Durability of Wood sailboat

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by JSsailem, Jun 29, 2014.

  1. JSsailem
    Joined: Jun 2014
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    JSsailem New Member

    I have been cruising the boat ads for my future home.

    One of the older craft I viewed was a wood built. They used African Mahogany for her planks. This got me thinking. What wood choice make for a more durable vessel? I've never had any experience with "African Mahogany".

    Your insights as to where to enhance my wood builder knowledge base would be very helpful.
     
  2. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    It is not a true mahogany. It has somewhat better than moderate rot resistance. There are other factors that are more important to the longevity of a vessel. For example, construction methods and proper maintenance. I see rotted teak in boats caused by the incessant cleaning with harsh chemicals.
     
  3. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Welcome to the forum.

    Actually there is an African Mahogany (Khaya) and it's as close to the Meliaceae (mahogany) family as the Central and South American species are. The real difference is in genus classification geographically. Honduran (genuine) Mahogany is part of the Swietenia genus, while the three usual African species are all part of the Khaya genus. While the Khaya mahoganies are distinct from the Swietenia species and in a lot of ways preferred over Honduran. There are about 40 sub genus of mahogany.

    African Mahogany tends to be coarser and can be difficult to machine (tear out). It also usually is ribbon stripped, sometimes called tiger strip mahogany, which is why it's popular in veneer and furniture building. It's a good planking, if the stock is well selected. African Mahogany is less dense than Honduran, but this is an easy work around if spec'd as a substitute.

    To directly answer your question, there's no "best" planking material (wood species or other wise). Each has good and bad things to consider and each needs to be sized, appropriate to it's physical abilities. Mahogany hulls used to be fairly common, as the wood was plentiful, but is less so today.
     
  4. WhiteDwarf
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    WhiteDwarf White Dwarf

    A lot of other considerations

    JS,

    All hulls on the 2nd hand market have history. In my youth the local sea scouts had a cutter (as in open boat, not the rig) with a history known back to the 1870's, when she was already old! Wooden boats can last magnificently, if adequately looked after. Another example is HMS Trincomalee of 1817 - still afloat. At the other extreme, a wooden hull that has been badly sheathed in glass could be beyond redemption in very few years, without reference to the type of timber used.

    A glass hull that has been grounded at speed, can have considerable but not necessarily obvious damage forward and aft of a fin keel, where the same event for a long keeled boat might be far less significant.

    In essence, I am suggesting research, caution and a professional survey. This is doubly true, if you are contemplating passage making. Good luck.
     
  5. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    The USS Constitution has 80% of her original (1797) below the LWL planking and 90% of her frames. Her deadwood is original, though both her stem and stern timbers have been replaced a few times. Most of her topside planking and framing are also original.

    Again, the choice of wood species is nearly irrelevant, given reasonable care.
     
  6. CloudDiver
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    CloudDiver Senior Member

    JSsailem, post a link to the ad of what boat is for sale you are considering; I won't buy it from under you I promise ;-)
    But I will be able to speak more intellegently abouit the boats relative strengths/weakness, more on the construction method than just the species of lumber used. Modern techniques in Cold-Molding & Composite Laminate results is great strength and great resistance to rot when fully encapsulated in epoxy resin. Chances are this older boat is not built that way but if you have to do some restoration you can gain some of those benifits.
    Here are links to my two absolute favorite videos highlighting modern wood yacht construction methods... make sure no one is looking over your shoulder, these are as good as it gets!

    Vicem Yachts, Turkey (they mention specific wood species used in construction)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TuXUyweVyE

    Fairlie Yachts, U.K. (If you don't get a woody watching this, check your pulse)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDgKIPaW5xY

    Bonus video, because this rounds out my top 3 'Boat ****' videos, the list is not complete without a J Class nod;
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Am1LJE4RdE
     
  7. WhiteDwarf
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    WhiteDwarf White Dwarf

    Thank you Clouddriver

    Thanks for those UTubes CloudDriver. The Farlie sailing off Cowes is truely stunning.

