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Lure of The Wooden Folkboat

 

-Why Wooden Folkboats are Cool

 

How the Addiction Starts.......

 

Last night, I was looking at #38, Emily, once my old Folkboat and flashed on something I had not thought of in many years, my introduction to Folkboats.  I am currently enjoying watching what Jared and his friends are doing to her, she now looks like the first Folkboat I saw.  Emily, now has a bright hull, you can see every piece of wood holding her together.  Many years ago, I mean many, I was maybe eleven and I was out yachting with Bruce, my good friend and crew.  You see, I was the proud owner of a 6 1/2 foot fiberglass dinghy that I sailed in the Palo Alto Yacht Harbor, back when there was such a place.  That day in particular, we ventured out into the big Bay, deep water beaconed us.  It was wonderful, the breeze was perfect until it died, and then we were getting swept by the ebb.  After about a half hour with Bruce paddling, this sleek boat glided up to us and asked if we wanted a tow?  The boat was like nothing I had ever seen, it was obviously a wood boat, you could see each plank through the varnish and each plank rippled.  We were being towed in by a Viking ship, I was a happy little camper.  First rule of this addiction - Wood Folkboats look cool, like nothing else on the water.

US 74 "Filur" one of the last of the bright (varnished) Folkboats, currently undergoing restoration at Fred Andersen's shop.

Many years ago "Emily" was sitting at the dock near where I worked.  She needed help, being very old and tired even at that point.  I have always pondered the question, why do wood boats feel alive, maybe it is the material, possibly the artistry the builder puts in giving each wood boat its own spirit.  I tend to think that fiberglass boats don't have a soul, my thought is because they never die, so it follows that they never really are alive.  Wood boats on the other hand can and do die and "Emily" was dying out there.  After I adopted her, I had plans to use all sorts of modern materials to bring her back to life.  I was lucky enough to have an old head go over the boat and tell me what she needed.  Larry Hitchcock, a shipwright with character, told me to be kind to the next owner.  The floors holding the keel were loose, and instead of the epoxy goop that I was going to use, Larry, pounded in a few funny looking square iron nails.  He was right, "Emily" has had many owners since that survey.   Second rule of this addiction - Wood Folkboats feel cool, they are alive.

"Emily" out playing in the bay

The sound from a wood Folkboat going through the water is wonderful.   I've never cared for the sound that a fiberglass boat makes, sharp and rather harsh, while the sound of wood is soothing.  I thought it was just me, until I received a note from Chad Allan, he owned "Shanty" back in the 80's.  He said that he used to go below decks when they sailed and just listen to the sound and fall asleep.  I own "Shanty" now and I find I do the same thing.  Third rule of this addiction - Wood Folkboats make cool sounds

Everything you touch is warm and inviting, just the place for a snooze

Sailing a wood Folkboat for the first time may seem a little strange.  The first thing you notice is the deep cockpit, you sail in the boat, not on the boat, like newer designs.  You can actually sail standing up, with your feet braced on the hull.  Inside, each structural piece is there to see.  A wood Folkboat is like a basket, while a fiberglass boat is like a bowl.  Being like a basket, a wood Folkboat will leak a little.  Drive the boat hard and all the pieces in the hull will work.  The strength of a wood lapstrake hull is that it has a little give, they don't pound through the waves the same way as a fiberglass boat.   Yes, they will leak but then the wood swells up again and is tight.  It just feels safe, hunkered down low in the cockpit in a strong blow with ebb waves all around you.  I always feel the boat will bring me home, and they always have, even with major damage.  Fourth rule of this addiction - Wood Folkboats feel safe and that's cool.

The cockpit of "Shanty" is deep and safe, unless you want to sit on the coaming for a little better balance and speed

I don't have an art collection, but I think I know what it must be like.  I have a collection of art, but it is all contained in a boat.  Looking around on "Shanty" for example, when I see the deck, you can't help see the artistry of Fred Andersen.  John Phillips made my rudder, and it really is beautiful. Looking at the starboard side, you have to look closely to see Eamon O'Brien's work, he replaced seven strakes.  Eamon is a furniture maker in San Francisco and it is rare to see his work on a boat.  OK, he did a superb job, but you will not notice his work, I just know it is there because quite simply, he saved the boat.  The cabin top looks and feels a little different, it is made the old way, pine planks, Irish felt with a canvas cover, and then painted.  It is soft and has a little cushion, very traditional.  I thank Randy for that, nice touch.  It certainly isn't fast, but it is one of the things I love about the boat.  Now, if I'm lucky, Soren Hansen will make me a new mast next year, not only will this be another work of art but will improve the performance too.  Each wood Folkboat is different, even if they are built by the same yard.  Shanty is one of a kind, built by Svend Alfredsen, the only Folkboat he built and she shows his artistry, she is different from other Folkboats.  In San Francisco we are lucky to have several artist shipwrights that have a soft spot for wood Folkboats.  Fifth rule of this addiction - Wood Folkboats are made by artisans, and that is very cool.

Nowdays a rare sight, a new wood Folkboat being built at the Brandt-Moeller yard in Denmark

A wood Folkboat being built at Begre Bootbau in Switzerland

In today's world, wood Folkboats don't make much sense, yeah, and I think that is cool too.