Thinking about a wooden sailboat?

Classic boats will never go out of fashion, even in the age of carbon fibre hulls.

They may seem as a luxury that only rich get to enjoy, but even with a more modest budget, you can still get one. Why would anybody want them? Apart from some issues with maintenance, the wooden hull is still something to think about. 

The maintenance issue

There will be many people trying to discourage you from buying an old-school wooden boat. A commonly used argument is the tedious work spend on preserving the hull every 1-3 years. It is quite ironic, that this is not a point where wooden boats stand short when compared with fiberglass. As this article points out, the costs are almost identical.  The main reason is that fiberglass boats should be maintained as much as wooden boats if you don’t want the hull to deteriorate over time. 
The wood is is the only material, which is absolutely fine while floating in the water. Despite of modern technologies, the wood is still worth considering as ship building material. As prices of used boats are going down wildly, the fact that wooden boat can be restored almost infinitely is a good argument. Its validity depends on condition, in which you obtained the boat. The good news is that there is a thriving community around wooden boats. As an example, we consider The Classic Boat Magazine as one of the best sailing publishers out there. There is no paid content in this article, but we picked some ways to obtain a wooden ship if you are considering it. 

So where is my ship?

There are several ways how obtaining such a boat can be approached. Think about places on earth where these boats can be restored with quality craftsmanship and be less costly to do so. 


A wide range of restored boats is available. The price depends on the level of craftsmanship. Generally if it is restored correctly, it will cost you. Tags above 500k are common even for smaller boats. When it comes to ships with proper history, the prices are easily exceeding one million in any currency. 

For restoration

This guy obtained a 108 years old “Tally Ho”. He’s working on her restoration right now in United States, but he plans to deliver her home – across the Atlantic – to the UK. He has successfully crowd-funded the project and he is documenting all the work. Isn’t that awesome?

There are many boats waiting to be restored. Unlike their fiberglass descendants, there are more possibilities to do so, and more value to be gained getting it done. Main disadvantage is, that these kinds of refit take more time than any other. It requires experienced craftsmen and not just knowledge from youtube videos. There are also many boats, which probably cannot be restored or it is not worth it, due to the conditions and location.   

From previous owner

This choice depends on the person that wants to sell you their boat or project. It is common that classic boat owners have a strong personal relationship with their boats. In this kind of business it is more likely that the seller will speak to you honestly about the state of the boat and works needed to be done. They are usually available to you for advice during the restoration process. This kind of advisory can be very precious part of the deal. Sometimes you can even adopt somebody’s project for completion. 

Via broker

When you are buying a ship directly from the owner, as we stated above, there is less chance to be deceived. We do not mean to say that every broker wants to trick you. 
It is just logically correct, to obtain your own advisory from commercial sector, while the seller has one on his side of the deal. In general, yacht brokers who sell classic sailboats are enthusiasts, just like owners and buyers. 
So don’t expect “the Wall Street environment” necessarily in this case. Actually these guys help those precious ships to be found out there on the market. It is very good option to choose a broker who specialises in classic boats business, not some ordinary yacht broker who may not know a thing about what he’s selling. We found these websites after a quick online search: -a well established broker of traditional boats with a wide range of boats in different prices, sizes and condition – broker specialised in classic boats, with 40 years tradition – restored boats with interesting history – skilled professionals for custom-build and restoration, enthusiastic geeks with years of experience

New replica/custom built

In video below you can see a guy, who made several ships like this. It is not an advertising, but we beg you, ask him to build another one for you!

For sure, there are many good boatbuilders out there who prefer wood. Not everybody has one million pounds for the Spirit Yachts unfortunately. Although if you watch this next video, perhaps you will understand why these boats are so expensive:

The Spirit Yachts are the cutting edge of these days, and are still preferred in regattas. For those without the budget of the rich, there are many smaller boatbuilders and restorers. 

Things to consider

  • The final survey and inspections of the wooden sailboat are from another dimension compared to fiberglass boats. You have to check everything and its state.
  • Think about your living onboard needs. Even if you plan to make a replica of some historic ship it does not mean that there will be no water-maker, shower etc. The other side of the coin is that you have to think twice before putting any high-tech equipment into the classic boat. 
  • Consider that wood is a natural material. It may sound nice to put some chemical magic on your hull, deck or elsewhere because the manufacturer claims that “it will be maintenance-free for 5-6 years”, but restorability of your steps has to be considered. The natural materials work best with natural maintenance agents and ways of work. 
  • It is very sad to say, but nowadays there is not so much A+ quality wood out there for boatbuilding. Those old boats are build from wood obtained from 300-450 years old trees. The best wood went to the shipyards. The magic of most successful ship of the American fleet (The Constitution) depended on the special oak, which is now protected and almost extinct. This is an extreme example, but it is valid for other wood materials in 21st century. There are no good old trees out there, even forestry business is going faster every day. The old, but good wood that can be reclaimed is a real treasure for you! When you dig out some old pirate treasure on an island out there, check the wooden case first, maybe it has more value that the gold! :-)
It would not be proper to mention the cool image of traditional wooden boats, but at the end, we have to. The one thinks that those ships are under-appreciated. Maybe it is true. But believe what the Kraken saw many times – the classic boats are the ones that leave speechless even mega-yacht owners. There are those children’s dreams. Its practicality is not insolvable problem, it just has to be viewed differently. Yes, you can do it! You can have Queen Anne’s Revenge Two!
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