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Old 10-04-2012, 05:08 AM   #1
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Default Steel Boats

Looking at boats for crusing life. Steel boats appeal to me because of durability and ease to repair. Any input on what the negatives are? Anyone crusing with a steel hull. Any beta on good designs? I usually tend to go toward the heavy full keel designs for there safety. Fiberglass boats I look at are like Whestsail, Island Packet, Nor Sea, anything Lyle Hess, Baba, ect..... There is lots of info. on fiberglass boat designs but I find little talk on steel boats. Anyone got some recomendations. Thanks for any advice.
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Old 10-04-2012, 05:40 AM   #2
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This topic goes to the very heart of what makes a good cruising vessel. Steel, timber, ferro cement, aluminium, fibreglass, ply/glass composite are all used in cruising boats with great success.

The design is of paramount importance when considering a good boat for voyaging. The length to beam ratio, depth of bilges, configuration of keel and rudder, the ballast ratio are all more important than the medium used in a boat's fabrication.

I would prefer to go to sea in a well founded ferro or plywood boat than a poorly built glass or steel boat. The build quality is as important as the design. So, the choice of hull material is very much one of personal preference. Maintenance is time consuming and can be costly. Aluminium doesn't even need painting, ferro cement is almost maintenance free, timber and steel require little bits of maintenance often and fibreglass is probably as close to maintenance free as it gets as GRP technology advances. (This may not be the case for older glass boats).

I have owned ferro, timber, glass, and now steel. I confess to not having a favourite, but I have never crashed a boat! Timber, glass and traditional timber planking are probably more resistant to impact damage than other mediums. Steel is the easiest and probably cheapest to repair.

The only thing I would say about steel is that rolled steel makes a prettier, stronger and better performing boat than one with hard chines, and steel is steel. Older glass boats may have thick hulls but some of the resins become progressively more brittle with age, something which may not be apparent until the hull comes to a sudden, unplanned stop.

But, as long as you are looking at boats such as Westsail, Hans Christian, Island Packet rather than the Jurassic 36, glass is a great material which will serve you well in any conditions.

The one truism is that we all bought boats which were ideally suited to our needs therefore, if you ask a glass sailor about his boat, or a timber sailor, ferro sailor or steel sailor about their boats, they will have many reasons to explain their absolute suitability for cruising...and just as many reasons why all the others are less suited.

So, with that in mind I say, go steel....everything else is rubbish.
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Old 10-04-2012, 07:48 AM   #3
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Don't sugar coat it, auzzie! Tell us how you really feel!
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Old 10-04-2012, 07:58 AM   #4
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You know me.....only joking
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Old 10-04-2012, 03:33 PM   #5
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Steel boats like a lot of others pay you back for the effort you put in.

Get handy with a chipping hammer, wire brush, filler, good quality 2 pack paints (I go for Altex but whatever your favourite brand is) and plenty of care and attention and a steel boat will last you your lifetime, your kids' lifetime, and their kids' lifetime as well. Let it rust and you've just wasted your money.

It helps if you can weld, but I can't and I've found steel boat repairs from boatyards to be cheaper than other types of repairs. Cut, weld, sand, paint, all done. Get fussy with your paints is the main thing, I tried some cheaper paints once or twice and went in in a hurry without proper surface preparation, and 12 months later I was cutting and priming all over again.
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Old 10-06-2012, 03:37 AM   #6
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Default steel boats

hi,

when i was considering which type of boat to buy one of the first questions i was asked what type of sailing i intended to do.

so to long distance / blue cruising sailing - the answer was always the same go steel!! which is what i did.

this presents certain type of challenges - which if we are true to ourselves is part of what it is about - in our type of sailing

although, when you have to conduct a continues war with rust - at times it can be trying very trying.

but that as they say is the beauty of it.

so go steel and enjoy.

