Steel, Ferro or Fibre?

Discussion in 'Metal Boat Building' started by Kiribati, Feb 4, 2017.

  1. Kiribati
    Joined: Feb 2017
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    Location: Fraser Coast

    Kiribati New Member

    Hi, I am looking at several boats to live on and to sail on the Pacific Ocean.
    My preference is ferrocement for temp control and insulation below deck (for technology) and internal height generally is better @6" tall. Having said that I have found a steel boat that seems good too but more expensive. Last weekend I looked at a Columbia 43, which was gorgeous however had stains internally and from what I could see mostly associated with deck rigging mounts. If the damp is extensive then I'm not really capable of stripping the deck, dealing with the balsa, scaffolding, ect. My goal is to buy a solid vessel I can sail and maintain, so that I can get on with my life at hand.

    I'll be sailing solo generally so have been aiming for under 40". The vessel will most likely be moored for 6 months and sailed for 6 months in rotation for the next 20 years. I've seen a steel boat fully rigged and maintained for $45000, a ferro-cement boat 3/4 finished for $35000, and several Hartley rorc's for around $20000. The Columbia was $65000 reduced to $50000.

    I thought I'd try asking some of you guys after reading several posts. You sound like you know what you're talking about so I'd be grateful for a broader opinion if there's one out there?! Thank you ~
  2. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    gonzo Senior Member

    Ferrocement boats are often built by amateurs who give up on the project and try to sell it. The 3/4 figure is probably super optimistic. Hire a surveyor to check whatever you intend to buy. It is money well spent.
  3. Nick.K
    Joined: May 2011
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    Location: Ireland

    Nick.K Senior Member

    Another factor against ferro is that it is often chosen because it is seen as economical and simple to build. Neither is true but many ferro hulls have been made by naive unskilled builders on a tight budget.
    Steel has the advantage that it is an extremely strong material in the context of small yachts and easy to repair limited damages (apart from the hassle of removing the interior). If you hit a rock or a mild collision probably the worst that will result is a small dent. Be aware though of the possibility of corrosion behind and under interior panels and do not be fooled by a few ultrasound readings on the outside which can easily miss thin areas. I worked on a steel boat which passed a survey yet we found places where the only thing holding out the water was the hull paint! Widespread internal corrosion isn't practical to fix. Steel needs good maintenance and some knowledge. Neglect your anodes or ignore paint chips and it will go downhill fast, leave it connected to leaky shore-power and your hull may be destroyed.
    Glassfibre is a great material, it can be neglected for years, is relatively easy to repair (at least on low-tech boats) and it is easy to spruce-up. Beware of cored areas and inspect them carefully for signs of core delamination or core-rot. As well as balsa cores, early GRP boats often used wooden reinforcements in areas such as engine beds, rudder skegs and rig attachment areas. These are often laminated over and invisibly rot away.
    As GRP boats get older they become weaker and more flexible. Look for tell-tale signs of gelcoat stress cracking. Hull flexing will be obvious at sea from creaking furniture and doors that may not open or close. Too much movement may lead to failure in heavy weather.
  4. espresso
    Joined: Sep 2005
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    espresso Junior Member

    Ferro cement - run away !!!!

    I have seen a ferro cement hull destroyed in hours after grounding on a sandy beach.
    There is a reason that ferro boats are hardly ever sold fully fitted out and having been sailed for 10 years. They don't last that long.
    Run run run.
  5. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    All hull material choices can be built to be tough and durable, including ferro. In many places around the world, ferro has a poor reputation, but toughness isn't one of the primary reasons it's thought of in this fashion.

    On any significant investment, the only real option is a qualified survey. You'll do this with a home and an expensive used car, so yachts aren't any different.

  6. espresso
    Joined: Sep 2005
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    Location: Cape Town South Africa

    espresso Junior Member

    Still advise to RUN AWAY!

    If you buy a hull and fit it out yourself, then the cost of the hull is but a small part of the total overall costs.
    It doesn't make any sense at all to try to save a few Dollars by buying a cheap ferro hull (construction quality unknown).
    You could land up with a beautifully fitted out lump of concrete, or at best, a beautifully fitted out premium constructed ferro hull that has ZERO resale value whatsoever.
    If you don't believe me, just look at the prices of second hand ferro boats. Less than the deck fittings often.
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