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Old 21-03-2011, 14:38   #1
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Feedback on Ferro Cement Hulls

We are currently boat shopping and are looking at a ferro cement schooner professionally built in 1991. Our current boat is steel and is turning out to be a much bigger project than originally anticipated so we're thinking of another boat(imagine that....). The broker of the new boat has sent us pictures of what seems to be "minor" damage on the port side that appears to have been clumsily repaired. We're thinking of a major trip to go look at it but have a steep learning curve before us. Of course we'll get a survey but I don't want to waste the $$ unneccessarily.

We are experienced at major fiberglass and steel repairs but have zero experience with cement and can't afford to have yard bills suck up all our money.

I'm looking for the following:
Are cement boats good cruisers, live aboards, are they in anyway different sailors than glass or metal boats?

Anything unusual I should look at when deciding whether I'm truly interested in going ahead with the deal?

Finally, I've looked at sites that show how to repair ferro cement, but would love some input from someone who's actually done it.

Thanks,
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Old 21-03-2011, 15:01   #2
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Re: Feedback on Ferro Cement hulls

I own a Samson C Bird ferro cement boat. I think anything with enough room for you would make a good live aboard.
What model and size are you looking at?
Who was it built by?
I have never had to to do any repairs on mine but heard it is more cost effective and easier than most other materials. If it has been properly built and the survey checks out I say go for it you can get allot of boat for the money.
Theres other people on here that know more and one guy who makes stuff for repairs on them, I'm sure they will chime and and give there 2 cents too.
Good luck.
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Old 21-03-2011, 15:01   #3
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Re: Feedback on Ferro Cement hulls

Everybody has their favorite boat material. But I would point out a few differences between lets say steel, (or any metal), plastic, and concrete. Steel has the best strenght to weight, but corrodes in salt water. It is impact resistant, lightening proof, easily repaired by welding. Flexible, tends to dent rather than break. But takes a fair amount of maintenance to fix corrosion problems, (constant painting, x-rays, ultrsounds, etc...).

Plastic, can get osmosis, water proof, generally floats with minimal floatation. Can be repaired with epoxy, some flexibility and impact resistance, but way less than steel, extremly light weight. Does not corrode unless you are sailing in a sea of kerosene or MEK, and did I mention waterproof? 90% of boats are now made of plastic due to low cost, almost no maintenance, and lightest building material currently known to man, (except balsa wood).

Ferro cement, steel imbedded in concrete. The heavyest building material known to man. Slightly cheaper than plastic or steel. Saltwater osmotically seeps through to steel core and corrodes. Requires extensive maintenance. Does NOT float. Cement slowly loses bonds from salt migration, and returns to sand. There is a cool fishing reef near where I live that is a ferro cement ship that sank.

I'm not saying ferro cement is bad, (it makes great roads!). It is just NOT my first choice for a boat building material. I'm sure I'll get many posts from rabid ferro cement owners about how they sailed theirs around the world 10 times and across the north pole twice. Thats great, I still wouldn't want one, if I needed an ice breaker I would pick steel. For anything else I would use plastic, I never have to worry about it springing a leak because the salt water ate through the hull.
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Old 21-03-2011, 15:19   #4
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Re: Feedback on Ferro Cement hulls

''Ferro cement, steel imbedded in concrete. The heavyest building material known to man. Slightly cheaper than plastic or steel. Saltwater osmotically seeps through to steel core and corrodes. Requires extensive maintenance. Does NOT float. Cement slowly loses bonds from salt migration, and returns to sand. There is a cool fishing reef near where I live that is a ferro cement ship that sank.

I'm not saying ferro cement is bad, (it makes great roads!).''


ROFLMFAO........You must have owned a couple of them did you?????
I'd love to know what ones, and who's back yard they were built in ???
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Old 21-03-2011, 16:21   #5
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Steel repairs?

May I suggest having a long hard think about what it will take to repair your current boat, which sounds rather similar to mine.

