Small Boat Design

Discussions around designing small boats including kayaks and canoes.

Wooden Boat Heresy

I hesitate to ask this question on a wooden boat forum, but here goes: Is there any reason plastic foam can't be used in place of wood in the construction of a kayak as long as both in inside and outside are glassed? Foam core glass composites have been used successfully for decades in sail boats and powerboats. In a typical cedar stip-built kayak, the wood constitutes about half of the total weight, or about 22 lbs for a 45 lb boat. Marine grade foam is available with a density of 5 lb/cu. ft., about 1/4 as dense as red cedar. It looks like using foam strips in place of cedar would save about 15 lbs on the total weight, i.e., total boat weight would be about 27 lbs as opposed to 42 lbs. It may be that additional glass would be necessary to make up for the loss of strength going from wood to foam. There must be some good reasons why foam doesn't work well for kayaks or it would be commonly used. Wood certainly wins hands down for beauty and aesthetics, but the 10-15 lbs of weight reduction weight is significant. Hey, how about a foam hull and a wood deck as a compromise?

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Wooden Boat Heresy
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Great post, Gary
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