View Full Version : Sheathing carvel planked hull
01-16-2003, 02:32 PM
We are searching for options (affordable to our limited budget) to sheath our tired 1904, 70' l.o.d., 100'spared length, oak plank on sawn oak frame, wrought iron fastened, 100 short ton displacement Baltic Trader Schooner for the purpose of making her seaworthy again. Our first choice would be to properly rebuild the vessel, but unfortunately that is not financialy viable. We want to keep the old girl alive for at least another 20 years. Concrete (ferrocement) has been successfuly used in Europe for this purpose for many years, but we can't find anyone in the U.S.A. with modern knowledge of available options.
Alan D. Hyde
01-16-2003, 02:39 PM
What shape's she in?
A worthy project, to be sure.
But a challenging one...
Best of luck with her!
I'll leave the discussion beyond this point to more experienced hands than my own.
01-16-2003, 03:04 PM
Nothing is really cheap. I'd go with first clean out the rot but still easier than full restoration and then use epoxy and wood strips.
01-16-2003, 04:27 PM
If you positively are inclined to do this boat with a covering, I would strongly recommend C-Flex.
This has been used for such projects of older and aged wooden boats. Check with these people about your project if nothing else. Find out some people that has done this and check to see the outcome.
not meaning to sound inane but any chance oak planking that old might still be acidic enough to problematic with an epoxy based solution?
01-16-2003, 08:14 PM
" With the C-flex System, you can give your present hull a tailored, watertight, FRP skin, bonded to the hull with an elastomeric mastik, allowing it to flex with the wood and resist delamination."
Read up on the sheathing of the hull. smile.gif
The C-Flex Sheathing system is currently being recommended by the U.S. Coast Guard
for application to certified vessels.
[ 01-16-2003, 09:24 PM: Message edited by: Oyster ]
01-16-2003, 09:10 PM
Well, yea, I've seen a lot of really unfortunate things done to boats over the years, including your suggestions, so I do have some passing experience with the techniques you suggest. Perhaps I can share them with you.
First off, any proper ferrocement layup will be far, far more difficult, time consuming, and generally a major pain in the ass than most any other approach. I'm not going to give you a discourse on ferrocement, but, hey... how are you going to rig the armature and mesh, just for openers. It can and has been done, but think about it. Then, of course, you have to plaster the bugger. 70 feet of ferrocement is, well, let's just say it is going to be a bitch to cement it up with the wet edge running. You got a big crew of experienced plasterers? Lights? A good buddy with a couple of redi-mix trucks? LOL
Not to mention the fact that a boat with scantlings the size of yours could pretty much bust through the Hoover Dam once she starts shrinking and swelling.
Same expansion and contraction problems with C-flex and glass. Whenever you have differing coefficients of expansion in connected materials, the bigger the area, the worse the problem. C-flex and glass would also be hugely expensive materials-wise. Hugely inefficient labor-wise, even if you aren't going for a finish that's smooth as a baby's ass and can live with a boat that looks like a sperm whale sneezed on it.
Then, of course, with either glass or cement, you will have some substantial additional weight to contend with, so figure to raise your bootline a few feet and probably sail slower.
While both methods can be done, and have been, generally in smaller boats, there is no way you can expect to get twenty years more out of her that way.
Two boats I knew back in the mid '70's when glassing and ferrocement was all the rage come to mind. One was a San Francisco Bay "pumpkin' seed." This is a boat few know, so I'll just say Islander was about 40 ft long. (Please don't bother with "sparred length" dimensions. A boat's "length" is between her perpendiculars, thank you. No reason to look foolish adding the length of its tail. That's the way a monkey measures his dick.) She was built around 1911, a beamy, flat bottomed centerboard yacht, designed for speed on the windy bay. She'd been owned and loved by the same family for a couple of generations and was really way beyond her prime. Definitely on the edge of a rebuild not being worth it. One of the younger generation convinced the older guys that the way to go was to cover her with cement and resin on top of that. Well they did, and did a fairly credible job of it to boot. Unfortunately, it only accellerated the rot that was working at her and, as she was getting pretty loose anyway, the stuff started to crack. No amount of patching it did any good. Within four or five years, perhaps, she was cut up for scrap. Now, she was one of only two of her kind remaining, and in this day and age when wood is again valued somewhat, probably could have been restored and preserved for many years to come, but back then, you couldn't give a wooden boat away, particulary one that needed work.
