Boats are a lot of work to maintain, but the joy they can bring is enough to offset the cost for many people. Some of the most beautiful boats on the water have things go wrong that need repairing over time and for owners of classic wooden boats, the time spent on your boat may be a lot more than a modern craft.
The construction of a classic wooden boat is different than modern boats, and if the boat is out of the water for very long, the wood will start to dry, which opens the seams between the boards on the hull of the boat.
The shrinking wood is not abnormal, in fact it is pretty common and putting water on the hull will typically make the boards swell again and seal the gaps. If the gap does not seal when the boat is wet, you may have a leak to repair or seal.
The solution is to fill the gap with a natural fiber caulking. The material is driven into the gap with a mallet and chisel to fill the seam. Once the wood is wet again and the wood swells, the fiber will take up space in the seam and swell to form a tight seal. If you put in caulking, be sure to remove any old caulking first.
Mahogany or other highly sought after materials are typical for a classic craft. The wood can take a lot of abuse but to keep it looking great, be sure to keep the wood clean. Many special cleaners are on the market for wooden boats, but often warm water and mild soap is the best option.
Regular boat washing can remove some of the wax finish so you may need to reapply the finish after a good cleaning. If you are not sure what to use on the wood, check with the local marina or boat repair service for recommendations.
Whether your classic boat has an inboard or an outboard engine, you need to maintain the engine. Because the engines operate in water, the engine has more chance of getting water in the oil or fuel. Check the oil before every startup and if you see any evidence of water in the oil, do not run the boat until you change the oil.
Water can get into the lower unit where the gear oil is as well. Because the gear oil is very heavy, the water is less likely to cause damage there in small amounts. A lower unit that has a large amount of oil in it can experience catastrophic bearing and gear failures.
If you do have a problem with the engine, transmission, or lower unit in your boat, take it to a shop that understands how to work on this type of boat. While the engine is not that much different from a modern boat, you need to protect the wood structure around it while working on it.
Engine work is typically done out of the water, which means you will need to tow the boat to the shop on a trailer. Be sure to use a trailer that fits the boats correctly, so it does not damage the boat. Cover the boat while you tow it so that road debris damages the finish.
Petzold’s Marine Center deals with repairs, custom canvas work, and mechanical repairs for many brands and types of boats. If you have an engine, transmission, or lower unit problem, give us a call to schedule a time to have one of our mechanics check out your boat.