purchasing the first antique or classic boat that you find available, I
recommend that you attend some boat shows. This will give you an
opportunity to decide exactly what you want and speak to the owners
about the merits of different styles of boats. You will be much more
informed when the time arrives to purchase your own.
Once you set out to acquire your own vintage boat, you'll find that
prices vary widely depending on condition, rarity, originality and other
factors. Any time you consider plunking down thousands, or tens of
thousands, of dollars for an antique boat, it makes sense to get the
opinion of a professional surveyor.
Keep in mind that there are many wooden boats in use that have been
marginally maintained with an emphasis on varnish and chrome, but whose
framework needs the same attention as that of the gray boat. Those boats
may look good, but you will probably find many broken fasteners. Unfortunately,
it has become common wisdom that wooden boats are suppose to leak,
supposed to swell up, before they can be used---this misunderstanding
became the greater cause for their early demise.
he culprit of early hull ageing is over-saturation of the wood.
As excess moisture soaks into the wood, it expands like a sponge, and causes
the planks to buckle and warp, stretching the fasteners out of their
tightened positions, elongating the screw holes, and cracking the
planks. Where the plank edges meet the force of this expansion crushes
the wood cells, referred to as "compressive set." Once
the hollow cellulose wood cells become compressed, they remain that way
and this causes gaps in the plank seams.
While in this condition, the still-watertight hull is over-tightened
with wood weakened by water absorption. The flexing and pounding across
waves stretches fastener holes even more, causing stress cracks in the
planking and compressive set under the screw heads. Should the moisture
content of the wood climb above 25%, the rot spore already present in
the wood will begin to grow.
When removed from the water for winter storage, not only will the excess
moisture evaporate from the hull, so will some of the wood's natural
rot-preventive oils Due to both these losses, the planks contract
slightly smaller than original size. Gaps appear whenever compressive
set occurred at plank edges or frame landings or fastener heads. Not
only does this leave the entire structure weakened and loose, the
resulting gaps between planks and frames--as well as the plank
seems---collect dirt, debris, and rot spore.
Plus, such gaps hold
moisture that never fully evaporates in storage, feeding rot spore
During the following seasons, the same conditions feed upon themselves as
the hull requires more water to swell tight when more and more natural
oils are lost and due to damage from compressive set. The increasing
gaps collect additional dirt and debris, which causes even more
spreading of the components and dislodging fasteners. These clumps of
dirt and debris also hold moisture all season long and are the main
source for rot growth.
After enough seasons of this kind of abuse, the tropical hardwoods have
lost most of their natural rot-preventive oils and the wood becomes
brittle and lifeless. Like an unseen cancer, rot tendrils are growing
throughout the interior mating surfaces of planks and frames.
Manufacturers never intended these wooden boats to last for half a
century. In 1931, Gar Wood put out a factory-to-dealer memo on the replacing
worn-out bottom planks, after they had been producing wooden boats for
for barely six years. The operators were told to keep the boat out of the
water "when not in use," One simply cannot
decide today that these boats can be treated as if they had fiberglass
hulls, which we have also learned that after a few decades of use will
absorb water and blister the gel coat if left in the water for extended
periods. Clearly, there was an expected operational lifespan, after
which repairs would be required.
In short, a $15,000 purchase can very often require the same amount of
work as $1,500 purchase for the same type of boat. Scary, huh? This is
why I personally prefer the gray boat--I know exactly what I've got when
I'm done. I know that nothing is hidden.
Surveying a Boat
So how do you figure out how much work a particular boat might take in
order to rebuild it?
One answer is marine surveyors, who can be located through marinas,
marine insurance companies, and on the internet. The marine surveyor you
choose should be certified. Costs for this service typically are in the
range of $10 to $20 per foot of boat length. Your marine insurance
company should also be able to provide you with a list of marine
surveyors whose work they accept.
Several magazines and books also cover the subject of determining the
cost to rebuild a boat. Classic Boating magazine has been the bench mark in this area since
1984. Not only does it provide views of all different types and makes of
wooden power boats. It also includes advertisements from parts
suppliers, procedural and material advise for all aspects of boat
operation, and classified ads that can prove handy. You can join
organizations that will help you network your project.