As I stood admiring the Vicem 78 at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, people would walk past and lower their voices as they spoke. “It’s wood, you know,” they would say sotto voce, as though they might offend the yacht with the comment.
It was, I realized, the natural result from half a century of advertising proclamations that fiberglass is the new miracle material. It never rusts or rots, it never needs painting, and, you’ll love this, it stays shiny forever. Pardon my French, but that’s pure BS, and anyone who owns a fiberglass boat knows it.
So I’d like to share another miracle material with you. Wood. If you have trouble remembering the name, think of this simple rhyme: “Wood is good.”
Wood has been good since men hollowed out tree trunks to venture onto scary waters. Wood has been good since ships sailed into battle with oars and sails. Wood has been good since clippers rounded the Horn in the China trade. And wood continues to be good for yachts built by skilled men who take great pride in both the craft they are building and the craft they use to build her.
Unlike fiberglass, wood is not created in laboratory test tubes, but by a seed that becomes a living thing. As the bumper stickers read when fiberglass was still newfangled, “If God wanted fiberglass boats, he would have made fiberglass trees.”
Let me tell you something else about wood. It is a great material for building yachts because water and wood are friends. Do I hear you snort with derision? Consider this. A wood chip floats naturally, no matter what its shape or whether it has any finish on it. Try that with a piece of fiberglass. Or steel. Or aluminum. Yes, water likes wood and allows it to float.
Wood provides natural insulation against sound and vibration, it has great strength combined with flexibility, and it is absolutely beautiful when properly finished. It doesn’t fatigue like many materials, and it doesn’t require expensive molds.
Those are just a few of the reasons why Vicem Yachts, a Turkish shipyard with a world-class reputation, chooses to use wood to build its 78 Cruiser. Vicem draws on a history of Turkish boatbuilding that dates back to Noah’s Ark and which, in more recent times, includes 10 centuries of experience starting with the galleons of the Ottoman Empire. The modern Vicem yard has employed many generations of the same families for years.
Located near Istanbul, which is the meeting point for East and West, Vicem isn’t afraid to combine classic woodworking skills with modern technology, and the 78 hull is built with a blend of wood and modern epoxy. Using cold-molded construction combined with West System epoxy resins, the Vicem 78 shares the best of old and new. Cold-molded construction involves laminating the hull over a form, using multiple skins of hand-selected mahogany at 45- and 90-degree angles so that the wood forms a multidirectional grid for strength.
Cold-molded construction has been around since before World War II, when it was used to build American PT boats and British Mosquito fighter bombers. Both were beloved by their crews because they were able to absorb incredible battle damage and still return home safely.
For the 78 Cruiser, each skin is marinated in epoxy resin to seal it against both air and water. After the veneers have been layered into a rigid hull, both the exterior and interior are sheathed with 10-ounce E-glass cloth, and, finally, the exterior is faired, primed and painted to a mirror finish.
“Vicem Yachts has a mission,” says Alberto Perrone da Zara, the company’s affable CEO, “to blend tradition with the most advanced technology. We don’t hope to build hundreds of production boats. We want to build the finest yachts for a clientele of a happy few.”