WEST SYSTEM: Colombo Leopoldo: boat building tradition on Lake Como
Since the Second World War, Leopoldo Colombo and his family have been building exceptional wooden boats on Lake Como in Italy. Now, Leopoldo’s grandson, Giovanni, is overseeing the construction of a beautiful motor day cruiser – the Poldo 23. Could it be the yard’s best model yet?
The story of Colombo Leopoldo boat yard began 100 years ago, when its founder – Leopoldo Colombo – was born in Griante, Italy. He began working at the age of 12 as an apprentice at the Cranchi boatyard on Lake Como. After the Second World War, he set up his own boat yard, and his sons and grandson continue to build and restore beautiful wooden boats on the lake today.
Since 1943, Colombo Leopoldo has built more than 400 clinker-hull wooden dinghies based on a famous design by English boat builder George Cockshott. Since the 1960s, the yard has also been building much bigger wooden boats for its customers, including motor and sailing boats of up to 20 metres.
High customer demand meant the boatyard outgrew its original location in 2004, resulting in a move to a much larger, 700-square-metre site at Grandola ed Uniti, with 2,800 metres of outside space.
Innovation on Lake Como
Leopoldo’s sons, Roberto Colombo and Giorgio Colombo (who is one of only two boat builders on Lake Como to be named “Master Craftsman” by Italy’s National Union of Boatyards and Nautical Industries), have brought a number of construction innovations to the boat yard over the years. In particular, the brothers were the first boat builders on the lake to use epoxy to optimise build quality and durability for wooden boat construction nearly 30 years ago.
Giorgio Colombo, says, “Now many local builders use epoxy, but we were pioneers with the technology. By adopting wood/epoxy construction techniques, we found we could build boats that were stronger, more durable, and more exquisitely finished and we knew it was great news for us and for our clients.”
From then to now: the Poldo 23
The most recent addition to the Colombo Leopoldo stable is the Poldo 23, a beautiful wooden motor boat that is 7.36 metres long, 2.48 metres wide, and able to achieve speeds of around 23 knots.
Construction of the Poldo 23 is being overseen by Leopoldo’s grandson Giovanni. “To build the Poldo, we chose the finest materials, with mahogany for the strip-planked hull, oak for the ribs, and Iroko – an African hard wood – for the keel,” he says. “The Yamaha 100HP diesel motor finishes the package and makes the Poldo 23 as fast as she is beautiful.”
“We construct the hull of the Poldo 23 using mahogany strips and WEST SYSTEM epoxy only – there are no nails or other fasteners required,” says Giovanni. “We laminate the hull and other components using the vacuum bagging method of epoxy application, which places a bag over the laminate, pumps in the epoxy, and removes all the air to ensure a smooth, even, completely water-resistant finish,” he adds.
During the vacuum bagging process, the outside of the hull is covered in Peel Ply fabric, which is removed after the epoxy is cured. “The Peel Ply provides us with a great foundation for varnish or paint, with very little need for sanding after curing,” says Giovanni. “It’s a great technique that significantly reduces manual finishing work and saves us a lot of time.”
The design of the Poldo 23 makes it an absolute pleasure for day cruising enthusiasts. “The Poldo 23 is extremely comfortable, as well as visually stunning,” says Giovanni. “There’s ample inside space for a small toilet, storage, and even a fridge if our clients want one,” he adds. “All the creature comforts for a great day out on the lake.”
For the super-rich, the Poldo 23 is also an ideal day boat to launch from their superyachts. “Some of our customers will undoubtedly use their boats off their yachts to explore the local coastline,” says Giovanni. “It’s an extremely versatile boat that will appeal to all kinds of customers.”
Colombo has big plans when it comes to the Poldo 23. “We’re anticipating high customer demand and we’ll be making lots of Poldo 23s in the years to come,” says Giovanni. “It may be the latest boat in our range, but it carries on the great family tradition of high quality wooden boat building, which is what we’re all about,” he adds. “We just don’t know how to do anything else.”
Find out more about Colombo Leopoldo and the Poldo 23, contact the yard at https://www.colomboleopoldo.it/
Wondering if WEST SYSTEM epoxy products might be the right fit for your boat build? Explore the full range on the West System International website.