Steel boats are usually a lot lighter than Wetsnails
, and many more traditional fibreglass boats. Few fully loaded offshore cruising boats are anywhere near their waterlines, anyway.
I have built about three dozen of them, and wouldn't consider going to sea in anything but a metal boat. One of the things which as made metal boats so expensive is the grossly outdated , imitation wooden boat building methods used to build most of them.
I have reduced the time it takes to build a 36 foot hull and deck, from Colvin's estimated 1,000 hours to under 100 hours, using origami boat building methods ( and I've written a book on the subject).
I have pulled together a 36 foot hull in two days.
My own 31 footer was launched a month after the steel arrived.
I once built a 36 in Winnipeg . In the three weeks I was there, I built the hull, decks, cabin, cockpit, wheelhouse, keels, rudder, skeg, engine mounts, tanks , handrails, hatches ,mooring bits , cleats, bow roller , mast fully detailed, solid lifelines, in effect all the steel work . The owner had hired a welder to weld on my time off , so by the time I had left, most of the metalwork was done.
When the metal work is done, you are much further along than you would ever be with a fibreglass hull and decks.
A friend, who has owned many fibreglass boats, tells me that there is far more work chasing down deck leaks on a fibreglass boat, than in maintaining a steel boat, which has most of the deck hardware welded down.
Welded down stainless deck hardware never moves or works loose. They don't leak.
Having single handed across the Pacific 9 times , given the things I have collided with in the middle of the night , I don't think I would still be here, had I been in a fibreglass boat.
In Jimmy Cornell's book "Modern Ocean Cruising" he interviews ten circumnavigators , 8 of whom said they would prefer a metal boat next time, and several who had already started their metal boats .
There is a huge mass of debris floating across the Pacific from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. I wouldn't want to be out there in a non metal boat.
My current steel boat , built in 1984, was painted with 30 gallons of epoxy tar. My annual maintenance is around 1 or 2 hours a year, and costs under $50 a year. She has never been sandblasted, and has only been hauled out twice, in Tonga in 2000 and 2003.
As it is mainly outside corners which have problems with paint chipping, I have found that trimming all outside corners with stainless can reduce maintenance by up to 80%
Some complain about the cost of fitting out. I have dealt with this in my book. I give instructions to build a 540 GPD watermaker for under $1,000. Some say headsail furlers are expensive, so I have designed one which can be easily built for under $200. The sheet blocks in my book cost around $2 each and take about 20 minutes or less to build. The composting head , costing about $1200 to buy, can be built for under $50 . Ditto the Lavac type head. The engine driven welder costs under $50 to build. The windvane self steering, under $25. Anchor winch , under $50, bilge pump, under $20, etc etc.
I new Zealand a designer named Birsell designs a simple hard chine steel boat based on the " Deerfoot "concept. Most of their owners are enthusiastic about their boats .
Aluminium is a great material for cabins and wheelhouses, above the waterline, but corrosion problems, and problems getting a non corrosive antifouling would make me leery about aluminium hulls. They are also far more expensive, and aluminium welds are nowhere near as reliable as steel welds.
Alex Christie has made a DVD on the origami building process. He can be reached at email@example.com
Last edited by Brent Swain; 06-03-2011 at 02:09 PM.