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post #3231 of 5317 Old 01-15-2014
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Re: Pros and cons of steel sailboats

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Originally Posted by Cruisingdad View Post
Hey guys, I have just one quick question if you don't mind:

What are the pros and cons of steel boats?

Thank you ahead of time for your insight.

Brian
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.
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post #3232 of 5317 Old 01-15-2014
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Re: Pros and cons of steel sailboats

We can beat the steel v alloy v plastic issue to death. It comes to personal preference and use and budget.

For us the heavy steel, hard chine boat had worked out well, so far. I've had a couple of " incidents", perhaps my fault, where the boat has had to be tough. I hit a submerged piling at speed, got caught on a pier in a bad gale, and grounded in a rock garden. The pier gave me a dent I took out with bondo, but a lesser boat would have had deck/hull attachment issues. Else wise I came out clean. The story with the 33' is different, but I'm no less pleased. She has taken care of this old fool.

For how and where we sail, given our budget, it works.

Now if I won the lottery? A Boreal 44'!
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post #3233 of 5317 Old 01-15-2014
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Re: Pros and cons of steel sailboats

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Originally Posted by bobperry View Post
I think you are also right in that there has been a market in Europe more open to steel boats.
North America has not been very receptive to steel yachts and the resale value reflects this.

Aluminum is easier to work with and has some of the samne durability advantages as steel. Alu will be thicker but lighter and give some nice displacement options as well as shaping advantages.
FWIW, there are a lot of steel, aluminium and wood and plastic (horror!) down here.

A fair few decades ago living in North Queensland my parents had a local machine shop build a 50' steel cruising yawl - one my Dad designed and Joe Adams drew up. No chines.. just a nice curved hull and clipper bow. It was the biggest thing the husband-and-wife shop (the wife was a top-class welder) had ever taken on - they had to extend their shed to fit it in. As a kid it was an amazing place to explore and learn new skills.

As you'd expect the boat had a fair few complex curves, but with the right tools made right there in the shop (like a hydraulic piston-press around 20' high for shaping the plates and a monster forklift made from the chassis and engine of an old Dodge truck) she took us up and down the Queensland coast for many years.

Aside from a few home-made ones, I don't see so many yachts being made down here in steel any more - most new metal builds seem to be Aluminium. Around here I do see more new wooden boats in build than any other material.. but you could argue that I might not be looking in the right places.

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"Honestly, I don't know why seamen persist in getting wrecked in some of the outlandish places they do, when they can do it in a nice place like Fiji." -- John Caldwell, "Desperate Voyage"

Last edited by Classic30; 01-15-2014 at 09:05 PM.
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post #3234 of 5317 Old 01-15-2014
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Re: Pros and cons of steel sailboats

Cam,

You are looking in the same places Dad is for boats being made, but he is usually in some factory named "Catalina" never heard of it meself, have heard of wood boats.....built a couple of them actually many moons ago........OH, we have a full moon out, watch out for some of our semi normal members, they.......excuse me, need to say this.......arrrrrrrrrrooooooooooooooo!.......ok, that is done for a few minutes........where was I? oh yeah, some of the semi normal folks howl a lot once a month or so, seems to fall on a full moon night........excuse me again.........arrrrrrrrrrrrooooooooooooo!

Marty
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post #3235 of 5317 Old 01-16-2014
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Re: Pros and cons of steel sailboats

You're nuts, Marty. ..but then I think you know that already.

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Re: Pros and cons of steel sailboats

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Originally Posted by Classic30 View Post
FWIW, there are a lot of steel, aluminium and wood and plastic (horror!) down here.

A fair few decades ago living in North Queensland my parents had a local machine shop build a 50' steel cruising yawl - one my Dad designed and Joe Adams drew up. No chines.. just a nice curved hull and clipper bow. It was the biggest thing the husband-and-wife shop (the wife was a top-class welder) had ever taken on - they had to extend their shed to fit it in. As a kid it was an amazing place to explore and learn new skills.

