Fiberglass boats more comfortable than wooden boats - help answer this(?)

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by ned L, Mar 20, 2009.

  1. ned L
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    ned L Junior Member

    I'm looking for a bit of help here. How would you reply to the statement that "Fiberglass boats are more comfortable than wooden boats". What would you say to, and how would you answer a person that states this. For now I need to leave this as an open ended question. (I do have my thougths & argument, I need a broader consensus.) Thanks for any comments.
  2. tom28571
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    tom28571 Senior Member

    Maybe it is best to answer a stupid question with a reasonable question. Just ask, which fiberglass boat and which wooden boat?

    All of us more reasonable and aware people know that wood is better:D

    On a serious note, a section of a wood hull is far stiffer than the same area of fiberglass when the weights are the same. Stiffness is more often the major determinant than ultimate strength. If they are equally stiff, the fiberglass boat will be much heavier, require more sail, motor, fuel, work, etc than the equal sized wood boat. Both materials are good choices for boat structure when used properly.

    In small one design racing sailboats, fiberglass boats must incorporate lightweight core materials and thin glass skins to meet a weight limit and be competitive with wood hulls.
    1 person likes this.
  3. TeddyDiver
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    TeddyDiver Gollywobbler

    "Have a good day" and then I'll leave him alone..:D
  4. alan white
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    alan white Senior Member

    I'm sure you meant power boats, and how they feel at speed in waves. Otherwise, you might well have asked which type of boat is bigger or earlier, or harder to hide or somesuch.
  5. ned L
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    ned L Junior Member

    Thank you for the comments so far. Believe me this is not a question that "I" am asking. It has been stated between two acquaintances that "fiberglass boats are more comfortable than wooden boats". We'll just say that their belief is that I am to biased to 'believe what is true', so I offered to ask the question in as unbiased a way as I can, to see the replies. I suppose for argument's sake this could be reduced to power boats, as that was the specific topic at the time. After I receive a number of replies I will be glad to state my position & call this exercise done. Until then, I appreciate the comments (any & all).

    Edited to add: Though this may seem like a waste of time for a thread, it does have personal value for me, so thanks for the replies again.
  6. apex1

    apex1 Guest

    If we define comfort as the better living onboard, wood is by far the better choice for its insulation properties.
    If a more comfortable ride is the question, wood is the better choice for its higher stiffness.
    If longevity is part of the comfort (in your mind, selling it), wood is the better material for its much higher fatigue resistance.
    If the best of both worlds is the goal, wood epoxy is the way to go.
  7. mydauphin
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    mydauphin Senior Member

    Wood is better than Fiberglass, but when I go sleep at night I worry about little wood borers, spores and etc... eating my boat. Fiberglass, is little better in this regard. But Epoxy is really better. It is a matter of taste. I like Aluminum or steel. They have problems, also. But I sleep better...
  8. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Comfort is a purely speculative term and arguments could be made for both materials.

    Wood is a "friendly" material to be around. It's warm to the touch, has a soft feel, flexes predictably and reassuringly. The warm tones of naturally finished wood is something everyone enjoys.

    Comparing these attributes to 'glass, this material seems quite sterile, alien and cold to the touch. It "sweats" with temperature differentials and doesn't make a pleasant sound when it's "thumped" or is flexed. In it's favor is the seamless nature in which it can be utilized and the free flowing shapes it can be molded to, many quite difficult to do in wood.

    From a ride quality stand point in a powerboat, both materials will have similar engineering qualifications making it's application suitable for the tasks asked of it. This said, I think many wooden structures, particular those where movement is a designed and desired requirement, such as The Lord method strip planking or lapstrake (traditional or glued), plus others, offer a additional level of comfort, by flexing and giving to loads and impact slamming, typically seen in a power craft.

    A classic example would be the 50's and early 60's era lapstrake skiffs of assorted sizes that were produced in large quantities. These wooden boats offered a surprisingly soft ride in comparison to their 'glass counter parts of similar size and shape. The 'glass variants, often of the same hull model, had to be stiffer to tolerate the loads, so the ability of the hull to absorb and dissipate slamming loads decreased, making for a less comfortable ride.

    I'm reminded of a Lyman "Sleeper" I restored a few years back. It had one of the softest rides you could ask for in a warped bottom hull form with minimal transom deadrise. The skipper and crew of this boat could handle much longer spells in rough conditions before becoming weary, which wouldn't be so of the 'glass equivalent hull.
  9. erik818
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    erik818 Senior Member

    Often when wooden boats and fiberglass boats are compared, an old wooden boat is compared to a new fiberglass boat. The outcome then is that the old wooden boat is more charming but requires more maintenance, and the new fiberglass boat is more reliable and, yes, probably more comfortable as well.

