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Old 27-01-2007, 07:34   #1
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Intelligent Discussion on Ferro

Hey everyone,

Having read the recent greet on ferrocement, I was wondering if we could all have an intelligent, rational talk about these vessels. What are some of the pros? What are some of the cons?

I have to admit I know next to nothing about them, other than a few instances where people have lost ferro boats on reefs, etc... That doesn't mean anything one way or the other.

Why would someone prefer to own a ferro? Why would someone prefer to own another hull material over a ferrocement?
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Old 27-01-2007, 08:43   #2
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Very good question Sean.As yet I don't have a boat and even though I'm a bit lazy in getting my act together I have spent a lot of time in R&D.I love FC's,They are my first choice for a few reasons,cool in summer being number one.They are very affordable down here in oz and I for one am not rich which makes sense to me.But like GRP they are not to easy to change from their original layout.No I have never tried on either medium,I'm getting my lessons from people on forums like this,just thought I would get that clear from the start.Which brings me to steel,someone said here a while back"I like steel,If I want to put something somewhere I just weld it on,nothing fiddly.Strangely enough I like old wooden boats because,well,they have character and charm.But allas a lot of maintenence as with GRP.I think I have worked out that a good FC is far easier to own and maintain if ya don't need to change the layout,steel is easier to change around but apparently"rust never sleeps!"And GRP has osmossis issues.I also dread the thought of Popping a plank or two on a wooden boat.Now this might not seem to answer ya thread to well,but,for a home owner about to sell and buy a boat to liveaboard with no sailing experience,longevity is upper most in my mind.Now if I could just find an FC with twin keels,a saloon to die for,a cosey berth with head and shower,and wheel stearing I would be in heaven.Hartley Queenslander is my first choice for all the above reasons.Mudnut.
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Old 27-01-2007, 09:33   #3
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I have to admit I don't know much either. I like the idea of ferrocement boats though.

Fiberglass, although relatively easy to work with, is not exactly comfortable. Glass slivers all in your skin really irritates. Plus the problems with osmosis. Also, this is just a personal thing, but I dislike the way fiberglass products feel. I dunno how to explain it, but whenever I sit in a chair that's fiberglass, or in my bathtub which is also fiberglass it just isn't comfortable, while a wooden chair, or even a cement bench is much better. Nevertheless, fiberglass production boats ARE cheap.

Steel rusts. Also, it's hard to bring along extra steel and a welder in case you need to make repairs somewhere remote. Other than those I got no problem with steel, if you could make it stop rusting it'd be almost perfect.

Wood rots if not well taken care of. Although, I have much more respect for wood than I used to after reading several of the Pardey's books. I think if properly built, it wouldn't be too big of a problem to take care of. My only problem with it is the rising price of wood. Wood now, especially good wood isn't exactly cheap.

Ferrocement. If not properly built, you can have rust problems with the internal metal, just like steel. From what I hear it can be brittle. But, if properly mixed, and allowed to cure for a reasonable amount of time, steel reinforced cement is very strong. There's also the repair factor, anywhere you've got sand and water, if you bring along a bag of cement, and maybe a bit of wire, you can repair most reasonable damage. The big thing that attracts me is the price. If you build it yourself, it's cheap. Although this is dangerous if you don't know what you're doing.

Personally, I think any boat that hits a reef has a pretty good chance of being lost, no matter what it's made of. A boat with a big enough hole in it will sink.
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Old 27-01-2007, 10:00   #4
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What puts me off a Ferro Boat is not knowing if it IS good or not (and from the re-sale prices it appears I am not the only one!), which leaves building from scratch.......

Building myself is not on, so would have to pay someone else to build one. BUT once the costs of fitting out are included the outcome is a boat that is still worth far less (50%?) of a vessel made in GRP, Steel and possibly even wood..........but which was not also 50% of the cost to build.

I think Ferro is one for the self builders - but even then I would think longggggg and hard before choosing Ferro over steel, just for the resale value - even if I thought Ferro was slightly better.

But having said all the above I would love to hear from someone with an older ferro boat or someone who has built one.
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Old 27-01-2007, 11:41   #5
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Quote:
I was wondering if we could all have an intelligent, rational talk about these vessels
I've never seen one, but hope springs eternal, they say.
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Old 27-01-2007, 12:38   #6
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Sean, During the Ferro Era many boats were back yard construction. Some of these done well and others using the wrong materials and in the wrong conditions. Some were built by qualified builders. So my first approach to considering one of these boats is to do some thorough research on the boats origin. What has been the history after construction. Next you would need a surveyor really familiar with the plus and minus points of this kind of construction and not just one that has a cursory knowledge. The concept was sound but the execution in many cases, not so sound. That is the difficulty in choosing this type of vessel. The interiors in many cases where owner completed so as you say they are not easy to change. So, is the interior something that you can live with doing maybe some minor modifications. Other materials such as fiberglass or steel are a more familiar construction method and there are many more professionals available to assess their condition and seaworthiness as well as much more literature available to a potential owner.
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Old 27-01-2007, 14:47   #7
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Steel rusts and ferro...

