So we are back to grp, composite wood, and Al as viable materials for those with visions of a boat within financial reach not requiring excessive maintenance that actually sails until one is up to mega yacht length.
The many people happily cruising in small steel boats, and making just as good a passage times as most, who wouldn't dream of owning anything but steel boat, prove this dead wrong with every good passage they make .You'd be far better off getting your advice from those who have actual long term cruising experience in steel boats, rather than from those with little or no steel boat experience,trying to justify their plastic boat decisions.
A Canadian boat from Saltspring Island BC was just rolled and holed 1300 K NE of Auckland.Luckily for the skipper, a nearby freighter was able to pick him up in rough conditions. The boat was lost. What could punch a hole in a boat after being rolled? Probably a broken mast. The odds of a mast punching a hole in 3/16th steel plate?
I just checked a dent in a 36 anchored next to me, a dent made by hitting a rock at hull speed, about 6 inches deep by 40 inches in circumference. Tensile strength of 40 inches of 3/16th plate at 11,500 PSI per lineal inch? 460,000 lbs! It would have torn the bottom out of anything but a steel hull. This impact happened several years ago. The skipper has continued cruising since then , and hasn't got around to straightening it out. Its just not that important.
Ya Bob . I know . Its all the designer's fault when anyone hits a rock! (Jeeeezze)!
Odds of a mast floating in water, giving that kind of impact?
A plastic boat is only lower maintenance if you use it like Smack does, park it in a marina , throw money at it by day, then go home to a house and spout advice on all there is to know about living aboard and cruising full time, something he doesn't do.
A steel boat is more like an off road vehicle of cruising. Things simply don't work loose, pull out or leak .You don't have to keep rebedding gear, and chasing down leaks , as you do on nonmetal boats. Using a stock plastic boat for off the beaten path, full time, long term use is like using a Lincoln continental for off road or logging road use. In that kind of use, a steel boat has far less maintenance (repairs).
Without the freighter, the skipper of the returning boat NE of Auckland would be just another "lost without a trace" , skipper, like so many plastic boats cruisers. Had he had a steel hull, he could have jury rigged for the distance left to Tonga , or Rarotonga, had a new mast shipped up, and continued cruising.