View Full Version : Caring for an old wooden boat
09-29-2005, 04:43 AM
I will be collecting my first real vintage boat (built 1939) in a few days time. I want to do the best I can for such an old lady and hope that I can get some advice from the WoodenBoat Forum.
The boat is clinker (lapstrake) built, of elm on oak. I think that boats made principally of elm are quite unusual these days. She seems in quite good order, fasteners seem tight and there are very few sistered ribs. She has spent much of her life on a mooring although she is normally taken out in October and put back in the water in March (depending on tides). I don't think that she takes up much when she is put back.
She needs a replacement engine, which I am currently rebuilding, and a fair amount of cosmetic work (the hull is varnished) although as far as I know there is little or no rot.
I am hoping to get her back in the water in the Spring of 2006 but I am concerned about her drying out too much or the possibility of not being able to get her back on a mooring until later.
I need advice on how to best look after her while she is out of the water and on a trailer, and also any particular guidance on elm. I think that elm does best if kept wet, but I have no experience at all in this area and any advice would be appreciated.
09-29-2005, 05:36 AM
Your boat is Elm on Oak, right?
Wow, I've never seen a boat planked in Elm. That would have to be unusual.
Just plain English Elm or Wych Elm, the longbow wood?
Post a photo if you can, I would sure like to get a look at it.
There are quite a few old boats getting around with a piece or two of Elm in them, but its usually a keel or keelson.
Some have Oak keels and keelsons, but Elm Deadwoods. Why? Because it's light or because it dosen't check?
It's figured so I suppose it will hold heaps of fastners without splitting apart.
Perhaps that's why it was preferred for the keels of 18th century royal navy cutters, broad craft with many floor timbers and fastners.
I don't think English Elm is rated all that durable, but when submerged in water it does seem to do fine.
I heard once that when wet or dry it's okay, however constant wetting and drying causes it to disintergrate much faster than most woods.
Is this the same wood Welsh stick chairs/Windsor chairs are made from? Green?? Does this mean it has a low shrinking/swelling factor??
I don't have a clue what you should do.
But I would be very careful and get it done quick!! Sounds like it could be a stable wood to me?
Good luck, I'm sure you're having a heap of fun.
I would make sure of the wood first---exact species, take a sample to a maritime expert (*Richard Jagels at University of Maine really knows his stuff--nice guy too---did my undergraduate work there) ---(Telephone: (207) 581-2884 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org). Maybe send a sample to him if he is up for it.
Any wood likes to stay moist without a bunch of changes. Get her covered from rain (one year on the hard and with rain coming in is like 13 in the water. Covered shelter with dirt floor and open ends (at least partially). Keep the floor moist and do not get a dark cover as the heat will get too much. Any water getting to her should be salt (put salt in bilge if water is coming in.
But that said, I am no expert either----come on all you REAL experts, give a hand here!!!
Good luck---we all love pictures…. have any of her?
Wooden Boat Rescue Foundation
09-29-2005, 06:26 PM
Some photos of the boat:
09-29-2005, 07:05 PM
Nice boat, nice place. smile.gif
Good luck with her.
Peter Malcolm Jardine
09-29-2005, 08:21 PM
09-30-2005, 08:12 AM
I don't know anything about elm, but the clinker construction and the annual routine you describe would seem to imply that it already has been well dried out every year with little effect. October to March is long enough to reduce the moisture content close to a minimum, and while it could lose more in another couple of months, depending on the ambient humidity, it probably is mainly dried. I also believe elm is relatively stable in taking up and drying out.
09-30-2005, 08:42 AM
Top little boat :D
Where abouts is that photo taken?
09-30-2005, 10:32 AM
Ooh nice! Where is that?
I think Elm is quite common for clinker boats over a certain age in the UK, I know I've seen quite a few old ones anyway but I couldn't tell you much about it.
I guess Dutch Elm Disease may have put a stop to its use?
09-30-2005, 03:35 PM
Thanks to everyone for their encouraging posts. The boat is currently down in the West Country (UK). She was built in Exmouth and has spent all her life on the River Exe. I think she must be made of ordinary English Elm (as opposed to Wych Elm) although I'm not sure I can tell the difference. I did not realise that she would more or less dry out completely ashore over the winter. Of course, I do need to get her back in the water as soon as possible next Spring, but there is always the temptation to do just a bit more varnishing....
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