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  #1  
Old 05-08-2002
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Roberts Ketch

We''re planning on buying a boat in the 40 to 45 ft. range next year and have been looking at a number of different boats. We want something that two moderately experienced sailors can handle and live aboard comfortably. We plan on spending a year or two in the Carribean and then heading out to wherever the spirit takes us. I''d like to buy a boat and get it ready for cruising for under $250,000. Recently I''ve seen a couple of used boats made by Roberts that appear to offer quite a lot of boat at a reasonable cost. Could anyone tell me more about the 45 ft Roberts Ketch.

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Old 05-08-2002
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Most of Bruce Roberts boats are owner built or at least owner finished. Because of that build and finish quality can vary between extremely high quality to dangerously inadequate depending on who did the building and finishing work. Beyond that amatuer builders will often have varying degrees of skill in the diverse areas of skill needed to finish a boat, so for example you might see beautiful woodwork on a boat in which the electrical and plumbing work does not meet any established standards.

As with most home built boats there is also more of a chance that the owner ''adlibbed'' with the specifications. For example, my stepfather considered building a Seamaster 45, which was a Bruce Roberts designed 45 footer. He planned to use lead bricks held with reinforced resin for ballast. Seamaster used steel punchings held with resin, and we met a fellow who had used simply concrete with a little bit of reinforcing rod. Obviously there would be big differences in the lifespans, stability and sailing ability of these three boats.

Bruce Roberts is popular with owner builders but I am not a fan of his work. It is not so much that I do not like his work per se. I think that for the most part Roberts designs conservative simple boats, but to me they are very dated. His Spray series have less than no appeal to me. Having read about the original Spray and the sailing ability of some of the so- called copies of her, I have come to believe that Josh Slocum made it around the world despite the short comings of Spray rather than because of her sterling virtues. Josh Slocum was the consummate seaman. Spray was a coastal oyster boat. Why anyone in this day and age would want to use her as a model for a whole line of boats is completely beyond me. But I emphasize this is only my opinion and Roberts has sold a bunch of these things so my opinion is not shared by everyone on this.

Roberts more modern designs were probably good designs in the 1970''s but a lot has happened since then. To me his design ideas have not advanced as well. That said, Roberts has a boat he calls a 434 that someone built as a long range single-hander that looks like a nice boat though still dated to my eye. All of his designs are very heavy boats and I strongly believe that weight, in and of itself, has no inherent virtue and is a very serious liability.

Jeff
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Old 05-08-2002
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Roberts Ketch

Roberts boats are made out of steel. Steel is an excellant choice if you can keep the boat dry inside and are not 100% certain that you will ever ram anything, or that anything will ever ram you.

Yea they are heavy, and rust never sleeps but you can hit stuff and keep going.

Read the Steven Calahan and Dougal Robertson stories to help you make a decision.
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Old 05-08-2002
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Roberts Ketch

Back in the late 70''s or early 80''s, Robert Perry gave Robert''s design his seal of approval. Many sailors like the designs of the 70''s over more modern designs - see Ted Brewer''s article in the recent good old boat about some interesting perspectives on design.

I think Jeff has a very good point about things that home builders might have done. There are, however, a couple of points to think about with this argument:

1. We see some very reputable commercial builders who do some strange things, too. For example, Caliber, I have been told by one owner, has used concrete to fill space in their encapsulated keels. Concrete holds moisture = problems.

2. A Roberts could be a great deal. Because they were owner built, that may lower their value. If one can feel confident about an owner''s attention to detail, one might find a very well built boat at a good price.

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Actually a comparatively small proportion of the Roberts 45''s have been built in steel. Most have been built in glass. And when you read Steve Calahan''s story remember he is sailing a race boat designed 20 years ago.

Jeff
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Old 05-09-2002
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Roberts Ketch

Thank you one and all for all of the information. I really appreciate the help and will probably be posting many more questions as we get closer to buying a boat.

Bruce
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Old 05-09-2002
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Roberts Ketch

And when you read Steve Calahan''s story, think about what might have happened had the hull been made of steel???

Instead of sinking (because of the collision) he would have bounced off, done the trip, never written a book and would be just another obscure sailor out there doing his thing.

Iím still searching for books written by steel-sailboat-owning-shipwrecked sailors, where the boat was hole in a collision at sea, but just canít find any.
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See if you can find a copy of the local Savannah, Georgia or Charleston papers from early spring approximately 1979 or so. There was a well covered case of a couple who struck a submerged object with the nearly new steel ketch and sank. Also check the Miami papers from the early 1970''s probably around 1974 or so. Also a steel hulled boat that piled up and went down quick.

Pound for pound, both cold molded wood and fiberglass hulls are actually stronger than steel. So if you compared a steel boat of the same weight as Steve Calahan''s boat, I doubt the results would have been any different. The fact that few steel vessels sink due to hitting objects reflects the fact that most steel boats have heavier hulls and the fact that there are just plain fewer steel boats out there. Steel commercial vessels are lost with no lesser frequency than composite commercial vessels are lost.

Jeff
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Old 05-10-2002
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Roberts Ketch

So what you are saying is that in the sailboat demolition derby, you could take a Hunter, a well built cold molded wood boat and a steel boat, all of equal displacement (equal weight, pound for pound), let them go at each other, and the steel boat has no better chance at surviving than the other 2 boats???
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Old 05-14-2002
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Close- All other things being equal, I am saying that I would take an equal weight properly engineered cold-molded boat over an equal weight properly engineered FRP boat and both over an equal weight steel boat in a demolition durby where the impacts match the hazzards likely to match those encountered at sea.

Jeff
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