WHY WOODEN BOATS?
SALT & TAR
Ruth and Garrett Jolly have brought wooden boats into the realm of YouTube stardom.
Page 74 •
• May, 2019
ERIK SIMONSON / WWW.PRESSURE-DROP.US
s it fair to assume that, at some level, every sailor loves wooden boats? We're not saying everyone wants to own one, work on one, or even sail one, but we feel like nearly every sailor walking down the docks would be drawn, as if magnetically, to a well-kept wooden vessel. So, why, exactly, do people choose wooden boats? Are they exponentially more work — and ultimately more money — than other vessels? Does a wooden boat sail differently than its synthetic brethren? Again we ponder why, because to some of us, owning a wooden boat seems like an act of either sheer lunacy or self-inflicted masochism. But to their owners, not having a wooden sailboat would be truly insane. "Some people have that passion for wooden boats," said Garrett Jolly, who, along with his wife Ruth, is one half of the popular YouTube show Salt & Tar. "And if you have the passion — if you've got that bug, or addiction . . . or maybe there's a cross wire in your brain — there is simply no other option." As we've reported in the past, there has been something of a resurgence in the popularity of wooden boats, though that's not necessarily the right way to frame the issue — the "popularity" of wood probably never declined in an appreciable way. It's just that our attention was absorbed by other shiny things, namely fiberglass.
The 1928 Lester Stone cutter 'Water Witch' lookin' good on the Bay in a Master Mariners Regatta.
But there are some statistics supporting the "renaissance" of wood. "We've been averaging about 700 to 800 students a season," said Rich Hilsinger, the director at the Wooden
Boat School in Maine, which has had packed-full attendance for a number of years now. "I think that the whole lore of wooden boats has been around forever. If you see an ad on TV with a boat, how many times is it a beautiful wooden boat?" We posed our existential question to Hilsinger: Why wooden boats? "If you sit 10 people down and ask them, you'd probably get six different answers. Lots of people are woodworkers already and are interested in wooden boats and their unique shape. A lot of people are coming to learn how to build their first boat at home. And a lot of people want to get into the profession and have the fundamentals down to have a better chance to get a job." Hilsinger said that people come from all over the world to attend the Wooden Boat School; the season in Brooklin, Maine, (about five hours north of Boston) runs from the end of May until the end of September. The average age of attendees is 50 to 55. There are over 100 courses offered, including a seamanship program on everything from daysailing to week-long liveaboard classes. Hilsinger said that in the age of omnipresent technology, "Working with wood, and the feeling it evokes, is becoming more important in people's lives
The May 2019 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.