A couple of years ago I was in love with wood works. I started to buy all sorts of tools that only professional carpenters would have. All this hosted on the terrace of our apartment… It was a bit messy and a bit noisy and there was dust flying everywhere so it didn’t last long. But during that time I learned how fascinating working wood can be and how difficult it is when you don’t want to just build a box.
During that time I thought that I could build a scale size wooden boat. I did succeed in terms of shape, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t succeed in terms of solidity of the boat. Not even our dog wanted to have a ride in it.
It took me about 6 months to finish it and I spent a fortune on wood, paint, glue, appliances, isolation, etc. My better half got angry because the terrace couldn’t be used anymore and I then understood that it was not my thing. Building a wooden box was the best I could to. A boat was a too complicated job.
During one of the trips to Molfetta to visit my family, my father drove us to the “scalo”, a corner in the old town of Molfetta, right on the sea, where, since centuries, boats were built… all in wood. From little fishermen’s boats to huge fishing boats.
In the recent decades, boats were all built in fiberglass or steel for the larger ones. The reason is that they don’t require much maintenance and they were lighter and cheaper. But boats made of wood are another category. You need to love them and take care of them and they will pay back with their beauty.
In the scalo, we found one guy who was building a boat made of wood! It was amazing how he was able to shape the wood the way he wanted in order to create a beautiful handcrafted fishing boat. It was amazing for me to see how this guy was creating such a perfect boat using only basic tools. We had a chat with the guy and he was kind enough to share some of his experience and the reason why he continued to do that job. He had a difficult time to make enough money to survive, but he just told us that he didn’t want this centuries old tradition to die. And we then understood why the guy had troubles to survive… he had to compete with the prices of a plastic boat and he was selling that boat he was working on for around €5000… Unbelievable! I felt so sorry that such a hand crafted masterpiece was sold for the price of scooter. Especially when I think about how much a wooden speedboat like a Boesch or a Pedrazzini costs! Of course those are another category as they are no working tool but in the end the basis is the same. It is a tradition and handcraft job that deserves to be paid for appropriately.
Well it was a bit sad from one side, but I was amazing to see with my eyes how this old tradition nowadays is still alive. But I was thinking that the knowledge probably won’t be passed on to the next generation and handcrafted wooden fishing boats will disappear forever. What a great shame!