View Full Version : The joys of Wood Boat ownership
01-02-2003, 04:24 PM
We sailed for the first time yesterday, with main and jib up. The repairs seem to be holding up fine, and we fixed the problem.
The problem came in that a day before I was to launch, I found that I was out of caulking cotton. I had used the last stuff filling SAFIA's seams as she nearly sank on the way to catalina. Usually i get the stuff from Jamestown, but on Sunday faced with a monday morning launch, I was stuck. So i called up my friend who owns a big shipyard, and he says he's got some - come on over. I go there and what he has is wicking for decks. Sure its cotton, but its spun. I use it anyway, and figure I'll double up. There were only 4 seams to caulk, about 5 feet long.
Net result - boat leaks like a sieve, even though the repair is complete. Looks like we'll have to haul for a weekend and put the correct stuff in soon.
In any case, I'm happy. I spent a couple days fairing the bottom before she went back in, and made it ultra smooth. Sheeted lightly to be cautious, and with 11 knots of wind, we pulled 7.75 knots - and we were taking it easy. Almost makes me forget about the leaks.
I can't believe it, but I am seriously considering cold molding or veneering the bottom.
Just some observations.
01-02-2003, 04:42 PM
Like the old bit of dialoge:
"She needs to take up some."
"Ya. But she don't need to take up the whole ferschlunginger bay."
Myself, I like battens and epoxy and maybe veneer.
01-02-2003, 04:56 PM
Yeah really Ian. She's been in the water for a freakin' month so I KNOW it's the caulking.
I was thinking battens and epoxy as well. Sure would make my life easier.
What is the bottom of your boat? Au natural?
01-02-2003, 05:01 PM
In the mid '70's the owner before me hauled Grana, reefed and routered the seams, epoxied in ssoft wood splines, and epoxied inside and out.
A good job.
Grana's an LFH Marco Polo - very narrow and fairly low stress imposed by the rig. A beamier boat with a loftier rig might need sheathing and perhaps long diagonal chainplates.
It's a huge job, by the way.
John R Smith
01-03-2003, 05:31 AM
Just an observation, not really an opinion or a fact, but . . .
Is it perhaps the case that most of us now, with elderly boats of a certain age, are trying to keep them afloat way beyond their allotted span of years? Does there come a point with a conventional wooden boat (carvel or clinker) where even though the wood is sound (not rotten) it is simply worn out? The merciless cycle of weathering, drying out, saturating again and again having eventually destroyed the natural oils, removed the lignin (whatever that is) and left us with something which, although it still looks and feels like wood is no longer able to bend, flex and spring back to shape?
Or is this all a load of old cobblers ;)
01-03-2003, 09:38 AM
I'm pretty sure that somewhere after 200 years it might not be worth the effort . . .
01-03-2003, 11:49 AM
Not in my case, my boat is only 51 years old. There's plenty of boats twice her age still sailing. And a bad caulking job is a bad caulking job - PERIOD.
Also wood is the only substance in nature that does not fatigue. If it doesn't rot, it will never lose it's elasticity or mechanical properties. I got this from Skene's elements of yacht design where Kinney talks about wood as a boatbuilding material.
My boat has a 9'-6" beam and probably a low stress rig as well. Might you post a picture of your boat? I have heard you talk of her but never seen her.
[ 01-03-2003, 11:51 AM: Message edited by: Adam C ]
01-03-2003, 12:27 PM
Ed Harrow very nicely got some pix of Grana up - over at People & Places, 'Ladies and Gentlemen (you too Stan, LOL) we bring you Grana'
01-03-2003, 12:46 PM
"...is the only substance in nature that does not fatigue. If it doesn't rot, it will never lose it's elasticity or mechanical properties. "
I agree, mostly, with this, except that wood does have a memory, especially if the cells are crushed by over caulking.
I've seen Ian's solution of softwood battons with a new bevel glued into wide seams and I was pretty impressed with the integrity of the hulls.
What are you applying to the seams after the cotton?
01-03-2003, 01:05 PM
I use (cover your ears) 5200. I love it.
But again, in this case cotton deck wicking, which I put in in haste, is makeing a few seams leaky.
But that isn't the reason I want to veneer...I am intrigued with the idea of having a one piece bottom, theoretically permanently leak free while having extra strength.
I am trying not to make panacea out of this idea...just trolling for opinions.
01-03-2003, 03:46 PM
There's a bunch of stuff written on the splining technique. I wouldn't attempt to glass over or veneer over a carvel hull until and unless I had splined the seams first, to make the hull essentially one piece. There have been a couple of features in WB Magazine about this, mostly favorable if I recall. I also read about a Concordia Yawl that had the hull splined and veneered. Stiff, solid and dry. The more I read about it, the more I think it's the only viable alaternative to a rebuild for older boats.
I would feel very secure and safe in such a boat.
01-04-2003, 04:21 PM
Ya know, Adam, 5200 was never intended for that kind of application. I would think a little more before pulling the cotton twine. True, it may not be the perfect caulk, but, let's get down to volume of the leaks before you curse the day you bought that tube of 5200.
Is your bilge pump running all the time?...every 10 minutes?...every hour?...every day?
You may find that the little weeping seams can be addressed the next time you haul.
ALITA takes on 4 or 5 gallons a day. Thats down from 5 to 8 last year. I have located the spots I want to address and will deal with them when she's hauled. I'll stop at 2 to 3 because I think some water in the bilge is healthy for the boat.
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