Monday, 20 January 2014

Over-Wintering a Wooden Boat

Sometimes there is so much in a simple picture. I love wooden boats but I have never felt skilled enough to
take one on to look after. Doesn’t stop me dreaming though – and here is just about as good as a dream can get. Mid-winter and yet unlike the other boats shored up and dripping in the boatyard, this thing of beauty sits here happy in her winter mud berth – safe protected and cared for by the most natural of all elements – mud.

Here's one that dried out earlier
I wish I had a pound or a euro for every time a wooden boat owner has complained that his boat leaks when he launches her in spring after she has spent a winter shored -up in a boatyard. The simple matter is that no matter how wet a winter can be a wooden planked boat will dry out to some extent when she is taken out of the water for any length of time. During that drying out period the planks shrink and when she is put back in the water she’ll leak – until the moisture content increases and the planks swell up again.

Put a boat in a cosy mud-berth though, and the planks retain their moisture. Mud berths tend to be cheaper than boatyards too. Ideally on a mud berth a boat floats only at the top of the tide and even then quite briefly. The rest of the time she is cradled and supported by wet mud which keeps the moisture content of the wood at a pretty even level. At the top of the creek or salt marsh she is better protected from the weather than if she were shored up in a boatyard somewhere or even stored in a  dry hanger or barn.

It’s a pity that my theoretical knowledge isn’t matched by practical skill. I know for example how to scarf a joint, fill seams with caulking, and replace deck beams. I’ve read all about it in books. But (and here is the rub), I also know that the surest way to kill a traditional wooden boat would be to leave her in my hands for a year or so – the brain is willing  but the experience and the real knowledge isn’t in the hands. Ah well, back to the Glass Fibre day job.

for more inforamtion on the frugal life in France visit my other posts: Frugal Living in France