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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
When going through the 'for sale' ads, one thing that hits home is the wide variety of hull materials used. The following list is from cruising type cats 30'plus:
=Duflex; =GRP; =Divinicell foam & Vinylester+Kevlar cloth; =Aluminium; =Strip plank cedar; =West Red Cedar/Glass/Epoxy; =Foam Sandwich; =Composite ATL Duracore/west epoxy.

. . . If your base requirements are safety and low maintenance, is there one material that stands out from the others.

[By safety I mean: can take a knock and be beached, without too much worry]
 

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Cold molded wood composites like western red cedar/glass/epoxy or strip plank cedar are pretty low maintenance, as are cored composite fiberglass boats like divinylcell/kevlar/vinylester resin... There isn't any one material that is going to stand out.

However, cold-molded wood composites probably have much greater fatigue resistance than do the cored-composite fiberglass materials. A lot of people confuse the two fabrication techniques, since many cored-composite fiberglass laminates use end-grain balsa wood as a core material. From another post on multihulls, I wrote this:

Cold Molded Wood Composite

The first is what Chris White and the Gougeon brothers have done. That is cold-molded laminated wood composite construction. This generally consists of laying up multiple, very thin layers of wood and laminating them together using epoxy. The wood is often finished off by a covering of fiberglass to give it some added durability, but the bulk of the strength is in the cold molded lamination of the wood, not the fiberglass skin, which is effectively just a surface treatment.

Cold-molded wood composite boats tend to be very rigid and fairly light. One major advantage of cold-molded wood composite is the very high fatigue resistance that the wood construction provides. Properly built, these hulls are almost as low maintenance as a fiberglass hull.

Cored Fiberglass Laminate

The second is cored laminate construction. The most common core materials are PVC foams like Divinylcell and Airex, and end-grain balsa, like Contourcore. In this construction, the strength of the material is the fiberglass or composite skins, and the core adds to the strength and lightness of the laminate.

This is not the same thing as the cold-molded wood composite that I mentioned previously-the main difference being the thin veneers of wood used in the previous method are essentially encapsulated and thoroughly saturated in epoxy, which is not the case with cored fiberglass construction-where the resin is only used to bind the skin to the core material, but does not generally saturate the core material.

Highly loaded areas are often given additional strength via the use of carbon fiber or kevlar. The hulls are often given an inner layer of kevlar to increase the puncture resistance.
Many boats can be beached, if you're careful about it...but IMHO, the design of the boat is more important than the materials it is made of with regards to whether it is beachable. Most multihulls can be beached to some degree and many have very shallow drafts that beaching isn't actually necessary. Fin keel or strut and bulb keel type monohulls are probably the worst designs to beach.

Certain things can be done during construction to make a boat more impact resistant. If you're talking about cored-fiberglass composites, using a ductile foam in the hull rather than a rigid one and using layers of kevlar in the laminate both make the hull far more resistant to impacts. Kevlar greatly increases the puncture and abrasion resistance of a fiberglass laminate. It is also, often used to protect vulnerable areas on cold-molded wood composite construction in much the same way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you . . . This is good information [I got a lot from your other articles to; one in particular was about the inspection trip].

Do you know anything about Duflex? I spotted a 38' cat made from it and I am trying to do a little homework.
 

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No, I'm not familiar with Duflex. The only Duflex I've heard of was an old camera brand, that was made in Budapest a long time ago.... :)
 

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Sounds like Duflex is a balsa cored pre-manufactured composite panel. Personally, I'm not a big fan of balsa cored laminates for the hull, especially below the water line. Minor damage to the hull's laminate either inside the boat or outside, can lead to the balsa core rotting with little indication of any problems until way too late.

As an example, a 49' SeaRay, which IIRC is balsa-cored, in my marina (yes, I know it's a powerboat) is a prime example of what can happen. The anchor rode locker drains were not properly installed, and allowed water to leak into the hull's core material. Last year, the boat was total lossed by the insurance company and the surveyor, doing a inspection drilled holes in the hull down by the rudders, and water poured out of the boat for days... almost the entire hull's core was saturated with water. Repairing it would cost more than buying a new boat. The insurance company refused to pay, because the issue was a pre-existing condition to when the current owner bought the boat, as the anchor well drains were factory installed.
 

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[By safety I mean: can take a knock] IMHO there is only one material that will cope reliably with an impact at 6 knots and that is steel. I have seen a couple of steel boats that have spent a day pounding on a reef and were still watertight.