The other boat came through the brokerage I once worked out. She was Tradition, a well known Alden schooner, maybe about 60' as I recall. (Her lines and a photo are in the Alden design book.) Finest kind. She needed some work, refastening and corking and such, along the way. Some yard had convinced her owner that the once and for all solution to routine and not-so-routine maintence was to glass her up. This was not your cousin's backyard glass sheathing job. No siree. At a cost of probably more than traditional repair would have run, these charlatans billed this guy to do the mother of all glassing jobs on her. Now I have to admit, back then, we didn't know the consequences like we do now, since this was all new fangled, so maybe the yard thought they were doing him a favor. That yard ran stainless steel screws into her planking from one end to the other below the waterline, each one of them about six inches from the next. They left them all proud, so she looked like she was studded with thousands of half driven stainless steel screws. (I never actually SAW the screws, since she was glassed when we got her, but this was the report.) On top of the screws went the glass layup. The proud screws were supposed to hold the glass so she wouldn't delaminate. Now, this was a real gold plater in her day, and she had been maintained well cosmetically. The owner was quite proud of the glass job, which he believed made her "as good as any fibreglass boat!"
It didn't turn out that way. She sold, but the bottom didn't last worth a damn. The new owners, soI heard, ended up having it all ripped off and the bottom done right like wood should within a year or two of buying her. Sadly, I also heard she was later lost working in the Carribean charter trade.
Fact is, I don't think there is anything you could sheath your boat with that would work for the purposes you intend. It's about scale. If you want to keep the water out, packing her with oakum and cotton will be lots easier and cheaper. If you want to hold her together, there's no way you could put enough glass or cement on her to achieve that... she's too damn big.
You got a good wooden boat. Dance with the girl you brought. Work with the wood.
01-16-2003, 10:10 PM
Replank with speed strip?
01-17-2003, 07:46 AM
The basic problem with sheathing a carvel planked hull of any size is the sheath not moving or working with the planks and the different exspansion/contraction properties of the dissimilar materials used.
The only successful sheathing in 'glass I've seen has been a coating so thick as to make a whole new hull around the old one stapled in place. This adds considerable weight and cost. I know of a hull that had this done over 30 years ago and she is still in operation, though I've not been in her bilge and would suspect some rot hidden under all that 'glass.
Cold molding or strip planking may provide you with the desired results and the resulting increase in hull dimensions may offset the additional weight. Though the cost may approach repairs typical for this construction method.
How bad is this 100 year old craft? Fasteners for sure, frames? Planks? There are a number of new techniques for repairs to old framing and planks that can save an old boat, mostly related to the new adhesives available now. A good Dutchmen covered with paint can save the complete replacement of a plank or structural member. Recent survey?
01-17-2003, 09:01 AM
One option you might try is a cold molded skin. My research shows these strips of wood, epoxyed onto the hull, and then covered with a thin layer of glass for abrasion resistance, allow for expansion and contraction of the hull. I'm told this works better than other methods. Check out the 1903 charter boat "Leilani" Leilani (http://www.classicyachtleilani.com/leilani_history.htm) I spoke with the owner who did the application himself, and he is very pleased. Going on 10 years I believe.
01-17-2003, 01:56 PM
As I recall, Constitution just had a cold molded sheathing placed on her below the waterline during her recent restoration. This was not structural, however, and so not intended to provide a cure for major structural problems which were addressed by traditional repair methods. Moreover, I don't think they plan on her sailing anywhere ever. Certainly, though, stapling epoxy/veneer cold molding would be the lesser of the three evils.
01-17-2003, 02:21 PM
Fond as I am of wood sheathing with epoxy, I have my doubts on a boat of this tonnage.
No solution can possibly be cheap.
With a boat of this size, if the hull lacks basic integrity and you're just using the hull as a sort of left in place mold - whether c-flex ala Vaitsais or wood - the amount of material is the amount for a whole hull - tre$$expen$ive.
And that's if it would work at all.
I suspect you have to make her happy as she is or sing with Gordon Bok
You're a dirty hungry scaley bag of timber
And you've seen the last you your blue water days . . .
01-17-2003, 02:34 PM
You are absolutely correct on all counts.
Thanks for the help.
01-17-2003, 03:30 PM
Bob Cleek- I think it was the Constellation in Baltimore that was skinned over.
I'm sure I'll take a beating for this but I've seen some good sized boats get a few more years by skinning them over with plywood strips and roofing cement. Usually two or three diagonal layers with LOTS of big nails. It's not pretty but it is as cheap as you can get.
