Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: British Columbia
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Re: Pros and cons of steel sailboats
You can get a lot of boat for your money, it's also the toughest of all materials in collision and grounding with alloy a close second which provides a lot of self insurance.
The downside is steel doesn't tolerate neglect, so not a good material for the myriad of marina boats that act as gin palaces.
Providing the interior is designed to allow access then maintenance of the hull is easy. And to replace parts of the hull it's the cheapest and quickest of all materials providing the skills are available. In some parts of the USA that can be hard and I've seen an insurance companies fly a dutch crew in to repair a steel yacht in the Carrib.
I tried to get a steel sailboat sand blasted in LA 2 years ago and was told it wasn't possible and I had to go to Mexico or Washington ! So look at facilities closely, if the boat has to be hauled away to a remote yard for steel work it's going to bankrupt you but if you can work in the yard skilled steel workers are available cheaply anywhere in the world.
A genset on a steel boat is a real boon for maintenance, and I think it's worth doing a basic welding course and learning a bit about simple easy but effective paint systems.
If you keep on top of the maintenance keep the interior bilges dry and check the interior paint of the hull every 10 years in high condensation areas it'll last indefinately.
Steel it should be for serious cruising since they will be medium heavy to heavy boats which need more sail to get them moving.
Many steel produciton boats are a nightmare of glued interior fitout, teak over ply over steel decks built for a 20 year life, avoid those.
I posted earlier that here I know of 80 and hundred year old steel boats still being extensively cruised which I have surveyed and much of those hulls are still pristine.
Good post Mike.
Last time I was in Ensenada, the boat yard there was hopping with work they were not allowed to do in the US. I hear the same is true in Tunisia, with work they are not allowed to do in the EU.
Learning to do all your own steel work is not all that hard, and is far more forgiving than with other materials. An alternator, hooked up for welding, will enable you to do steel work anywhere, while at anchor, as well as build any metal gear you may need. I have built everything from wood stoves to anchor winches, while at anchor. Great sport.
Brent Swain, Boat designer, Builder, and author of "Origami Metal Boatbuilding"