Tiernan adds that the reason most boats for sale today are made of fiberglass is that they can be made by semiskilled and unskilled workers who are cheaper to hire than the skilled craftspeople needed to build a wooden boat. Another is that when we build in wood or commission others to do so, we are helping to maintain an important tradition. I wonder also whether the argument that building from wood is environmentally friendly has really been made.
PS Fans of the US designer John Atkin will be interested to know that Tiernan is currently weblogging the build of a clinker-built Atkin Ninigret.
PPS I’d draw your attention to some of the comments below, particularly those of West Country boat designer, occasional building and general sailing man John Hesp.
Gavin, most of Tiernan's list deals with the engineering advantages of wood, as if we bought boats based on these facts. Trees have been growing, falling over, rotting, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere for years and it hasn't caused a massive increase in atmospheric CO2. I do see what you mean – it seems unreasonable to reduce these issues to numbers and engineering criteria when one of the key reasons we go boating is often to get away from such prosaic considerations. Nevertheless, these issues are worth considering as I'm sure your inner designer will concede, and the environmental questions are much more subtle than most of us thought at the beginning. And of course, carbon emissions are tightly connected to economic activity and human activity in general.
On the other side of the issue, some fraction of whatever carbon there is in a plastic boat will remain locked in the material for a very long time.
You don't think you've been led down the garden path by what sounds a rather journalistic BBC article? Ironing and washing, to be fair – both need more heat where cotton shirts are concerned. One interesting little tidbit I read recently is that the meat industry in one way or another, contributes significantly more to global warming than transportation, worldwide.
One other nice thing about wooden boats, which has already been touched on a bit, but a nice one is gives pleasure to people, even when they aren't normally interested in boats.
If the global warming cost of fossil fuels is added to that fuel we find ourselves playing a very different game. Did you know that one barrel of oil contains the same amount of energy as 12 men working for one year? Image coming back to shore after a day on the water on a foggy day in an aluminum boat and the oars are clunking against metal. Have you got news for us?If what you're doing is like the things you read about here - please write and tell us what you're up to.
Classic Sailor is a new magazine about traditional and classic boats from ex-Classic Boat editor Dan Houston and colleagues that promises rather more coverage of the traditional craft around our coast. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Follow me on TwitterLooking for something?This is a busy weblog, and what you're looking for is probably still here - just a little way down the list now. Our Faversham-based friend Alan Thorne can help with boatbuilding projects - constructing to plans in very tidy stitch-and-glue or more traditional techniques. Use the form below to delete this Wooden Rustic Welcome To The Beach Decorative Rowing Boat Oar With image from our index. Use the form below to delete this Wooden Rustic Beach House Decorative Rowing Boat Oar W Hooks 36 image from our index. Use the form below to delete this Wooden Fishing Boat On The Beach Royalty Free Stock Photo Image image from our index. Use the form below to delete this Small Wooden Boat Moored On Front Street Beach image from our index. Use the form below to delete this Wooden Trailer For Carrying Boat To The Water Lying On Beach image from our index. Use the form below to delete this Wooden Boat Beach Blue Sky 19478868jpg image from our index.
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Use the form below to delete this Wh 14 Row Beachjpg Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia image from our index. Use the form below to delete this Wooden Rustic Manhattan Beach Decorative Rowing Boat Oar W Hooks 36 image from our index. Use the form below to delete this Wooden Row Boat At A Beach With Tree image from our index. The wooden work boats of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos (French Indochina) have a long and fascinating history of sail and trade in South East Asia and beyond. For anyone with an interest in the way of working boats on the water, now and in the past, the coasts and rivers of Indochina offer a very rare opportunity. In the early 1960’s the United States Government wrote a catalog, The Blue Book of Junks, which was illustrated with a great many photos and backed up with really quite good research on construction methods, cultural background, normal range and type of activities. Today, in all of Indochina (that is, the modern countries of Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia), there are essentially three different sorts of boats, more or less perfectly identifiable by their construction.
In the fifty years since the US Navy’s Blue Book of Junks was published, the Modern Motor Fishing Vessel or MFV type, which hardly existed in Indochina at the time, has become the most common sort of fishing boat, with literally hundreds of them in every major fishing port.
