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I'm looking at an old, steel cruising sailboat. I've only owner fiberglass boats in the past, but thought the steel may be more durable, easy to repair at far-off destinations and possibly little safer.

Thoughts?
 

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Those two threads are something. The usual suspects.

I suggest a better use of effort would be this ebook.

Metal boat maintenance-A do it yourself guide by Scott Fratcher (Paperback) - Lulu

I find it a pretty good book. Some will criticize and quibble, but he has the basics.

Some advice most will agree to is this.
Steel rusts from the inside out. Low maintenance is all about the internal coatings and surface preparation. You, YOU, need to do your own survey eyeballing every nook and cranny of the hull interior. Be especially shy of a amature builds.

We have two steel boats. You can do a lot. Especially if you are young and ambitious. I've built and installed a steel arch for less than powder coating an aluminum one. I cut off a bad now sprit and built a new one out of 316. I converted keel voids to fuel tanks. Lowered engine rails. Repaired a hull section. But I'm a glutton for punishment.
 

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Do a search under Silas Crosby, or you could go to

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/origamiboats

Check the posts from mid to late February 2015
Tons of info there, from people with lots of hands on experience , instead of jeering, adolescent, $150 an hour, armchair experts, with no hands on steel boat experience.
 

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A couple of points - Can you weld and do you have the equipment for it? I regard that as an essential skill for anyone owning a steel boat. Second is - are you actually going offshore? A steelers performance in most local coastal sailing conditions is generally somewhat compromised by the weight issue. I've never seen one perform like a typical glass boat in those conditions.

If you are actually going offshore steel has a lot of benefits to my mind - the strength and watertightness would give a lot of peace of mind, especially when things go bump in the night.

Brent Swain has a lot of good, experience based info - if you can get past his belligerent fanaticism.
 

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A couple of points - Can you weld and do you have the equipment for it? I regard that as an essential skill for anyone owning a steel boat. Second is - are you actually going offshore? A steelers performance in most local coastal sailing conditions is generally somewhat compromised by the weight issue. I've never seen one perform like a typical glass boat in those conditions.

If you are actually going offshore steel has a lot of benefits to my mind - the strength and watertightness would give a lot of peace of mind, especially when things go bump in the night.

Brent Swain has a lot of good, experience based info - if you can get past his belligerent fanaticism.
I run a 100 amp alternator off my main engine for welding.It also runs all my power tools. Needs to go fast . I use a 10 inch pulley on my engine. I have built everything from wood stoves to anchor winches to self steering, in my cockpit, while at anchor.The welding rig cost me under $50.
Stick welding is easy to do. Few have problems learning how.
When you have lived board many years, with all the stuff you accumulate, and it's weight, the weight of the hull material becomes a greatly diminished factor in speed.

Check out the "Next Boat" comments in Jimmy Cornell's book "Modern Ocean Cruising."
Read Moitessiers books "The Long Way" and "Cape Horn the Logical route"
 

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Here is an interesting post a professional engineer posted on the origamiboats site recently. Looks like cheap plastic is not always the best solution for a low budget cruiser planing some serious long term offshore cruising.
With the current high cost of materials, one can safely assume the same practices have gotten much worse with new production plastic boats.
This is why many cruisers, after many years and tens of thousands of miles of offshore experience, end up building their ultimate boats from scratch.
Besides ,building stuff can be fun (Patience my ass I'm gonna build something)

Further, about testing and quality control. I have read anecdotes of how fibreglass yacht outfits on the verge of bankruptcy in the 70's and 80's had unskilled labourers spraying and laying the hulls up, anything to get them out the door cheap and fast. With the price of resin going up fast (oil crisis of the early 1970s) there was a lot of economic pressure to get it done and out the door with as little material cost as possible. Yes, a lot of those boats sailed for a while, but, that era left a real stain on the reputation of fibreglass. Even if one buys a boat originally made by a financially solvent builder who valued not making crap hulls, and never used a chopper spray gun, what was the quality control? What kept the material defects out? Constant human vigilance as the laminate was made. There is nothing more fallible. Once it was laminated, there was no economical way to go back and make sure it was right, no way to detect "good enough for Friday" work when the constant vigilance turned their back for a moment. Did they ever scrap a hull that failed quality control? What did they do with hulls that did not meet their standards? Perhaps they laid in more fibreglass and made a slightly heavier boat that met their standards. There are worse things, like just installing the interior panelling and sticking a price tag on it.
 

