Modern professional ferrocement boatbuilders?

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by crasch, Feb 17, 2015.

  1. crasch
    Joined: May 2004
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    crasch Junior Member

    I'm looking for consulting on a ferrocement marine project. Are there any modern professional ferrocement boatbuilders still around? For example:

    Colin Brookes
    Ed Sayer
    Bayfield Yachts
    Morley Sutherland
    Richard Hartley
    Cecil Norris

    Thanks in advance for any assistance!
     
  2. FAST FRED
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    FAST FRED Senior Member

    After all these years , why would you want a ferro boat built?
     
  3. Ilan Voyager
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    Ilan Voyager Senior Member

    Is it for a boat? yacht or fishing boat? Why do you want ferrocement boat or structure? This method has very serious issues for yachts and fishing boats. It's useless on ships. And it has been never cheap if made correctly.
    Nowadays, ferro is used only on barges, floating decks. and some structures closer to civil engineering.
     
  4. Canracer
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    Canracer Senior Member

    First thing I thought was barge.
     
  5. whitepointer23

    whitepointer23 Previous Member

    Have you owned a ferro boat or built one. Just curious why you have this opinion.
     
  6. crasch
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    crasch Junior Member

    Thanks for your comments. I'd prefer not to give details about the project until it's a bit more developed, as many of the commentators can be quite hostile to early stage ideas that are not fairly well fleshed out. I'm aware of many of the disadvantages and advantages of ferrocement construction in theory, but if possible, I'd like to talk to someone with extensive practical experience using it in production. Thanks in advance for any referrals!
     
  7. yanivmass
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    yanivmass New Member

    ferroboat,

    I do not know about any one to consult with but few years ago i was interested in the method and i managed to bay a copy of " Ferro - cement Boats " by Colin Brookes.
    A lot of information .....
     
  8. Canracer
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    Canracer Senior Member

    Because almost no one builds them, it will be difficult to find an expert. It was largely a backyard construction technique but some people were pros. You have to hire people who are great with a trowel.
    [​IMG]
     
  9. Rurudyne
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    Rurudyne Senior Member

    It isn't just that. The armature itself, if unfair, is going to show through / be a challenge for the plaster guys to cover up.

    That was why one work around one guy came up with involved a mold that you pressed the reinforcement into the cement, trowel over, and repeat. The mold provided the fair surface ... and it was claimed that the reinforcement worked as well as a continuous armature.

    A better approach, to my way of thinking, for a fair armature seems to be wire plank, but, the armature seems like it is still going to consume a good amount of time to get right ... and then you've still got to have good plasterers.
     
  10. Ilan Voyager
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    Ilan Voyager Senior Member

    Brendan. Happily I've never owned one. Nor built one. Wood, plywood, composites, aluminium, steel but not ferro. I have met people, amateurs and pros who made it. I even seen ferro boats in construction. As naval engineer I learnt the basis for building in ferro as the method is used for several applications in marine engineering of harbour installations.

    There is a good record for simple barges built with coefficients of civil engineering, basically floating boxes. When you have the steel molds, the vapour heating for an accelerated cure, and when weight is not a major concern it's pretty good. The main cost on barges is the hull.
    For boats where weight is a very major concern it doesn't work compared to simple steel welded with a cheap stick welder. If ferro was just as good as ordinary steel and best of all cheaper, we would see many ferro cement boats and ships. However ferrocement boats are rare, almost oddities. That's a fact. Why?
    Simply because the material is not good enough for boatbuilding for a lot of reasons, the first one being structural. That's my opinion (I'm not alone).

    For yachts and fishing boats it's not so cheap when you make the final sum. Very labor intensive, and the method is not so simple if you want a good quality for a high sea boat. Finally it's simpler to weld a steel plate on some flats and angles than cementing a mesh laboriously installed on a structure of welded steel bars, and waiting 28 days for the cure, plus the delay for drying.
    A bunch were built in France in the 70ties. In terms of percentage very few survived, maybe less than 3%.
    I have surveyed several (3 or 4 for eventual buyers, 2 fishing boats made by a pro shipyard as expert for legal problems and a few for people asking me if it was interesting to restore them).
    Except one made expensively in Holland, having more steel and epoxy than cement and so heavy that it was a bad sail boat and not a good motor boat, all the others were junk after a few years at sea. Internal corrosion, and structural problems.

