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Old 19-01-2011, 16:04   #1
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Ferro Cement ?

I am looking at a Ferro Cement boat and know very little about them. If anyone has one I would love to know what to look for when I go to check her out next month, also how can I tell if the cement was properly dried.
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Old 19-01-2011, 16:32   #2
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Hi Elsakis,

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to analyze a ferro hull at a glance. All the important bits (the steel mesh grid, for example) are buried away where they can't be seen. Even the best surveyors, experts in this form of construction, have a pretty hard time with it.

If you're just looking, keep an eye out for smooth, fair surfaces (waviness and irregularities are signs of less-than-professional construction). Look for evidence of rust weeping, cracks in the cement or paint, and irregularities in the texture of the surface. (This is, of course, in addition to the usual inspection of fittings, systems, driveline, rig, etc.)

If you see anything obviously wrong or unusual with the hull, consider it a sign to look elsewhere. If you don't see anything obviously wrong, though, do NOT take this to mean the boat is OK. There's still a lot that can go wrong with ferro that most of us will overlook, or that's so well hidden that we'd never be able to find it. This is where the professional surveyor comes in, and if you are seriously considering the boat, you really should track down someone familiar with ferro who knows exactly what types of problems are likely to occur and how to identify them.
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Old 19-01-2011, 16:34   #3
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If you are unfamiliar with ferro cement boats, the best thing you could do is hire a surveyor that is familiar with them.

Often times I have seen boats that at first glance seemed to be complete junk, but upon closer inspection it came down to cosmetics, and I have checked boats that looked pristine, that upon closer scrutiny showed numerous structural flaws.

Find out if it was homebuilt in someones back yard, or it was built by a professional yard.

Look very closely anywhere there is wood (caprails, edges of the deckhouse etc...) attached to the concrete. These areas are notorious for holding moisture against the concrete which tends to drive the moisture into the upper parts of the armature and caused all kinds of devilment.

I often find waterlogged/rotted wood in these areas of constant contact, especially it they have left the topcoat go.

Down below, if the interior of the hull is freshly painted, be suspect! Find an inconspicuous corner somewhere and scape through to the previous coat, if it is badly discolored by a rusty orange color, somewhere water has penetrated the mortar sufficiently to start some issues. Does not necessarily make it a deal breaker, but closer inspection is needed.

How are the fuel tanks mounted? Are they molded into the hull? If so spend a lot of time looking and sniffing for any potential seepage around the edges of the tank where it attaches to the hull. If the boat is on the hard, look real close at the hull from the outside from a slight distance and make sure you don't see a shadow of the fuel tanks from outside ( would mean that it is no longer sealed and you are getting a diesel "beard" showing up outside).

There are literally tons more to check on the hull and its construction, not to mention all the standard sailboat stuff.
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Old 20-01-2011, 00:33   #4
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There are plenty of ferro naysayers on this forum who'll probably chime in soon, but don't be put off by them. If you get a good ferro, you'll be getting a lot of boat for your money and it will last forever with next to no maintenance other than the usual antifoul. A properly built ferro is exquisitely inert - none of the usual boat material 'predators' can touch it.

But you're asking how to pick a good one and the advice above is good. Further, it's very important to know who built it. For example, there are lots of ferros around here and most were by the one quality builder - all those boats are very safe bets and will last forever. It will help a lot if you can get info on the builder and perhaps on his other work.

So research on its makers is important, as is info on the designer. Anything by Hartley or Samson and a handful of others will be good; lesser known designs can be good but are more of a risk. Keep in mind that it was the rush of amateur designs, rather than sub standard construction, that was the cause of the subsequent bad press for the material.
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Old 20-01-2011, 02:18   #5
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We own one

Good Advise from At Sea and also from Small Yachts. As a rule of thumb the ones built by professionals would be OK whilst some of those built in backyards will not be ok.
I do not like fuel or water tanks to be built from cement, polytanks are better and will allow air to circulate. Unlike Small Yachts I have not had any nor heard of any problems with "Look very closely anywhere there is wood (caprails, edges of the deckhouse etc...) attached to the concrete. These areas are notorious for holding moisture against the concrete which tends to drive the moisture into the upper parts of the armature and caused all kinds of devilment". Once the cement has fully dried it is impermeable to water so should not be an issue.
Good paint systems are important, we use Johnstons range of commercial paint, the paint stops people pointing at you pride and joy an saying "Old Wood". We are frequently mistaken for steel, never Ferro.

Get a good (one with ferro experience) surveyor and a good insurance agent (we use "Yachtmaster Insurance" in the UK).

PM me if you want to "talk".

Simes
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Old 20-01-2011, 04:03   #6
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If the hull looks like its Ferro....RUN! If it looks like its FRP, then take a closer look.
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Old 20-01-2011, 04:56   #7
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We currently own two ferro boats, both suffered from moisture issues in the top of the shears from continual contact with moist wood. This was caused by the Previous Owners not keeping the wood sealed and the boats being in Florida's high humidity environment. Water migrates down, through wood and cement. So a crack in the paint that goes through to the wood up on the cabin sides or on top of the caprail will migrate downwards.

