Shore and Cape Cod and Rhode Island there were dozens of shops had crews to repair and maintain fine wooden yachts."

That may have true in 1980.

In 2023 there are 4 small yards in MA specializing in wooden boat restorations. Times change. Boats and craftsmen age. If you have the resources to engage a specialty yard to restore your boat, then a wood boat might be a good choice for you. I expect most of the work will be time and materials.

Personally I don't want to spend my summers repairing cracked ribs or caulking seams. Been there done that. I'd rather be out on the water.
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Old 03-22-2023, 12:58 AM   #16
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Yachtworld has a number of plastic boats in the price range and length listed.
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Old 03-22-2023, 04:10 AM   #17
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Yachtworld has a number of plastic boats in the price range and length listed.
I find it interesting that your choice of construction material is "plastic" when ,while plastic is absolutely a correct description, the more conventional term is fibreglass. I have to wonder if the fact that you have a cellulose boat on the market is the reason...
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Old 03-22-2023, 04:32 AM   #18
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..... wood hulls are a defective concept and therefore nothing more than rot bombs with the fuse thatís lit once the hull splashes.
Excellent! Exactly right. I'd only add that all boats want to succumb to gravity and sink. Wood boats are more adept and creative at accomplishing the goal!

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When a good builder has sound drawings, good timber and I mean species with some rot resistance, proper plank and frame construction with good fasteners, strong decks with drainage and interior layout with good ventilation a vessel of this type can certainly last fifty plus years with most maintenance being related to coatings, machinery and systems.
Rick, you're setting up a Paper Tiger argument here. No one said wooden boats are inherrently bad. What they have said is there are a lot more ways for them to sink than a plastic one, which the above quote bears out - a lot has to go right. When someone asks about a 1960's era wood Grand Banks, it's invariably because it's a fraction of the price of a fiberglass one - they think they've found a secret way to get the boat they want for a bargain. As a surveyor - a buyers advocate, I would think you'd be leading the conversation about cautions.

I am disappointed that you characterize anyone who disagrees with you as some form of inexperienced or ignorant dockside gossip-monger. Probably unintended, but comes across a bit condescending. You are welcome to your opinion of course. But so are others. Several past wood-boat owners have expressed they are in the 'never again' camp - how do you categorize them?

I would think that a self-proclaimed surveyor who purports to have deep subject matter experience in New England, Florida, Seattle, California, and even some of the Asian yards would give a well-rounded view of the pluses and minuses of each type of construction. To say there is a robust wood boat building industry with skilled and knowledgeable boatwights in every corner of the country is dated - sure there are small pockets. But it's a niche market these days.

You need to turn the page here Rick. About 40-years of [calendar] pages....

Peter
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Old 03-22-2023, 04:39 AM   #19
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There are still a few wood boat building schools around-usually paired with museums. I think I came across one in Gig Harbor and the there is one in Kingston NY.
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Old 03-22-2023, 04:45 AM   #20
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There are still a few wood boat building schools around-usually paired with museums. I think I came across one in Gig Harbor and the there is one in Kingston NY.
Yep. I was at Mystic 20-years ago when they were building a replica of the Amistad. Really cool. I was at St Augustine FL last year and they had a tiny school connected to the Spanish Fort there which was also very interesting. Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco also has an active small-boat building site. But this is not an industry, it's a hobby and/or special interest. Super cool, but not exactly a boat-building industry. But maybe those are included in the storied yard-counts the OP mentioned. I dunno.

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