Why not get a surveyor experienced with steel boats to have a look. He should be able to specify what repairs are needed and point you in the right direction to get it all costed. Getting him to have a good look at the rest of the boat may also be an idea.

Almost all older boats are going to have faults. One of the problems with steel is that it tends to show them more than other materials.
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Old 21-03-2011, 17:11   #6
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Re: Feedback on Ferro Cement hulls

It's a 55' schooner designed by William Garden. Beautiful lines. Odd layout below with only one dedicated stateroom and a "great cabin" aft. The settees can be used for friends/crew but in essence it's a 55' boat that sleeps two. (That's OK with me). Thanks.
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Old 21-03-2011, 17:19   #7
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Re: Steel repairs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boracay View Post
May I suggest having a long hard think about what it will take to repair your current boat, which sounds rather similar to mine.

Why not get a surveyor experienced with steel boats to have a look. He should be able to specify what repairs are needed and point you in the right direction to get it all costed. Getting him to have a good look at the rest of the boat may also be an idea.

Almost all older boats are going to have faults. One of the problems with steel is that it tends to show them more than other materials.
Dear Boracay - Our Roberts is definitely a work in progress and doable. My husband went to welding school and we've hired a professional welder from time to time to help him get the practice he needs. As we got further into the project we decided that we'd be stupid not to know what the inner hull looks like so I completely gutted the boat while his back was turned. Now we know exactly what we have and we can rebuild to our standards. The down side is it will take at least 2 years fulltime and a wheelbarrow full of money. My greatest wish is to go sailing fairly soon, not 2 - 5 years.

Sorry to run on, I'm torn about abandoning the Roberts.
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Old 21-03-2011, 17:27   #8
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Re: Feedback on Ferro Cement hulls

redhead-
I just posted about a gorgeous boat I saw today. FYI;
52' ferro cement - Boating, Sailing and Cruising Forum: For Cruisers - BY Cruisers
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Old 21-03-2011, 18:00   #9
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Re: Feedback on Ferro Cement hulls

Quote:
Sorry to run on, I'm torn about abandoning the Roberts.
You owe nothing to the past except what you can do going forward. You learn as you go and you change when it's right. There isn't anything fundamentally wrong doing that. Loyalty is to yourselves and the idea - not the boat.

There is looking before you leap. It sounds like you are looking but not leaping. It's not about being torn about the past. It's about being objective about the options. If you can lay aside the past and look forward there may be an option to stay and an option to move. Finding the one that works is the task!

Myself I would not invest a lot of money in speculation about a boat you know nothing about. Leaving both options open means there is no being torn today. Emotional investment in a boat that can't be sailed is not productive. You need to see the potentials as a function about getting there (as in sailing). It isn't about this one or the one you have. It can be about the one you have and every other option out there. It's not as hard to look at it that way. You can change it to options that can work.

A big old ferro boat just isn't on my radar given I never saw it. In a wider net of options it could be. You can know the better option by doing the leg work and you need more than one option else you are changing girl friends on a dime. You could be in the same bind with less money a year from now.

If you need to rethink options then really start over. Take a full time break and seriously do it. Work the numbers! Project boats can be deal breakers and worse than that too they can be heart breakers. Don't make a decision without doing the homework. You have proved you are willing to do what it takes already. So do it.
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Old 21-03-2011, 19:40   #10
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Re: Feedback on Ferro Cement hulls

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Originally Posted by capn_billl View Post
Plastic, can get osmosis, water proof, generally floats with minimal floatation. Can be repaired with epoxy, some flexibility and impact resistance, but way less than steel, extremly light weight. Does not corrode unless you are sailing in a sea of kerosene or MEK, and did I mention waterproof? 90% of boats are now made of plastic due to low cost, almost no maintenance, and lightest building material currently known to man, (except balsa wood).

