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Old 01-28-2010
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Buy a steel boat or not?

In my ongoing saga of tying to find a boat I like, the latest one is a steel Robert Clark 1963 sloop. Leaving aside design and sailing aspects, I'm wondering if she will be a bad choice maintenance wise. The broker claims the boat is in tip top shape and indeed she looks very well cared for. I would still defiantly get a survey done and get the hull ultra sounded but how accurate is that? A couple of people have told me never buy a steel boat especially not an old one. However like everything else boat related I have also got the opposite opinion. From what the broker told me the last time the hull was ultra sounded in 1993 she had 3 to 4 mm of hull thickness. The real question for me is, what is the likely hood the hull has some hidden issues that won't show up on ultra sound?
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Old 01-28-2010
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I am certian that the boat has issues you do not know about, all boats do.

I would really like a steel boat and have seen a few built that I would buy but I could not afford them. I hope my next boat to be steel. The key to me is the interior. If it is built plain, not fancy, and everything is easily unbolted and removed then repairs become affordable.

Problem is most are not like that. Every person that installed something thought that his equipment was the most important, like the boat was built just for them. As a result much of the interior stuff is often permanently installed making removal difficult and expensive.

If you look at this boat and figure you can strip it out with little effort then even if there are problems they can be fixed with minimum costs, maybe even by yourself. Of course you want that survey as some items are much more pricey to repair than others.

But I've seen many parts welded into place or with no access, very common to not beable to see everywhere and you want to be able to at least see if not access everywhere. Cutting the ship open to access something is fine as long as you do not have to spend a week stripping carpet from the hull or rewiring because junction boxes are just a hassle as far as the electrician was concerned.

The neat thing about some of the old steel boats I looked at was the records. One showed that none of the orginal hull remained, every piece had been replaced over the years. That was a nice boat but outta my price range.
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Old 01-28-2010
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For my comfort level..3-4mm is thin...you are in no contingency land!
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Old 01-28-2010
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A really well built and maintained steel hull will not be an inexpensive one.. a well-looked-after older hull COULD be OK - just like any other boat built of any other material.

Today's steel boats have benefited greatly from the advances in coatings and corrosion protection measures. One would have to wonder if a boat built in '63 will have taken advantage of any of that.

There's nothing quite like the confidence you'll feel in the strength and integrity of a good steel boat, but the yard-built ones are pricey, and the DIYs will require careful scrutiny. Ultrasonic testing is quite accurate, but only wrt to the specific areas tested.

Here's a recent cautionary tale about an (admittedly neglected) steel Folkes 37, a popular owner-built design here abouts. Having been idle in her slip for some time, a considerable crop of mussels and growth had accumulated. The owner, deciding it was time to sell, hired a diver to clean the hull. Part way through the cleaning, the boat began to take on water.. a hastily arranged haulout ensued. I saw the boat on the hard a couple of days later.. there were several thumb-sized holes in the immediate area of one of the thruhulls. The growth and mussels had actually kept this area sealed as the metal was corroding away... yikes! Seeing that you had to wonder what the rest of the hull was really like!
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Old 01-28-2010
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Thanks guys for you input. The boat is actually yard built in the Netherlands. Here she is:

Barracuda

I guess I'll just have to make a judgment call after a survey/ultra-sound. At least she's on the hard at the moment so I can save the cost of hauling her. The transportation to the USA is a bit pricey but I found a company that will ship her to Los Angeles for a reasonable price and from there, I can get friends help to get her to San Francisco.
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That's a nice boat. Steel can be replaced easily at a cost, then only a little more care is needed to prevent galvanic corrosion. Steel is tough and it takes a really severe problem to brach the integrity of the hill.

Personally, If your like the boat, go for it!!!
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Old 01-28-2010
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She's pretty... is she still in Holland? If these pics are recent she looks in great shape.. but once again you've got wooden (plywood) decks on the metal hull - it does appear that at least part of the decks have been redone in 1994.. Don't quote me but I think the text says the pictures are from '94/95. New rig in 2009 too...(if I'm translating that correctly.. IF...)

I don't imagine she's too roomy by today's standards, but probably sails well enough - and will look great doing it. 11 tonnes on a 30'waterline, no lightweight that's for sure.
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Old 01-28-2010
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Yeah she's still in Holland. The mast is new in '09, so they said. Not sure about the pictures either though. The broker has told me she's in great shape for whatever that's worth. Guess I'll find out if/when I look at her. She's got 6 tons of ballast (over 50%). Probably needs it with the narrow beam.
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V Pretty!

I've owned steel - would do it again in a flash. My wife convinced me to go there for safety reasons when we had a young family - BUT you need to know something about the history of the coatings used. THis is both so you know what to use in re-coating, and also to make some judgement abou how she will hold up over time.

As others have pointed out, she has not benifited from from epoxies and 2-pak poly UNLESSS she has been blasted and re-coated in recent history. When we brought our steel boat (34ft) the first thing we did was blasted below the waterline and re-coated with epoxy. We owned her for 6 yrs, and in that time we only had to water-balst the bottom annually and re-coat. Seriously low maintenance set-up
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Old 01-28-2010
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Pretty boat and Robert Clark was a great designer. If the pictures are recent she's in great shape and well kept. I love the mooring bitt on the foredeck as well as the Sestrel compass (same model I had on a previous boat). I agree with Faster the decks are probably more of a liability than the steel hull. Siemans-Martin steel, 4 to 6 mm originally. Amazing how much Dutch you can decipher without knowing the language. A previous poster said 3-4mm is thin but not for steel in good shape. Stronger than glass many times thicker and it dents rather than puncturing like glass with the same blow. Looks like a very well designed boat that's been loved, and well equipped too. I hope you're not just going to daysail! She's designed and equipped for much more.
As far as the hull the inside deserves a good inspection, especially alongside frames for corrosion, as it would start inside. But if the hull is ok there isn't much that can't be fixed. Do I sound envious?
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