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Old 01-03-2005
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Steel vs Fiberglass

Nice post Whoosh, but perhaps I was misunderstood.

I have not said that fiberglass boats will not continue to dominate the market. I think they will, because they will continue to be the cheapest boats available.

What I have said is that Aluminum boats will be less expensive in the near future (in fact they are already less expensive than they used to be) because there are some European boat builders that have begun to build them not (as it was usual) boat by boat, but several at the same time, with the help of very sophisticated machinery.

Of course it will never be mainstream, and they are a niche market, but that niche is the Voyage Oceangoing Boat market, that around here (Europe) represents a small part of the market.

I think that’s because you are not here that you underestimate the growing importance of the Aluminum boat market in that particular niche.

In the Special edition of "Voile Magazine", one of the big French sail magazines, it was made, as usual, a selection of the more meaningful boats to the French market, according to categories: Between 7 and 8m; Between 8 and 9 and so on.

In the categories of "Bateaux de Voyage" they select and analyze these boats: Ovni 395; Feeling 39; Manatea 425; JBP 40; Allures 40; Alliage 41; RM 1200; Foxy 40; Hermine 40; Generic 35; Mercator 40; JFA 45; , Rêva 42; Allures 44; Ovni 435; UY 435 and Alliage 44.

Of all those boats only three are not aluminum boats. One is a wood and epoxy boat, one is a cored (airex) fiberglass boat and the other is a Balsa cored fiberglass boat.

To the average French sailor the ideal "Voyage boat" is an Aluminum boat.

About the price, let me say that they are not more expensive than the comparable fiberglass boats that are made for the same use: " Grand voyage" ( same tanks capacity, rigs and sails adapted to deep ocean conditions, specially strong boats etc).

Comparing prices - Aluminum and Fiberglass - “Bateaux de Voyage” - :

Aluminum :

Ovni 395 - 209 300 euros; Allures 40 - 220 000 euros; Alliage 41 - 355 661 euros; Alliage 44 - 396 250 euros; Foxy 40 – 350 000 euros; Mercator 40 – 275 000 euros; Manatea 425 - 281 900 euros; Hermine 40 - 255 185 euros; Ovni 435 - 262 820 euros; Allures 44 - 285 000 euros; UY44 -305 000 euros, to mention only some of the French boats selected by the magazine (the Dutch have also several production Aluminum boats).


Hallberg-Rassy 40 - 342 056 euros; Halberg-Rassy 43- 448 319 euros; Island Packet 42 - 260 728 euros; Island Packet 445 - 338 468 euros; Najad 400 - 361 172 euros; Contest 44 - 645 242 euros; Nauticat 37 – 304 900 euros; Nordship 38 – 284 769 euros;
Nordship 42 - .431 756 euros; Sundbeam 39 – 320 331 euros; Sundbeam 42 – 415 026 euros; etc…

Off course you can not compare any of these boats with Mediterranean oriented boats, like the Bavarias, Dufours and Beneteaus not in strength, not in the price, but you can see that for that specific niche (Grand voyage ocean boats), the Aluminum is a real alternative, even in price.

Why do the French prefer the Aluminum versus an equivalent fiberglass alternative?

I think one of the motives is durability, other is (no) osmosis but I think that the main reason is resistance to impact.

In the last number of "Voiles et Voiliers" (French Magazine) they have rated an "hi-parade" of the risks during a "Grand-Croisiere":

1- Man overboard
2- Collisions
3- (Far away from the other two)- Stormy weather

I have read somewhere that the Aluminum is 40 times more resistant to perforation than fiberglass. I don’t know if the number is correct, but I don’t have any doubt that it is much stronger to impact.

Resistance to collisions with the always increasing quantity of things that are afloat or half submerged, like containers, resistance to the accidental collision with rocks and grounding in distant and badly surveyed anchorages), that''s why they prefer Aluminum …………………………………………………....and it doesn’t look a bad choice to me.

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Old 01-04-2005
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Steel vs Fiberglass

Paulo, you''ve done others a service by listing many models and builders which feature aluminum boats. And as you say, they are a wonderful alternative for long-range cruising. You''ve also underscored my point: France is one of those niche markets where those kinds of boats appeal...even if it isn''t representative of the marketplace most boat buyers will buy from.

OTOH I don''t think your reference base of fiberglass boats are as representative as they should be. The Contests, H-Rs, Najads etc. are all high-end boats built in the most expensive area of the EU (IP boats fit into the same category in the U.S.), whereas e.g. Alubat''s boats are well built and innovative but not to the same level of finish nor with the same subsequent worldwide resale value.

Aluminum, properly designed & built, is a good choice as a hull/deck material. It''s not the only choice. And for most people in most regions of the world, it isn''t a feasible choice due both to availability and cost. Who petroleum becomes ever more precious and the world continues to shrink, perhaps this will change in two or three decades.

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