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Old 07-31-2009, 09:10 AM   #1
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There are some incredibly huge and pretty-looking ferro cement boats out there for ridiculously low prices. Are they really that bad, if they are built by a reputable boat builder (ie Adams)? If so, why? If not...why so cheap? Looking for boat now and have to establish first off what construction material to look at and what to avoid. All feedback very welcome. Thanks. mm
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Old 07-31-2009, 10:37 AM   #2
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Probably the majority of ferro-cement boats are home built designed by Hartley.

Here is site that provides a fair amount of information : Visit HERE
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Old 07-31-2009, 10:42 AM   #3
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thanks for that. I followed the link - it's interesting but written by a promoter of ferro. I would love some unbiassed opinions. Would you own one? Do they have a reputation?
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Old 07-31-2009, 10:53 AM   #4
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Ferro cement is a wonderful material. For the invasion of Europe huge numbers of ferro cement barges were built, many of which are still floating today.

Ferro cement can be easily repaired anywhere too.

IMHO, if well built there is no better boat than a ferro cement but all depends upon the building quality.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 07-31-2009, 11:09 AM   #5
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As Hartley was the link provided - it was given not because of the promotion of ferro-cement but to give information on the subject by a designer of these boats.

Southern Africa - Australia and New Zealand are countries where most have been built. I sailed in a brand new one from Durban to Rio de Janeiro, it sailed well.

It went on to the Med where it was sold.

I helped a New Zealand friend while in Hong Kong, strip the teak deck off his Hartley because the timber foundation had rotted after some 15 years. The hull was still in good nick.

I sure there will be members along with their experience.
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Old 07-31-2009, 11:15 AM   #6
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wow...that's really interesting. I was half expecting everybody to tell me to stay away, simply because that's the attitude I have come across down here (I'm in Aussie), although this was never backed up with facts, only sentiments. It seems then that one can get a good boat for incredible value. Why aren't they more popular? Is it simply bad propaganda? I'm tempted and will now keep an open mind. Thank you very much for all your input...very appreciated. Off to do more research!
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Old 07-31-2009, 12:36 PM   #7
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My 2 pence worth.

Because many were home built and sometimes not built too well they got a bad reputation with insurance companies. I understand that it is sometimes difficult to get insurance cover on home built hulls so check out this aspect as well.
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Old 07-31-2009, 12:55 PM   #8
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On this subject I can give you some good advice. DO NOT research via the Web. It is useless unless you are very good at weeding out the opinions from the truth. We don't own our own boat yet and are very seriously looking at building a ferro cement boat for ourself. I have been talking to some people to see if a Uni' would be interested in a practical exercise for the Maritime/Nautical Engineering?design students could get their hands directly into a project. So far getting some responses that look good (will see if it becomes a reality).

Ferro cement has a bad rap for from what I have been able to research, two reasons. First is that where alot of home built yachts out there (and more than a few unfinished ones sitting in fields these days) that where and are not safe or seaworthy or where made in such a way to cut costs. The practice of cost cutting in a build design is not limited to ferro cement only (I have personally seen more than a few GRP's where corners where cut that shorten the life of the boat when I was living on the Great lakes). The Second reason is that the industry (Yacht builders) itself does not care for the material. From what I can see their reasoning is seriously flawed (once above 38-40 ft Ferro weighs about the same as the needed thickness of GRP or steel). Also Ferro has moved very far forward in material design (CEMEX is a form of cement that has between 8 to 12% of additive in its mix and is a large improvement on durability and surface load bearing of the cement).

The Expensive part of Ferro is the time it takes to set up the armature for the cement to mudded on to (hire professional for that part) and the equipment to steam (24 hour steam bath to set the cement) or 4-6 light misting (of the entire hull). From what I have seen depending on how you set up the armature you can go as small as 4mm rod (takes alot though as you still need it able to properly support the 1-2" heavy (one to two layers of that) and than the "chicken" wire mesh that you do minimum of two layers (one inside one out). Wire tying that all together after the rod has been welded on to the ribs of the hull. It is strongly suggested that you place all your through hull points into the wire framework before doing the mudding as that will save time and expensive cutting later (you need very special tools and coolant to cut through steel reinforced cement, IF you want the hull to stay in a sea worthy condition). From what I can see Ferro has some big bonuses, only you have to have the design you want down and dusted before you start building as once you start setting up the mudd changes can become very expensive.

Age wise, ferro gets stronger and more stable over the first 21+ years of being. There is a Bridge in Rome that was built by the Romans and cars drive over it every day.

If you plan on buying a Ferro Yacht look for rust weeping. If it has a really nice paint job ask for any pics they might have of it just beofre or near when it got painted. Also bulging, flaking, a rubber hammer will tell alot as there is a very distinct difference between the thunk os sound cement over soft "rotten" (rubber mallet NOT Iron).

Best of luck and Fair Winds to you.

