First fact: the majority of pleasure boat losses happen at 'at the dock'. And statistically wood boats are worst followed by steel
, both with potential "hidden problems". Glass is most reliable 'at the dock' . . . it essentially lasts 'forever' with essentially zero corrosion
or other degradation problem (blisters and wet core
usually don't sink the boat at the dock).
Second fact: IF you design/build to the SAME WEIGHT . . . . the most advance composite can easily be made the 'strongest' . . . and excellent at essentially any engineering criteria you pick (for instance modulus or fatigue) depending on the exact composite design . . . . but also by far the most expensive (by a factor of 10 or more) and most difficult to repair (to full strength). Aluminum
will be a close second in strength and much more 'reasonable' in cost. (this is why planes are composite and aluminum). And (usually) pretty easy to repair back to full strength.
Third fact: in common construction, without equalized weights, steel
boats are the 'toughest' - abrasion and cut resistant (unlike aluminum), elastic enough to adsorb blows without breaking (unlike common glass), and the easiest to repair to full strength. But steel (in common construction) is heavy (slow) and requires significant maintenance
work and has typically has relatively low resale value.
Fourth fact: for normal cruising, any of the materials is perfectly fine if used in a well designed and well built hull
. They all work, they all can be excellent, and they all can be terrible. It depends much much much more on design and construction quality than on the particular material. For special purpose uses (like very big or very small hulls, or ice usage or extremely high fatigue usage) it is a bit more complex and there are some material preferences but they are really beyond the scope
of this thread.