In the several dozen ferro boats I have been involved with either in repairs or inspection for purchase, around 10 - 15% had evidence of moisture entering the upper part of the caprail/shear or moisture traveled down the wood cabin sides and sat on the deck/cabin joint and the resultant damage caused by rust expansion, further cracking the concrete which then cascades the problem.

Those of you who do not think portland will absorb moisture, when was the last time you had the top piece of your caprail off and inspected the area underneath it?

But once again, this is not a deal breaker. And in fact can be used to the buyers advantage as a negotiating tool.
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Old 20-01-2011, 05:41   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smallyachts View Post
We currently own two ferro boats, both suffered from moisture issues in the top of the shears from continual contact with moist wood. This was caused by the Previous Owners not keeping the wood sealed and the boats being in Florida's high humidity environment. Water migrates down, through wood and cement. So a crack in the paint that goes through to the wood up on the cabin sides or on top of the caprail will migrate downwards.
I agree it's smart not to fasten wood directly onto any boat building material without a perfect seal. On other wood it causes rot, on steel it causes rust. On ferro, well, smallyachts has told us. Most of the wood we're talking about anyway is decorative.

But I confess I doubt that water can migrate through a sound portland surface to cause the damage mentioned - without that surface having been previously fractured or otherwise penetrated. I'd suggest that maybe the water followed the penetrations caused by the caprail's fastenings, or the fractures on the sheer caused by some prior collision damage.
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Old 20-01-2011, 06:37   #9
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AtSea's post#4 pretty much nails it as far as the requirement to find a reputable professionally designed and properly constructed FC boat. Otherwise you are entering into a mine-field of uncertainty and unknowns.
- - Unfortunately, there are too many badly done FC boats out there and one side-effect is that they are virtually uninsurable by any reputable marine insurance carrier. That is not a problem if you never intend or desire to insure the boat.
- - Another side effect is that with FC you can get twice the size boat for half the cost. I have seen some "minimalist budget" cruisers on large FC boats doing quite fine. There is a natural tendancy for new boat buyers on minimalist budgets to try to get too large a boat for their pocket book.
- - Although polyester resin (fiberglass) boats also have some rather inferior builders who make "cheap - price point" boats, there is a larger percentage of sturdy, serviceable, and reliable fiberglass boats available. But since they are insurable and make up the mainstream of the market for used boats, the prices are significantly higher for the same size FC boat.
- - It boils down to there is a better chance of finding a "gem" amongst the Fiberglass boats than amongst the FC boats.
- - But in either case, FC or FRG, you need to do the homework and learn who, what, and where it is most likely to discover such a gem. If such self-education is too much work, then it is better to stay in the fiberglass pool of boats.
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Old 20-01-2011, 06:50   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simes View Post
Good Advise from At Sea and also from Small Yachts. As a rule of thumb the ones built by professionals would be OK whilst some of those built in backyards will not be ok.
I do not like fuel or water tanks to be built from cement, polytanks are better and will allow air to circulate. Unlike Small Yachts I have not had any nor heard of any problems with "Look very closely anywhere there is wood (caprails, edges of the deckhouse etc...) attached to the concrete. These areas are notorious for holding moisture against the concrete which tends to drive the moisture into the upper parts of the armature and caused all kinds of devilment". Once the cement has fully dried it is impermeable to water so should not be an issue.
Good paint systems are important, we use Johnstons range of commercial paint, the paint stops people pointing at you pride and joy an saying "Old Wood". We are frequently mistaken for steel, never Ferro.

Get a good (one with ferro experience) surveyor and a good insurance agent (we use "Yachtmaster Insurance" in the UK).

PM me if you want to "talk".

Simes
Hi Simes.... I'm in the early stages of looking at a ferro cutter but have only been told that it was built in the late 70's by a boatbuilder in Plymouth.. don't suppose you've any idea who built ferro's in the UK back then...
Cheers, Phil
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Old 20-01-2011, 13:25   #11
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Hi Boatman,

A chap named Mick Harrison in Essex (Fambridge), Windcraft in Plymouth, Chris (Nick) Cairncross(?). Mick (the Brick) is still alive but is now retired, windcraft closed there doors in the mid to late 80s.

Half the issue was finding a well run yard. There were half a dozen small teams of plasterers around the Essex / Sussex area that were turning out nicely built Ferro hulls until just recently, they may well still be working.

Here in Cowes there are three live-aboard ferro boats and a 35 foot cutter that is simply the most beautiful cutter you have ever seen.
Ours is Talisman of Fambridge, a 63' (loa) 45' (lod) Schooner, Friends live aboard a 60' Hartley Tahitian now in Malaga, other friends have a 55' Hartley in Island Harbour.
Insurance was easy, as was finding a qualified surveyor (look to Naval Architects not Yacht / Small craft surveyors)
Jay Benford in the USA has designed some outstanding ferro yachts, check out his "Sandbagger" a ferro racing dingy with a hull thickness of 1/8th inch.

Please do not dismiss ferro out of hand. Those of us that have them tend to love them. Not for every one, but they are for us.

Simes
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Old 20-01-2011, 14:47   #12
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Thanks for the input. I can't wait 'til I go look at her in a few weeks, too busy with work and she is about 1000 miles away. I have fixed up my last few boats so I don't mind the work, I just haven't worked on FC before. I hope that she is in good shape as she is about twice the boat that others in my budget are.
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