    I vividly recall Endeavour lying derelict in a mud berth on the Hamble. One of the pre-war paid hands, off Westward, I think, explained how the big boats were crewed in those days. The owners agent would ask Captain ***** to take the boat "for the season." A negotiation would follow and eventually Captain ***** would return to the fishing village from which he hailed, and would pick up some 15 likely young men. A part of their pay, often their share of prize money would be pooled and at the end of the season, it would provide for the building of one or more fishing boats. That was sufficient capital for a man to marry...

    Very different from this era, and then came 1929. Sound familiar?
     
  8. JSsailem
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    JSsailem New Member

    CloudDiver. My wanderings triggered the query. I'll take you up on the offer as I refine my search. I understand the history of fine wooden boats. There are benefits and challenges. Older boats are always a question of "Did the owner respect the boat and maintain the wood?"

    Passage making is on my agenda, so gathering a understanding of the options and the compromises is the phase I am processing through.
     
  9. bpw
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    bpw Senior Member

    Unless you love wooden boats and have experience caring for them I would not consider one for cruising, especially if you plan to go to the tropics.
     
  10. CloudDiver
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    CloudDiver Senior Member

    If he buys a traditionally built wooden boat, yes there is a great potential for problems in a high humidity environment. If the boat is modern composite wood construction (laminates in structure and/or cold molded hull) it can be excellent even in the tropics. The epoxy sealing the wood overcomes issues with moisture absorption and rot in traditional wood construction and it has better insulation value. Thats why I asked him to post a link to the boat he is considering for potential purchase. If it requires some refitting/repair then he may have the opportunity to make improvements to the traditional construction like thinned epoxy saturation of the wood on the interior, several coats until rejection, glassing the bilge, and depending on the planking type also a glass layer on the outside as well. There is the potential to seal out everything even on traditionally built boats, but it is a great deal of labor and time investment. Many variables have to be looked at and the only way to know if it is worth it is to be familiar with the hull in question.
     
  11. bpw
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    bpw Senior Member

    I agree, should have been clear I referencing traditional wooden boats, cold molded is a very different beast.
     
  12. CloudDiver
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    CloudDiver Senior Member

    Still waiting on him to post link of boat for sale he is considering... Could be a great buy, could be a bag of worms. I know of three Kettenburgs for sale I'd love to have, but I simply don't have the space to an indoor re-fit that size. Traditional purists would go bat **** crazy if you put a layer of glass on the hull of Kettenburg!
     
  13. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Are you kidding? I guess simply floating is a bad thing, by this logic. Talk about an oxymoron.

    The location the boat is kept has little bearing on the hull material choices. The longevity of any hull material choice is neglect based. Traditional wooden builds can tolerate the least amount of neglect. The temperature of the water and humidity level in the air have little bearing on this, except at the extremes.

    Questions like this are best left to a certified surveyor, that's fully examined the boat. Usually the condition of the yacht is obvious to the surveyor, within minutes. The next several hours he'll document the extent of the yacht's "needs". If he's good and knows the type, he'll have specific areas he wants to to see right away, but mostly he'll generally know what the real story is in about 10 minutes. So, instead of idle speculation and ridiculously grandiose statements, about how terrible warm water might be to wood, if you're serious, have the yacht surveyed, by the best of the local, accredited surveyors you can find and all the unsupportable supposition and guessing will disappear.
     
  14. bpw
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    bpw Senior Member

    Its not the warm water that kills wooden boats in the tropics, its the huge amounts of rainfall, warm weather, lots of UV and high humidity. Compare a wood boat that lives in Maine to one from Florida, The one in Florida will need way more care to keep it alive and if rot starts it will spread a quicker. Not to mention termites and other nasty things that like to eat wood that thrive in warm climates.

    Sure, any traditional wood boat needs care in any location, but they will break your heart in a tropical rainforest.
     

  15. SamSam
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    SamSam Senior Member

    Huh?

    From their museum webpage...
    http://www.ussconstitutionmuseum.org/collections-history/faq/
     
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