Tell Me About Wood Boat Maintenance

The friendliest place on the web for anyone who enjoys boating.
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.
"FG boats like rotten stringers, failed decks and cabins from mushy bulsa cores, blisters, gelcoat issues and excessive weight."

Money talks , all of the GRP problems listed come from the boat builder assembler choosing a low buck build.

Foam core or glass stringers do not rot.

Balsa core is 1/4 the cost or less of good foam which does nor rot.

Gelcoat problems are a production lack of skill/ cheap procedure problem.

For 3 decades the better euro boats are painted , not gel coated.

After the '73 War blisters became a problem , as usual cured with money for better resin.

GRP is almost forever , but it too needs to be done correctly, and not as low buck as possible!

We have found many fiberglass boats but keep falling in love with the look feel and ride of the woodies.

If there is a cure for this ailment we sure are interested in finding it:)
It sounds like your are going to have to "scratch that itch"!

I owned a 32' Monk for 10 years (the site that I created 10 years ago when I sold it is still up). Moored in fresh water and kept under cover its entire life, I still had a couple of major rot projects come up - replacing the splined planks in the cabin side (which I did myself) and replacing the entire transom (hired a professional, spent the approximate $10K original cost of the boat). And I heard that the subsequent buyer ended up doing some frames a few years later and spent almost that amount again.

With my experience (and extensive second-hand experience), I would suggest restricting your search to a boat in great condition to start with, and spending as much as it takes to keep it that way - including covered moorage, custom covers, etc. Anything short of that, and you're not likely to be able to push that boulder up the mountain.
As I said Fred.....A marketable product needs to compete w all the other builders and most all are probably using the same cheap methods for the same reason. It's just too easy to build the boat cheap and sell lots. All products are built to a price and need to survive in the marketplace but to be honest I really do'nt know what's being built out there now ..quality wise. But if somebody was to tell me most all of them are top quality boats I'd be very skeptical.
Sounds like you got bit by fresh water rot. Most all boats in saltwater last much longer than in fresh (especially those made of Douglas Fir). But all boats basically are subject to fresh water rot in the decks and cabin. In covered moorage most people rent a slip the same length as their boat ...not good. The rain water, whenever there is a wind. often, blows the rain in on the boat ..... most often into the stern cockpit. But enough of this rot. Please tell us about your beautiful boat. Looks like the mother of all trawlers. Post the avatar pic so we can see it big.
Most all boats in saltwater last much longer than in fresh...
IMHO it's hard to make accurate general statements about boats, wooden boats in particular. While salt water can be a preservative for wood, so can (cold) fresh water - there's an underwater forest in Lake Washington about a mile from my house that is amazing, and recovering sunken logs from BC mountain lakes is a very viable business.

And while saltwater may help preserve wood, it is nothing but trouble for: metal fastenings, electrical wiring and components, paint and varnish finishes, fact, damn near everything else.

In higher lattitudes the effects are somewhat reduced - lower temps, lower salinity, less sun (both duration and intensity) - but I would still do whatever I could to keep the boat out of the elements. Perhaps the best place to moor a wooden boat (in the water, year around) would be a boathouse on a brackish river inlet.

Please tell us about your beautiful boat. Looks like the mother of all trawlers. Post the avatar pic so we can see it big.
You can see a larger version of the avatar photo on, and enter my avatar name. I've been around the trawler lists for a logn time, but the past few years I've been distracted by a series of smaller boats (Arima, Osprey, C-Dory) that I had in the San Juans to get to our cabin. Since the cabin sold on Friday, I'm back to my main (and only!) boat. It's a 44', 30 ton, ferro-cement trawler built (reportedly) by the yard manager of the Samson Marine plant in Tacoma, who died soon after its completion. A lady doctor lived on it in Des Moines, then I bought it about 10 years ago. I did a few projects on it before the distractions, and right now I'm in the early stages of updating the interior.

One of the benefits of substantial displacement is the option to add heavy things without upsetting the trim - that's a Nautica 13.5 WideBody with a Yamaha F50 Hi Thrust hanging off the stern. ;)
It's just too easy to build the boat cheap and sell lots

True in the small boat market , but in bigger boats the typical Bayliner .purchaser would never consider a Hateris or Nordhaven.

To sell product with in the selected market is the goal.

RR vs Chevy , no competition exists.

Wooden boats if you love them take no more maintenance than others , it's all about the love and also you gotta know what you are doing.
OK you have to haul out at least every 12 months to check for worms, once you get the painting right it stays on for a good while, depending upon the timber, with hardwood boats in Aus (think spotted gum, blue gum etc) a good paint job will last 3/5 years, soft wood boats , can be two packed and the paint job lasts for 7/10 years, the soft wood boats the planks don't move as much and can also be splined so that they are smooth as a babys bum.
The joy of a wooden boat is in the care and workmanship.:dance::dance:

Attached are a couple of photos during a complete repaint about 6 years ago, only touch ups since then but needs another good sand and paint this June.


  • DSC00009.jpg
    77.6 KB · Views: 99
  • Primer 2 coats.jpg
    Primer 2 coats.jpg
    163.1 KB · Views: 92
  • DSC00006.jpg
    97.4 KB · Views: 107
  • P7020004.jpg
    107.4 KB · Views: 80
I love your cross planked bottom. Makes so much more sense structureally and one can make use of shorter planks. Is there a down side that you'd like to share?
Isn't it triple planked?
It is what is called a "sharpie "in Australia (fence paleings).
Cheaper to build , probably loose a bit in sea keeping (Tidahapah is a proven really good sea boat) and a bit more stable at rest than a carvel hull and afterall as a cruiser I spend much more time at rest than on the move.

