For want of a better word, Mark calls the technique "cold-molding," though he admits the term is not quite apt because the Lightning has a hard chine. Cold-molded boats usually are soft chine boats, and the entire hull is made of plywood or other material glued together. Over the plywood, he glued pieces of 3/8-inch veneer to give the boat a rich, natural look. The veneer also adds to the overall strength of the boat.
So how did this woody compare to fiberglass boats?
First, says Mark, "It was way stronger than even a plank boat. By the time you're done, it's all one piece. No seams, not a nail, no steel, no bronze, no staples, nothing left as far as hard fastenings."
Repair-wise, "You don't have loose screws and pop rivets to deal with."
"Fixing the wood boat is a heck of a lot easier than fixing a fiberglass boat. If somebody rakes off your rubrail, you smooth it out and paste on another piece. You get your plane out and plane the thing down and put another piece in and fair it all back together."
In terms of upkeep, "I was racing in salt water. When I finished, I'd rinse the boat off and hit the bar."
"From a maintenance standpoint, I don't think you¹re giving anything away to a fiberglass boat. In some ways, you¹re going to beat them, because the wood boat is not going to gain weight and the fiberglass core will suck up water. When my boat was built, we had 40 pounds of lead in it. Towards the end, I think I maybe took off 10 pounds of lead. It gained 10 pounds in 15 years. Not too many fiberglass boats are going to do as well as that."
He and his crew were rough on the deck, and every couple years he'd re-varnish it. "A new coat of varnish and it looked like new." Several years after he launched it, the deck began to show wear, so he painted it white. "What do you do with a fiberglass boat when it starts getting chalky? When a woody gets ratty, you paint it."
Where trailer bunks sometimes create soft spots in glass bottoms, Patty never had that problem.
Once in 15 years, he flipped the boat, sanded the bottom and re-varnished it with linear polyurethane.
What about speed? It was a competitive boat, but not as fast as his best glass boat. Why? Mark experimented with the shape of the bottom, hoping for a hull that would really scoot downwind.
"It wasn't as fast as my fiberglass boat, but it could have been if I hadn¹t screwed with it," he says.
I learned about wood on glass confrontations. As we slowly maneuvered onto our hoist, I made one of those little navigational errors which caused the bow of my woody to bump my neighbor's glass hull.
My stem punched a hole that cost me $100 to have fixed.
Mark Patty noticed a reluctance of glass boat sailors to come close to his boat. It was a great advantage on the starting line and near marks. And it wasn¹t fear of being clobbered.
"They didn¹t want to hurt the pretty boat."
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