In my previous articles I went over the pros and cons of fiberglass, steel, or aluminum as hull choices for your cruising sailboat. That leaves one other major category: wood.
Wood has been used the longest for building boats and has many devotees. There are two main methods of building wooden boats. Many modern boats are built using the “cold molded” method which uses wood as the core of the boat which is then encapsulated with resin and fiberglass. The other method is traditional wood boat building.
Cold molded boats, for the purpose of this series, should be looked at in the same light as fiberglass boats since they share most of the same pros and cons. The wood core is encapsulated in resin and fiberglass or exotic laminates protecting it from the elements. The maintenance concerns are very similar to any other fiberglass hull. One of the main concerns with a cold molded boat is ensuring that the core remains encapsulated and you need to take extra steps anytime you drill into the core or add any hardware. For example when installing a thru-hull you’ll need to remove the wood core material around the hole and carefully fill it with resin and micro balloons to ensure no moisture penetrates the core and that the fitting doesn’t crush the wood core.
The other method of wooden boat building is best classified as “traditional”. There are many sub categories in traditional wood boat building but they all share the common trait of wood as their main building component and all require more work and upkeep than a fiberglass, steel, or aluminum boat.
For hundreds of years, wood was the only real option for building a boat.Fiberglass boats didn’t start gaining in popularity until the 60′s. Because they were so prevalent for so long, there are lots of wooden boats around, many of them cheap and in varying states of decay. Unless you really like working on wood boats, have deep pockets and masochistic tendencies my only advice is to stay away from wood boats. Waste your time sailing and drinking with friends not in a boat yard replacing rotten planking.
I think I’ve covered the main choices of hull material for your next cruising boat. If you have any questions please leave me a comment here. I’d love to hear from you!
In the next article I’ll discuss the various styles of rigging for boats and their pros and cons on a modern cruising boat.
Photo By Lance Gettler – All Rights Reserved
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