Can Wooden Boats Go In Saltwater? | Must Read

Wooden Boats

Saltwater is an excellent preservative, so it will actually help to prolong the life of your wooden boat. But quite often we blame saltwater for wood rots and decay with that said salt in crystalline form does break wood fibers down over time.

Modern wooden boats have no issues with salt water if they are properly constructed and sealed. Waterproofing your boat is the key to longevity.

Lack of ventilation is the primary cause of wood rot in boats. If you have a closed-up boat that does not get much airflow moving through it, then this will create an environment where wood rot can take hold.

Let us now dive into detail and find out if it is a good idea to take your wooden boat out in saltwater.

How Wood Rots in Saltwater?

Woods have a property called capillary action. This is defined as the ability of a liquid to flow into small spaces without the use of an external pump. Water has this capillary action, and so it can travel up the narrow xylem vessel cells in trees to several meters off the ground.

By virtue of this action, salt gets into the wood and upon drying up forms a crystalline structure that breaks wood fibers down over time. Modern boat builders have this covered by using epoxy resins in the boat construction process. The epoxy resin seals the wood and does not allow water to enter the cells.

Waterproofing the timber is the key to longevity, and for this, you need a good quality marine-grade sealer. With advanced epoxy resins new wood boat builders are now using, it is possible to make a boat that will last for centuries provided it is well-maintained.

What Woods Are Best Suited For Marine Boatbuilding?

There are many kinds of wood that can be used for boat building, but some are better than others. For example, cedar is a very popular choice because it is light, has good decay resistance, and is easy to work with. Cypress is another wood that has excellent rot-resistance properties.

Other popular boatbuilding woods include mahogany, teak, and oak. These woods are all very strong and durable, making them ideal for boat construction.

Mahogany timber in particular is prized for its beauty, and it is often used as a decorative element on the exterior of boats.

Lack of Ventilation and Humidity Makes Wooden Boats Go Bad

As we mentioned earlier, one of the primary causes of wood rot in boats is a lack of ventilation. If you have a closed-up boat that does not get much airflow moving through it, then this will create an environment where wood rot can take hold.

When shopping for wooden boats make sure there is plenty of airflow moving through the boat. Opening windows and hatches when weather permits will also help to keep the air moving and prevent stagnation.

Another factor that can lead to wood rot is high humidity. If you live in a particularly humid climate, then this will put your boat at greater risk of developing wood rot. Humid conditions allow the growth of mold and mildew, which can quickly lead to wood rot if left unchecked.

UV Rays Make Wood Fibers Go Bad

Ultra Violet rays can penetrate wood fibers and break them down over time. This is why it is important to keep your boat out of direct sunlight when possible. If you do have to leave your boat in the sun, then make sure it is well-protected with a good quality UV-resistant sealer.

On a side note, the saltwater does not allow UV rays to penetrate as deep as freshwater, so this is another reason why saltwater is actually better for wooden boats than freshwater.

These sealants are generally used in pre varnish stage to protect the wood from harmful UV rays.

Check for freshwater Leaks

One of the biggest threats to wooden boats is freshwater leaks. If you have a leak in your hull, then this can allow water to seep into the wood, leading to rot and decay. Fresh water is a perfect hub for bacteria and other organisms that can cause wood rot, so it is important to fix any leaks as soon as possible.

Bilge and showers are the two most likely places for freshwater leaks to occur. Make sure you check these areas regularly and fix any leaks that you find.

Do Wooden Boats Need More Maintanece in Saltwater?

When compared to a fiberglass boat yes, a wooden boat will need more maintenance. However, this does not mean that you should shy away from owning a wooden boat. With proper care and maintenance, your wooden boat can last for generations.

Here are a few tips to help you keep your wooden boat in good shape:

-Regularly clean and polish the wood to protect it from the sun and salt water.

-Apply a fresh coat of marine-grade sealer every few years.

-Keep the boat well-ventilated to prevent wood rot.

-Check for leaks regularly and fix them as soon as possible.

-Store the boat out of direct sunlight when possible.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your wooden boat will provide you with years of enjoyment.

What Are the Advantages of A Wooden Boat in Saltwater?

While wooden boats do require more maintenance than fiberglass boats, there are several advantages that make them worth the extra effort.

Here are a few of the benefits of owning a wooden boat:

-Wooden boats have a classic and timeless look that is unmatched by any other type of boat.

-Wooden boats are extremely strong and durable, making them ideal for saltwater conditions.

-Wooden boats can handle those waves better than any other type of boat.

-With proper care, wooden boats can last for generations.

If you are looking for a saltwater boat that is both beautiful and durable, then a wooden boat is the perfect choice for you.


There are absolutely no issues with wooden boats being taken out in salt water. In fact, many boat builders now use epoxy resins to seal the wood and prevent water from entering the cells. This means that wooden boats can actually last for centuries with proper maintenance. The key to longevity is waterproofing the timber and using a good quality marine-grade sealer. Additionally, make sure there is plenty of ventilation and the boat is not left in direct sunlight or high humidity conditions. Regularly check for freshwater leaks and fix them as soon as possible. By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your wooden boat will last for many years to come.