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Thread: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

  1. #1
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    Default Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    Hello all. I am a newbie to this site, and while I have done some research on the subject, I would appreciate your opinions on deck wood choices for my particular situation.

    I bought a nice old 1979 fishing boat last year. The boat was built at the Ocran Boat Shop in White Stone, Virginia, and was designed by Fred Ajootian. I have many old records going back to the original purchase, and know that the boat originally had a plywood deck. At some point in the past, that probably fell part and someone put down cheap 3/4" pine deck boards. As you can see in the pictures, they are not only weak and breaking, but they are ugly. I'd like to put down a nice looking deck and have been considering the following woods: vertical grain Douglas fir, and Garapa. A company out west has also recommended clear vertical grain Alaskan Yellow Cedar. I plan on running full length 14 foot boards on both sides of the engine box, with lift-up sections in front of and behind the engine box.

    Garapa is more expensive ($1800 with shipping) while I can get the DF locally at half the price. The AYC is about $1550 with shipping. I do not want to paint the deck, but plan to treat it with a tung oil type finish like Waterlox Marine (resin modified tung oil). I can either leave a gap between the boards or caulk them with Sikaflex. I plan on top screwing with #8 SS screws, and can't decide on plugging them or just leaving exposed. This is not a fancy boat, but I would like it to look nice, and I want my work to be respectable and durable. Weight is not really a deciding issue because this boat doesn't go fast in any case.

    Any advice is welcome.

    IMG_9094.jpgIMG_9163.jpg

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    Welcome to the forum. Nice looking boat.

    I am assuming that you are talking about the stuff that you walk on at the foot of that ladder.
    That is usually called the cockpit sole.

    You could use anything from larch or Douglass fir, through the exotic tropical hardwoods used for garden furniture, to the treated cedar used for garden decking. It depends on what you can find at good timber merchants or any local saw mill. As the underside will be damp from poor ventilation, treat the wood with preservative when it has been cut to fit.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    Does the cockpit drain into the bilge?
    I'd go back to plywood with big self draining scuppers.
    fish guts, bait bits, crab debris
    even if you didn't fish you got spilled beverages, short n curlys,pizza sauce,rain and waves to contend with.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    Nick,

    Thank you for your reply and for the correction of my terminology. Yes, I talking about replacing the wood of the cockpit sole. I was hoping for some guidance on which wood would be the best in terms of attractiveness and longevity. The cost difference is not super important. I hear you on the underside being damp, especially if I caulk the seams. I'm actually considering just leaving a gap between the boards, so there is plenty of air flow. I would certainly treat all four side of and the ends of the boards before installation. The cockpit does not have outside scuppers, and all drains into the bilge.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    Wizbang, no the cockpit does not have outside scuppers, and all drains into the bilge. I'm not sure why it was designed that way, but perhaps because it was designed for use in the Chesapeake Bay, which doesn't often get big seas. The boat is designed more like a Northeastern boat than a bay deadrise. For some reason I don't really like the idea of plywood, although I know it might be the easiest to do. I do fish with the boat and plan on continuing that!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    AYC would be better than the fir. The hardwood may splinter more. may not
    bruce

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    Welcome to the forum. Nice boat.

    And nice job of laying out your question. The fotos really help.

    First comment, a bit aside from your question -- have you considered making it a water-tight deck with added scuppers, as Wiz suggests? All else being equal, I would be.

    But as to species --

    The option of Clear Vertical Grain douglas fir is ok. I live in the NW, and we use a lot of it. Decent rot resistance. Good toughness and wear characteristics. The one thing that pushes it down the list for deck/sole applications is that it can be splintery. Hard on bare feet, and can cause maintenance issues. Looks nice with an oil finish, and - being photochemically reactive - it will age to a nice rich warm-brownish color... but will show wear patterns. Renewable/sustainable - very good.

    The Alaska Yellow Cedar is a good choice also. Good rot resistance. Decent toughness/wear - though not quite as good at the doug. fir. But no splintering. And looks ok with an oil finish. Renewable/sustainable - ok.

    I've used only a small bit of Garapa, but it seems a good candidate. Decent rot resistance. Would look good oiled. Darkens a bit with UV exposure. No splintering, methinks. The hardness and interlocked grain would make it tough and durable. Renewable? Dunno. I seem to remember when I bought the one batch it was not listed by CITES - which means it's not regarded as highly endangered.

    You might also look at Ipe - a species I use a good bit for such applications, if weight isn't an issue. Very rot resistant. Very tough. Very heavy (they call it 'ironwood' for a reason). Available in long sticks. Probably about the same money... if it's available in your area. Beautiful when oiled, and never looks worn. Renewable/sustainable - ok.

    Good luck!
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    https://www.facebook.com/HarborWoodworks/

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    Another wood option is Angelique. I have a guy near me that buys directly from (accredited) mills in Suriname & I got 1x4 cast-offs for house decks @ about $3 a board foot. They were considered "cast-offs" because the edges were only partially rounded. A quick buzz with a sander matched 'em up fine.

    I'm not a boatbuilder (nor have I played one on TV) - but if the boat is designed to breathe through the sole boards, couldn't sealing it cause issues under it?
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    David G,

    Thank you for your response! I have not really thought about adding scuppers, although others have also suggested it. The boat is quite stable and I have never taken any water over the side, although I just bought it last year and haven't it out during any major blow-ups. But I guess scuppers help with keeping stuff out of the bilge and potentially fouling the bilge pumps?