Ferro cement, steel imbedded in concrete. The heavyest building material known to man. Slightly cheaper than plastic or steel. Saltwater osmotically seeps through to steel core and corrodes. Requires extensive maintenance. Does NOT float. Cement slowly loses bonds from salt migration, and returns to sand. There is a cool fishing reef near where I live that is a ferro cement ship that sank.
Capn_billl, you post is so seriously misinformed (about both ferro and GRP) it's hard to believe you're not trolling.

But briefly, and just to correct the record, ferro is an immaculately inert boat building material that doesn't rust nor blister nor rot and it definitely does NOT "return to sand" . And it is simply NOT "steel embedded in concrete", and it's NOT necessarily heavier that steel.

And GRP is NOT the "lightest boatbuilding material known to man". GRP is signicantly heavier that most woods (eg, Douglas Fir is 32 lbs/cu.ft and e-glass is 95 lbs./cu.ft.) - if you don't believe it, simply drop a sample of each over the side.

It's such a pity that such uninformed nonsense pops up every time the word ferro appears in a topic line.
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Old 21-03-2011, 20:10   #11
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Fairly soon?

Fairly soon in Cruising terms would be about 2-3 years.

Any large cheap older boat is likely to have a host of issues that will take much time and money to put right.
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Old 21-03-2011, 20:11   #12
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Re: Feedback on Ferro Cement hulls

Any question about ferro cement hulls should consider the ones that were built to create a floating port to supply the D-Day landing beaches in Normandy. Sixty years later, they're still there. They're not floating, but they're still there.
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Old 22-03-2011, 10:56   #13
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Re: Feedback on Ferro Cement hulls

As you ask specifically about repairs to ferro I will dive in as I am nearing completion of Samson ketch refit.
There was damage to the stem where she had been run against a pontoon (before I bought her) resulting in fractures to the concrete just below the waterline. It caused a few raised eyebrows among the FG boat owners in the yard when I started swinging a pick-axe, but I was keen to do the worst to expose any failed substrate. As it happened the damage did not extend beyond the armature which was only exposed over a few centimetres.
The steel was sound but I dosed it with rust neutraliser anyway and applied a couple of coats of Zinga which is a zinc-rich resin paint. The repair was carried out with a vinyl-cement compound using a plasterer's float. After six months there is no sag nor separation.
The technology for repairing reinforced concrete is moving fast. I have now discovered a product called Arbocrete (maybe called something else where you are) which was developed for repairs to concrete motorway structures where they needed fast permanent repair with minimum road closure.
In more general terms, the only big difference between ferro and steel, FG or wood is that the hull won't take kindly to having holes cut. I discovered this when I needed a holding tank pump-out hole in the side-deck which needed a diamond tipped arbour.
I am not a ferro evangelist (boat no.1 is a classic wooden boat) but the material should not be dismissed out of hand. As others have said, some real bargains are out there mainly because of self-perpetuating myths.
P.s. Capn Billl - I have dived on a few wrecks in my time. I can't say I have been down to anything that wasn't steel, wood or FG.
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Old 22-03-2011, 11:18   #14
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Re: Feedback on Ferro Cement hulls

Many thanks - that's the kind of "concrete" advice I need. We are booking a trip to go see the boat next week. Had I known more about steel boats when I bought my Roberts, I still would have bought her, but I know I would have driven a harder bargain. Knowledge is power!
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Old 23-03-2011, 10:36   #15
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Re: Feedback on Ferro Cement hulls

OK, based on what I've learned here and what I can see from the pictures we've decided on a trip to view the boat.

QUESTION: Since I know there are two areas on portside (one is approx 1 cu ft, the other about 1x3 ft) that have been repaired clumsily is there a way I can determine (before survey) how serious the damage was? For example, I can give a layman's assessment for fiberglass or steel, but having no experience with
ferrocement are there any "tells" to indicate the seriousness of the damage?

I guess I'm being cheap (please, no laughs) but I've paid for 4 surveys over the years that later I realized I ought to have been able to see for myself.

Any help will be GREATLY appreciated!
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