Off she goes, Iain Oughtred's slightly foreshortened Penny Fee, at 15ft. Sails by Jeckells, spars by the wonderful Jeremy Freeland at Collars. The rest by Messrs Burke and Morgan (that's Jonny by the way...)

Monday, 21 March 2011

Just a Thought...

It's been a while since I had a go at plywood, so here goes. It struck me the other day after seeing another fine traditional wooden boat restoration project completed that you seldom if ever hear about an old plywood boat being restored. That may be because, unlike a clinker or carvel boat, they never need restoring.  Maybe. Some years ago I recall seeing something about one of the first cruising boats, Maid of Ply, under restoration. And then there's Kees Bruynzeel's fabulous Stormvogel. But she's exceptional.

More likely most old plywood cruising boats are simply not worth bothering about - all those Eventides and the like. And yet, why not? Darn sight easier to strip off a sheet or two of rotten plywood and reskin than all that palaver with planks and ribs and the rest.

Meanwhile, here's a cautionary tale that applies to all clinker boats of a certain age. At some point in their lives someone comes up with the brilliant idea to cover them in glassfibre. This, I have to tell you, is the beginning of the end. It is the last gasp; the final phase in the life of a clinker boat. Indeed of any wooden boat traditionally built.

I have one such under repair in my shed as I write. It is, if I had to describe it honestly, a thin glassfibre shell, lined with slowly rotting wood. Thing is, water coming in from above will inevitably find its way out via the plank lands, and any convenient exit points - splits and such. As the glassfibre will not have adhered to the damp and expanding/contracting wooden planks, the water will seep between planks and glassfibre, settling in the keel.

The keel band will have been attached after the glassfibre skin has cured with screws, which will leak water from below. And there is nothing you can do to stop the rot, short of pouring in a gallon of Cuprinol which will slow the process.

The good news is that old boats tend to hang together through force of habit. It must be true, as there's nothing much else holding this one together.  I will do my best, and she will last a good five years or more. But why oh why did someone not simply replace the damaged planks? A clinker boat is, after all, infinitely repairable.

1 comment:

  1. In Denmark, many trad. clinker or Carvel planked boats were sheeted some 20 - 30 years ago. Most of them are long gone, but they would most probably have been long gone anyways. One thing is to change the planks, but when the keel and stem is rotten, then by - by or glassfibre (and later on by - by)
    I had the most wonderfull little 20´double ender with a small cabin. Cooker and 2 berth. It was drawn by Utzon and it was a complete joy to sail and look at. I prefered it over the Nordic Polkboat that I later bought.
    But the poor doubleender was made during WW2 and she was fitted with galvanized nails. So leaking was part of the joy. I sold her to a guy who covered her in glasfibre. He did a good job. It was not visible. I dont know happened to her.
    I dont like glasfibre sheeting at all, but sometimes it has its reasons.

    How much tide did you have this weekend?