Wood construction has become a niche specialization in most areas, except perhaps Turkey, where there are still many craftsmen skilled in woodwork. Tuzla-based Logos Marine, a consulting and engineering firm as well as custom boatbuilder, finds cold-molded wood construction to be the perfect way to address the needs of discriminating clients who want custom.
Cold molding eliminates the need to shape the keel and hull frames using hot steam or boiling water, as was traditional in decades past, and instead bounds multiples layers of wood laminates together with epoxy.
While Logos does not forgo the use of steel or composite, the builder is well aware of the advantages cold-molded wood construction can bring. One is the freedom it offers to build just about any size custom project, since wood doesn’t require a hull form, as composite does for instance.
In 2008, Logos debuted the 114-foot (34.5m) Seya, a sportfisher, which boasts a top speed range of 10 to 27 knots because of the possible single, double and triple engine operation modes. “It has special meaning to us, because it is a quite large for a sportfisher. And from A to B it is a custom build, where the owner did not even want to hire an interior designer for the boat and where he really wanted to put his own touch,” Cem Tuncyurek, founder and president of Logos Marine, said. Logos’ next launch, in 2010, was Meya Meya, a sleek and sporty 117-foot (35m) raised pilothouse yacht. A successful collaboration between London-based H2 Design, naval architect Ed Fry of Fryco in Tennessee, and Logos’ in-house team, Meya Meya has two master suites, zero-speed stabilizers, large bow thruster, swim platform, garage, electric biminis, a hot tub and a very sophisticated AV system that controls everything from the entertainment to the curtains. With her twin MTU engines, she reaches a top speed of 25 knots. In other words, she lives up to her name, which means “100 percent” in Arabic.
Vicem, which recently consolidated all of its operation in Antalya, is practically synonymous with cold-molded construction. It has been utilizing cold-molded construction techniques since its first yacht—a 62-foot (19-meter) sailing ship, launched 20 years ago. The company recently celebrated its 20th anniversary by introducing the Vicem 100. Vicem President Sebahattin Hafizoğlu was one of the seven original employees when Vicem started in 1991. Although Vicem has now ventured into composite construction for some of their larger yachts, Hafizoğlu remains an eloquent advocate for the virtues of wood, which include its resilience. “The ease of shaping wood, combined with its stiffness and durability, made it an excellent choice for building fishing, trading and naval vessels,” he said.
In the techno-centric United States, one of the go-to resources for cold-molded construction has been the Connecticut-based naval architect and engineering firm, Donald L. Blount and Associates. Donald Blount did not set out to do just wood construction, but he has developed a bit of a specialty over the past 23 years. “I almost always have a wood project going,” he said. One of his current wood projects is a 105-footer currently under construction at Jim Smith Boats, Inc., a boutique sportfish builder based in Florida. Jim Smith Boats’ owner John Vance and Donald Blount have worked together on numerous projects, including the design and build of the 95-foot Marlena, launched in 2010.
One of the primary reasons many designers and builders across the globe still build in wood is the advantageous strength-to-weight ratio, especially in comparison to composite. Hafizoğlu explained these advantages concisely. “The marriage of engineered wood with formulated resins yields a hull that is much lighter, much stronger and more durable than a traditionally built boat. Cold-molding uses laminated mahogany—coming from managed forests—and a specific formulated epoxy resin to create the hull, decks and principal superstructures. This results in a stronger and quieter vessel with a smoother ride,” he said.
That is one of the reasons fishing enthusiasts also can be wood-construction enthusiasts. Because they are lightweight, these boats are also usually fast. The 95-foot Marlena, for instance, does 41 knots top speed and cruises comfortably at 38 knots, according to her owner, Sam Gershowitz. The power plant includes twin 16 V 2,400 MTU Series 2000 M 93 Common rail engines.
These aren’t the only advantages. Out of all possible methods of building a hull, cold-molded construction requires the least in the way of specialized, high-tech and expensive equipment. This means that, especially for new builders, the initial capital required is dramatically less than, say, composite construction. It translates into lower costs for the builder, which in turn allows a more competitive value for customers. Even excepting the low start-up cost, it is possible to save months of build time and a sizable percentage of the budget on design and engineering. Also, once the hull is complete, fit-out time is usually shorter because almost everything can be simply glued or bolted into the floor—at almost any time during the build process. Time can be saved on painting too; since the surface is so smooth, it requires very little fairing.
In a time when people are more conscious of the impact they make on the environment, using wood may raise a few eyebrows. But even ecologically, this method has its plus sides. Since builders can use any type of wood, as long as it is strong, dry and rot-free, they can buy wood from renewable forests and preserve the more traditional—but also more endangered and more expensive—species.
While the resale value for wood vessels is not high, it could change as more builders start using wood construction and owners fall in love with the form.