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Thinking about a Woody?

Lou Mauriello's Checklist

Wooden Boat magazine and forum are the best places to start. I read the forum posts for three to six months when I first looked at restoring a wooden boat. There used to be a forum on the Lightning site but it doesn’t seem to be functional any more (I had read all the posts on that forum before I started working on my hull). Another thing you can do is amass as many of the older wooden boat articles from the Lightning class eflashes magazine that you can. There was a time that you could buy all the old ones from the class office. I’m not sure if they still offer that service. Don’t overlook all the documents and articles hosted on the Woody section of the class site. I’d even go so far as to suggest reading everyone’s bios as a good deal of them include something the owner did to the boat after buying.

As to a checklist—it’s a little hard as there were so many different builders and although the boats are a One Class, there were some variances on the hulls. On top of that age and storage environment will affect a checklist and govern a lot of what you’ll need to determine. Then there’s the fiberglass covered hulls and a aluminum spars considerations. But, I’ll take a stab at one (at least an all wood, non fiberglassed, non updated spars one), and I’ll leave it up to some of the others on this list to add onto what I’ve written. Who knows, maybe we can come up with a document to add to Woody section of the class site. Here goes:


  • Learn as much as you can about the boat before you go look at one—you won’t know what is wrong if you don’t know what it should look like.

  • Take every afforded opportunity to get out and see Lightnings, of any year or builder. Use what you’re learning about the boat in a practical way so that you have a good visual understanding of how she’s laid out. Take photos for later review. Look through all of the photos posted on the Wooden Lightning Yahoo site.

  • Pre determine just how much work you want to do, what you’re capable of, if you have the space to do it in and the required tools, and the level of restoration you’re willing to perform and are capable of performing (Example: if you don’t have a lot of woodworking skills you may consider epoxy repairs to wood replacements—the costs can be considerable either way and you should be realistic about your skills and desire to do the work required and involved).

  • Perform a physical survey—document everything you find when you perform your physical survey – I drew diagrams before I went to survey the boat and then added details to them as I looked thru her.

  • What you’ll find is that if every time you identify something you take a longer took, step back, and attempt to find the cause, you’ll find other items that you would have missed which probably weren’t as noticeable when just performing a general inspection.

  • My last general advice is to try to perform your survey without the owner, the rep, or the marina staff around. Try to schedule the inspection when you can be alone with the boat.


  • Check soundness of wood everywhere—I used an ice pick and poked the entire bottom and freeboards from one end to the other looking for soft punky wood. I crawled under the boat and inside the boat. I crawled into the forward triangle under the foredeck and under the aft decking searching everywhere.

  • If you find punky wood try to determine what caused it—was it water laying in the bilge and if so where’d it come from (the source can point to an issue you may have missed).

  • Look for signs of bugs, ants and termites can be a much larger issue latter on then you ever expected. Look for signs of bugs, ants and termites can be a much larger issue latter on then you ever expected.

  • Check specific areas with greater detail:

    • Bow and stem—inside and out
    • Transom—inside and out
    • Keelson from fore to aft—especially in and around the mast step area
    • Soundness of bailers if applicable
    • Soundness of wood in the area of the CenterBoard (CB) pin and at the aft end of the CB Trunk (two points where water damaged wood is often found)
    • Check around the entire CB Trunk where the CB Trunk supports connect to the Keelson and the Garboards (another area where soft wood and leaking often occur)
    • The CB itself—bent, warped, rust pitted
    • Condition of the Partners (where the mast goes thru the deck)
    • Ribs and deck supports—look for cracking and splitting—try to determine what might have caused it if found. Could it have been an overweight skipper on the deck that caused a deck support to crack or an over tightening of the stays that changed the shape of the hull placing stress on the area in question. The whole mast shrouds’ chainplate, mast partners, and front of the CB Trunk area in particular should be looked at with an eye towards this type of investigation. Find and read the article on strengthening this area located in the Woody section of the class site.
    • Soundness of decking (especially the canvas if applicable)
    • Straightness of Freeboards—take a long lateral look down the hull looking for waviness or anything that looks out of sorts. Look for any flat spots on the hull and try to determine where the stress that is causing them originates from.
    • Condition and completeness of all standing rigging (this is where you’ll run into the most cost when restoring/refurbishing):