[ 01-17-2003, 04:31 PM: Message edited by: holzbt ]
01-21-2003, 01:24 PM
:D It was a pleasure to read a "classic Cleek". :D
01-22-2003, 11:14 AM
Well, this is an interesting topic, not just because the Baltic Trader is a beautiful vessel but also for the reason that many people are faced with a similar dilemma. So, might Messrs. Fleming & Cleek spare us more of their precious time and wisdom to rebuild this boat in cyber-space.
The questions which comes to mind are;
Is oak planking and framing material available in the USA? If not, what wood types could be used as a substitute?.
Given the size of the boat, could'nt the owners buy their lumber from the Pacific Northwest and then just take it with them on board the vessel to a place where skilled labour was a lot cheaper. Then have the job done properly. And where would such a place be - in Central or South America? Asia even?
I had been aboard a Baltic Trader as a schoolboy when the "Frei" stopped off in HK sometime in the early seventies. It was owned by some American hippies who were on some charitable mission or other and a friend and I stopped off and donated some boxes of pencils for their cause. You can read something about the 'Frei" here:
The link is to none other than Mr. Fleming's website, the chapter called 'I'm Into Wood". I have sometimes wondered what became of the old girl?
01-22-2003, 01:48 PM
I have nothing to add to your help solve your problem, but it sure is good to see Cleek has been turned loose by the Committee again! I love it when someone (or somethiing?) has an opinion they are willing to put forth and stand by! Bravo Cleekster!
Good luck with the boat-
01-23-2003, 12:14 AM
As a former devotee of skinning up a hull, I'm probably not as believable as some. I am seeking a solution to my own old hull and backing off a bit. However, I give my meager backing to the Cleek theory of not applying a overweight plastering job to a hull frame designed for the planking that you have. If you wish to beef up the framing considerably, there is probably little to limit the garbage one could hang on the thing but what you would have is a blob of mis-matched stuff much heavier than planned by the designer. The sail plan would be less able to drive her. She'd lumber along at a much less satisfactory pace. And, sometime , someone would have to hack it all off to do a proper job. I am becoming less enamoured with fiberglas sheathing but a little taken by Buhler's idea of sheathing with ply over roofing tar--a couple of layers, then glassing over that if you insist. I'd imagine that the application of the ply/tar composite would be far more accepting of original planking movement. Buehler advocates this not as a permanent fix but a cheap and temporary fix to get by till the real deal can be done. His way, at least, sounds honest and allows that it is only temporary and easier on the heart to be torn off at some time since the whole pocketbook has not been invested. At least you could gain some use while waiting for Ed Mahan to come by. His treatise can be found in one of the "Boatbuilder" backissues. (I know he is not dear to the hearts of the yottyboys but he is not stupid enough to risk his considerable reputation on a lark.)
I cannot see that rot would have any greater advantage in this temp. fix than in the original hull. The Gugeon boys said that they are asked to inspect sheathed hulls in response to rot complaints and in every case of delamination or rot problems, they find that the hulls have been shut up with no ventilation and they stink. I sense that as a good argument. Even unsheathed hulls will go South if not ventilated properly. We are too willing to blame the sheathing when probable cause is often the stupidity of the owner and his reluctance to own up to it.
No matter what the choice of repair is, however, if the framing is sick, you will be moaning. Make sure the foundation is sound first.
01-23-2003, 07:13 PM
I suppose she's a US boat?
I know that the offshore idea worked for an aquaintance of mine, but he's Canadian. He bought a big powerboat in Florida that needed much hull work, very cheaply of course. Then he had her transferred to Canadian registry or license or whatever paperwork applies.
Then he patched her up enough to get her to Cuba. There, very old-fashioned, traditional woodworkers rebuilt her with cuban woods for a very low labour cost. Lots and lots of man-hours.
Then he brought her back to Canada.
This particular roundabout may not be possible for you, but some version of it might.
Many pitfalls, I suppose. This idea is probably best with a very low initial investment, so that walking away from the whole thing stays an option.
01-23-2003, 10:26 PM
Well, I'm not sure how much work you are looking at. That really will decide if you are able to do any sort of effective repair. It's always the money. You certainly can find good white oak planking stock just about anyplace close to the coasts in the USA, but not at Home Depot. Chase down the local small sawyers and tell them what you need. You may have to wait a little bit until something suitable comes along, but it will and they'll cut it up for you. (Check out the WB book on "Boatbuilding Wood Suppliers" or something like that, if it is still in print.... lists all the boat lumber yards and mills in the US, as of about the late 70's.)
