Re: Life Span of a Boat
My steel 31 footer will be 29 years old in April, and is as good as the day I built her, with the original paint job. The trick was to get a lot of paint on her the first time, 25 gallons of epoxy tar , inside and out, plus regular paintings with marine enamel. I used hot galvanized plate for her decks, cabin and cockpit. Most steel boats have problems rusting out from the inside, because they don't bother to put any paint on the inside before foaming. I have seen far to many good boats lost that way, before their time. Foam is no protection for the inside of a steel boat. As long as I clean up and touch up any paint chips, the life of my boat is indefinite, certainly good for my lifetime.
Older fibreglass boats relied on far more shape for stiffness, which results in far less flexing than the flat surfaces of modern boats. Flat surfaces need a lot more support than compound curves, something most design rules take zero consideration of, making them far less connected to reality. A compound curve results in a fraction the flexing of a flat surface, something modern designers seem to lack any understanding of , possibly because it takes a bit of instinct, and ability to see things in three dimensions, rather than the two dimensions their calculations are based on, and is not easily converted in to numbers. They tend to regard all hull surfaces as flat surfaces, making them largely irrelevant, when applied to more complex shapes.
Another problem people have when calculating the cost of upgrading an older boats is the assumption that they absolutely "must have" all the modern toys that older boats lived quite well without, and all must be brand new.I sailed for 17 years and several Pacific crossings before I put my first electrical system on my boat. By the time I launched my current 31 footer in 1984, I had $4,000 in her, a bare shell. Another $2000 and she was sailing, and I was living aboard her. I've never had refrigeration and don' miss it. Wouldn't buy it if I won the lottery . Bought my first VHF in Mexico in 89, my first radar in 94, my first battery in 88, etc , after years of full time cruising without them. My interior evolved over time , spent cruising, and sleeping in as long as I pleased, as I gradually found the materials for free.
Do I regret not having gone deeply into debt to buy all the goodies new, before getting some enjoyment out of my boat? Not a chance! Do I regret not having spent all that cruising time going to work to pay for it all? Not a chance!
With the huge glut of boats on the market, the days of resale value in boats is over. The value in boats is the use you get out of them, plus the huge amount of money you can save living and traveling aboard, over spending the same amount of time living ashore, and traveling by far more expensive means .
Having a boat to live and travel aboard has enabled me to live on a month's work, average, per year ,since my mid 20's, and do many Pacific crossings, as well as cruise the BC coast 11 months a year. My boat owes me nothing. Not owning a boat would have cost me far more, many, many times more.
Brent Swain, Boat designer, Builder, and author of "Origami Metal Boatbuilding"
Last edited by Brent Swain; 02-04-2013 at 07:16 PM.