If you want to stop steel from rusting paint works wonders.
Having built a ferro boat I think that the two main issues are stability and build quality.
The two are inter-related. Ferro should be built fairly thin. I seem to remember 3/4" on my Hartley RORC 32' so the first check is to get some impression on how thick the hull/deck is.
If the cabin etc have been built of ferro and/or scrap iron ballast was used then stability issues could be a concern, more so if offshore work is intended.
If the hull/deck are of the correct thickness and there is no sign of cracking/rusting then the rest of the boat could be considered.
Using a surveyor with experience in ferro is, of course, essential.
The real probem with ferro that I found when I was looking for a boat was that they are so well liked that the price is excessive.
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Old 27-01-2007, 15:13   #8
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Like most here I have seen some absolute shoccker's in Ferro, but also ply ,steel and composite.

But have sailed on a footpath once out through the Southport Seaway when it was blowing 30 + knot's, which really makes the entrance interesting.

This thing just sucked up the heavy weather, a wonderfull thing, but apparently suffered in the light.

This one was faired and painted well and was real hard to pick as a footpath, and the $$$ were quite high on the sale, but cheaper than a name brand Tupperware boat.

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Old 27-01-2007, 15:28   #9
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i sailed from nz to aus through vanuatu solomons and png on a 65 ft one we went through a cat 2 cyclone and it like cat said it held up really well in the heavy weather, it was a little slow however and needed a fair bit of sail to maintain 6knots
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Old 27-01-2007, 17:30   #10
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I looked into buying a ferro yacht too. The attraction is the low prices for some pretty nice looking boats. The reason there is such a wide range of construction quality is that many backyard builders were fooled into thinking that building in concrete is easy. The actual process of pouring and trowelling the concrete is a huge job, and it has to be done quickly - before the cement starts to set. Therefore you need a lot of people to do it right - and too often it wasnt done right which can lead to huge problems later.

