Effect of age on a wooden boat

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james
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Effect of age on a wooden boat

Post by james » Thu Aug 28, 2008 7:30 pm

There is a Heron for sale at my sailing club, which was built in 1951. I am very interested in buying it but I am concerned that it may have lost much of its strength with time. Is this likely? I'm not sure how Herons are constructed and whether of not they are affected by the kind of decay in the glue in the way that some are.

Does anone have any experience with this?

Apparently the boat has been dry stored for the last 25 years - is that good or bad?

Thanks very much.

Garry R

Re: Effect of age on a wooden boat

Post by Garry R » Thu Aug 28, 2008 8:30 pm

You obviously have to look around for signs of rot and delamination of the plywood first of all. The boat will be of plywood construction and you have to bear in mind that she was built in the days when the modern epoxy glkues were not around. Having said that the aerolites were used but over the 57years that the bot has been in existence this may have failed as it has in many old boats, not along a whole joint but certainly there may be some springing of joints and this is more difficult to spot on a cursory inspection. However it can be put right fairly easily. Rot is the more difficult one and may even require a re-decking which is time consuming and not cheap if you use decent marine ply. Remember that if you do a repair such as a re-deck she may look lovely but you won't get your money back should you sell her - you never do with old boats!!!! But then we're not in it for that just the fun of it.

Are you intending to sail it with kids? If for adults the Heron is not a big boat so it will feel cramped. Having said all this it is popular and there are plenty around and bits should be no problem. Have a good poke around it and check there is nothing terminal!!

Anyone else with comments to add?

DavidC
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Re: Effect of age on a wooden boat

Post by DavidC » Fri Aug 29, 2008 2:24 am

Garry has covered most general points. I have Heron 621 built in 1956. she had been looked after and there was just a little rot near the mast step where water had sat. It was easily repaired.

The boat will be a plywood skin over a frame and the main problem area will be the centre board case. These were bedded in on something which will certainly have gone dry by now and it will most likely be the cause of any leaks. It is an easy repair with epoxy fillets. To ensure the boat is structurally sound I have added some extra fastenings and also epoxy fillets on some of the frames. This is not a difficult job and was done as part of a total strip back and repaint/re varnish. There are new decks but you do not need a great deal of plywood and if the old ones are removed carefully they provide excellent patterns as a replacement.

The Heron is a delight to sail and has a keen class association. They can be used for racing and cruising. /www.heron-dinghy.org.uk/

Cheers
David

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Re: Effect of age on a wooden boat

Post by JimC » Fri Aug 29, 2008 10:21 pm

It seems to me that the further you go back the less they trusted in glue and the more mechanical fasteners there are. I wouldn't be suprised if a 1951 boat could have less glue joint trouble than a 1970 one... Although feel free to correct me you folks with 50s boats if I'm wrong...

ACB
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Re: Effect of age on a wooden boat

Post by ACB » Fri Aug 29, 2008 10:45 pm

Ho, hum. Alex and I have been doing a lot of re-gluing of his Mark 2(?) Firefly, F3000, built 1963.

The hull laminates are fine, but the gunwales and bouyancy tanks, glued with what looks like urea formaldehyde, had had it and were being held in place by the screws (at least Fairey Marine used bronze!) The gunwales/side decks were not even being held on place by those, and had parted company with the topsides along the middle third of the hull.

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roger
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Re: Effect of age on a wooden boat

Post by roger » Sun Aug 31, 2008 7:17 pm

After 40 years dry storage my 1953 Hornet(same construction technique) leaked pretty badly but with careful use of epoxy and the talents of our resident harpsichord builder she sailed successfully in strong winds at the nationals.
I think Jim may be right and they trusted the glues less in the 50s.

Look for rot around the areas where water may have hung about. You may find like I did on an earlier boat project that the more you look the more you find to do.

Good luck and hope we see you soon.

Rog
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Rupert
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Re: Effect of age on a wooden boat

Post by Rupert » Mon Sep 01, 2008 3:22 pm

The other problem I've had with old wooden Mirrors in that of the ply going brittle. There is no sign of rot, but your foot goes through the bottom anyway! Having said that, a Heron stored inside for the last 25 years? Go for it!
Rupert

Michael Brigg
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Re: Effect of age on a wooden boat

Post by Michael Brigg » Tue Sep 02, 2008 11:33 am

ACB wrote:-
The hull laminates are fine, but the gunwales and bouyancy tanks, glued with what looks like urea formaldehyde, had had it and were being held in place by the screws
Having acertained that the first Mark2 was @F3110 I guess this tells us why F3000 is falling apart in these areas:-

Firstly the side tanks have disintegrated because they were not originally designed to be sat upon and the side decks are a later addition perhaps without the benefit of the glue or wood being cooked.

I have been told that delamination of the rather thick veneers of a Mark 2 side deck is one of their particular problems. I suspect for reasons of cost the wood would perhaps be glued rather than moulded into shape and although the thicker veneer gives a more attractive appearance some tendency to delaminate is inevitable particularly affecting the join between the hull and what is the Gunwhale. The Inwhale will be held in shape by the convexity of the hull.

Upside down storage in the open might also allow water to gather on the join with the hull and contribute to the problem of secret damp.

