Yachts - Canvas Vs. Wooden Skin
( Originally Published 1911 )
NOT a great deal can be said in regard to canvas and wooden planks for the outside covering of yachts. Canvas stretched tightly over very light wood construction is the lightest possible skin that will stay tight without leaking. In small racing boats of twelve or fifteen feet in length, built of, perhaps, one-quarter inch planking or even less, no room is allowed for calking or sealing against leakage, and thus canvas tightly stretched and smoothly put on, and properly filled and painted, does away with all necessity of calking and keeps the boat tight.
The largest racing boat I have ever seen with a canvas skin was the Quincy Cup De-fender "Outlook," a large freak racing scow. She was fifty-five feet long on deck, twenty-one feet water-line, and fifteen feet wide, built of light one-half inch white cedar over a steel frame and covered with canvas. Canvas construction was used to a great extent on our Western lakes a few years ago, but it is fast going out, as it is difficult to stretch it over the flat scow of today and make it stay in place without battens tacked on the outside running fore and aft. If any water should get in the boat, and it is impossible to keep it out, it quickly runs through the planks and gets in between the canvas and the planks, thereby swelling the canvas and making it baggy and lumpy, and necessitating cutting a hole in it to let the water out.
This same canvas construction was used on a few of the American challengers for the International Trophy, the Seawanhaka Cup, but without success. It is all right up to a certain point and for freak boats, but generally where planking is restricted it is much more preferable to accept the full thickness of the plank and do away with the canvas.
On the other hand, there are no seams in the canvas to contend with, and you can get a splendid one-piece surface ; but I am still of the opinion that the wood will take the higher polish, either in black lead, paint, or varnish. It is almost impossible to keep canvas from moving so not to crack a smooth unelastic surface, and varnish or hard paint once cracked is a difficult job to patch up. Canvas is, how-ever, universally used for deck covering, and makes an exceptionally tight construction. It makes, also, an exceptionally good footing when the deck is wet, being better to walk on than any other form of deck. It can be sand-papered near the rail and water-way, so as to provide little friction with the water on deck, and left rough in the main to provide a sure footing for the crew to work on.