Preview: No-Fuss Wooden Boat Maintenance

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A yearly plan makes maintaining a traditional wooden lobster boat and its plywood lapstake tender a breeze. Brian Larkin walks us through his wooden boat maintenance philosophy on these two boats that get used nearly every day of the summer on the rugged coast of Maine.

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31 Responses So Far to “No-Fuss Wooden Boat Maintenance

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    Anthony Aman says:

    While building my first boat, a Savo sliding seat row, I asked a local friend and expert boat builder for some advice. When the subject of painting came up he wryly commented, “Nothin’ uglier than varnished plywood!” That settled the paint scheme. Paint the ply, varnish the real. But that is my boat. The next one in the shop is for the grandkids. Paint the whole darn boat!

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    Gary Landwirth says:

    First-time poster here – just love that philosophy. I’m also a cyclist and there’s a term circulating among my bike-riding crowd called, “beausage.” Beauty through usage. Those nicks and scrapes help show the memories created when you actually use a thing…

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    Dave Mitchell says:

    A New Zealand boat builder I worked with used to say “ it’s not the Concord!” And I’ve used it often, but I might switch to “ nothing a man on a galloping horse would notice.” Thank you Scott Sellick, and thanks for the video Brian.
    Cheers, Dave.

  • Scott Sellick

    Scott Sellick says:

    This video made me smile; indeed. Thank you. In our family there is a saying that was passed down from Somerset (England) carpenters and possibly stone masons, from my grandfather and very likely from his father and grandfather before him (mothers and grandmothers as well, why not?!) — and it goes something like this: “Nothing a man on a galloping horse would take note of . . . ” Time for tea! And to get out onto the water.

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      Kit Laughlin says:

      I could not agree more: “work-boat finish” is the standard I am aiming for, personally. Semi-gloss oil-based enamel is our mainstay.

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    Paula Page says:

    Thanks Brian.
    After all it’s really all about “messing around in boats” 🎶

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    john howe says:

    My son and I use the 12 meter rule. If it looks good from 12 meters, that is what counts.
    I do varnish my teak. I tried natural and oil, but in the wet and urban Seattle environment the teak turned black. Twice a year I varnish the teak cap rail and combings on my 30 ft. Seawind.
    Every third year or so I paint the deck and topsides of this 55 year old classic plastic. That is enough. Bottom paint every third year, as the boat winters in fresh water and cruises all summer in salt water.

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    Richard Pipan says:

    Such a practical, modest approach. Thanks. I often think of it as a pleasure to pain ratio!

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    steve johnson says:

    Not to lecture a master of the trade. Yet, standing in a drafty barn,working the arm back and forth sanding the b-jepper’s while huffing/puffing those lungs,is a ripe session for taking on either lung or throat cancer. Pop on a mask, resins don’t make a good neighbor to ones lung.
    That aside,a wonderful share about living fully and those times being light and freer with the right attitude around drawing the line between concourse and what is home .

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    Mark Darley says:

    For me its all about time on the water, not time in the barn!

    Love the shot of the kids feet swinging in the wheelhouse window!

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    Gord Phillips says:

    Very glad to see others share my approach to maintenance! The teak on my Acadian Yawl is going nicely gray as the last of the varnish (prior owner) peels off. The hull gets painted when the dings and scrapes expand to occupy more than 50% of the surface area….. The interior needs work too, but I’d rather sail than fuss over the state of the headliner, or the sole. Just so long as the things that need to work are up to snuff, I’m good! See you on the water!

  • David Tew

    David Tew says:

    The secret to really enjoying your boat during our oh-too-short seasons.

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    Charles Neuman says:

    I tend to let my boat go too far before I maintain it, but when I do it, I like to do it right. I probably spend more time than I need making sure things are just right. I think about how close I need to be before the imperfections bother me. At 3 feet, I can see everything wrong. I aim for being able to admire my boat from about 6 feet, which is certainly good enough.

    But then when it gets dinged up, well, that means the boat is being used, which is a good thing!

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    JUAN URIBE says:

    Brian. Nice to see you on your video. We lived in front of you while my scooling at Woodenboat. My first lesson was the Shellback you teaching it. I am fully dedicated to building woodenboats.
    I tryied a few aproaches for painting. Varnish, Polyurethane and now Epoxy painting made for workshop floors(for inade the hull). Good canvas covers help a lot. Hello from Mercedes, veronica and Gregorio. Juan Uribe.(From Colombia)

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    John Wujack says:

    One should never overlook the virtues of paint. Don’t get me wrong, varnish on beautiful wood is a delight, but it comes with a severe cost in the time necessary to keep it looking good. The sometimes tired looking, water stained and scratched wood of older boats is always a candidate for painting consideration. In addition to lasting about 3x’s longer than varnish, a very individualized look can be achieved by blending colors. Older classic designs lend themselves to paint more than many modern designs. I love the painted Lobster boats of New England and the brightly colored boats found in other parts of the world. I’ve never regretted painting over the abundant teak/mahogany trim on my Stone Horse. I still get frequent compliments on her looks.

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    Conbert Benneck says:

    How true! A boat or dinghy is for use; not as a display object for your living room. Originally on our new 29 foot sailboat I tried to keep the teak varnished, but over the years I realized I could; either sail, or be a slave to varnished teak. I opted for sailing. My teak assumed a nice shade of grey. Years later, when it became necessary to repaint the hull I agonized over how to get a great finish. A sailing friend finally said; Connie, back off 10 feet and nobody will ever see the brush marks or a few paint sags. He was so right.

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    James Cornwell says:

    “It’s a boat, not a coffee table” is a good reminder too all as we tackle spring pre-launch chores. Get that boat in the water and get sailing!

  • Charlie Nichols

    Charlie Nichols says:

    Great video – it’s good to show some “real” folks that aren’t too over the top about perfection – boats should be fun, not too much work! I love Brian’s Bernese Mountain Dog – we had four – all great animals! His dog seems to match his approach to boat maintenance!!! Nice video!!!

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    Ed Altonji says:

    Totally agree! I carry it to my boat build as well as the one in my driveway. It’s for fishing with the kids. I figure the “designed in dings” will make it easier to ignore the ones we adopt along the way!

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    Ted Crocker says:

    Amen! I especially like the comment about doing the work for yourself because it gives you a chance to touch and see every part of the boat. My kid asked me why I wash my own cars, and I responded with the very same answer. This philosophy has often led to my finding something that needed addressing that might otherwise have been missed.

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    William Mangum says:

    Great video – and good philosophy. I’m barrier coating my old Mariner this spring. Main thing is get it wet again! Soon!

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    Alan VAn Reese says:

    There is a small sign on the wall in my garage that reads: “it’s a boat, not a coffee table”
    Great video.

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    George LaLonde says:

    My wife got to the point she did not want to go out on any of my boats due to the fine finishes.
    I’m trying like hell to scale back on that sort of finish but it is very hard to do. Perhaps age and lack of energy will take care of my problem :-)

  • Avatar

    Bart Chapin says:

    Got the nutshell in the shop for a paint job. Once every two or three years does it. Should never have varnished the oars though. Great video.

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    Jerry Stavola says:

    Hi All!
    First time responder and member and liked this video. I have the same philosophy regarding my 45 year old, 40′ Chris Craft. i take a section each year so i’m not refinishing the whole boat at once…and i don’t have to join a health club to get a good work out!.

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    Molly Blake says:

    I love this video and how much I get to use their boat in the summer!

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    Tom Morris says:

    Great video! I’m going to put much less care and attention into the maintenance of my own boats from now on (do you think that it’s possible that I could do any less?).


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