Is replacing a plank difficult? Naw, it's a LOT easier than raising a sunken boat! LOL Actually, it's a lot easier than hanging plank on a new boat because you have the old plank to use as a pattern from the start. Just cut it oversize enough and start whittling her down with a plane until she fits.
But, back to "can she be fixed?" The problem with EVERY repair job of any magnitude is that what you see needs fixing is always just the tip of the iceberg. I guaran-damn-tee you that if you pull that funky looking plank, you are going to feel that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you lay bare the faying surface of the frames and can put your finger into them up to the second knuckle! (Not to wish you bad fortune, but have you ever seen an old boat in the yard with a few frames off? Every one of them damn near will have frame problems if the planks do.) So... you will probably be looking at some frame repair work as well if you want your new plank fastenings to have something to bite into. And it goes on and on.
BTW... have you gotten a good wooden boat surveyor (actually, a wooden SHIP surveyor) to give her a total look-see? A good surveyor should be able not only to report on what has gone bad, but recommend appropriate measures for repair and give you an estimate of the costs.
Not to be the harbinger of doom, but another factor to consider is that your boat is really BIG. She's a small ship. If you look it up, she's probably bigger than the Nina, the Pinta or the Santa Maria were! LOL When we are talking in here about replacing planks or doing this or that, we are talking about doing it on much smaller boats. Given the scantlings you would be working with, you will have to think BIG and INDUSTRIAL. You may, for instance, even need a forklift or crane to get some of those timbers in place properly! Not to mention that she isn't too likely to come out on anything less than the mother of all travel lifts. You will have to find a BIG boatyard or a small shipyard that would be able to haul her and probably drydock her for as long as the job takes. Few of those would want their space and gear tied up for an uncertain period of time while a do-it-yourselfer tackled the sort of work you might be contemplating.
01-24-2003, 11:53 AM
Well Bob, You are a perceptive individual and smarter than we originally thought. As you have touched upon, the size of the vessel's scantlings are such that the mere handling of structural members requires a bit more muscle and equipment than the average pleasure vessel you read about in this forum. As for slip ways or travel lifts, she requires a commercial yard with 100 ton + displacement capacity. In our original posting, we said traditional rebuilding is our preference but is beyond our current econimical abilities unless I inherit a small white oak forest and find
at least one caplable shipwright who is willing to work for minimal wages. As for looking foolish Bob, we will leave that up to experts like yourself.
01-24-2003, 12:47 PM
Bob, Have you actually SEEN a sperm whale sneeze, if not the results of said act on the hull of a boat? Absolutely, guaran-damn-tee that was hilarious. :D
The roof tar idea appears to work because of the elasticity of the roof tar allowing interfacial movement? How long and how well does a planked hull need to dry out before (if) sheathing - appears like you would need a couple years to be dry enough to not trap moisture and get sealed-in rot potential. no experience in this of course-just interesting thread.
01-25-2003, 02:05 PM
Naw, I gotta admit I never saw a sperm whale sneeze. I had a grey whale come up alongside my 25' Vertue and spout one time though. Soaked me witht the ****. Thoroughly disgusting experience. Smelled like somebody dumped a barrel of fish guts on me! LOL
Frankly, the repair of a Baltic trader like contemplated here is a whole 'nuther animal from what the approach to maintenance and repair we usually discuss here. What is called for is administration more than anything else. HOW to do the work and getting it done are the less complex challenges. I'd approach the task with the mindset of a business manager.
First, I'd get a damn thorough survey and identify ALL the repairs that are required. Then I'd prioritize them. This means evaluating priorities on the balance of which is most necessary or can be deferred, scheduling of work (no point in tearing something out and fixing it, only to have to tear it up again to fix something less pressing later), cost and affordability, in the water or haul out needed, professional help and equipment needed or do it yourself level tasks and so on. That should yield a repair work schedule.
Then, I'd take the schedule to a big commercial yard and consult with them on price, timetables and so on. Get written estimates.
Lastly, go to the bank and try to negotiate a preferred ship's mortgage (she is documented, I presume... if not, you'll need to do that too) to pay for the work. The bank will probably fund it on a "construction loan" basis... incremental payouts as the work progresses.
Will this cost money? Well, yes. But you will be able to pay it out over time, or retire the debt when the boat is sold. The vessel will be much more valuable when the work is done. It may even increase in value more than the cost of the repairs. Given the scale of the work you are facing, it will actually be cheaper to have it done in a shipyard than yourself... and a whole lot faster. They know what they are doing and have encountered and solved the problems before.
