A piece of art that combines form, function, and beauty is the best way to describe a custom wooden boat. There is a certain romance to the look of wood polished to perfection. Whether it is a classic style or contemporary creation, wooden boats have a certain appeal to them. They can so easily take your breath away.
With modern advancements we quickly forget where and why wooden boats were created. The oldest wooden boat discovered was the Pesse canoe, a dugout from a hollowed tree between 8200 and 7600 BC. The use of wood for boats continued until around the mid-19th century when frames started to be assembled using iron or steel, but wood was still used for planking. During the 1920’s the classic Runabout style of wooden boats became popular. At this time wooden boats were being used more as a luxury than a necessity and the romantic feel of a wood boat has allowed it to continue to be a boat of luxury.
There are many other reasons that wooden boats have stayed so popular in the boating world. For example, and I believe Steve Van Dam puts it best when he says, “they are strong, durable, and beautiful.” Wood is a great structural material; it is strong, yet lightweight. Using wood to build a boat is an efficient use of materials with very little waste. There are no expensive molds or tooling that are required for its completion. The most common woods used are Honduras Mahogany, African Mahogany, Douglas Fir, Sitka Spruce, Yellow Cedar, and Western Red Cedar. These species are beautiful to the eye when varnished with flawless craftsmanship.
Some question whether wood boats take more maintenance than those built with materials such as fiberglass, aluminum, or steel. The style of boat and the location it is kept are key factors when determining the level of maintenance, but this is true for all materials used to build boats. Many owners of wooden boats enjoy having a clear finish that displays the beauty of the wood. This will require regular maintenance of fresh
topcoats of finish at regular intervals if the boat is left outside. At Van Dam we use a state-of-the-art automotive clear coat as a finish. It still requires maintenance, but not as much as varnish. If the boat is kept protected in a boathouse or under a cover when it is not in use there will be less regular maintenance required.
Wooden boat owners are in a league of their own, as Charles Colman, owner of a Van Dam and several other wooden boats puts it, “My wooden boats are functional museum pieces that are the center of my fun and my social life!” This same owner was drawn back to wooden boats when his wife would not ride in his Boston Whaler, stating that it was too choppy. Instead he refitted his family’s old wooden Chris-Craft. There is no doubt that there is a certain level of elegance to a wood boat. Many times they are a reflection of the owner’s personality and an expression of his/her needs.
Why a wooden boat? We will leave you with the words of Steve Van Dam that made the creation of custom wooden boats his life’s passion, “ Our wooden boats are dynamic art, beauty in motion.”