It is a typical sunny August day here on the West Coast of British Columbia. My wife Irene and I are sailing across Georgia Strait toward the San Juan Islands of Northern Washington state. There’s a light breeze blowing from the West, which makes for pleasant sailing and a pleasant temperature. Irene is getting a little practice time at the helm so I am free to do what gets done a lot on these trips. That is, sitting back with a cold beverage, looking at the ocean and getting lost in one’s own thoughts. Of course, this blog is about Concrete Thoughts and so not surprisingly my personal thoughts often drift in that direction.
In the distance I can see a fellow sailor heading our same way. It is a particularly beautiful vessel with classic lines and long overhangs at both ends. It is quite possibly made completely from wood. Most modern sailboats are made from fiberglass these days. It occurs to me that I had not seen or heard about sailboats made from concrete in many years. I recall a time in my youth when I marveled at the idea that a boat could be built from concrete. Boats are made of wood, a child would logically assume, because wood floats. That makes sense. Concrete does not float so how could a concrete boat float? The concept of displacement was explained to me by my very patient father. Concrete boats were apparently common. The term “ferro-cement” comes to mind.Yet when shopping for our sailboat three years ago, I did not come across a single mention of any boats with a concrete hull. What has happened to them? Is this a technology that just didn’t stand the test of time? Maybe seawater caused chloride induced corrosion of the reinforcement? I wonder if synthetic structural fiber might solve that today. Or perhaps crystalline waterproofing technology is the answer. It occurs to me now that there is plenty of concrete in contact with the ocean. Floating docks and bridge pontoons are actually not all that different from boats. When I get back to the world I think I’ll look up what Wikipedia has to say about concrete sailboats. I would also love to come back to a few of your comments on the subject. Please feel free to post something.