I know that cost is a major consideration for all of us. You are facing maybe six figures! Still, think about what it might cost you if she sinks in the harbor and you have to remove and dispose of the hulk... not to mention the hazmat expenses of cleaning up leaking diesel oil and so on! The days of "burning her for her fastenings" are long past! I know the guys in the hazmat salvage business in my neck of the woods and tough and nasty as their trade is, they laugh all the way to the bank! LOL You wouldn't just be paying to repair a very expensive "toy" but you are paying to avoid some very expensive potential liability. Does that make paying the price any less onerous? Hope so!
01-25-2003, 02:58 PM
The pictures of Constellation's restoration are online at thier site:
The planking was totally removed and replaced with a shell that now acts as the main structure. The theory being that that the planking was in no way original, replaced long ago. The new structure allowed the much older framing within to be kept.
There's a backissue in WB covering it.
[ 01-25-2003, 04:00 PM: Message edited by: brian.cunningham ]
01-28-2003, 09:04 PM
Schooner Sara, way back in about 1976 when I was just a wee lad, I was cruising in the pacific, Fiji and such, for about 6 months, and while there we came across a bunch of hippies sailing around in an old Baltic Trader. Was it the Frei? Freya? I dunno, sort of sounds familiar, but maybe not. I'm pretty sure she was copper sheathed. Big old motor they started with a shot of compressed air into the cylinnder. Anyway, the crew showed us a bunch of photos of how they'd filled the bilges with cement. Don't know whether they also plastered up the insides of the hull a bit, certainly that's done on many carvel fishing boats in South Australia where I'm from(usually 30' or so). How long she lasted I don't know, but they were obviously sailing around on a low budget, and seemed to be floating OK. The bilge was not just plastered, but filled. No great skill, just pour the stuff in. She's a cargo boat, you need some weight to get her down to her waterline, forget what Bob says about having to raise the waterline. A big lump of concrete like that will stiffen her up somewhat I imagine. Won't really trap water and rot the planks, she's still free to breathe to the outside world. I seem to think concrete somehow stops rot anyway, acid or alkaline or something. Doubt you'll get insurance, but what'slife without risk anyway? If concrete, whether internal or external is in use in europe, it can't be beyond your ability to get in touch with someone who's done it. Hell, hop on a jet and get over there and look around till you find a few. Talk to the owners, look at the boats, get inside them and really poke around. Cost you a couple of thou, but you need the info first hand. Good luck, sounds like you've got some huge adventures ahead.
01-29-2003, 12:12 PM
Ya, we are compelled to keep the old girl alive through any means within our grasp - conventional or otherwise. There is so much there worth saving. We don't want her to become another REGINA MARIS - which is the usual fate of these vessels. Ya, we've already forgotten about what Boob said. SARA carried about 20 tons of inside ballast in her life as a pleasure vessel and about 95 tons deadweight cargo capacity as a commercial vessel. Currently she is afloat completely deballasted awaiting her fate. The reality which has been confirmed already many times is that sheathing the vessel in ferrocement will raise the vessel on her marks due to the increased displacement area and the reduction in oak moisture content. We are already prepared to reballast her with lead, rail iron and concrete - which is the easy part of our endeavors. Thanks for the positive words.
01-29-2003, 12:19 PM
Ah,the Frie/Frei, she is the subject of my Tale, I'm into wood, man. Still afloat in '76 and in the South Pacific too, amazing.
03-05-2003, 04:49 PM
The Baltic Ketch "FRI" is still alive now back in her home waters of Denmark. She has had most of her upper futtocks and topside planking renewed at the Ring-Andersen shipyard where she was built over 100 years ago. As far as we know she is still sailing on her old bottom, last owned by an American journalist.
03-17-2003, 02:45 PM
Sorry about the late response - I have recently been researching cold-molding over plank on frame for maintenance purposes for a 43 LOD JGA schooner and have come across several helpful articles in Wooden Boat back issues.
Here are the issue numbers #89, pp92-99; #7; #55, pp.96-105; #52, pp.92-99.
I have also found an informative article with descriptive information regarding time/materials required at: www.practical-sailor.com/newspics/ (http://www.practical-sailor.com/newspics/) charts/898coldmoldrebuild.pdf
I hope this helps.
03-18-2003, 08:46 AM
An interesting article in the current National Fisherman goes a cheaper approach than Vaistais (sp approx) - They used 5200 as the mastic between the wood and the first layer of glass.
This appears suitable for fishing boats - lowish speed but lots of abuse. I think you'd have to reengineer the chain plates to make this work for a sailing vessel.
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