Wooden Boat Care.

Boat care for Wooden Boats is basically the same for everyone.

  • Keep her clean.
  • Keep her well ventilated.
  • Regularly maintain the paint and varnish.

If you look after her she will look after you.

Boat care for those who keep their boats in warm dry climates with long periods of bright sunlight means keeping the wood and the coatings protected from damage from UV light.

For those of us in more humid environments whether cold or warm the most insidious form of damage is from fungal and bacterial growth in wood.


How long a wooden boat survives depends almost entirely on how well the wood is protected.

Marine archaeologists are still finding the remains of wooden boats hundreds of years old. The reason these timbers have not rotted away, despite being under water is the absence of oxygen.

Most wood rot is caused by a fungus in the wood.

The most common form of deterioration in wood boats is misnamed dry rot.

For this to grow it needs moisture, oxygen and a warm environment.

While there are likely to be some rot spores in all wood their growth can be curtailed by a bit of boat care and eliminating the conditions that allow them to grow.

Bare wood will absorb the moisture which attracts rot so keep it painted or varnished.

Good ventilation is a major part of boat care.

Airing all any enclosed spaces will help prevent dampness from collecting, which is why open boats are less susceptible to rot than cabin cruisers.

All boats most at risk of from rot when they are not in use.

However the type of construction and bad design can lead to moisture being trapped.

Also some woods are more prone to rot than others.

Softer woods and those fast growing woods which have less resin and tightness of grain suffer more than older growth wood.

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The vast majority of us are leisure boaters and our boats spend as much time in storage than in use.

Therefore boat care is important, take some care over the storage of your boat.

This is particularly true for wooden boats, though even plastic ones, despite popular opinion needing boat care.

Wooden boats that remain afloat in salt water will tend to have less rot than boats in fresh water.

However, the majority of small boats are kept out of the water.

Boats stored on the beach or yard, even during the season should be propped up on blocks so that they are off the ground at least a few inches.

And cover her so as to keep the worst of the weather off, yet still allow air to circulate.

Try to keep her away from any shedding trees or where there is tall, wet grass that may come into contact with the wood.

And avoid keeping her close to an old wooden shed which might be a breading ground for rot spores.

Whether she is on blocks or on a trailer keep one end raised up to help shed rainwater.

Open the drain plug if there is one to allow any bilge water to drain.

On the other hand if you are keeping your boat indoors in a garage or shed be careful that the wood is not allowed to dry excessively.

Wherever you keep her check her periodically and allow the air to circulate through the interior.

It can be argued that a hull which is well protected with paint and varnish is better off without a cover.

However, varnish and paint will degrade more quickly when exposed.




A canvas cover will keep an open boat protected and looking good indefinitely.

It will protect her from the rain, sun, bird droppings, leaves and twigs.

However you must allow the boat to breathe.

If you wrap her tightly in plastic she is almost sure to become damp with condensation, encouraging rot to develop.

The ends must be kept open so air can circulate and moisture escape.

The cover should be kept clear of the wood using a framework.

Although reinforced plastic can be used as a cover, breathable canvas will allow moisture to evaporate when it is dry and the canvas will tighten up when it is wet to become water repellent.

And keep the cover in good shape, repair tears, rips and worn spots before they allow too much damp to damage the boat.

Where a boat is stored under a cover in sunny climes it is best to avoid dark colored canvas, it will absorb heat that could cause excessive drying of the wood and cause seams to crack and open up.

The cover should be held in place with lines from grommets in the edge of the cover but these should be anchored to the ground and not to the boat or chocks.

If there is a windstorm it is better that the cover blows away than the boat is blown over.

For more imformation check out the Boat Cover Repair Advice | canvas-boat-cover-and-repair-advisor.com

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A Stitch in Time.

That old saying is particularly true for wooden boat care.

Besides you know that she is worth it.

Constantly checking your boat and her gear for structural integrity is part of remaining safe while afloat.

Touching up any deep scratches or scuffs or damaged varnish or paint during the season will keep her looking good and save you work in the long run.

This is particularly true for boats sheathed with fiberglass.

Any cuts in the epoxy fiberglass coating will allow water to enter the wood and once behind the coating it will be trapped.

It only takes a few moments to check for and touch up damaged areas.

Keep an eye on areas of greatest wear such as the coamings on a small wooden boat, and where fenders and mooring lines rub.

And don't neglect the mooring lines themselves.

Any chafing caused by dragging a small boat on the beach can be minimized by having metal rub strips on the bottom of the keel.

Rubbing strakes will last longer if they are protected with fenders or a rope or rubber guard.

Choosing a light color for your boat will also help extend the life of the protective paint finish.

Lighter colors will reflect the sun while darker colors will absorb heat, this will not only shorten the life of the paint but dry out any caulking.

Decks are particularly vulnerable, they take a lot of general abuse, constantly being walked on and having anchors, chains and such like dragged across them.

Decks also take the full brunt of the effects of the sun and rain.

Any cracks in the deck joinery are prone to rot due to trapped water.

Once water is allowed to seep into the deck structure itself capillary action can spread rot over large areas.

This is particularly true for plywood decks, if water gets into the edges of the panels it can cause delamination.

The Varnish on that beautiful bright work which you spent so much time on, is more vulnerable to degradation than paint work.

Where the varnish had degraded to the point where water is getting behind it, not only will the varnish blister but the water will discolor the wood.

Once that has bee allowed to happen it is very difficult to get rid of the stains or the blisters without a lot of sanding and bleaching the wood.

And don't neglect those spars, oars and the like.

Touch up any worn spots and store them out of the sun.

If your oars have leathers keep them well greased not only will it prolong their life it will make rowing easier.

For boats that are kept in the water annual renewal of the anti-fouling paint will minimize marine growth and deter any borers.

For sailboat owners boat care also includes keeping a check on all the running and standing rigging.

Blocks take a lot of stress and also need constant care, especially on rigs with large sail areas and heavy spars.

I apologize if I have made wooden boat care seem like a drudge, it doesn't have to be.

Just being aware of her needs and taking a few minutes here and there to touch up the odd scratch really will enhance the experience of owning her.

Boat Care Over Winter.

The more time you spend on boat care in the fall and during the winter the less you will have to do in the spring.

While you should keep her clean at all times, it is doubly important when winterizing as dirt will retain moisture.

Much has been written about winterizing boats, the inference being that for those in colder climates their boats are put away and forgotten about all through the winter.

You would not do that to your best friends or partners so why do it to your beautiful boat.

No matter how well you have laid her up, a wooden boat left to stagnate is an ideal breeding ground for those rot spores.

Drop in to see her regularly, open her up allow the air to circulate, perhaps do some odd boat care jobs, or just relax and enjoy her company.

Give your boat some boat care and she will care for you.

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