These boats, or at least their designs, were introduced in the 1960’s to take advantage of the more powerful diesel engines that were becoming available from Japanese manufacturers. Out of the myriad of sail boats that survived to the 1960’s and are now gone, quite a few were given motors and turned into perfectly good motor boats themselves, so that today there are a number of Traditional fishing boats descended directly from sailing vessels but powered by diesel engines, and carrying a full-fledged pilot house aft. Typically the opposite of the modern MFV in most respects, they are long for their width and taper sweetly from end to end. With all the changes in the fleets of larger fishing boats that accompanied the end of Sail, the small boats, that is, harbor craft and inshore fishing vessels are often very much the same as they were half a century ago, still working under oars or paddles. So much for the coast then, but there’s a lot more to Indochinese boats than just the coast. In the following pages, we will review the boats and harbors all along the coast from the Chinese border in Northern Viet Nam, through Central and South Coastal Viet Nam to the Thai border (or very nearly) in Southern Cambodia. Boatbuilders teach each other, and the skills have long been conveyed by oral transmission.
But if we only build boats out of oil, and keep a constant number of trees, there will be a nett increase in CO2. I became aware of this when a BBC magazine looked at the issue and decided that the heat consumed in ironing a cotton shirt meant that poly-cotton shirts were a better environmental deal; so it seems to me that we should consider all the inputs and outputs, not just the obvious ones. Gaseous hydrocarbons are often very powerful greenhouse gases, and if a boat needs eight coats of varnish every two years, what's the impact of that? I wish someone would give me some nice, clear well worked answers that left me knowing where I was on all this, and that I could quote when the issue arises.
I can guarantee that the energy expended per year ironing my cotton shirts is less than it takes to make a years worth of polyester shirts….
And it seems to me that I've never even owned an iron that got hot enough to iron a cotton shirt properly! We should use wood because we want to, and save our agonizing about our carbon footprints for the times when it really counts.
I am not about to give up my roast lamb, but cutting my meat intake in half would do me good, and probably make a more significant dent in my carbon footprint than all the other little fiddles one reads about put together. The difference in the reaction of people when I am paddling some rental day-glo plastic fantastic canoe, and when they see me in my little varnished oak and pine S-O-F canoe is remarkable. I seem to remember writing about the issue years ago, and finding that the energy savings from triple glazing can take a century to pay back the investment.
What's needed is some sort of mechanism where the cost of dealing with CO2 problems are paid for by the sources of CO2, then triple glazing and the like would look a lot more attractive finacially.
If person A manufactures a triple glazed panel using oil based energy sources the cost of energy is very low but the CO2 generated is very high. The cost of the triple glazed panel goes up slightly because of the embodied energy, but the cost of the energy being saved over, say, 20 years is a very worthwhile saving. Theres a tigermoth biplane at our local airport that is probably 60-70 years old with wooden wing spars that DO flex.
Try scrolling down, clicking on the 'older posts' button at the bottom of this page - or try the search gadget! Today, the sails are nearly all gone but the boats and their builders survived by adapting the traditional sailboat hulls for motoring. It was written almost like a bird-watcher’s handbook, with the different types of junk sorted into typical groups and duly numbered and lettered so that a lookout on a US or South Vietnamese Navy vessel could sort through the profiles and check the dimensions and construction details and the notes on appropriate fishing gear and likely range of legitimate operations and make an identification. Pietri’s book documented and celebrated the way things were in the first half of the 20th (and perhaps a thousand years before that). In a variety of sizes, they are easy to spot, with their bold upright bows flaring from a sharp cutwater at the waterline to high rounded sides at the sheer line, fine high bulwarks protecting the working deck, sweeping in a graceful curve to their wide transom sterns. The old hull style with its characteristic sheer and flare and peculiarities of construction is still there, carrying the fishermen to and from the grounds and hauling home the fish.
The Mekong River runs through it all, from somewhere high in the Himalayas, down through China and along Thailand and Laos (where it often is the border) and finally through Cambodia all the way from North to South and thus into the vast Mekong Delta in Viet Nam.


