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Buying a wooden boat?

In buying a vessel there are many decisions to be made. These include type of use, where to keep, running and maintenance costs, and construction material types. With modern advances in composite technology, fibreglass craft are more common than ever with the added benefits of easy cleaning, durable substrates, proven designs and builds, and lower costs of craft – especially with lower priced imports.

Wooden boats are not as commonly built from new as they once were. However; now days a custom wooden boat that has been professionally built can guarantee structural integrity and rigidity, light weight, a pleasant natural finish, and if properly maintained a vessel that will last the life time of the owner.

Wooden boats are very common in the second hand boat market. Vessels found can be recent too over 100 years old! Before the popularity of GRP construction in the last several decades, timber boats were built professionally and by the home builder in abundance. Look at any brokerage site and wooden boats will include yachts, game fishing launches, traditional pleasure boats, working boats such as fishing trawlers, and gin palaces! A lot of these craft were well built and maintained, however many were also of poor build quality and material. It is up to the purchaser and surveyor to find the correct wooden boat for appropriate use and condition.

Surveyors take note of many factors whilst surveying a wooden vessel and the buyer can take these into consideration. Obviously rotten timber is the most common worry. This can be caused by original bad workmanship, faulty materials, a lack of protective barriers to the elements, a lack of ventilation and an abundance of fresh water trapped in unobtainable spaces. Several methods can be used to find rot. These are by sight (the timber will show defects under paint), smell (experienced surveyors and boat users can usually detect rot by smell in an enclosed interior), and by percussion testing with a small hammer. Rotten timber sounds a lot different than nice, sound timber.

Because of the age of wooden boats the surveyor will take note of servicing and maintenance carried out. There are good and bad owners and a quick inspection will determine how well the vessel has been cared for.

Many clients are put off by the associated costs with maintaining a wooden vessel. But once painted, cleaned and serviced there is no reason that owning a wooden vessel should require as much work as a GRP equivalent. Part of owning a boat is maintaining a servicing schedule. A well built wooden vessel will provide safe, comfortable boating.

Owning an older wooden vessel can also be a cheaper alternative for boat ownership. Obviously a wooden boat built 30-40 years ago will be a lot cheaper than purchasing a brand new fibreglass import. There may be a refurbishment required, but with hard graft the owner could have a practical wooden vessel that has structural integrity, is seaworthy, and is a pleasure to own and maintain.