    The two 15 meters fishing boats, were made by a specialist of concretes and ferro with the best of the best materials, on design by a good naval architect with lots of engineering and consultants. The FAO gave its blessing, the fishing authorities talked about revolution in boat building.
    They resulted being heavy, too costly to make, and expensive to exploit. After 7-8 years of work they began to show signs of fatigue with a myriad of hairline cracks on the cyclic stresses points. Thus the legal liability problems and the survey made by several specialists in different domains. The builder was not happy when he saw the results after so much work and tooling investment. The "owners" were not happy. The Credit Maritime, the financier and final owner because of the mortgages, was not happy at all.
    Unanimous verdict; unsafe, there was not more the structural integrity needed for a safe working boat, and the boats were aging very fast. Finally the boats were salvaged and the hulls destroyed. A wood fishing boat lasts 30 years at least, as polyester and steel. These ferro were junk at 8 years, after an unsuccessful career. Maybe very bad luck, maybe somewhere engineering mistakes, maybe simply the material is not for fishing boats with vibrating diesel engines.
    Morality, when you say the word ferro about fishing boats in Brittany, everybody grabs a cross and spills holy water. There were on 2013 4537 commercial fishing boats in France. None in ferro cement.
    In Cuba as I have heard myself from Cuban naval engineers they stopped after horrific experiences, the excellent Cuban rum surely made the stories more epic. But the Cuban need urgently cheap fishing boats, if ferro was the solution they would be making them by dozens. Idem in Central America.
    We should ask the Chinese, they made thousands when the Great Party decided in the 70's that was the way for a radiant future. How many survived at least 15 years? There is nowadays a ship building industry in ferrocement boats in China?

    After a fast search there is plenty of literature on Internet; the FAO made in 1995 a book about ferro fishing boats, it's the most recent and some of the claims are grossly inexact. It looks like the rewriting of a 70s book. Also plenty of re-edited books, and PDF of studies, papers and so on. All that has been written during the 70's.
    After; black out. I did not find any recent serious professional book or technical paper about ferro on working boats.

    It seems that there are very few built now. There must be a reason. I guess it's because when you compare ferro with the other boatbuilding methods there are no advantage, but many real and potential inconveniences.
     
  11. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Contact Jay Benford in Maryland.
     
  12. crasch
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    crasch Junior Member

    Thanks, PAR!
     
  13. fredrosse
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    fredrosse USACE Steam

    Ferrocement Info.

    A proper ferrocement hull, similar in weight and performance to other typical construction methods, can be made. Careful attention to many details is required, and ferrocement construction is not forgiving of mistakes and shortcuts. Ongoing maintenance is required if the hull is to last for decades.

    However the vast majority of these craft were fabricated by people with little capital for material cost, and imagined you could trade labor costs for material cost. In fact, the tremendous labor needed to make a proper ferrocement hull overrides any material cost savings compared to conventional boat construction. Add to that the fact that most of these historic constructors were amatures with limited experience, we have a construction method that has a bad reputation.

    Labor can be reduced by greatly adding design margins, and an excessively heavy hull results.

    Drexel University, among many others, have examined this, find some details in a thread on this forum titled "ferro-cement", with further information.
     
  14. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Ferro isn't going to be "similar in weight and performance" as other methods. If well engineered, you can rival steel in certain larger sizes, but it's always going to have a few disadvantages compared to other material choices. In the USA, it's value is lower than any other build material, so much so it's very difficult to get them insured, even if professionally built.

    Several professional ferro builders have existed over the years, none still exist in the USA, as far as I know. Most of the ferro hulls in the world have been professionally built, but the "children only a mother could love" reputation this material has, is a result of the building boom of the late 60's and early 70's, where dozens of ferro hulls where plastered up, from cheap plans that where available back then. Coupled with slick advertising, that anyone could have a 50' yacht for the cost of a few bags of cement, lots of unfinished hulls have littered landfills since.

    The real problem with ferro, other than the obvious armature, plastering, and inspection issues, is the hull build is only a fraction of the total build cost and effort. So basically, you've used a less than desirable hull material choice and you still have to fit it out, which costs the same as any other yacht or commercial craft and you end up with an overly heavy, difficult to inspect, nearly imposable to insure boat, that isn't any cheaper to build or own, plus is all but imposable to sell in the USA. In Europe and Australia, they have a better reputation, but still reside at the very bottom of the list, of the desirable hull material choices. Generally, if thinking about ferro, you should look at steel or alloy if a larger craft and 'glass if a moderate or smaller boat.
     

  15. bpw
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    bpw Senior Member

    I have been cruising on a ferro boat for the last few years. If you can find a good one they can be a decent value in the used market. I like our boat, and after 40 years her hull is still good as new, but with all the better options available today there is no way I would consider a new build in ferro for any type of sailboat. I cannot think of any area in which ferro would be superior to steel or cold molded wood or plywood construction, both good ways to build a hull on a budget.

    Liability insurance is very difficult (we are insured by literally the only company I could find who would cover us, and they don't have the best reputation) and any sort of hull insurance just about impossible.

    The hull is such a small part of the cost of building a boat that it is a very poor place to try and economize. I can see a few applications like docks or similar structures that can be heavy and need to last for a long time with zero maintenance where ferro makes sense, but it's not a very good option for boa hulls these days.
     
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