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The last load of enough steel we bought to build a 36 ft hull, decks, cabin, keels, rudder and skeg cost $9,000. That was last year. It has dropped in price since then. Decades ago the cost of enough fibreglass materials for a 36 footer was $25,000. It has greatly increased since then . Then there is the cost of a mold , or the horrendous grinding and fairing job if you don't have a female mold. Mass production can spread the cost of a mold over many boats , not an option for the one off back yard builder.
Even with the cost of welding rods and paint added, it come nowhere near the cost of fibreglass materials.
Steel is the best material for a back yard builder. Gaps don't matter ,in fact they improve weld penetration. Mistakes are easily fixed, with welding being 100% of the strength of the material. A backyard steel boat needs no shelter, they can be built in the open ,as over 95% of the boats I have built have been.
With plastic being so easily built in corporate mass production, a huge amount of money has been spent on promoting them as the only option. Beginners buy what they are told to buy, by glossy advertising, when they have no long term experience to base their decisions on.
Detailing in steel can be far less expensive. Hulk scraps can be made into anchors. for pennies a pound. Scrap stainless cleats cost around a dollar each a huge saving compared to buying cleats for a plastic boats, altho I have suggested that anyone building a boat out of any material learn metal work for the huge savings in making ones own gear and the far better gear it produces.

A steel hull gives one far more peace of mind, in terms of being far less worried about what is floating out there, when doing hull speed on a dark moonless night. Collisions with whales or containers become irrelevant. It also means zero thru hull problems or concerns, if you simply use welded in sch 40 stainless pipe nipples for thru hulls. With stainless type 316 ball valves I have had zero thru hull problems in the last 39 yeas of using them.
 

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Biggest issue with "old steel boat" is that it is old. If it has not been impeccably maintained it could be a real disaster. One advantage of steel is you can re-plate if necessary, but it becomes a matter of chasing rust. Once it gets a foot hold it is very difficult to stop. It is mostly in very very awkward unassailable locations. Steel is one thing that if you really want it you may be better off making your own, just to make sure it is done without shortcuts. Buying someone else's nightmare is a bad thing. Survey, Survey, Survey!

As to the unskilled labor with fiberglass, that is nonsense. The issue with the late 70's to 80's with the companies going bankrupt had nothing to do with labor costs. It was tax, (luxury tax), multiple recessions and even more so, the cost of oil. Fiberglass resin is an oil based product and as oil went up so did the cost of resin. This actually lead to much stronger hulls as often since it was so cheap it was kind of thrown in as thick as possible without much care as to the saturation of the glass as resin was cheap. This created a lot of brittle layups that may have had large amounts of voids, but it was thick so who cared. Once materials went up more careful layup schedules were created and methods of ensuring just enough resin was used. (such as vacuum bagging) Engineering brought hulls that got lighter (better on all accounts) and performance and strength went up.

The unskilled labor was mostly in the 60's to early 70's when it was just slapped up thick and quick. They could not make the boats fast enough as the market was fresh from the wooden age with a growing middle class with time to spend on leisure time. Now with double incomes and longer work hours (reduced leisure time) and shrinking middle class the market has changed to a much lower volume but higher standard market.
 

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All the talk about bad building practices, shortcuts, unskilled labour etc. back in the day is all moot even if it WAS true - those boats are, for the most part, still sailing so how bad can they be?

It's all on the level of the old wives tale "They built 'em thick back then because they didn't know the material". Complete BS - they had scientific data on fiberglass right after the war. Read "Heart of Glass".

I have owned "big" boats from 1967, 1971, 1975, 1978 and 1984 and they all sailed (and sail) just fine.
 
