Updated on June 27th, 2023
Wooden yachts look exceptionally beautiful, unique and noble. Moreover, sometimes they can cost noticeably less than fiberglass boats. A natural question arises: why not buy a sailing or motor yacht made of wood?
Not all wooden boats are the same
It must be understood that there are different technologies for building yachts from wood. In addition, there are different types of wood, the cost of which varies greatly. As well as their ability to withstand prolonged exposure to water.
There are classic sailing and motor yachts, the hull of which is assembled from numerous boards, overlapped or butted. An obvious problem with these hulls is the many potential leak points. Regular replacement of caulks in the joints of the boards partially solves this problem, but the wood itself is subject to decay and wear. Therefore, at some point, it is necessary to change not only the caulk, but also the elements of the hull.
There is also a more modern technology that requires epoxy resin – this is a multi-layer veneer laid end-to-end on the frames. Such composite yachts are not only surprisingly beautiful and reliable, but also light. Perhaps the main drawback of such hulls is their high cost and the complexity of repair in the event of a hole.
There are also several other wood boat building techniques, including combo options and even do-it-yourself kits made from marine bakelite plywood.
Apart from the exceptional elegance of classic yachts, the most important thing that attracts all supporters of wooden shipbuilding is the uniqueness of each boat. It is simply impossible to build a series of absolutely identical hulls, as is done with fiberglass or other composites. For obvious reasons, each boat will have its own character, as well as a set of sores. This gives the wooden yacht those very anthropomorphic qualities appreciated by lovers of the classics.
Why are wooden yachts cheaper?
In fact, solid and high-quality wooden yachts made of precious woods in excellent condition are much more expensive than the same type of fiberglass boats. Especially if these yachts are built by a well-known manufacturer and have a history.
However, the market is flooded with wooden boats for sale at incredibly attractive prices, and some are even given away for free. Of course, nothing is really free. With extremely rare exceptions, all these used yachts require repairs, and if they are not done, then the problems will grow like a snowball.
Unlike GRP boats, which only lose their visual appeal without maintenance, the destruction of the wood of classic yachts will progress very quickly, and at some point it will be easier to build a new yacht than to restore a used one.
In most cases, maintenance costs for fiberglass, steel or aluminum can be more or less accurately calculated and planned for a decade ahead. These materials are not only reliable and maintainable, but also predictable.
This is not the case with wood. You may have seen some wooden boats built before electricity was even around. And they look amazing. There are also later yachts, from the 70s, which also look like they just left the shipyard. But most likely, the owners of such vessels spent most of their time servicing them on the shore, and not on sea cruises.
Again, there are exceptions, but they are few. In general, if you interview experienced owners who had yachts made of different materials, it turns out that the most attention during maintenance had to be paid to wooden boats, which in most cases was the reason for their sale.
Of course, all this does not apply to convinced fans of the classics of yachtbuilding and the tree itself as a material. This is a completely different category of people. If you are ready to carry out the reconstruction yourself and have fun, or you have enough money to hire specialists, then why not become the owner of an incredibly beautiful yacht?
However, if the priority is endless travel, permanent residence on board, especially if there is no interest in working with wood, then it is better to consider other materials. Wooden yachts are rarely chosen for long cruises, for the simple reason that their maintenance cannot be delayed, and sudden repairs can be quite difficult for a non-specialist and affect many elements of the set.
And here we run into an important ecological dilemma. A wooden yacht can exist and sail for more than one century, even if there are almost no original parts left in it. And at the end of its life path, nature will easily take it back. GRP yachts with limited repair options end up being scrapped (at best) or polluting the ocean again.
Therefore, in terms of durability, wooden boats are like mechanical watches, where each component can be reproduced by a master after centuries, so that people can again enjoy beauty and elegance.
Sensations are what wooden yachts are bought for. Our whole life revolves around sensations. You should not look for a rational grain in the acquisition of a used wooden yacht. It does not require any explanation, like buying a work of art. However, it is obvious that the smell of lacquered wood is more pleasant than the smell of styrene and other chemicals. So is the tactile difference between wood and GRP.
When should you buy a wooden yacht?
- When you’re crazy about wood as a building material
- When boating and remodeling is your hobby
- When you really care about the environment
- When you have a budget for unplanned repairs
- When you want your yacht to be photographed when entering any marina
Advantages of wooden yachts
- Wood is originally a floating material, traditional for shipbuilding.
- Wood is widely available and cheap, except for exotic species.
- Durable and lightweight material.
- Non-magnetic material.
- High sound insulation.
- High thermal insulation and, as a result, less tendency to form condensate.
- The lifespan of a yacht is unlimited as aging elements can be constantly replaced.
- Repairs can be made with simple tools.
- High aesthetics and belonging to art.
- Friendliness to nature.
Disadvantages of wooden yachts
- Untreated wood actively absorbs any moisture and rots.
- Requires continuous monitoring and regular maintenance, including painting and varnishing.
- It is difficult to create complex contours of the hull.
- It is impossible to predict the breakdown and the cost of its elimination.
- Not friendly with fresh water.
What is the result
In most cases, wooden yachts are ideal pleasure crafts, pleasant, warm and simply fantastically beautiful. As long as they are strangers. As soon as you decide to buy a wooden boat for yourself, this idyll can collapse.
However, this in no way applies to those who live in the classics, take care of the environment and acquire a boat with their soul, and not only for practical reasons. Wood has its undeniable advantages, and many high-quality wooden yachts have been sailing the oceans for years without any problems with repairs, and even, on the contrary, giving odds to modern composites. But, unfortunately, they are a minority.