Having said that, an old ferro boat is possibly a safe bet - if it was going to have problems it would likely have done so already. They can be cheap to buy, and probably hard to sell, but good value if you get a good one.
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Old 27-01-2007, 22:56   #11
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One of the biggest issues with FC is that most all negative information is of second hand new's. Brent here on the CF would be the first person I have ever come across that has had a first hand experiance of shipwreck and losing an FC vessel. All other stories I have heard are all second hand "some guy some where" stories, with no actuall date of when the incedent may have happend.
OK, so here is a little info that may help. FC construction is the second oldes construction method of boats. Wood being the first of course. FC came from a Frech method of building and the name actually comes from the French word "ferciment". The earliest boat to be built in FC is believed to be in the very early 1800's. However, a Frenchman (Joseph Lambot) patented the process around 1855. In the later years of the 1800's, commercial shipping was being built by the Italians and the Dutch. But it was the Norwegans that changed history compleatly by building large ships. The Naval archetect Fougner had his first design launched in 1917. followed closely by two others in 1918. The biggest was a 1000ton ship called teh M.S. Askelad. One of the largest vessels built was an amercian oil tanker of 6300tons in 1920.
The very first FC boat built in NZ was in 1964, built by an Amercan by the name of Dr Robert Griffiths. The boat was called Awhanee and was a 53ft cutter.
The saying that a Kiwi could make anything from No.8 wire and bailing twine was a famouse saying that came out of WW2. Kiwi's in the 60's had not lost that skill and many FC boats began to pop up everywhere. Richard Hartley and Brian Donovan were accredited FC boat designers and within a decade, FC plans by Richard Hartley out sold all other designs worldwide. Proffesional builders started building in 6 different countries being NZ of course, South Africa, Holland, England, Australia and Ireland.
The nightmares of FC building came around the early 70's. One or two bad ones were built in NZ, but that was rare fro here. It was the backyarder in many other countries that had little clue to what was required to make a boat. He had no idea of where the true cost came into the boat, many often thinking the Hull was where all the hard work and money was to be spent and so FC was cheap and relitively easy, requiring no specialised tools or even facilities. But sadly, they later found out that it was time consuming and the fitting out was were the true cost came in. This gave birth to many of the totaly unfinished hulls sitting out in paddocks and yards. The builder being totaly disolusioned with the project and some not even thinking of the cost of getting the boat to the water. The few proffesional yards having ago at building soon went out of business because the time of building FC was too long and labour intensive to make it economical for them.
Other major issues, and the issues that has given FC the bad rap, is the backyarder that had no idea of how the medium of FC works. This is still true today by the way. Few understand how it works and how it gets it's strength. So anyway, mistakes were often made by a backyarder, for one simple reason. They did not follow the plan. Like any boat, whether it be steel, glass wood, what ever, the boat is designed for the weight of the material it is being built from. By the way, JUST because a hull is FC, does not mean it will be automaticaly heavey. Many of the FC boats are built in the days of wide full hull design and it is the design that makes the boat heavy. Some backyarders thinking it was the Cement that gave the hull strength, didn't seem to get there head around the fact that the hull needed to be thin. So they applied way to thick a layer of cement on the hull. Some deviated fromt he desing and built upper deck area's from FC, when the desing had been calculated using Ply. And some took boats plans that had never been converted to be built in FC at all. The worst story I have heard of (secondhand :-) was of one boat being launched in the Us down a slipway. It just kept going down. One story I personaly know of localy here, was a 60ft launch that every single structure had been built in FC. The boat was so top heavey, it was compleatly unstable and uncomfortable when a float.
HOWEVER, all the horrors aside, the good thing today is that most of those horro stories no longer exist. That was 30yrs ago now and those boats have mostly been destroyed. If anyone finds anything that has never made it to the sea and was built back in that era, I strongly suggest some major research being done before purchase.
Now to some of the "oldwives tales". Probably one of the most common you will come across is that the Armature in FC can rust if there is a crack or hole. Actually this is totaly untrue. Firstly you have to understand something important. Cement is a Chemical and chemicaly reacts with steel. Or more importantly, Rust. It turns rust into an inert compound (sorry the name escapes me at the mo. I will edit it in later when I remember it) stopping the rust from continueing and allowing the cement to "bond" to the steel. The rust that you may at time see weeping down the outside of a hull is actually often a tie wire that the tip of it has been to close to the cement surface. There is no underlying issues that will cause the cement to "fall off" the hull.
The next tale is weight. FC is often considered plain and simple heavey. But that is also not true. Much of the "sluggishness" of these hulls comes from there design era. The time when hull design was "full bodied". GRP brought in the lightweight speed demons we see today. But they are slender and flat hulled. Not an easy desing to do in FC, although I don't see why it couldn't be done. The big difference is the fact that the modern hull has a Bolt on keel, often witht eh ballast being much further down. FC hull design had one major advantage. The keel was part of the Hull. Personaly I like that.
Another tale is strength. FC is designed very differently to other materials for one reason major difference. Strength is all about load transference. FC lends itself to dissipating huge loads into it's structure and it is this abilty that gives it great strength. Yes Brent lost his boat, yes others have been lost, but then I also know of some boats that have been lost but the hull is still intaked and has been pounded for years and still remains intaked. In all situations that I know, Steel, Wood and Glass will not escape any destruction anymore than FC would in the same situation.
It's hard to repair!. No it's not actually. It is one of the simplest medieums and certainly the cheapest of all to repair.
I will stop this here now. If you anyone has any questions I may not have covered, please feel free to ask and I or maybe some others will be able to answer.
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Old 27-01-2007, 23:38   #12
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Hi all my boats old (40) small (30) light (3.5) and has a hull thickness of (three eighths of one inch). It was built upside down over a timber blank. It has a three quarter keel with a roll top coach roof of ply. It wont beat a modern sports boat, but it puts most trailer sailers to shame. It has full standing head room and is fitted out like an old first class train. Big comfy couch and glowing timbers. When its got its gunnels in the water (often) it tracks like a train. When hanging on anchor with the rain pouring and the wind in the rigging, music on, with a beer and a good book is just magic. oh by the way its ferro....................and it cost me 4 grand !cheers Martin
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Old 28-01-2007, 03:09   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cooper
Hi all my boats old (40) small (30) light (3.5) and has a hull thickness of (three eighths of one inch). It was built upside down over a timber blank. It has a three quarter keel with a roll top coach roof of ply. It wont beat a modern sports boat, but it puts most trailer sailers to shame. It has full standing head room and is fitted out like an old first class train. Big comfy couch and glowing timbers. When its got its gunnels in the water (often) it tracks like a train. When hanging on anchor with the rain pouring and the wind in the rigging, music on, with a beer and a good book is just magic. oh by the way its ferro....................and it cost me 4 grand !cheers Martin
Hey Martin,you and Wheels wouldn't own FC's by any chance would ya. Looks like the fire didn't get ya after all,have ya posted anything on the fires yet,what did ya end up doing about the boat and protecting her?Rather have a 45yr old FC than a 25yr old GRP.Mudnut.
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Old 28-01-2007, 10:01   #14
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At the mo, the outside of my Ferro is in dire need of a re-paint. That is on the to do list end of this year, early next year. Another plus for FC. The paint is cosmetic only. It is not protective. So unlike Steel or timber, haveing paint in poor condition has no affect on the hull at all.
But inside is lovely (well I love it) and if you dig into the Gallery you will see some photo's. Every body that steps foot on board all go Wow! Having said that, I have seen some very shabby FC interiors. Often reflecting the fact that the reason the boat was built FC int he first place was because of budget restraints and sadly those restraints were carried on visually through the interrior. Plus the fact that it was a boat that was so easy to build that those lacking real skills in word work often carried out the fitting out. I was fortunate that the interior of mine was fitted out proffesionaly.
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Old 28-01-2007, 13:45   #15
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Great info, Wheels! I enjoyed the read and learned a lot about ferro boats. When I had mentioned that one that Brent lost, and another boater I had met who lost a sizeable ketch, I wasn't implying ferro would be lost more easily. I said, "That doesn't mean anything one way or the other.", meaning it doesn't mean anything regarding the quality of the boat. Just a couple stories that say it isn't steel.

Anyway, thanks for the educational posts here. I have enjoyed learning.
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