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From the Bilge

Lifting wooden boats.

Category: General

In our trade as boat brokers, we spend most of our time on or near the waterfront, observing all manner of boats being lifted or pulled from the water and having all kind of jobs done to them.

Woden boats can be a special joy to the people who own them and others who just admire them from afar. Special care, however, should be given to them to prolong their life. I have a long term friend who has a wooden boat built in 1896 and he uses it regularly, and I'm sure that with proper care, a wooden boat can last longer than some of our fibreglass boats. I think that this particular boat will, with care, still be around long after I'm gone from the scene.

Lifting a wooden boat by a boat lifter is usually fine, but if it's a planked ( carvel, clinker, or double diagonal planks ) it's usually better to ask the boat yard to use 4 straps instead of the usual 2. This is because wooden boats of this kind will tend to flex somewhat and the extra straps provide more support and don't put unneccessary strain on the hull. ( A bit like an old girl or bloke with a jock strap!)

If the boat has hard chines, it's best to have some flat wooden blocks/pads made up that fit just above the chines. This is because the pressure of the straps on the hull at the chines can compress the hull at that acute point and concertrate most of the vessels' weight onto that point rather than spreading the load evenly.

These blocks or pads are usually about 2' long and about 6" high and can be permanently fastened to the hull by a shipwright, or can be made up and just hung over the gunwhales by ropes at the time of lifting. ( They fit snugly between the hull and the straps.)

The traditional slipway, or railway and cradle, is my preferred method, because the full weight of the boat is normally supported on the keel and not on the planks, so the side arms of the cradle merely hold the boat in the vertical position. The keel does the work ! In this way, the boat is not likely to temporarily distort which can stress the hull.

It's always a good idea to make sure the shipyard puts blocks and wedges under the full length of the keel, so that the boat is fully supported.

Don't forget, If you want to have your "2 bobs' worth" with your observations about boating tips, anecdotes, etc... send us an email.


Happy Boating

Chris Mews and Lach Simpson