As you'd expect the boat had a fair few complex curves, but with the right tools made right there in the shop (like a hydraulic piston-press around 20' high for shaping the plates and a monster forklift made from the chassis and engine of an old Dodge truck) she took us up and down the Queensland coast for many years.

Aside from a few home-made ones, I don't see so many yachts being made down here in steel any more - most new metal builds seem to be Aluminium. Around here I do see more new wooden boats in build than any other material.. but you could argue that I might not be looking in the right places.
Alloy is a gift currently given it's energy production requirement although still significantly more expensive than steel.

But it's not a great material for the non trained welder. It takes a lot of resources to train an alloy welder and that includes x-rays of beginners welds. It's very easy to lay down a really good looking bead that looks great but is all sitting on the top of the join. Later those welds inevitably crack.

Materials and construction methods come and go with prices trends and ability of local workforces. There's quite a few trained alloy welders around in Oz that people should hire to weld up their home built alloy boats.

I'd have any hull material they all have their advantages and disadvantages for high lattitude cruising and poorly charted coral areas I do like metal boats. But solidly build hulls of most materials in small craft are pretty tough if robustly built.
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Re: Pros and cons of steel sailboats

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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"
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Re: Pros and cons of steel sailboats

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According to people who know him, Brent lives with his sister in a flat. So not a hermit.
I live full time on my 31 ft twin keeler, in which I cruise mainly between Quadra Island and Sidney BC, with occasional voyages to the South Pacific, and points further north. I try avoid spending more than 2 weeks in one place. Currently I am anchored among several of my 36 footers, all with full time liveaboards, all of whom have previously lived on stock plastic boats, before upgrading to something warmer, tougher, safer and much drier.
Last time I lived on land full time was 1976.

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Re: Pros and cons of steel sailboats

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Originally Posted by bobperry View Post
Dad:
Here is one of the cons, from my perspective. You have very little control over the small shaping details when you work with steel. There are European yards that can do it but you don't see that level of shape contgrrol in North American steel boats. If you are happy with hard corners and edges then that's fine but I like a softer look. And when I want a hard corner I want it to be my design and not a limitation of the matertial.

Notice the changing contour in the cabin top of Frankie. That would have been a challenge in steel. It is not conically developed.
In steel boat building, you have all the control you need, over anything which matters . The only control you don't have is over things which really don't matter .
So don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things. Building a good steel boat doesn't take as much time as some waste on things which really don't matter, and don't improve a boat in any functional, or for that matter, in any noticeable, aesthetic way.
Before you waste lot of cruising time trying to make steel do what it really doesn't want to do, ask yourself "How important is it really ? How much cruising time it this worth giving up, for this?"
The simpler ,and thus the fewer nooks and crannies a steel boat has ,the fewer the number of chips and dings in the paint, and the less the maintenance over time ,will be. So for less trouble all around on a steel boat, SIMPLIFY!

Bob, the reverse sheer on the cabin sides of your boat would be easy to do in steel . The centreline, barely noticeable, would be straight , having almost zero effect on aesthetics, as it would be barely noticeable. This is typical of the things which some needlessly waste huge amounts of time and money on,

Brent Swain, Boat designer, Builder, and author of "Origami Metal Boatbuilding"

Last edited by Brent Swain; 01-16-2014 at 07:48 PM.
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Re: Pros and cons of steel sailboats

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I think we also learned that while corrosion can be an issue on steel boats, some methods/processes can significantly reduce the problem, but that some actually make it worse.

And those methods, along with their pros and cons are......
The biggest and most common mistake on a steel boat is putting wood over steel on the outside. That will be more maintenance than the rest of the boat combined. That makes things much worse, and has no pros, only cons. If you like fine woodwork, keep it inside.
Or you could take picture of some bright work, take it to the paint shop and have the colour matched, then put that colour where you would like to see bright work. From 10 feet away it will look exactly the same, especially if you put a clear finish over it.

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