Art, No it is not tripple planked is is solid 1 1/2" spotted gum planks on spotted gum frames with naturally grown knees.
The reality is a wooden boat is a hobby , in it self.

A far different hobby from going some place IN a boat.
Yes Ben,
I remember "sharpie" sail boats w a lot of twist in the fore foot and I've seen most of them are cross planked like yours. Seems like it would be stronger and I've thought of building a plywood boat w the outer ply grain running crossways. I reinforced the center of the bottom of a plywood boat w a panel of ply because it had too much flex. It was totally stiff when done. Anyway I always like seeing pics of your boat.

FF says "The reality is a wooden boat is a hobby , in it self."
There's definitely some truth in that but one can dislike painting and still love a wood boat ......because the're better.
Eric + Wood Boat = Love :smitten:

And that is perfectly OK!! Just sayen...

If I came back as reincarnate - I opt to be Eric's Wood Boat
Love your nice warm feelings Art..........

But what if you're wrong and you came back and I let your face peel?

You'd prolly make me read "The Widow with a smile on her Face"

by Rachael Revenge
Love your nice warm feelings Art..........

But what if you're wrong and you came back and I let your face peel?

You'd prolly make me read "The Widow with a smile on her Face"

by Rachael Revenge

Now you're getten too nasty! - F Wood!! I'm commen back as an easy shine gelcoat Tollycraft... with no peal and a BIG smile on my face! :D :popcorn:
Eric--- In light of the diagonal planking comments earlier I thought you might enjoy seeing these photos from my research collection. They are shots taken at the Elco plant during WWII. The hulls were built upside down and then flipped for completion.

The color photo was taken in the crew's quarters up forward in a restored Elco 80' PT and shows the exposed hull construction. No fancy trim and interior sheathing on these boats. The square "window" in the side of the hull is a viewing window for the public--- only PT vets and members of certain organizations are allowed inside the boat.

The cartoon is from a WWII Navy magazine.

I was given a VHS copy of a fascinating color movie that Elco made during the war showing the entire production process of an 80' boat from initial framing to sea trials and weapons testing. Very interesting viewing and it's amazing how fast these boats were turned out considering they incorporated what we consider today to be a very slow, laborious boatbuilding process. They-- and Higgins down in New Orleans-- produced these boats faster than I think today's builders could even conceive of producing a glass boat although under the kind of pressures Elco and Higgins were responding to I'm sure it could be done.


  • P1070233.jpg
    93.7 KB · Views: 115
  • P1070232.jpg
    135.8 KB · Views: 106
  • P1070235.jpg
    94.6 KB · Views: 107
  • PT Hull Interior.jpg
    PT Hull Interior.jpg
    40.2 KB · Views: 111
  • P1070234.jpg
    62.9 KB · Views: 81
Last edited:
Very Cool. TY! Marin Plenty of wooden Elco and Higgens around New England in 50's 60' 70's
Very Cool. TY! Marin Plenty of wooden Elco and Higgens around New England in 50's 60' 70's

Still a few up our way. We usually see a couple of each every season.
On the topsides is that the final planking? Most of those boats are triple planked no? I've never seen a boat anywhere near this type w the outside planks anything but fore and aft...basically horizontal. But of course why turn it over if the planking was'nt done?
Yes. that's the outer layer of planking in the photos. The PTs were double-diagonal planked with a layer of doped canvas between the two layers of planking. Basically just like a big, giant Chris Craft runabout which were also double-diagonal planked with doped fabric between the layers. The decks of the PTs were also planked with the planks running straight fore and aft. The deck planks were not curved in with the hull at the bow like GBs and whatnot.

The only plywood used in the PTs was in some of the superstructure like the chart house, day room, interior bulkhead surfaces, and .50 caliber gun turrets. Plywood only bends one way so it could only be used on flat or simple curved surfaces like the deck houses and gun tubs.

The hulls were framed upside down and planked upside down and then flipped over in place for installation of the decking. The hulls were then put on dollies and moved out of the hull assembly building to the final assembly building for finishing. The interiors, such as they were, were installed after the decks were on but before the charthouse and dayroom structures were lowered into place. Then came engines, generators and the big hatch over the engine room.

When completed and the armament installed---- four torpedos, two twin-fifty machine guns and, in the first part of the war, one 20mm Oerlikon cannon--- the boats weighed 51 tons, 102,000 pounds (they were ten tons heavier by the end of the war). Power was three 1,350hp gasoline engines. The Navy would not accept a boat unless it achieved and maintained 43 knots fully loaded during sea trials.
Last edited:
" one can dislike painting and still love a wood boat ......because the're better."

They are better!

At the end of their useful lives the wooden boats are left for mother nature to recycle , in shallow water ,they depart even more rapidly than while floating..

The GRP boat needs a trip to the dump, or a Viking funeral .

Falling asleep with the sound of waves slapping on fibreglass isn't as soothing as on wood.
Local Yacht builder here has a CNC machine cut the temp frames to lay the 1/4 inch ply over. It is cut into 10 inch wide pieces, And on the diagonal reversing 90 degeres on each layer and full epoxy adhesive. Once the hull is faired then is is glassed and faired and gel coated then painted. before its lifted off the temp frame work. When its righted its set in a cradle and then the inside is glassed and the stringers are installed and all structural foam is 2 inches thick. once the inside is finished then the inner side is also gel coated and painted, Caison Yachts i stop by about every week to see the progress on the boats.

Latest posts

Top Bottom