fair winds

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Old 10-10-2012, 04:42 AM   #7
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Thanks for the beta. I am a welder and it is one of the reasons I was thinking steel. Looking at a 5 year plan for crusing! Thanks again for any input.
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:56 AM   #8
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I asked a guy I was at the bar with, who was new to sailing and about to sail SE Asia, why he bought the boat he had, because it was steel was the reply. I said that was an unusual reason so why was steel so important, so it would survive hitting reefs he replied. One should avoid hitting reefs if one is in a boat, not plan to hit them I responded. I mentioned that the normal reason for buying a sail boat was I liked the design, the rig, the price or size. Some even chose a boat because it sailed well!!
2 years later we met at the bar again and I asked what his plans were, haul the boat, paint it and sell it he said. Didn't you or the wife like cruising I asked. Loved it he said, but we want a boat that sails, sick of motoring all the time.
I bought him a beer and reminded him of our talk 2 years earlier and we both had a laugh.
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Old 10-23-2012, 07:56 AM   #9
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No one has mentioned the electrolysis you have with bare steel. If you should lose any paint underwater you must haul immediately and recover the bare steel.
As mentioned above, it really depends on how you plan to use the boat. Going into ice; buy steel! Voyaging in to the tropics, steel is going to be a lot hotter unless it has terrific insulation and since most steel boats are designed for use in colder areas, how's the ventilation?
Don't get me wrong, I've loved and sailed many a steel vessel and always felt very safe aboard, but they are generally not quick or handy vessels.
Our present boat is fiberglass, because at this time I want to sail more and maintain less. She was strong enough to take a hit from a container in a gale between Newport and Bermuda without any damage, and we are considerably faster than our friends on the popular steel boats voyaging with us here in the Caribbean.
Once again, the choice of a boat comes down to the intended use of that boat. I do not believe that emotion or esthetics should be a priority when seeking a vessel, but mostly how well she will suit your needs.
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Old 10-30-2012, 06:04 PM   #10
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With yachts there is always some sort of compromise involved. The advice so far has been great...

The Dutch make some very nice Steel boats and many of them are used all over the world very effectively!

Good luck,

Pete
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Old 10-31-2012, 03:19 AM   #11
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My steel boat has raced in the Santander, three Fastnets and came third in the Middle Sea Race. It could fairly be described as both quick and handy. Franz Maas knew a thing or two about building steel yachts.

I think some steel boats suffer from the same publicity demons as did earlier trimerans and ferro cement boats. As a medium for amateur boatbuilding, steel is king. But there are some horrible slab sided, weld buckled, hard chined battle tanks and mooring blocks floating about out there which are masquerading as sailing boats. Even the venerable spray design in the hands of an enthusiastic amateur takes on a barge like personage which guarantees performance only when running with the trades.

I truly believe a nicely designed and built boat made from any medium, whether timber, concrete, aluminium, fibreglass or steel, will perform as its designer intended with, from a cruising perspective, little difference in performance.
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Old 10-17-2014, 06:17 PM   #12
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My last and largest yacht was steel which is partly where the nightmare began. A classic yacht built 1966 in Germany by a yard that built 10 and 20 thousand tonners . This yacht was built for the owner of the shipyard so everything on here was big ship stuff. In keel cooling 28 litre MTU engine generating capacity 88 kva, a bow thruster that would stop the 20kva generator dead with the surge.
She was certified Germanisher lLoyd 100A4 supposedly capable of breaking ice.
I had her surveyed and certified when i bought her and a few years later had the same thing again when in Athens.
She was on the hard in Athens having some damage repaired following a storm, i was wandering around just jabbing the hull below the waterline with a screw driver and to my horror it went straight through the hull. This is a few weeks after a survey! I had to have most of the bow cut out and replaced, some areas to wards the stern and a large area nr the rudder .
Would i have steel again, A resounding NO, so many areas you can not see let alone get at. It maybe strong when new, but if it is rusting through it is no longer strong QED
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Old 10-18-2014, 09:34 AM   #13
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That actually displays a lack of knowledge about steel boats that's not uncommon.

Sure, steel rusts. Fibreglass gets osmosis. I've seen a fibreglass boat on a hard stand that had had a surveyor shove a splicing awl into, and water was pouring out of the hole made by the awl. Water continued to leak out of that hole for 4 days.

Those repairs you made will probably last 20 years or more. I have had sections of hull cut out of my boat and had patches welded in, those weld repairs will certainly last as long. One section at the bow had the anchor chain break through a catchment plate so that the chain was resting (and abrading) against the hull. Over a period of a few years I guess it wore and rusted a patch through the hull. I had a section cut out and replaced, then epoxy treated it from the inside, replaced the catchment plate, sealed everything back into place and it's all good. Total cost of repairs? Would have been about $800 including the paints.

