Join Date: Jun 2006
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There's a number of books out there on the pluses and minuses of steel. You have to decide a number of generalities about it as a material before you go for it. Firstly among these is that the larger the steel sailboat, the better in terms of sailing ability. Under 40 feet, most steel sailboats are pigs due to sail area-to-displacement ratios.
I have, however, seen exceptions. My own boat is 41' 10" LOA and 29,500 lbs. light load (full fuel, no water, little gear). This is medium displacement for steel (a friend's Goderich 40 is 36,000 lbs., for instance), but is a full five tons heavier than a Catalina 42 made of fibreglass.
The surveyor is best selected from commercial surveyors who do recreational boats on the side. Fibreglass boat surveyors aren't always well-versed in what to look for (there is superficial corrosion dealt with by a wire brush and Ospho primer, for instance, versus structural corrosion requiring welding and replating or framing...but they both look like rust to the untrained eye).
The benefits of steel are, however, many. Quite a number of steel boats have become famous for safe and comfortable circumnavigations; the French, Germans and Dutch (in particular) value them for the rough North Sea, and I would say it is still the favoured hull material for high-latitude "expedition" sailing...a good third to half of the boats discussed in the magazine "Ocean Navigator" seem to be steel. It is hard to hurt and easy to fix. It requires grinding, priming and painting, but if the initial metal priming was done well, this is generally cosmetic in nature.
Good luck with your research.