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.