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I wanted to spotlight a blogpost that raises the interesting question that I’ve used in my title. And I’ll limit my answer to small boats: it’s about aesthetics.
The sleek launch Suwanee below (31′ loa x 4′ beam!!) (Notice Elizabeth standing waaay back by the stern.) celebrates a century since launch this year. Built in Clayton, NY, where it now resides at the Antique Boat Museum, Suwanee carries a four-cylinder Volvo engine. Could this design possess the same beauty if it were built of anything but wood? Frogma might think it a large kayak sporting a Volvo.
More wood: Chasseur, tender on Pride of Baltimore II, shows its intrinsic beauty, especially here juxtaposed with the versatile inflatable piled inside.
Next exhibit: Grayling lives a new life (built in 1915 in Boothbay 64′ loa x 12′ beam) after a career as a Downeast seiner and sardine carrier. I may have seen her pre-conversion 20+ years ago in Massachusetts.
Below, also in the museum up in Clayton is an Algonquin birch bark canoe built along the St. Lawrence in the 1890s. If I could spend a few months learning to build one of these, ah, …contentment. In 1975 John McPhee wrote a good book on a traditional canoe builder in New Hampshire/Maine.
I’ve owned a wooden boat and enjoyed every minute working on the wood, but I admit eventually, my coins were all spent and my friends thought me a fraud for never leaving the dock, and someone paid me to take possession.
All fotos here by Will Van Dorp. If you see a stunning wooden boat, send me a foto. From me, more wood later.