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Edo Kazumichi 06-19-2006 01:49 PM

Why are steel boats so cheap?
I'm shopping for a cruiser and have recently started to consider steel instead of fiberglass. I was looking at online ads and discovered that steel boats run about half the price of fiberglass. Can anyone tell me why this is? Is steel so much harder to maintain? Or is it just that boats made out of it just don't look as sexy?


hellosailor 06-19-2006 05:29 PM

Edo, I don't think those numbers are right.

Steel boats BUILT BY A YARD? Or are you talking about homemade boats built by individuals of unknown skills, to an unknown finish level?

Backyard boats are often cheap--and for a reason.

sailingdog 06-20-2006 12:06 PM

Used steel boats often have serious corrosion problems and are often sold quite inexpensively, as the repairs will more than bring the price up to an unreasonable level. :D

Faster 06-20-2006 02:23 PM

The cheap steel boats are likely "homebuilt", or poorly maintained examples.
Companies like Waterline Yachts in BC, and Amazon built very high end, round-bilged steel boats difficult to distinguish from fiberglass and they command very high end prices - certainly at least on a par with quality glass boats, and higher than many.
So when you see a "1/2 price" steel boat, it bears checking out very thoroughly, preferably by a surveyor specializing in steel.

Edo Kazumichi 06-20-2006 02:36 PM

Thanks, all. Very good points.

Can anyone recommend a good guide to buying a steel sailboat?

Hawkeye25 06-23-2006 08:12 PM

There are many pros and cons about steel boats, and while I have beenh mostly discouraged by thye steel sailboats I have seen, I just recently saw a fine one that was built in Canada. My one serious question about it was the hardness of the steel. I was hired to install a windvane self steerer, and though I've worked with steel my whole life, I was truley surprised by the hardness and toughness of this boats 1/8" thick skin. My concern was that it might, possibly, be a victim of it's own toughness along the welds and may have hardened unduly during construction, allowing for catastrophic splitting of the seams in a big blow some years down the road.

There is far too much to learn about steel boat construction and condition to discover it here, but if you want one, here are two suggestions.

1.) Get a nice plastic mallet and practice tapping steel hulls while idling arounf boatyards. It's best to tap boats for sale or when not being seen, as owners busilt painting their bottoms tend to cast a dim eye or wandering hull tappers. It will not take you long to determine if a hull has thin spots or not.

2.) Do not consider buying a steel boat that has not been surveyed by a surveyor that YOU are paying, who has previously assured you that he has steel boat credibility. At least then, you have the truth and a fighting chance.

Oh, and by the way, ask around about condensation between the hull and the boats interior structure. There's stuff to learn there.

paulk 06-25-2006 08:00 AM

Rust never sleeps.

sailingdog 06-25-2006 09:28 AM

And galvanic corrosion can be a real nightmare on steel boats. If you want a nice, low-maintenance metal boat, I'd go for copper-nickel as a hull material. Almost as strong as steel, virtually no problems with corrosion and doesn't ever need to have anti-fouling paint. :D

sailandoar 06-25-2006 11:40 AM

Perhaps the oldest copper-nickel boat in existence.....
INITIAL COST => ( Carbon steel X 10 )


Perhaps the oldest copper-nickel boat in existence, the Asperida is still in fine shape

Nickel Magazine, March 2005 -- Designers of boats need to consider many things when choosing materials for the hull of their ocean-going vessels – for example: ensuring the surface is smooth so that the vessel can move through the water with little resistance, keeping the weight to a minimum, and ease of maintenance. Attending to these design considerations improves the availability of the boat and lowers operating and maintenance costs, as Dr. Kenneth W. Coons has learned.

Coons, who was professor of chemical engineering at the University of Alabama in the late 1990s, is an avid yachtsman, who owned vessels made of wood, steel, aluminum and fibreglass. But he was dissatisfied with them all and so spent decades evaluating alternative materials. One technique he used was to tow sample coupons behind his yacht and then examined their resistance to corrosion. Based on these evaluations, he decided in 1966 to build a yacht made of copper-nickel alloy C71500, which contains 29-33% nickel.

Today’s boat designers should be thankful that he made that decision because it allows today’s designers to use this material with confidence.

Coons’ yacht was designed by S. M. van der Meere and built in northern Holland in 1967 by Trewes International. The method of construction was almost identical to that used for carbon steel. However, welders had to be trained, and some welds (in W60715, containing 29% nickel) had to be redone. The hull was painted above the waterline for aesthetics. The hull plates were just 4 millimetres (mm) thick.

Although the initial cost of the hull was ten times that of a boat made of carbon steel, annual maintenance costs were so low that the savings paid for the higher initial cost in just five years.

After being sold five times, the Asperida landed in the hands of its present owners Waldemar Cieniewicz and Anna Muriglan. The duo sailed the ship to New Jersey in 2004, where it was refurbished and refitted. The average thickness of the hull was 3.86 and 3.96 mm (close to the original thickness), based on measurements by the Copper Development Association.

"Clearly, C71500 should be considered seriously as a hull material, not only for pleasure boats but also for commercial and military vessels," says Harold Michels, vice-president, technical and information services for Copper Development Association.

sailingdog 06-25-2006 12:59 PM

Never said it'd be cheap...
Yes, I am fully aware that a Copper-Nickel alloy boat is much more expensive, initially, than a steel boat. But I never, ever, said it would be affordable...just said if you wanted a nice metal boat...that copper nickel was the way to go. :D

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