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Edo Kazumichi 05-30-2006 07:24 AM

High Latitude boats - Metal v Fiberglass
I recently read an article in a non-sailing publication (The Economist online, "Icebergs Ahoy") about some outfits doing private charters in the far south and north - Antarctica, Tierra del Fuego, South Georgia, Greenland, Spitsbergen. They made the observation that fiberglass boats are not tough enough to face the hazards of sailing in these regions. However, when I looked at the website of one the brokers handling boats that do these trips I found that although most were using metal vessels there were two or three that were using fiberglass boats.

Does a guy need a steel boat to survive a trip to Greenland or Antarctica or to round Cape Horn?

haffiman37 05-30-2006 10:44 AM

Perhaps the author has not read about Titanic!
There are plenty of GRP boats up in the arctic waters, some even stay the winter frozen in the ice. The more impotant may be the design of the boat. The risk of hitting small submerged ice bergs/blocks are rather high and a fin keel would not be my first choice of design. I think the real reason for using steel boats have more to do with repair facilities and economy than the material itself. A bit tricky to do glassfber jobs in
-10 Centigrades!

Edo Kazumichi 05-30-2006 11:46 AM

Are you telling me the Titanic wasn't fiberglass?


Still, a whack anywhere on a long-keeled fiberglass boat with a block of ice would be a rather bad thing, no? And my time on the Arctic coast of Alaska suggests to me that you would have to worry about hitting ice for all but about one or two months out of the year. And wouldn't being frozen in the ice severely damage a boat -ala what Shackleton's boat suffered? How do they do it?

If these questions seem uninformed it's because they are. I'm new to sailing but would eventually like to have a boat that I could safely take into the areas I mentioned.


sailandoar 05-30-2006 09:29 PM

Airex cored hull
The literature for Airex foam cored glass hulls 20 years ago showed several boats involved in groundings and being trapped in ice flows that you would have thought would turn them into plastic mulch, but they were put back into service until the repair shop could work them in to fill the scratches and repair the paint job. That is not much of an exageration, they can take a licking a keep on ticking.

I have a steel boat and I like it but it occasionaly rusts.

sailingdog 05-31-2006 01:38 PM

I think a metal-hulled boat would be safer, but a wooden composite or GRP boat would be warmer. :D

sailorjim99 06-01-2006 07:52 AM

G'day Edo
One of my all time heroes was a Dr. David Lewis.
He had a steel boat and tried to circumnavigate Antartica in the 70/s.
He wrote a book called "ICE BIRD" about his trip.
You should get it somehow and read it.

camaraderie 06-02-2006 02:41 PM

There are a lot of glass boats now being built with Aramid and Kevlar in the hulls which is supposedly stronger than steel on impact. I think the comment about repairs is more to the can find a welder just about anywhere...but try to find an Aramid repairman in Tierra del Fuego!

Edo Kazumichi 06-04-2006 02:06 AM

Thanks all.

So the consensus seems to be that you could take a modern GRP boat into these waters without risking your life.

Does anybody have a list of pros and cons for metal vs GRP in general? Here's a first pass:

Steel pros
-can be repaired just about anywhere by just about anyone

GRP pros
-doesn't rust
-looks alot cooler


sailandoar 06-04-2006 08:46 AM

Fairmetal hulls / Orgami constuction
Not a response to your last question but in line with your possible interest in metal boats, take a look at the type of construction in the title. As a metal boat owner and former welder/shipfitter I think they are the way to go. Construction is cheaper (less labor) and longevity improved. ( most metal boat die from the inside out due to moisture collecting on the many pockets on the longitudinals). I am fairly sure that Jimmy Corrnell's boat is a french 'fairmetal'.

As to the 'COLDNESS' of a metal hull, it is I think much overblown. Single skin glass and metal hulls are only marginally different when it comes to condensation etc. Any hull needs to be insulated and my hull has about 2.5" of spray in place foam and it does not get much better than that. Modern glass hulls with interior liners seem to me to be a goofy waste. Consumers want/expect a very pretty high degree of finish and the manufacturer's add all that weight and create a situation where you may not notice the condensation but it is DRIPPING into the bilge through the HIDDEN/INACESSABLE voids between the hull and liner and if your lucky and if your not lucky it pools and leaks into the interior and causes mildew mold problems. What if you get a pucture in the hull, how do you get to it to stop it if it is hidden by the stupid liner and the void behind the liner lets the water travel every which way. I am not a fan of modern boat construction and drop in liners. The older hulls (or current hulls) that are single skin (or cored) and have the interior built right to the hull make more sense to me.

Metal hulls are easier to modify. Weld or bolt most anything anywhere and you have increadable strength while with a glass/wood hull you have to worry/fret about where and how to mount and reinforce.

sailingdog 06-04-2006 08:49 AM

Some GRP boats are "unsinkable", but I'd take that claim with a grain of salt... that is generally not the case with steel boats... ie. Titantic. :D

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