The Rise and Fall of Wooden Sail Boats

The start of boating history as we know it, was wooden. From all corners of the globe, civilizations begun their sea explorations and voyages on vessels carved from all kinds of wood, favoring what ever was native to their lands and coming up with unique hull and sail designs created to suit their needs and the oceans around them. From small log canoes on the amazon to great tall ships coming out of Europe, wood was the only option for boat building. In modern times sailing boats became not just a means to an end and a way to get from A to B, but a pleasurable craft for personal adventures and day voyages. Beautiful wooden craft came onto the market, made for aesthetics and comfort just as much as practicality. These boats came in all shapes and sizes but the one thing they all had in common was the craftsmanship that it took to create them. In the 1960’s the Fiberglass sailing boat started to become popular, due to its ability to be made quickly and by a mold, which would see a sort of mass production taking place. It seemed overtime fiberglass would take over the sailing world completely. The ability to create identical boats that could preform on more elite levels was appealing to most. So what space did it leave for the humble wooden sailboat? And are it’s days over completely?

Why Wood?

Wood was originally used in the creation of sea vessels for it’s buoyant properties and it’s abilities to be sealed and become somewhat waterproof.

Each boat as made by hand and even in more modern boat making practices, no two can be exactly the same. Wooden boats were made to suit the individual’s purposes and certain trees were often planted and farmed to make the best boats they could.

So now in this day of fiberglass and plastics, why would you chose wood over a streamline often cheaper version of the sailing boat you wanted?

Out of Fashion

One of the reasons behind the fall of the wooden sailboat is the invention of fiberglass, which brought on a whole different way of creating boats. With the fiberglass boat came a cheaper option and also an option to not spend so much time and money on repairs as was one of the downfalls of the wooden boat. People liked the practicality that fiberglass had to offer and that the constant need for repainting and sealing was gone, and instead a quick scrub down would suffice. So Wooden Sailboats went out of fashion in favor of the sportier easier model. Some argued the new model was more reliable and less stress involved in the maintenance than using the timber version.

The Art of Bespoke

Many people are turning back to wood because of the beauty of have a bespoke craft. The aesthetics of a wooden boat hold a certain nostalgia that have people thinking about sailing in more of a dreamy romanticized way, taking them back to simpler times when sailing was purely about the pleasure of being out on the water. A bespoke sailing boat is a one of a kind affair, and many people are going back to the old ways of wanting custom made, not only in sailing boats but in their clothing and furniture we are seeing a comeback to the old ways of crafts and a new appreciation for artisan goods. Having a wooden sailing boat made ensures a one of a kind lux that many people enjoy and to see the process and to have a story behind the making of the vessel is just as important to some as the vessel it’s self. In now more than ever a certain glamour has been places back upon ‘vintage’ and ‘handmade’ That is bringing the wooden boat back into fashion once again.

Advantages of Wood

Apart from pure ascetics there are some advantages to the wooden sailing boat that many enjoy. These days the way that wood can be used and treated has helped the modern way wooden boats with a lightweight and good strength to weight ratio. The design of a wooden boat can also be so much more flexible than getting it made out of other materials. With the right wood your boat can be both strong and flexible and will not fatigue. Wood, when farmed correctly can be a great renewable source.

The Modern Wooden

There are not as many master boat builders round as their use to be, due to the lack of demand but when you find a skilled boat builder then you will see the true art form that is wooden boat building. Many modern day boat builders implements some more modern technologies into their work like a layer of epoxy and fiberglass to sheath the wood and keep rot at bay. But you can still find boat builders that take on only the traditional approach using old tools and modeling their boats on traditional ships.

Would You Choose Wood?

So having seen it’s advantages and disadvantages would you choose wood? If you were after a beautiful vessel that holds the love of nostalgia for daytime cruising, you really can’t go past the beauty of a wooden ship. There is nothing quite like having a one of a kind hand made vessel to get you underway and slipping through the water.


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