Michael

PS the above is about three months worth of online and off line research done over a two year time period.
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Old 07-31-2009, 06:01 PM   #9
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We have a boat builder friend who has stated that ferro boats, in theory, are wonderful--but typically the builder doesn't do a sufficiently good job of it. He told us of a builder in the UK that does a great job with a rod armature that is tied and welded together--NO chickenwire Ah, and as I recall, these boats were more costly to produce than an equiv. GRP hull.

I imagine if you have a high quality ferro cement boat properly built, cost-wise it would stack up about the same as other boats of other hull materials and would likely have a safe useful working life consistent with other hull materials. Purchasing a used boat that is home built or built by a small yard would be risky, IMHO, unless the build has been well documented with photos and in terms of materials used.

Since it is hard to find a well built ferro boat on the used market that also has all the other features that one might desire, one is simply more likely to find a good deal on a hull built of another material.

Chiro, regarding having students work on a project--it's not worth it. Find a naval architect and builder with the expertise and experience to do the job--it is much more likely to end up of high quality and good design/safety. As an engineer, I remember all those types of projects (when in school) and they frequently don't end up as they should. Also in the past, as the coordinator of a technology transfer program and as an owner of a technology firm, I've had many undergrad, masters, and PhD students work on projects for me. Often they are interesting projects and often we obtain some interesting results from the students but never has a student performed at a level that a simply "average" reputable and competent professional will. If one is short on funds, look for a good deal on an existing boat, sure, but don't think someone just learning their trade will be able to achieve your goals.

Good luck in finding or building the right boat and design for your purposes
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Old 08-02-2009, 03:17 PM   #10
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Maidmarian,

Ferro-cement boats, as has been said in previous posts, is a good material if built properly. They got a bad rap in the 70's when some promoters were selling the dream, especially in North America. Any boat is only as good as the builder no matter what material is used. There are bad ones, good ones and very good ones out there.

I have had a ferro ketch that was laid up by a professional builder in 1970. The hull is better now than when it was built. No rust, no blisters and no rot. A good ferro-cement boat will be hard to tell from good FG one.

As a result of the bad publicity from poorly built, partly finished and some ugly creations, the material has fallen out of favour. Therefore, someone who does proper research and survey can find a good boat at 1/3 to 1/2 the going rate for other materials. Finding a good surveyor who is knowledgeable in the material is key.

In the marketplace, an item that few people want sells for a lower price.

Good luck

Gary
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Old 08-02-2009, 04:51 PM   #11
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This discussion is very interesting and brings back memories of a civil engineering course on concrete I had back in my student days.

As would have it last night I met in Emporio, Kalymnos a British couple with a 30 year old 36 ft fero-cement boat, "Balck Mist" built in Canada. They have been cruising with her for years and are very happy.

Fair winds to all
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Old 08-02-2009, 07:19 PM   #12
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well, this has been a plethora of useful information. Went and had another look at the original link suggested by MMNETSEA and yes, it is indeed an informative site. But then, chiroeurope put the fear in my sails with his comment! Such confusion. Anyway, I think I get the message - like all boats, be wary and stay away from badly built anything and use the experts. Thanks again for all the great advice. Much appreciated. mm
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Old 08-03-2009, 03:05 AM   #13
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With any boat of any material, it is universally true that the builder makes the difference. Properly build FC, GRP, steel, aluminum, even wood boats will last longer than you can hope to live. But it is also true that improperly built any hull material can be dangerous to take out of sight of land. I was shocked a few months ago when I saw a very expensive almost brand new European built monohull that was in a French Charter Fleet out of Martinique was up on the rocks and the hull split open. The FRG layup on this 50 footer was less than 1/4" below the waterline. Sure, it was probably state of the art resin and fiberglass, but like an eggshell which can hold an elephant is the alignment is correct, go up on the rocks and the sides just caved in and sheared open. A hand laid or older FRG boat with industry standard hull thickness or more would have taken the rocks with only minimal damage.

- - The idea is to find the "good" boats that fit your needs and plans. Not an easy task. If the vessel you are looking for will be your full time home and you really don't plan of selling it until you have concluded all your sailing dreams - then search and find the best boat regardless of hull material - if the hull is correctly done.

- - If you only want a boat for a limited time to fulfill some sailing desires and then sell it - the FRG boats are well known and can be sold at a reasonable price when you are finished with it. You can be less particular about FRG boats than most of the other hull materials.

- - As mentioned FerroCement has a bad reputation for seaworthiness only because there are too many home-built boats that were not done correctly. One recent development worldwide that would put me off building a new FC boat is the "sand shortage." Beach sand is being stolen and sold in place of mined, clean and washed sand. I have been on many a beach and could not see what the problem was until it was explained to me that beach sand contain a high percentage of sea salt. When mixed into concrete and laid up with a iron/steel re-bar or other metal matrix - it does not take long for the salt to eat away the iron/steel matrix. Knowing what and where the sand came from is now a major problem.
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Old 08-26-2009, 10:29 PM   #14
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Somehow I just realized that the schooner Anne is a ferro boat.... for some reason I thought she was steel...

gives me a newfound respect for ferro boats...

here's a good link on her construction for anyone intersted in ferro boats.

1000days.net/home/media/boatbuilding/boatbuilding.htm
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