[and be beached, without too much worry] ANY boat fit for sea can be beached BUT beach anything other than steel on sand with a pointy rock in it and you are looking at a hole. ** Ask the guy who beached the Prout in Fishguard. }

OK I agree that no one in their right mind would build a smallish cat in steel as it would be too heavy and steel is not low maintenance but when you are reef dodging in Los Roques, hit a submerged object ot 6 knots or have a 40foot whale playing chicken with you; steel is really reassuring.
 

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[By safety I mean: can take a knock] IMHO there is only one material that will cope reliably with an impact at 6 knots and that is steel. I have seen a couple of steel boats that have spent a day pounding on a reef and were still watertight.
If safety is such a big concern of yours, why leave the safety of a shore-based life. :)

[and be beached, without too much worry] ANY boat fit for sea can be beached BUT beach anything other than steel on sand with a pointy rock in it and you are looking at a hole. ** Ask the guy who beached the Prout in Fishguard. }
Doing something stupid, like not examining the beach you're planning on beaching your boat on prior to doing so can cause troubles for anyone. I'd also note that a steel hull run up on to a beach will likely compromise the paint job protecting the steel from corrosion and lead to increased maintenance problems. That isn't necessarily the case with a cold-molded wood or fiberglass boat. :)

OK I agree that no one in their right mind would build a smallish cat in steel as it would be too heavy and steel is not low maintenance but when you are reef dodging in Los Roques, hit a submerged object ot 6 knots or have a 40foot whale playing chicken with you; steel is really reassuring.
A steel boat would generally also have a deeper draft, making it far more likely to hit objects, like reefs and such. Having an 18"-2' draft means that there are far more waters you can enter safely. This is a huge benefit when it comes to trying to find a hiding place from a tropical storm.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
If bad luck happens; then it is a matter of having redundancies in place. I guess with safety and taking knocks I am looking at my own ability and just know I am going to cockup and would want a material that is somewhat forgiving.
. . . Maintenance [cost / timing] is very important and will be a major factor

Beaching is starting to be an important consideration. I read an article about this chappie who said being on a cat with a small draft and mini-keels, he would look for shallows, and often during low tide would find the boat beached. With my disability and the fact I am going single-handed, I figure this could be a good ploy and could beach the craft periodically as a good safety net.

The main problem is finding a craft that has 80+% of what I want or need at a price I can afford.
 

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[By safety I mean: can take a knock] IMHO there is only one material that will cope reliably with an impact at 6 knots and that is steel. I have seen a couple of steel boats that have spent a day pounding on a reef and were still watertight.
I guess there are two ways to see the world: go sailing, or plonk yourself down on a small island and wait for continental drift.
Steel is popular in Arctic regions where you push through ice. Apart from that, alternatives are not so bad. As someone else said in a thread, I'd rather be upside down on a multihull that will still float. The Hummer approach ignores your greatest safety factor: the man behind the wheel.

[and be beached, without too much worry] ANY boat fit for sea can be beached BUT beach anything other than steel on sand with a pointy rock in it and you are looking at a hole. ** Ask the guy who beached the Prout in Fishguard.
Any? I suppose with a 6ft keel you could beach it, but don't have soup for dinner at the angle you'll sit there :)

In any case, steel is not "the only" - aluminium gets you there, and it has some qualities that make it more resilient in a crash. You mention 6 knots, and that is part of an interesting equation: Speed times Mass. The steel boat hits an object with more or less twice the force of a lighter fibreglass or aluminium body. Also, what hits first? If it is the keel and/or rudder as in most cases, those are the constructions I'd look at, and in that case a comparison of long keelers, fin keels and swing keels might be more to the point?

Construction is yet another factor. There are designs with watertight compartments, and some with inbuilt flotation.

Finally, there's workmanship. Many steel and alu boats are home built, and you won't know how good they are without solid research into the welding, surface treatment and dimensioning, not to mention the grade of steel or alu used.

I'd look at the whole package rather than fixating on a hull material. Does it have a reliable and well mounted engine? Are the couplings and gears sound? How protected is the propeller? Failure in any of these are likely causes of washing aground in the first place. Sometimes a relevant question with steel boats: is this a sailboat or a motor sailor? Does it have the rig and sails to haul you off a lee shore in an emergency?

