Carbon fiber that looks like wood

When you rebuild an 80-year-old classic wooden John G. Alden-designed schooner, you don’t replace the old wooden booms with shiny new aluminum. GMT Composites of Bristol, R.I., built light, high performance carbon fiber booms. But to make the new booms look right alongside the boat’s varnished sitka spruce masts, GMT did a superb paint job on the booms to make them look like they were built of wood.  

From the press release: GMT Composites of Bristol, RI (USA), a leader in carbon composite engineering and production, has recently supplied carbon fiber pocket booms for the total refit of SummerWind, a John G. Alden-designed schooner built in 1929. The culmination of a 2-year total restoration spearheaded by Karl Joyner, the yacht’s highly experienced captain, was the stepping of her wood masts and her new state-of-the-art booms. The GMT booms appear to perfectly match the sitka spruce in her masts, even when viewed from on deck. Instead, these are of carbon fiber, weigh only a tiny fraction of her original wood booms and have numerous details that make SummerWind’s rig stronger, simpler to control as well as easier to maintain.

This classic 100-foot (30-meter) schooner measures 79 feet (24.08 m) on deck, and was originally launched as Queen Tyi by C.A. Morse & Son in Thomaston, Maine; she is one of the few surviving large schooners from that era. She served as a Coastal Picket during World War II  and more recently, as Sea Gypsy, operated as a charter yacht in the Mediterranean. A Fort Worth (Texas) businessman acquired her and, inspired by the Frank Sinatra song, renamed her SummerWind. Then, with design consultation from naval architect Niels Helleberg, he and his captain arranged for her magnificent rebirth. They plan to sail SummerWind on the antique yacht racing circuit, beginning this summer.
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GMT faux bois carbon spars,  release continues >>>

There are many interesting facts about SummerWind’s new booms. The owner’s determination to maintain her distinctive classic appearance called for specially painted finish on her new booms, to match the look of her existing wood masts. A section of her rotted original sitka spruce spars was sent to GMT so that the polyurethane paint finish could be matched in both color and grain pattern. Only a close inspection reveals that these carbon fiber booms are not made of the same wood as her masts.

Both of SummerWind’s booms are pocket booms to make sail handling, reefing and stowing simpler. This was especially important for SummerWind’s 21-foot (6.4m) long fore boom (her main pocket boom is 37 feet (11.3m) long) as this forward sail carries a very large roach and is almost square-headed, requiring full-length battens. Pocket booms are a superb solution for sails which use very long or full-length battens, allowing the sail to be stowed with utmost  simplicity and security within the boom’s top pocket.

Additionally, both booms have internal reef and outhaul jammers. Internal bock and tackle systems are installed for rope vangs which exit through slots in the bottoms of these booms; the vangs attach to hard points at the sides of the deck for downwind sail control. Putting such systems inside the carbon structure reduces the visibility of modern sail-handling gear to maintain SummerWind•s lovely historic appearance.

GMT Composites has, since 1984, been at the forefront of carbon fiber composite engineering and product development for yacht masts, booms, bowsprits, rudders and poles.  The company also serves industrial, medical, aeronautical, oceanographic and military markets with custom carbon fiber solutions. Further information on all of these is available online at

By Ocean Navigator