Though at first it is slow and dignified, before long, as the mountains in Northwestern Cambodia start to close in, it becomes a strong swift–flowing river running through a narrow valley with mountains never far away. That waterfall, to all intents and purposes, is the boundary between the countries and a line of demarcation between the two different navigations. With our busy working and family lives I have no hesitation in saying that we own and use at least one boat that we wouldn’t be able to keep up it on a DIY basis if it was made from wood.
For example, when wood eventually rots its breakdown must release carbon dioxide and the much worse global warming gas methane.
If the returns are so small, I'd suggest there are likely to be other areas we could cut down on that would make more of a difference. If person B manufactures the same panel using energy from photovoltaics the cost of energy is very high, but the CO2 released is very low.
As well, a more modern Western style of fishing vessel has been widely adopted throughout Indochina so that today, there are four distinct styles of boats identifiable by their construction. The region was long an exporter of rice and timber as well as more exotic stuff and traders came from all over the world, buying and selling and leaving behind traces of their own boats and boat building methods.
Pietri, the Commissioner of Fisheries for the Indochinese government, published a book titled Voiliers d’Indochine or The Sailboats of Indochina. After the war, crates of these books were used all over Washington DC as doorstops, but now they seem to be all gone. They all have their pilot house (and engine room cover) well aft and wide open work decks forward.
Pietri wrote his book Voiliers d’Indochine (The Sailboats of Indochina) in 1943, he stated that the defining difference between European boats and Indochinese lay in how they are built. Supposedly the river has only seven mouths discharging from the Delta, but it must have a hundred main channels coursing through the flat countryside, and all of them swarm with boats.
The boats change accordingly and become long and narrow and very shallow and, sadly perhaps, much of what they used to do for the people of the countryside is now done by trucks and motorbikes as the roads have multiplied and moved farther up into the mountains.
So the Laotian boats on the upper river are quite different from the Cambodian boats on the lower river, which of course are very different from the heavy cargo carriers in the Vietnamese Mekong delta. So what is the lifetime cost of a wooden boat to the environment compared with a plastic one? With regard to the maintenance I was referring to epoxy encapsulated wood like the Ninigret I'm building. The recession might have lowered energy costs, but I can see us coming out of it with soaring energy costs. They can be categorized as Traditionally Built Wooden Boats, Modern Motor Fishing Vessels (MFV’s), Woven Bamboo Basket Boats, and Bamboo Rafts. Under Chinese domination for a thousand years and then under French governance until 1954, the region’s methods, materials and designs of vessels remained traditional.
The authors of the Blue Book were aware of Voiliers but felt that it was already obsolete, given the sweeping changes in the Vietnamese fleet. Seen in aerial photos they look almost rectangular from their wide square transoms, with long parallel sides finally meeting in their husky rounded foredecks. Maybe plastic boat owners are more inclined to motor than sail, and maybe plastic boat owners are more attracted to resource hogging marinas? Sure, we need a reasonably big car to haul the family around, but could we get away with an overgrown go-cart for the commute to work? Long after the move toward modern, engine–driven boats had overtaken the Western world, wooden fishing boats and coastal traders continued to put to sea on the Indochinese coast under sail and oar. When they went to press in 1963 with the first edition of the book, sails and sweeps were still the most common drivers on the coast and the cut of the sails and angles of the masts and details of the rigging were described in great detail.
Perhaps most importantly, in 1943 and still in 1963, the boats differed significantly from port to port, with local types clearly different from the boats elsewhere up and down the coast. They are built like Western boats, with a heavy timber keel and a full set of ribs assembled into a complete skeleton and then planked to fit. Just to add a factor that seems relevant, what is the contribution to global warming made by the drying of spirit-based paints and varnish? Thus he drew anatomically correct sketches of the boats he recorded and noted the connections among them. In almost any harbor today you’ll find most of the boats are one sort or another of Motor Fishing Vessel (MFV) more or less in the Western style and very similar to other boats in other harbors up and down the coast. And in every town of any size there are large fleets of water taxis, powered and rowing boats, not to mention fleets of ferries, tugs and barges, dredges and pile drivers and even floating stores.
He, probably more than any other Westerner ever, knew the local boats intimately, under sail or oar, in calms as well as gales. They differ much more in the rigging they carry to manage their fishing gear than in their hull lines and construction details.



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