Questions, questions, and so many answers :) :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
The lowest maintenance hull is a well-built ferro cement hull. However - there are other considerations with ferro...determining if it IS well-built is the first issue.

Steel rusts easily. Lots and Lots of work to keep it sealed. It's heavy and impractical on anything under 40 feet.

Aluminum also corrodes and it is dificult to get paint to adhere well to aluminum. Repairing it is not something that is easily done. Expensive boats to maintain.

Traditional wooden hulls are high maintenance. They have a beauty that is not matched by any other craft and they will float when broken up. They ALL leak to a certain extent. Wooden boats do much better in salt water than in fresh water. The salt "pickles" the wood.

Cold-moulded wooden hulls are little more maintenance than fibreglass, however if holed, or even abraded, they must be sealed immediately. The thin layers of wood in the hull wick water in quite quickly. Once this happens they rot easily.

Fibreglass hulls laid up with polyester resin are strong and fairly low maintenance, but can be prone to osmotic blistering.

The lowest maintenance fibreglass hull - in theory - would be a hull made of fibreglass roving held together with epoxy and viylesters. Paying for that little gem though would be a bit of a feat.
 

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The lowest maintenance hull is a well-built ferro cement hull. However - there are other considerations with ferro...determining if it IS well-built is the first issue.
Most ferro-cement boats aren't well constructed. The builders often used inappropriate materials for the metal mesh skeleton, and many skimped on the quality of cement used as well. Many were not laid up due to a lack of skill on the part of the people applying the cement. Most ferro-cement boats I've seen are pretty poor boats. If moisture makes it through the cement, the rusting of the interior metal mesh can cause the cement to spall and is very difficult to repair properly. Fiberglass or cold-molded wood boats are far easier to repair and lower maintenance IMHO.
Steel rusts easily. Lots and Lots of work to keep it sealed. It's heavy and impractical on anything under 40 feet.

Aluminum also corrodes and it is dificult to get paint to adhere well to aluminum. Repairing it is not something that is easily done. Expensive boats to maintain.

Traditional wooden hulls are high maintenance. They have a beauty that is not matched by any other craft and they will float when broken up. They ALL leak to a certain extent. Wooden boats do much better in salt water than in fresh water. The salt "pickles" the wood.

Cold-moulded wooden hulls are little more maintenance than fibreglass, however if holed, or even abraded, they must be sealed immediately. The thin layers of wood in the hull wick water in quite quickly. Once this happens they rot easily.
Most cold-molded boats I've seen have a skin of fiberglass or better yet, kevlar, to help with the abrasion resistance and to help prevent holing. If they're truly cold-molded, the wood is fully saturated with epoxy and doesn't absorb or wick much water.

Fibreglass hulls laid up with polyester resin are strong and fairly low maintenance, but can be prone to osmotic blistering.

The lowest maintenance fibreglass hull - in theory - would be a hull made of fibreglass roving held together with epoxy and viylesters. Paying for that little gem though would be a bit of a feat.
Really, epoxy-resin fiberglass laminate is a pretty common, especially in custom boats. Properly laid up with a Divinylcell or Airex foam core, a fiberglass laminate boat can be pretty durable and low maintenance.
 

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Aluminum also corrodes and it is dificult to get paint to adhere well to aluminum. Repairing it is not something that is easily done. Expensive boats to maintain.
??? General opinion has been that alu is the least expensive to maintain. Repairs requiring welding calls for a qualified alu welder, but otherwise it is no mystery. The issue of paint adhering was resolved many years ago - I have a surface as hard as glass. The "pro" solution, not perhaps aesthetically but certainly for maintenance, is to leave hull down to waterline unpainted, it protects itself. Some builders sell them like that. Regards corrosion, the records from large commercial fleets (coast guards etc.) is that alu boats have the longest service life of all materials.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
General opinion has been that alu is the least expensive to maintain.
No - it's not. If that were the case there would be a lot more aluminum boats out there. They are expensive to build, difficult to repair and not mass market craft.

Most cold-molded boats I've seen have a skin of fiberglass or better yet, kevlar, to help with the abrasion resistance and to help prevent holing. If they're truly cold-molded, the wood is fully saturated with epoxy and doesn't absorb or wick much water.
The issue here is the same as the ferro issue. There are many cold-moulded boats out there that have not been perfectly saturated. They were churning them out like crazy in the late 70's and early 80's. I suspect that even today, most of them are not properly saturated. Building them properly is painstaking and expensive.