If you've got a steel hull with a rusted through section then you cut out that section and weld in a new section. If you've got a fibreglass hull that's got osmosis through the hull then it's game over, time to look for a new boat.
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Old 07-09-2016, 12:14 AM   #14
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[QUOTE=capta;35975]No one has mentioned the electrolysis you have with bare steel. If you should lose any paint underwater you must haul immediately and recover the bare steel.
/QUOTE]

The bottoms of my steel twin keels have had no paint on them for 32 years; no corrosion or pitting of any kind. They look as good as the day I launched . If I see any corrosion, then its time to weld more zinc on. Then ,the rust washes away, and no more comes to replace it , as long as I keep the zinc up.
Above the waterline, an hour or two a year maintenance a year ,is all it takes.
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Old 07-09-2016, 03:59 PM   #15
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[QUOTE=Brent Swain;44615]
Quote:
Originally Posted by capta View Post
No one has mentioned the electrolysis you have with bare steel. If you should lose any paint underwater you must haul immediately and recover the bare steel.
/QUOTE]

The bottoms of my steel twin keels have had no paint on them for 32 years; no corrosion or pitting of any kind. They look as good as the day I launched . If I see any corrosion, then its time to weld more zinc on. Then ,the rust washes away, and no more comes to replace it , as long as I keep the zinc up.
Above the waterline, an hour or two a year maintenance a year ,is all it takes.
It sounds like pretty risky behavior leaving it unpainted. If your zincs are gone then your steel is going to act as the sacrificial anode.

We have a wood boat and while we protect the prop with a zinc, the bronze rudder post and gudgeon are protected by anodes we make of mild steel plate. While active, it's smooth and shiny but a steel anode just gets thinner and thinner. When it is not electrically active it picks up rust.

So--you likely do have your bilge keels acting as anodes when there is no rust upon them.

I worked as an engineer for many years in the field of structural reliability of transportation pressure vessels. Mostly steel. I know just a teeny bit too much about steel to be comfortable with a steel boat. Not that, when properly maintained, they're any worse a material than any other--they're fine--but rather I have my own nightmares about all the things that can--and do--go wrong with steel.

The biggest problem with steel pressure vessels and steel boats is that if there is an imperfect lining or coating INSIDE the vessel, there will be corrosion from the inside out. Places you cannot inspect or maintain are the places that the corrosion is going to happen with a steel boat. It just becomes very important to know who built your boat and how good they were about applying the interior coating to prevent future corrosion.

Fair winds,
Brenda
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Old 07-09-2016, 07:58 PM   #16
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[QUOTE=redbopeep;44617]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Swain View Post

It sounds like pretty risky behavior leaving it unpainted. If your zincs are gone then your steel is going to act as the sacrificial anode.

We have a wood boat and while we protect the prop with a zinc, the bronze rudder post and gudgeon are protected by anodes we make of mild steel plate. While active, it's smooth and shiny but a steel anode just gets thinner and thinner. When it is not electrically active it picks up rust.

So--you likely do have your bilge keels acting as anodes when there is no rust upon them.

I worked as an engineer for many years in the field of structural reliability of transportation pressure vessels. Mostly steel. I know just a teeny bit too much about steel to be comfortable with a steel boat. Not that, when properly maintained, they're any worse a material than any other--they're fine--but rather I have my own nightmares about all the things that can--and do--go wrong with steel.

The biggest problem with steel pressure vessels and steel boats is that if there is an imperfect lining or coating INSIDE the vessel, there will be corrosion from the inside out. Places you cannot inspect or maintain are the places that the corrosion is going to happen with a steel boat. It just becomes very important to know who built your boat and how good they were about applying the interior coating to prevent future corrosion.

