As we take a stroll by the docks, we usually see ships and boats made primarily of wood. It begs the question, why doesn’t wood get wet from the water? It’s quite surprising that wood has been used for centuries to build boats and ships despite being a porous material.
It may seem ironic, but the answer lies in understanding wood’s nature. Wood is essentially made up of cells with tiny pockets of air in between. Once wood is cut from a tree and exposed to the elements, it starts to dry out as the moisture within the cells evaporates. Wood resists water by creating a barrier and in the process, repels water to some extent.
However, wood is not perfectly waterproof. It can quickly absorb water, rot, and ruin the construction of the entire ship, particularly if it remains damp for long periods. That’s why timber usually gets treated with chemicals and preservatives that protect it from water damage, decay, and insects that thrive in damp environments.
Moreover, shipbuilders have come up with innovative ways to preserve wood and protect it from water damage. They use techniques such as applying tar or pitch to cover the wood’s surface or coating with paint or varnish, which forms a waterproof seal over the wood. These methods create a barrier between the wood and water, preventing the water from seeping in and doing any damage.
In essence, it’s the combination of wood’s natural resistance to water, the protective coatings or treatments applied to the wood, and consistent maintenance that keeps the wood dry on boats and ships.
Wood is a fantastic material for building boats and ships. Although it is inherently porous, it can resist water to some extent, and with careful preservation and maintenance, remain dry for many years. It’s a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of boat and shipbuilders who continue to use wood in their designs despite the many technological advancements we’ve witnessed in the marine industry.