Steel -v- GRP

Discussion in 'Materials' started by yorkshirestew, May 3, 2009.

  1. yorkshirestew
    Joined: May 2009
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    yorkshirestew New Member

    Hi,

    Sorry for posting such an old topic of debate for which there appears to be no conclusive answer.

    I am looking to buy a sailing boat (40-50ft) to keep in SE Asia and for much of the year the boat may be unused. Not sure yet whether to moor it or take it out of the water. Under those circumstances, can anyone please give me some advice on which might be better (cheaper and less hassel to maintain) - steel or grp?


    Cheers


    Stewart
     
  2. Ad Hoc
    Joined: Oct 2008
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    Ad Hoc Naval Architect

    yorkshirestew

    It will really come down to what kind of repair/maintenance facilities are local to you and the expertise, and the costs they charge for such work. Since it will be about the cost of maintenance for YOU, in the long run.

    Bit silly to go for GRP if no one can support repair work, but can in steel. Likewise, why go for steel, if the are no GRP workshops/laminators about.

    So logistics will probably drive your answer, if you have no real preference.

    Otherwise, it is open season on which is best....
     
  3. yorkshirestew
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    yorkshirestew New Member

    Thanks. Sounds like sensible advice.
     
  4. marshmat
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    marshmat Senior Member

    I tend to concur with AdHoc here.

    Steel needs repainting periodically, but if well cared for, can last a long time.

    Fibreglass can also last a long time, but has its own problems- osmosis, gelcoat fading, etc.

    If your local infrastructure is mainly geared around one material, then the logical choice is to go with what can be supported and repaired locally.

    If you can find competent, trustworthy repair facilities for both materials, then it really seems to come down to personal preference. The debate has been raging for decades and will continue for many more. In the meantime, many successful boats are being built out of both materials.
     
  5. MikeJohns
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    MikeJohns Senior Member

    Stewart

    If a steel boat has been well built, with attention to detail and accessible in the areas that need some maintenance, and it has been maintained then it is a very good option, and the age of the hull is immaterial. In reality maintenance often gets neglected and older steel vessels go through cycles of neglect and rejuvenation. However the state of the hull is always easy to assess and the skills to repair it well are common. Steel has the unique ability of a 100% repair through simple local replacement and it will always be the easiest and cheapest hull material to repair. Many commercially built steel boats have a seamless glued internal fitout that denies decent access to the hull interior this then has to be damaged to effect a repair. Clear easy access to all the bilges, chain locker, engine area, prop and steering shaft glands is a must.

    GRP vessels have a finite life, that lifetime depends on the hull lay-up the materials used and the quality of construction. An older GRP hull is a bit of a lottery and they can have some significant and serious maintenance issues. The real bugbear is that it’s hard to impossible to properly assess the condition other than spotting existing delaminations-blisters and taking moisture levels.
    Many expensive so called bottom–jobs for osmosis repair just move the problem on to the next owner and many have failed miserably within 5 to 7 years. Rot in wood core materials in the decks is also very common as is cracking of gelcoats in high stress areas or from rough handling docking bumps etc.

    There that’s probably absolutely no help at all :)
     

  6. yorkshirestew
    Joined: May 2009
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    yorkshirestew New Member

    "There that’s probably absolutely no help at all"

    Yes it is Mike! I am coming around to the conclusion (so far) that maybe steel is the better option in an older boat (which is what I am looking at) providing access can be gained for a good pre-purchase survey and providing there is someone in the vicinity with welding facilities.


    Cheers


    Stewart
     
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