Rupert said:-
The other problem I've had with old wooden Mirrors in that of the ply going brittle. There is no sign of rot, but your foot goes through the bottom anyway!
I'm not sure this is due to rot... My theory is that a launching trolly or for that matter a road trailr often has the stern supports positioned just under the floor pan of a mirror where the helm puts his feet. Even if yours doesn't, a previous owner may have had this arrangement. Also, the tendency is for Mirror road trailers to have no keel support behind this, meaning that the weight of any additional luggage such a bicycles etc is all concentrated on the support pads of a overloaded trailer and inevitably the floor pan splits, just behing the floor stringers. This was certainly the case in my mirror, cured by adding an extra, and extending the floor stringers along the length of the boat.

The boat still leaks however having come unglued at the front of the plate case. I can feel the need for a few 2'' bolts and rigging plates to pull it all back together!
Last edited by Michael Brigg on Tue Sep 02, 2008 1:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Michael Brigg
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Re: Effect of age on a wooden boat

Post by Michael Brigg » Tue Sep 02, 2008 11:37 am

Rupert said.
There is no sign of rot, but your foot goes through the bottom anyway!
Actually I've just realised that this problem is caused by beer....

...and middle age spread!
Michael Brigg

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Ed
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Re: Effect of age on a wooden boat

Post by Ed » Tue Sep 02, 2008 1:03 pm

I do know what you mean though rupert about wood, especially Ply that seems to have just gone all brittle.

I have come across this before.

I have always thought it was caused by some stage in its life either or more likely both of the following:

1) Getting rather wet - most paint or varnish as we know is porous and if water is left standing in a boat, then the wood will start to take up some of the water and can become to some extent saturated. If left alone this will often dry out with no obvious damage to the wood.

2) Getting rather hot - boats left outside in sun under covers can get very hot - certainly hot enough to damage the glues used in anything but the best quality Lloyds standard ply. Again, damage is not obvious, but I am sure it makes the wood more brittle.

I think often a mixture of both of the above can leave the wood in a very damaged and brittle state, even if the damage is not that visually apparent.

eib
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Pat
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Re: Effect of age on a wooden boat

Post by Pat » Tue Sep 02, 2008 7:08 pm

Beer and middle aged spread and the helm's hefty feet don't do much for the old cascamite between Merlin planks. Thankfully Jonathan's bright blue extra wide duct tape stopped the fountains we had in the red Merlin last week but adding Sandy's green shorts the effect was rather colourful :D

Michael Brigg
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Re: Effect of age on a wooden boat

Post by Michael Brigg » Tue Sep 02, 2008 7:21 pm

Right said Ed...
I think often a mixture of both of the above can leave the wood in a very damaged and brittle state, even if the damage is not that visually apparent.
...And thirdly, getting rather cold. After soaking and cooking you must FREEZE the result. Frost is especially harmful as expanding Ice crystals in the damp wood matrix will finish of what the other two didn't. and make the wood more porous when it dries out.

Any more for the Spanish Inquisition?
Last edited by Michael Brigg on Tue Sep 02, 2008 7:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Garry R

Re: Effect of age on a wooden boat

Post by Garry R » Tue Sep 02, 2008 7:27 pm

Pat

That's NOT what's meant by walking the plank!!

Rupert
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Re: Effect of age on a wooden boat

Post by Rupert » Tue Sep 02, 2008 7:34 pm

Michael Brigg wrote:Rupert said.
There is no sign of rot, but your foot goes through the bottom anyway!
Actually I've just realised that this problem is caused by beer....

...and middle age spread!
I'm not sure Kathryn will be very happy with that description...it was her foot that went through...

By the way, Michael, where did you get the information that Firefly tanks weren't designed to be sat on? I've never had any trouble.
Rupert

Michael Brigg
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Re: Effect of age on a wooden boat

Post by Michael Brigg » Tue Sep 02, 2008 8:11 pm

Rupert said:-
where did you get the information that Firefly tanks weren't designed to be sat on? I've never had any trouble.
I worked it out, as you might also do by sitting on the side tank in a Mark1 boat! It is difficult even with alot of beer and middle age spread.

One of the problems in the Mark1 design which traditional boy/girl crews complained of was the way it became impossible to balance the boat in light to moderate wind. The helm can only sit on the wide side deck which completely overhangs the tanks. To sit in furthur the crew must move to leeward so that the helm has room on the thwart. Crew and helm sitting in would be both cramped and inadequate ballast, while both sitting out on the deck was too much. The Mark2 design allows both crew and helm to cuddle up warmly on the side bench without capsizing the boat.

When mark3 conversions came along this allowed for intimacy on the side tanks which are left "in situ" in what is a relatively cheap and cheerful redesign to acheive the same configuration as a Mark 2 with less complicated carpentry. I am quite certain that the weight of crew and helm regularly bumping down onto the side tank leads to fractures in the rather brittle glue that seals the lower edge of the tank to the hull, as this is inevitably where they start to leak. Also the thickness of ply (which is unsupported on the flat upper surface) is not sufficient to withstand this treatment for long if the boat is sailed energetically and will soon be splitting under the strain.

It is a personal theory of mine which I believe is quite a valid one supported by my observation of Mark3 converted boats which would all struggle to pass their boyouancy tests.
Michael Brigg

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