    Compare two new boats, at least where I live it's more likely that the fiberglass boat is a mass produced boat for the consumer market and the almost nonexistent new wooden boat is a boat for enthusiasts. The fiberglass boat is then probably more comfortable and the wooden boat more optimised for performance.

    Based on the experience the average person has, the fiberglass boats he has experienced have been more comfortable than the wooden boats.

    I doubt that there are anyone on this forum who believes that hull material as such will affect comfort in any significant way. However, half of the people have to be more ignorant than the average man, and he can be ignorant enought.

    By the way, black cars are faster than green cars.

  10. apex1

    apex1 Guest

    I totally agree with the cars comparison, and would like to add that red cars are the least comfortable. (as everybody knows).

    But I seriously have to contradict to this statement:
    >>>>I doubt that there are anyone on this forum who believes that hull material as such will affect comfort in any significant way.<<<<
    I am the one!
    A wooden (or say nowadays a Wood/Epoxy) boat is much, much quieter, has a much better insulation against heat or cold, does´nt sweat so easily, and needs much less care than GRP.
    From the sheer technical point of view, it outperforms GRP in every single point by far. Unfortunately in terms of cost that applies as well.

    And blue boats are not only more fashionable than white ones, they are (followed by green ones), much faster too. (Applies on sailboats only)

  11. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    I thought I was fairly clear about wood offering comfort elements on a fundamental level of ride and enjoyment quality.

    You have to compare apples to apples. If two boats, both designed around the same hull form, general weight, ergonomics, propulsion, modern build techniques, etc. the vast majority of folks will be more comfortable in the wooden version on a number of levels. The ride will be softer, though this is subjective enough to discount. The wooden hull will be less noisy through the water, it will not sweat, it will fell nice to the touch, it will look better and it will sound better to most folks.

    If this isn't a quantifiable set of comfort elements then I don't know what is.
  12. Alik
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    Alik Senior Member

    comfort factors

    I would disagree with this statement.

    Physiological comfort is measurable and can be divided into:
    - noise (noise level, sound privacy)
    - climate (temperature, humidity, air flow speed, ventilation)
    - lighting
    - accelerations (MSI, MIF, vibration)
    - accommodation (space planning, ergonomics)

    These factors are listed in Comfort Class requirements of ABS, DNV, LR, etc.

    Now for discussion what is more comfortable - wood or FRP - we have to consider how the materials effect those comfort factors.

    I would suggest there is no direct influence of material on comfort factors listed unless we are talking about particular details of construction of particular vessel.
  13. Boston

    Boston Previous Member

    Im going to throw in with Apex and par on this one
    in spite of the obvious differences in there statements and the seeming acceptance that epoxy is going to be used in wooden construction
    although Ive no great experience spending significant amounts of time on or in any fiberglass hulls
    Ive spent my share on and in wood hulls
    I trust wood
    it floats
    which is something I can appreciate when I just happen to be standing on it and we're fifty miles off shore
    but its also got something else not mentioned yet
    its got an embodied energy about 200 times less than fiberglass
    and resin is extremely toxic stuff to work with
    to the point were some people develop extreme allergies to it
    basically its kinder by far on the environment to build out of wood

  14. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Actually epoxy isn't especially toxic at all, though you can become sensitive to it, if you like to repeatedly rub it on you and/or eat it.

    Comfort is purely speculative, even though some acceptable limits on noise, temperature, etc., have been set. One person could be quite comfortable at a temperature others wouldn't like at all. The same is true of noise, vibration, motion, accommodation, the list is endless. Comfort is a perceived state, which by it very nature requires a personal acceptance. Since no two people seem to like the same things in similar values . . . Don't get me wrong, you can find two who will like the same interior layout (for example), but out of a group of 100, it's very probable you'll have 50 different variations of their "best" arrangement.

  15. Alik
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    Alik Senior Member

    Correct, but we are not talking about interior design, styling and taste. These are not comfort features.

    Accommodation requirements specify size of doors, passageways, boarding area at doors and ladders, etc. Those are more or less standard and irrelevant to layout.

    Same for climate - say if temperature is adjustable within 18-26C it is considered comfortable. Comfort class requirements specify ranges of values where appropriate, not particular values that can be very personal and also depend on type of activity.
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