Fair winds,
Brenda
Having lived on , built and cruised full time on steel boats for 40 years, I also know a bit about steel boats, from first hand experience,m not speculation.
When the zincs are gone ,the corrosion is very slow, giving me plenty of time to get new zincs on. Being a twin keeler ,it is easy to keep an eye on things ,as I spend a lot of time dried out. No surprises.
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Old 07-18-2016, 12:16 AM   #17
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Yes, the most important paint you can put on a steel boat is inside, something which is often sorely neglected on many steel boats ,including most commercially built ones around here. There is no need for such problems. One should never blame the material , only the builder, for such screwups.
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Old 07-31-2016, 06:04 AM   #18
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Why steel? It has zero advantages over glass. You might pay more, initially, for a glass boat, but, you will certainly pay more for steel when you factor in maintenance. You don't want to go cruising at 3-4 knots, not being able to outrun coming weather. I've only seen 1 steel boat cruising, a few aluminum boats, and everything else glass (and a few wood boats). Glass is the overwhelming favorite for a reason.
A 50' steel monohull and my catamaran sailed out of Opua, NZ the same exact time, bound for Fiji. Two days later I was 3 days ahead of him (his sailing days). It's like drifting. JMO
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Old 08-01-2016, 11:40 PM   #19
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Default MISTY of Gosford - Custom Design Steel Cruising Yacht.

One man’s custom design Steel cruising yacht.
Hi Folks, What makes a good cruising boat?
It is interesting to see the range of design considerations prioritised by various cruising sailors – brings to mind the expression ” One man’s meat may be another’s poison”.
Each of us has his or her own personal priorities in a cruising yacht, our priorities in order are:
(1) Hull Integrity and vessel safety,
(2) Personal Security for occupants and crew,
(3) Personal Comfort for occupants and crew, (Creature comforts).
(4) Performance and handling under power.
(5) Performance and handling under sail.
(6) Overall vessel usability.
1. We could not find a production yacht to suit our needs so we designed and built our own custom Steel cruising yacht: “MISTY of Gosford” .
2. We are now in our 70’s and this is the 8th year of happily cruising the Australian East Coast.
3. We have publicly and freely listed our detailed design notes and considerations along with many photos of this project, in the hope that it may be of some assistance to any like minded person contemplating a similar journey.
@…http://mistyofgosford.blogspot.com.a...y-design-1.html
Geoff Childs,
Attached Thumbnails
Misty Bow. P8184373.600 cr3zrw..jpg   Misty Side. P8184367.600 zrw3 ..jpg   P7222615 600.jpg  
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Old 08-03-2016, 11:08 PM   #20
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Quote:
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Why steel? It has zero advantages over glass. You might pay more, initially, for a glass boat, but, you will certainly pay more for steel when you factor in maintenance. You don't want to go cruising at 3-4 knots, not being able to outrun coming weather. I've only seen 1 steel boat cruising, a few aluminum boats, and everything else glass (and a few wood boats). Glass is the overwhelming favorite for a reason.
A 50' steel monohull and my catamaran sailed out of Opua, NZ the same exact time, bound for Fiji. Two days later I was 3 days ahead of him (his sailing days). It's like drifting. JMO
The first 36 ft steel boat I built spent 16 days pounding in up to 12 ft surf on the west coast of Baja, and was pulled of thru 12 ft surf ,being lifted and dropped that distance on hard packed sand, every wave for a quarter mile, with no serious damage. Another pounded across 300 yards of Fijian coral reef in big surf, and was pulled back the same distance, thru the same surf, with no serious damage. She later collided with a freighter near Gibraltar with no serious damage. One hit a steel barge at hull speed, with only a scratch.
One recently hit a rock at 6 knots with only a scratch on her keel resulting. I just met an Australian steel boat with the same experience and results.
Here in BC we often hit huge logs in the night, with zero damage, as long as your boat is steel.
How would a plastic boat fare in the same conditions?
My boats have often made the distance from BC to Hawaii in roughly 2 weeks , better than many plastic boats. I have made the distance from Hawaii to BC in 23 days twice , in my heavily loaded steel 31 ft twin keeler.
Had the Sleavin family been in a steel boat instead of plastic, they would have probably all survived.
With everything welded down , nothing works loose, nothing leaks . Welding is the strongest, most reliable bedding compound ever invented.
In the disaster at Cabo in 82 moat plastic boats broke up quickly, but steel ,with a plastic boat landing on top of her, still sails.
Steel for a bare shell of a 36 is around $9K, plastic; many times that.
In many South Pacific anchorages , steel equals or predominates among European boats. In my last anchorage, 40 % were steel.
That is why we choose steel.
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