      • Turnbuckles on all 6 stainless lines.
      • The lines themselves and the connectors at both ends of each line – run your hand along each one looking for frays (wear gloves), rust, etc… check where the lines terminate for soundness.
      • The hardware where the lines connect to the hull and the mast itself: Chainplates and other connection points.
      • The hardware where the lines connect to the hull and the mast itself: Chainplates and other connection points.
      • The condition of the gooseneck.
      • The condition of the rotating cam cleat assemble for the mainsheet (usually at the aft end of the CB trunk).
      • All blocks and pulleys (and drums—gears—if applicable).
      • All the running lines—check condition and soundness:
  • These are the easiest to replace—even so, line can quickly become a considerable cost, especially the longer lines such as the Main Sheet (may involve a traveler – requires its own inspection—otherwise will involve more blocks on Boom and Aft Decking) and Jib Sheets

  • The spinnaker sheets and associated lines

  • The main and jib halyards

  • There may be a considerable amount of running rigging under decks, which is generally all customized to the specific skipper’s desires. You’ll probably want to change some of it to fit your own. Check and document what’s there for future consideration.

  • Most of the running rigging will have some sort of hank or clasp, at minimum on one end. You should check these out as well.
  • The spars—if wood, check the mast seams for integrity and verify that the glue is holding its bond:
  • Check the condition of the Masthead sheave
  • Check condition of all mounted hardware, stays and struts where applicable
  • Check runners or tracks
  • Sails—Main and Jib (and battens) [Spinnaker and pole]:
    • Condition, newness, cleanliness, rips, tears.
    • Condition of batten pockets.
    • Condition of thread/seams especially at the head piece and around the clew and tack grommets.
    • Condition of the edges: foot, etc.

    • Trailer if applicable:
      • Lights and electric wires functionality and soundness.
      • Soundness of the coupling.
      • Tires and bearings (the last trailerable boat I purchased I got lazy and didn’t grease the bearings before the tow home—they burnt out on the road, melted the tires, ate up an entire day for a trip that should have been 2 hours and cost me almost a hundred dollars when all was said and done)
      • Condition of the springs—leaf or coil
      • Condition of paint—you may end up having to grind the metal down to eliminate rust and repaint—this is both a major cost and time consideration.
  • Seats and Floorboards—I’ve actually seen skippers throw out their floorboards to try to lighten their hulls in order to get down to racing weight. In a wooden boat this would mean that they are walking on the actual hull planks applying pressure where it wasn’t meant to be and probably weakening the fittings connecting the planks to the ribs.

  • Rudder and tiller (and tiller extender is applicable).

    • Check the rudder for warpage, checks, wood rot, etc.
    • Check the condition of all the associated hardware.

      • The Gudgeons and Pintles (2 of each) and there mounting points and related hardware.
      • Tiller rudder connection—how well the tiller sits in the slot on the rudder head and/or any associated connecting hardware—an extremely lose fitting here will adversely affect downwind sailing controllability.

  • Make a comprehensive inventory of what is needed to skipper a boat and what actually comes with the boat being offered—is there an anchor, running lines, rigging, fog horn, boat hook, paddles, bilge pump, PFDs, trailer, etc… all the little things you didn’t think about that can cost you $$s later on [Example: when I purchased 7310 I saw stuff laying on the ground around the boat that upon further inspection had been part of the boats original inventory. Had I not known what I needed to skipper a boat I would have had to purchase it later on].

Afterwards, develop a budget - write up everything that needs to be repaired and associate costs to each item. Look it up on the web, in catalogs, at marinas, etc.

Assuming that the boat you select is wood (not fiberglass or fiberglass covered) make a determination on what you’d like to finish pained and what you’ll finish bright and consider long term maintenance of your decision. Document this so you’ll be able to determine if you’re looking at more "bright" then you’ll want to maintain.

If the boat is fiberglass covered you’ll have to make a determination on the soundness of the fiberglass covering itself, the bond, and the condition of the underlying wood, all of which is much harder but can be done, plus there are plenty of people on this list that can be more helpful in this area then I.

Last item: Don’t allow what I’ve written here to scare you away from joining the rest of us who have treaded down this path. In the end it will all be worth it. You’ll be the proud owner of an amazing piece of history and will find that where ever you go people will be attracted to your boat. You’ll garner tons of appreciation and pride from what you will have accomplished. And you might even make the rest of us incredibly envious to boot. And now—who’s for taking what I’ve written to the next level?

Lou Mauriello

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