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Here's a guy from another thread talking about his Nordic 34 that I designed.

"I raced her in the Annapolis to Bermuda Ocean Race last year and we came in second in our class and fourth over all. She handled well at sea, and I'm considering racing again in 2016. I am not really a racer, but rather a "performance cruiser" so I went into the race with the expectation for a fast cruise; not a "full-on push the boat as hard as possible" race.

She is now nearly 30 years old, so I am slowly replacing systems as they age beyond repair. While doing so (replacing through hull fittings) I have discovered that the hull is very solid. That's reassuring when sailing off shore especially."
 

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Well built boats are well built, poorly built are poorly built. Material involved is irrelevant.

That said it may be more difficult to find a well built steel boat simply because the quantities are low and many are one offs.

I believe that if there is a bad fg boat build, there will usually be a number of folks who know of it simply because of quantity and history.

Surely there are poorly built steel (or aluminum) boats as well. And few true professional steel builders, especially on the American East coast. Yet they do exist.
 

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Economic pressure to skimp is not by any means, restricted to plastic boats. Many commercially built steel boats have some serious skimping done, such as on Foulkes, Fehr and Amazon boats, which are ten gauge plate, welded one side only, and most of the weld ground off, zero paint inside, foamed over either bare steel or light primer.It takes thick coating of epoxy inside before foaming, to avoid problems there. Lack of paint outside can be rectified far more easily than inside. Inside painting is the most critical thing you can do on a steel boat.Foam alone is nowhere near adequate . Some Foukes ,Fehr and Amazon boats were sold in the bare shell stage ,unpainted, If a conscientious owner bought the boat at that stage, and finished her properly, it could still be a good boat. However, I would steer clear of any such boat "Professionally" finished by the source.
When I fist arrived in the Marquesas in the early 70's, there was an Australian boat there from Darwin, just completing a circumnavigation. When I asked about their maintenance, they said "It was a nightmare from Darwin to Durban."In Durban they hauled out ,sandblasted, and gave her a good buildup of epoxy tar. From there on, maintenance was minimal.
My current boat requires less maintenance after 31 years than my last did after ten years, thanks to what I have learned in ten years of owning a steel boat. Any time maintenance on your steel boat becomes excessive, it is time to sandblast, permanently get rid of any wood trim on the outside of her, and give her a good buildup of epoxy.Then you are good for many years of almost zero maintenance.
 

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The irony there has an almost British subtlety to it. :wink
 

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I think times have changed making steel a less viable option for the long term cruiser. This has nothing to do withe merits of steel.
When I first started sailing the fishing industry was flourishing. New steel hulls were splashing and the infrastructure to support them was available at many local yards.
Now when I looked to get my "last boat" it became apparent-
If I wanted my wife to stay with me on our adventures, family and friends to visit, have days work over 150-175m/d to allow meaningful weather routing I would need an lwl over 40'. Origami boats were out.
If I acknowledged at some point I would need to sell the boat and return to dirt living in my senescence only high quality professional built boats would serve and even then I would take a bath financially as the market for used steel boats is very limited.
To avoid a financial bath one could entertain a used steel boat. But this would require a detailed survey. In boats with foam in situ the interior could not be accessed without a de constructive survey or applying the specialized techniques and tools a metal boat surveyor has access to. This is expensive and you still take on faith a good survey is done. As the fishing industry continues to decline so do these resources. Although less true for boats with open bilges and spaces you still require a very skilled surveyor.
Even if you are a skilled welder after any significant mishap or even with simple aging at some point you will need the services of a professional yard skilled in servicing steel. This is especially true if you want a beautiful yacht not just a boat. In the past with a vibrant fishing fleet these services were easy to obtain. Now not so much.
 

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Here is a 35 year old, Canadian built grp boat I designed. I defy anyone to show me a 35 year old Canadian built steel boat that looks that good. But I'll wait and give BS the benefit of the doubt. Try and make it a photo taken closer than 200 yards.
As Out says, "This is especially true if you want a beautiful yacht not just a boat."
 
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