Certified Timber for the 12 Foot Dinghy
  Wood is not only a boat building material of character and style, but a fabulous renewable resource. A forest which is responsibly managed can produce wood indefinitely and is carbon neutral. It therefore makes sense to us at Good Wood Boat Company to build classic racing dinghies using responsibly managed and ethically sourced wood. In this way we believe we can make a valuable contribution to the protection of the environment. However, it’s not easy and sometimes it proves very difficult.

This article will point out some of the benefits as well as some of the difficulties in using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®) certified wood to build the 12 Foot dinghy. This may help to inform those who decide which woods are allowable in the racing rules, encourage those considering the purchase of a new wooden boat to make an informed decision and ultimately help protect the rainforest.

The article explains what certified timber is, explains the process for ‘chain of custody certification’, describes the benefits and issues for the boat builder, lists what boat building timbers are commonly certified and describes what certified timber 12 Foot Dinghy might be made from.
What is Certified Timber?
Forestry certification is a voluntary, market mechanism designed to improve forest management globally. The idea behind it is that consumers will select products that come from well managed forests in preference to products from badly managed forests. By making this choice consumers can help to ensure the timber supply base can be maintained for the future.

A forest that is responsibly managed ensures the rights of local and indigenous people. Where people are taken into account and involved in a certification scheme economic pressure to log illegally may be alleviated.

Also, where sustainable timber production is deployed the forest habitat for both plants and animals can be protected.

Any business that manufactures and sells ‘certified’ timber products, for example a boat builder, must have a ‘Chain of Custody’ certification.

Chain of Custody certification, or COC, provides independent evidence that timber used in the boat originates from well managed forests. COC certification also means the boat builder can use the certification scheme trademarks to promote their business as a user of sustainable timber.

The Forest Stewardship Council is one of the most rigorous independent timber certification schemes, operating worldwide. It is an international network designed to promote responsible management of the world’s forests. It was founded in 1993 in response to public concern about deforestation and demand for a trustworthy wood-labelling scheme. It is supported by non-government organisations including the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and the Woodland Trust.

You can find out more about FSC on their website: www.fsc.org

Using Certified Timber
How does FSC certification affect Good Wood Boat Company?
Implementing a chain of custody process is a fairly straightforward task that relies on everybody in the business taking responsibility for maintaining the integrity of the chain. Good Wood Boat must first buy wood from companies that can supply FSC timber. When the timber arrives at the boat yard, the paperwork must be checked and the timber stored in the space allocated for FSC. If its COC status is not clear, Good Wood Boat’s staff checks with the supplier why not and ensures that it doesn’t get mixed up with certified timber.
When a customer commissions a FSC certified boat this must appear on the Good Wood Boat internal documents. Everyone involved in the build need to be aware of this fact and keeps a check on it. Only FSC certified wood is used in an FSC labelled boat.

When the boat is ready for delivery its builder’s plate is engraved with the FSC trademark logo and the delivery notes and invoices must include Good Wood Boat’s COC codes and include a description of the boat that denotes it ‘Certified’.

Finally, FSC come once a year to audit the company, checking to see whether it is managing COC correctly, keeping records of purchases and sales, storing timber in the right places and using the logos in accordance with scheme rules.

What are the benefits to a boat builder operating this scheme?
Very few boat builders worldwide have FSC certification. It is one of Good Wood Boat Company’s unique selling points. We have found customers who buy traditionally constructed race measured boats primarily want performance and a beautiful appearance done to a very high standard and we are good at delivering this. However, there are other good boat builders around whom like us, focus on quality, rather than least cost and we have found FSC certification enables us to provide an additional delight to our customers.

One of Good Wood Boat Company’s values is to leave a small environmental footprint. A great way to do this is to build in wood rather than fibreglass, carbon fibre or plastic. However, we don’t want to be involved in depleting the rain forests. Whilst all certification schemes can be criticised we believe that providing FSC certified boats is the best thing we can do, currently, to help sustain the forest and reduce our carbon footprint.

What are the issues for a boat builder operating this scheme?
Finding appropriate wood for boat building is one of the boat builders’ biggest challenges. Most wooden boat builders are small businesses, using relatively small volumes of timber, which means they have little influence with suppliers. The timber has to be of suitable long length, durable in the marine environment, stable dimensionally, defect free, of the correct grain pattern and orientation, light weight (especially if for racing dinghies) and have good appearance. It’s very difficult to find all these properties. If one adds a requirement for sustainable and ethical timber, sometimes, it becomes impossible to find. In addition, many FSC certified timber suppliers don’t understand the requirements of boat builders. For example, the customer for our latest International 12 Foot has the requirement for a light weight hull, both for launching and landing reasons and because the first 12s, built in 1913, had spruce planking. We could not find spruce of sufficient quality which also had FSC certification. Much of the timber in the boat is FSC, but we will not be able to FSC trademark label the finished boat because the planking is not certified wood.

Chain of custody certification is an overhead cost for the boat builder. FSC certified materials cost a little more. The time involved in sourcing certified timber suitable for boat building is significant and therefore adds cost. Inevitably, these costs have to be reflected in the final price of the dinghy.

Customer perception of certification schemes is not always favourable. However, when this is the case, we always enquire of those who challenge the scheme to propose a better way. There may be a better way to sustain the forest but we’ve yet to hear of it.

Thus, the builder has a lot to contend with and has to weigh the issues involved in supplying a dinghy made of sustainable and ethical wood against the benefits provided. In the end it comes down to the desires of the individual customer commissioning the boat.

Certified Boat Building Timbers
Hard Woods
  • Sapele mahogany
  • Khaya mahogany
  • Utile mahogany
  • Iroko
  • Spanish cedar (hard wood broad leaved)
  • European oak – kiln dried
  • European oak - green
  • Marine plywood
Soft Woods
  • Western red cedar
Of these we have found sapele and european oak (kiln dried and green) to be consistently available and of a quality suitable for boat building.
FSC Certified International 12 Foot Dinghy
Given the availability of certified boat building timber mentioned above, one straight forward option for an FSC certified 12 Foot Dinghy is currently sapele hull planking and fit out items on an euro-oak backbone. For reasons of weight and durability khaya mahogany would be preferable to sapele, but recently, we have found Khaya more difficult to source in small quantities. Other certified timbers are also possible but more difficult to source.
In summary, it is entirely feasible to build a beautiful International 12 Foot Dinghy that performs well in a race, which is FSC certified. Such a boat will contribute to sustaining the rain forest and reducing carbon emissions. It might give the boat builder a few headaches, but boat builders are generally resourceful people. In the end we think there’s one thing that will make a big difference to the popularisation of ‘green’ traditionally built wooden boats and that is the buying decision of the customer.
Stephen Beresford - Good Wood Boat Company