    So I have thought about IPE, but I lean towards the Garapa because of the lighter color. I've heard that IPE can get hot in the sun, plus I just prefer a lighter color. Ipe is more than twice as hard as Garapa, but Garapa is almost three times harder than red cedar. So I figure it will be fine for the boat. I appreciate your knowledge and input on the Fir and AYC. Splinters would definitely not be an optimal thing.

    I guess I'm leaning towards the Garapa...both for looks, strength, durability, and resistance to water and rot. Do you have any additional thoughts on whether it's smart to just leave even gaps between the boards versus caulking them? Also, I realized that I didn't clarify that I intend on using 5/4" x 6" boards, if you have any opinion on that.

    Best regards, and thank you to all.

    David

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    Gaps,Like a house deck?
    If you caulk them, ripping the boards in half or even thirds will result in a more stable sole. Less shrinkage and expansion from wetting /drying cycles.
    Keeping the cockpit and bilge clean,yes that is as important as the self bailing aspect.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    If you leave gaps in the boards you better make them easily (as in lift out) removable. All manner of debris will accumulate in the bilge if it's not cleaned regularly.

    Jeff

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    Yes. The current boards have gaps between them. Although up at the front of the cockpit where the boards appear the oldest, they are pretty tight to one another. Whether this was intentional or not isn't clear. Perhaps they weren't kiln dried and shrunk after installation? So you would suggest a narrower width than 6"? If so, what width specifically? I think the Cumaru is very stable, so I don't think expansion and shrinking will be a serious issue, but I would also like it to look traditional.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    Jeff, you make a good point. There is a removable (lift out) panel in front of the engine box where the batteries, bilge pumps, intake strainer, and intake shut off are located. There is another one behind the engine box where the stuffing box and exhaust are located. These give me pretty good access to cleaning the entire bilge. While it could change, the boat is currently docked at the end of the pier and there aren't any trees anywhere near the boat. Not trying to make excuses, just to explain the current situation. I'm hesitant to put in a waterproof deck and scuppers because 1. I'm not sure how I would waterproof the removable panels, and 2. this old boat appears to have done well over the years as-is, and I'm hesitant to change anything major. On the other hand, I do worry that so much fresh water gets into the bilge when it rains. But while the hull is very sound, and doesn't leak much at all, there is a little salt water intrusion in one spot near the keep that brings salt water into the bilge. Sorry if I'm sharing too much, and I realize you all know a lot more about wooden boats than me.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    Nice boat!

    All this talk of a self bailing cockpit sole...first things first: is the sole above the waterline?

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    Kevin, very important question! Looking at the pictures I believe it is, but I haven't done a measurement. Obviously if I was seriously considering it that's the first thing I would check.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    I'd be wary of making it self-bailing since I'm a big fan of air circulation, for one thing. It's a work boat, why make it into a yacht? Making the deck water tight would be pretty time consuming, double or triple your time and expense, all for the sake of a feature the boat has done fine without for who knows how long. It would also stop air circulating in the bilge, which might have a few unwelcome side effects. The framing might not be super duper yacht quality wood and might welcome the opportunity to stay nice and damp in the dark and soon after start rotting. Being a boat with lots of mechanical stuff under the sole, you'd also have to build some pretty decent, good sized, water-tight access hatches--that's miles further along the road of complexity. IF you just plank it with gaps between the boards you could use almost any wood at all. What difference would it make if you get a few spongy boards now and then? That's the beauty of work boats. Quick and dirty. You could make it look really nice with any of the aforementioned woods, and it would still be dirt simple, easy to repair and maintain, and you'd have easy access to any part of the boat you want to take a look at as long as you don't bung the boards but use the #8s you were talking about--oval heads are meant to be exposed and look good if spaced carefully. My 2 cents (or less) And PS, love the boat.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    I used 1x6 garapa on my deck. It’s been out in the weather for almost 7 years now and isn’t showing any signs of deterioration. It’s on the fully exposed south side of the house, blasted by sun and gets hammered by the rain and snow that comes down off the roof. No splinters, no checking or splitting or significant cupping. I coated all sides it with Penofin before installing and have re-oiled it 3 times since.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    Don't leave the screw heads exposed, that will look like a house builder did it. If you're paying for good wood get a plug cutter and bung over the screw heads.

    I would use fairly narrow stock, maybe 1-3/4" wide and I would probably caulk it with cotton and then fill with TDS. I would not try to seal it all up right across, but would try to direct water to the center and maybe even have a grated section down the middle. The advantage of caulking being that most of the frames and planking stay dry. All the water goes right to the bilge where you can have lots of ventilation and easy access for cleaning and inspecting.

    I don't think you want to cut scuppers in at the sole level, it would seriously change your reserve stability for the worse.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    Earling, you and I are on the same wavelength. Thank you for your response and thoughts. The framing on this boat is fir and oak, the bottom is longleaf pine, and the topsides are cedar. It's pretty solid. I agree with you that trying to make a watertight deck is not really worth the time or effort. On a separate tangent, I discovered yesterday that this boat may have been built based on a design by Royal Lowell, and I was able to make contact with his nephew Joe Lowell who still builds wooden lobsterboats. This is already proving invaluable in determining appropriate re-power options. It's not a typical Chesapeake Bay boat, but it can certainly handle some weather.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Seeking advice on best decking wood for old fishing boat

    ESTP71...thank you for sharing your positive experience with Garapa!

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