|Restoring a Classic Boat |
If you are a sailor, sailing a wooden boat is one of the most pleasurable, satisfying feelings in the world. The admiring glances from bystanders will fill you with pride, especially if you have restored the boat to its former, glorious standard with your own blood, sweat and tears. The passion that you feel for your wooden craft is something that a GRP, steel or aluminium boat can never compete with. Wood on water is the perfect marriage of man and nature.
The most cost effective way to own a wooden boat is to buy a restoration project and restore it yourself. As well as being a way of buying your boat at excellent value, it can be very rewarding to pick up a cheap project and rebuild and repair it at your own pace, spreading the cost as you work.
For the amateur, however, the problem is knowing where to start. There are many books on the subject of boat restoration, and these can be an invaluable starting point, although do be aware that sometimes they are produced with conflicting advice from different writers. Seasoned professionals, or enthusiastic amateurs with their own experiences of rebuilding and restoring usually write these books. Experts tips can give you insights into shortcuts that could save you hours.
It is likely that this will be a long-term project as repairing and restoring can be both costly and time consuming. Do remember that the bigger the boat the higher the likely costs for rebuilding as well as maintenance and mooring. It is advisable to start small but also to buy the right boat for your needs. You may find the boat you wish to buy through adverts in boating magazines but if you’re after a real bargain, then boatyards and marinas often have old, abandoned boats that the yard owners have repossessed to pay outstanding charges and it is well worth searching them out.
If this is your first project, then start small and simple with an 8” flat-bottomed rowboat, or pram. You will need an ice pick to diagnose the state of the pram. Use the ice pick to test the condition of the hull. The wooden planks may have become soft if they are starting to rot. Test the planks on the outside, the inside and also the boat’s ribs to ascertain what needs replacing. Ideally, the wood should be too hard for the ice pick to penetrate but, obviously, in a very old boat some softness must be anticipated. Check every inch of the pram, even the awkward hard-to-reach places. In particular, check any place that water may have pooled when the boat was not in use, as this is the most likely area to experience rot.
The rotten or soft timber will need replacing. Use a wood like cedar or fir for the planks, and a harder wood such as oak for the ribs. If your hull is slightly rounded then you will need to steam the planks first so that they can be bent into a curve before being nailed onto the hull. This will require help, as steaming and bending before the wood cools and hardens again is a tricky process.
The next important task is to caulk the boat’s seams so that it is waterproof. Apply a marine use caulking and take your time to ensure that you don’t skip any areas, after all your hard work a leak would be very unwelcome.
Finally, seal the boat with a good marine sealant and maybe even a fresh lick of paint, and you re ready to set sail!