Sustainable Sapele Wood

The wood shop at Island Packet Yachts. Most of the finished interiors are now constructed with the beautiful--and sustainable--sapele wood.

The wood shop at Island Packet Yachts. Most of the finished interiors are now constructed with the beautiful–and sustainable–sapele wood.

As the Flying Fish evolves from a bare hull, craftsmen at Island Packet Yachts are transforming the interior of my boat from raw fiberglass into a finish of gorgeous sapele wood.

Sapele is a member of the mahogany family sourced from sustainable growers in Central Africa. In the Island Packet production assembly, sapele has replaced much of the traditional teak wood which often comes from clear-cut, old-growth forests.

Sapele is a highly sustainable, relatively fast-growing hardwood. It comes from a large tree that has a widespread growth range across Africa. It is common for the trunk to exceed 6 feet in diameter on a tree that may reach a height of 150-200 feet with minimal branching. This yields straight-grained lumber that is almost twice as hard as other types of mahogany.

Sapele grows with an interlocking grain pattern where the fibers twist around the tree as they grow.  When quartersawn the interlocking grain aligns to form beautiful ribbon striping. The innate properties of sapele, known as “figure”, can be spectacular. Sapele figure can include bird’s eye, burl, fiddleback, flame, and quilted grain patterns.

Sapele wood produces beautiful wood grain figuring.

The innate properties of sapele wood produces a beautiful wood grain figuring.

Among its more exotic uses sapele is often found in musical instruments. Taylor Guitars uses the wood on the back and sides of their acoustic guitar bodies. It is also used in manufacturing ukuleles and harps. The car maker Cadillac also uses sapele for interior wood trim on some of its vehicles.

The tree is also known as aboudikro. There are protected populations and logging restrictions in place in various countries including Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast where sustainable sapele plantations have been created. The Congo is one of the largest producers of sapele and while the area is often in political turmoil, logging companies still embrace strict regulation and verification programs like Timber Legality & Tracing Verification (TLTV) and Verification of Legal Origin (VLO).

While TLTV covers all the company processes during harvest, processing and export, VLO takes a closer look at the legal right to harvest the tree in the first place. VLO timbers have an in-depth and highly-maintained chain of custody system that can be audited at any point.

Island Packet Yachts buys sapele from a supplier who provides TLTV and VLO stock offering documentable and verifiable chains of evidence showing that the tree was responsibly harvested from a sustainable area.

Responsible forest management and the verification of legal harvest may not be cost effective with some manufacturing companies but in my eyes this sustainable ethic will make the wood inside Flying Fish all the more beautiful.

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