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Boat Is a Four-Letter Word What To Consider When Contemplating Restoring a Wooden Classic by Gary Reich


ooden boat owners: people often use words like “crazy,” “insane,” “eccentric,” or even go so far as to pull out the “stupid” card to describe them. But let’s remember that fiberglass boats aren’t without their problems: blisters, delaminating hulls, water-soaked cored decks, and rudders included. We might poke fun at the wooden boat set, but few of us are immune to the beauty of a restored classic. Upon the mere sight of the varnished glossiness of one, most boat-minded folks enter a trance-like state where they pore over every detail of the subject boat and use

Wooden Boat Restoration, LLC

It was a picture-perfect spring morning when I pulled up to George Hazzard’s 8400-suare-foot shop—aptly named Wooden Boat Restoration. I walked in and wandered my way through a patchwork maze of wooden boats. Some of them were right-side-up and some upside-down, and all of them were at varying stages of completion. Many boats were fully stripped down to their bare frames, while some sat proudly with new mahogany decking. I deftly weaved my way in and out of the wooden boats, scared I might knock one over and start a domino-like chain reaction where all of them end up in a pile of expensive firewood on the floor.

Never Let Your Emotions Override Common Sense

I met Hazzard in the back of his shop, and he started out by telling me a story about one client who called him who was looking to buy a wooden classic and said he already had his eye on one. “This guy had a boat he wanted to buy and asked me if he should buy it or not. I told him that I’d be happy to look at it with him, but by the time I talked to him next, he’d already bought the boat. The next week I went down to launch it with him and as we rolled the boat back into the creek, water started seeping in from the transom. Then we tried to start the engine and it wouldn’t.” The buyer’s impulse Chesapeake Bay Powerboating

adjectives like “beautiful,” “gorgeous,” and “unbelievable.” But let’s say for the sake of conversation you are actually considering buying and restoring a wooden classic boat. Or maybe you already own one that is in need of repair. Unless people are versed in what to look for, they could get themselves into deep trouble pretty quickly. So PropTalk decided to hunt down an expert and find out the potential pitfalls and possible pleasures of purchasing and restoring a wooden classic. That search led us to George Hazzard of Wooden Boat Restoration in Millington, MD.

purchase ended up costing him about $20,000 by the time the boat was made right again. Unless you’re willing to invest a lot of money, it’s never a good idea to let the apparent beauty (or your potential vision of what the boat will become) cloud your vision. If you do find a boat you are interested in, it’s time to do some Sherlock Holmes-style digging.

Poke Around, Then Poke Around Some More

Wooden boat buyers often fail to know where to look for telltale signs of damage, but with a little poking around, one can stave off potential heartache. “If the seller won’t let you lift up the floorboards and have a look around, walk away,” Hazzard says. He then led me over to an old 30-foot Chris-Craft Constellation that was upside-down in his shop without any bottom planking. Hazzard then reached his hand through the boat’s exposed frames and pointed at the engine stringAn old bateaux with new planks at Ruark BoatWorks in Cambridge, MD. Photo by Gary Reich/PropTalk

“You really have to look around and try to find rot; it doesn’t just pop out at you.” PropTalk June 2010 35

PropTalk June 2010  

Chesapeake Bay Powerboating

PropTalk June 2010  

Chesapeake Bay Powerboating