Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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There is no such thing as a best hull material. Each has its own merits and liabilities, and each is best suited for a particular application. I also do not think that there is a particular builder who is building "the longest lasting and most durable hull". Most builders do a good job at building long lasting and durable hulls. It is often the decks and the details of construction such as how the structural components of the interior are installed that dictate the long term durability of the boat.
As to the best hull material, of the most common boat building materials:
Fiberglass offers a lot of strength for its weight and the ability to produce a lot of boats with a minimum of labor. I high tech form can be very rugged and durable, or press the limits of 'just enough strength to finish the race" depending on the design goals for the boat in question.
Wood offers a range of building techniques, some very low maintenance and some not so low maintenance but highly maintainable almost forever. Wood can be very strong for its weight, or not so strong for its weight depending on build technique and materials used. Wood offers some of the least expensive ways to build a one-off design.
Steel and Aluminum are comparatively inexpensive ways to build a one off design, and has some real advantages for bigger boats. Steel offers great abrasion and impact resistance but it comes at the price of being a heavy material for the strength, but also high maintenance and with a shorter lifespan than some other choices.
Ferrocement offers comparatively inexpensive and readily available building materials, but requires high skill levels to build and finish well.
I would like to address your comment," I believe that some or most hulls have Bulsa [SIC] Wood in them. This tends to be a problem if the gel coat cracks."
Many, if not most, production boats have balsa coring in the decks. This has been true since the some of the very first fiberglass boats (Bounty II, New Horizons 26 and Galaxy 32 for example) Balsa is used because of its strength to weight, its resistance to fatigue and horizontal sheer, and because end grain balsa, if properly installed, is very resistant to rot. It is a comparatively expensive way to build a boat. There is a potential problem that can occur when balsa coring is not installed properly, and also in cases where the core is not properly sealed where fastenings for deck hardware penetrate the deck. This can be a particularly common problem on boats built before the 1980's when proper installation procedures were not fully understood.
Cracking of the gelcoat has nothing to do with the core rot. Gelcoat is merely a cosmetic finish whose sole functional purpose is providing UV protection for the reinforced laminate (the reinforced portion of lay-up that makes up the structural portion of a fiberglass reinforced composite). There are multiple layers of reinforced laminate between the gelcoat and the core and it is this reinforced laminate that protects the core from rotting not the gelcoat.
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Curmudgeon at Large- and rhinestone in the rough, sailing my Farr 11.6 on the Chesapeake Bay