Really, epoxy-resin fiberglass laminate is a pretty common, especially in custom boats. Properly laid up with a Divinylcell or Airex foam core, a fiberglass laminate boat can be pretty durable and low maintenance.
Something about the post leads me to believe that the OP is probably NOT a potential "custom boat" customer. But we are in agrement here that the resultant hull would be easily maintained.

Anyway, another exercise in futility... you folk have your opinions and I have mine. But remember - that's ALL they are - opinions...

Good Luck :)
 

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A lot of home built boats were built using epoxy-resin laminates.
 

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No - it's not. If that were the case there would be a lot more aluminum boats out there. They are expensive to build, difficult to repair and not mass market craft.
Do you speak from official recorded facts? I do.
Your "if" is a little hasty, one cannot apply Aristotelian logic here without knowing the whole story. Nobody has yet found a method to mass-produce aluminium boats, that is why they cannot match the volumes of fibreglass. In labour cost, they are more expensive to build; the material is cheap and even recyclable. Why repairs should be difficult is new to me.

But the topic of materials is already well covered in other threads, so OK.
 

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Ovni makes a production sailboat out of aluminum. I'd also point out that lots of "production boats" like canoes, jon boats, and other small craft are made from aluminum. The major difference is that these are made from relatively thin aluminum that can be stamped in to shape and are often riveted—not welded. Larger sailboats need to be welded.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
There is just something sad about this. Where I live these craft [30+' cat] cost the same if not more then a house yet there seems to be so much confusion and bravado about what I would consider one of the most important things.
. . . and the wrong choice is going to cost a lot of money [and can put life at risk].

I have sat down thought through my own experiences and limitations. Looked and listen to others, and have worked out a list of 'must haves' 'must haves I can get later' and 'would likes'. Of course the 'must haves' are a go/stop gate when looking to buy and this is where I would put hull materials.
. . . but from what I have read there doesn't seem to be any reliable hull materials

There were a couple of very sobering articles in the link that LookingForCruiser gave, by David Pascoe, a Marine Surveyor and I must say they have turned me off buying a used vessel. I now understand why so many people in chasing their dream build their own boat. It is because; it would seem that you can not trust anyone in the boat building industry.
 

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David Pascoe, while a source of some good information, also gives a lot of opinion and makes it sound like fact. He doesn't believe that cored hulls are any good, but that isn't actually the case.

However, a properly designed, constructed and maintained cored laminate hull can make a boat that is less expensive, stiffer, lighter and stronger than one with solid laminate. This is especially true in the case of multihulls, where light weight, high strength and stiffness are all very important characteristics for performance reasons.
 

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There is just something sad about this.
No, no, RubyBishop! You really have got the wrong end of the stick.
Yes, sailors are passionate about their type of boat, their equipment, and so on. We can be too "absolute" at times, but underneath lies a common understanding:
A well kept boat in most materials will do a great job for you, this is not a do or die issue. When someone says "X corrodes" or "Y delaminates" it is a caution, something to look out for. If you were to enter a serious house builder's site you will also get a bucketload of arguments about fungus, rot, condensation; wood, brick, concrete, not to mention insulation, windows etc.

Someone is bound to disagree with me on the following statement also, but: :)
Possibly the worst thing you could do is attempt to build your own boat, if you are not already very experienced. The boatbuilders who have been around for a while have an extraordinary depth of understanding of their craft and know down to the inch where to place a stay, how to organize the interior for space, weight distribution and behavior at sea; where to strengthen a hull.
If in doubt, visit some of the famous designers' sites and observe the minute engineering calculations that lead to a hull shape. Just Google words like "hull stability", "capsize", "hull speed" and more, and you'll know these are not charlatans.

I am an ordinary consumer/buyer, and I worked with the yard to complete my (production) yacht. You would be baffled to see the list of wishes I had for them, and the results. Point by point they would either accept a change or give precise reasons based on experience for why they would not do this. They were brutally honest, right down to the "So-and-so wanted this interior arrangement (shows photo) in his boat, and he has been virtually unable to resell it. We have sworn never to do one like it again."

You are spot on saying "cost the same as a house", and I gave some thought to just that about a year ago. My conclusion was that building my boat was way more complex than a house, more labor-intensive, and subject to way more subtle engineering.

The good news is that once you join as a sailor, you will meet a great many knowledgeable souls in your position, willing to share and advise. I do not see you drowning just yet :) :)
 
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