Like many would be cruisers, we're constrained by the size of our wallet.
We bought a 35' Hartley Queenslander Ketch
for the princely sum of $14k, which was all we could afford for a good sized boat
It's a little bedraggled paint
wise, but other than that, it seems to be sound enough. Concrete properly cured is essentially impervious to water
, and doesn't rust or rot
. The armature is in an anaerobic environment
and can't rust as long as the cement is intact. (Rust traces from bleedthrough of the mesh are not a structural issue, just cosmetic.) Serious bleedthrough is, exploding ballast in the keel
is a major issue, but this is quite rare now, most boats that have had these issues are no longer floating (for one reason or another).
Concrete is strong, durable and largely unaffected by water
, fresh or salt
This is why the Colosseum (or the Flavian if you are a purist) is still (mostly) standing and why bridges built fifty years ago across arms of the sea are also still sound, so a little thing like lack of paint
is far less of an issue to a ferro hull
than just about any other type.
Our boat was built (by sheer coincidence, since she's currently in Sydney) at Port Lincoln, S.A. not that far from here, in the mid seventies.
I've seen and heard all the dreck about ferro hulls and I think I understand most of the justification behind it. As others have said, ease of hull
repair is one attraction, a certain amount of trepidation about how well the hull was built (as they are nearly all amateur built) and the difficulty of determining if the hull was soundly constructed or not. This is perfectly reasonable, or more correctly, was perfectly reasonable in the ten or so years after a hull is built.
The sea is a great sifter of men
and machines. And ferro hulls. My boat has been well travelled in her earlier years (we believe she cruised extensively in and around Oz under the name 'Aussie Blue' - if anyone knows her then owners or ever came across her in their travels, we'd love to hear from you, this would have been in the eighties and early nineties.)
It's now been something over thirty years since she was first put in the water. Assuming she's done a reasonable amount of cruising (and there is evidence to support that) it's unlikely there's any serious defect in the hull or construction, or quite frankly, she would probably be a reef somewhere instead of tugging at her mooring
waiting for us to come and fetch her home. (January, all things being equal).
I had a look at the pics of that staysail schooner in Hawaii
and had a quiet drool.
Built in 78 means she's been around well over thirty years too. I'd say any serious structural issues (wear and tear on her gear
is no different to any other thirty year old boat and the usual caveats apply.) would have surfaced long ago and that's a fairly high price
for a ferro hulled boat, even one that size, so I'd be confident it was sound. The pics suggest it's been well maintained and the fitout is excellent, so there are unlikely to be any serious issues, at least with the hull.
I guess I'm suggesting that boats that are still around that were built in the heyday of ferrocement are likely to be the best
examples of the genre and not the worst, which are doubtless disintegrating slowly somewhere below or above the water and not cruising the Pacific.
Yes, it's hard (maybe impossible to insure - all insurers are b******s - but hey, the premiums over ten years probably go close to the price
of the boat, so I can simply stash the same amount and probably come out ahead.) Yes, the resale value is not high, but after ten years, I can probably get what I paid for her, with a bit of TLC along the way.
You NEVER make money
on a boat. The doomsayers are correct in that it's a hole in the water you pour money
into, but you can determine the size of the hole and how much you pour into it. One of the advantages of a ferro is that hull repair IS simple and cheap
. Yes, cement, CLEAN sand and some bonding agent, BondKrete is good, but certain epoxies are as good or perhaps better, WILL soundly repair hull damage. You may or may not need to weld in new rebar or replace damaged mesh, but the cementing is quite easy and requires no specials skills or equipment
, just a water source to ensure it cures slowly.
This may not matter in San Francisco
, but in some backwater in the Pacific, I am certain I can find sand, cement and suitable glue or the local equivalent of Bondkrete a lot easier than fibreglass repair kits for a two foot hole in the side.
The only thing easier to source if probably steel
, and all you need is a plasma cutter
and a MIG welder, but that's another side of the coin.
One other advantage worth mentioning. The keel
of a ferro boat is an integral part of the hull. It's not held on by virtue of some steel
bolts that may or may not be fretting. So the keel is NOT going to fall off or get knocked off in a collision
. I'm not saying ramming a whale isn't going to sink the boat, it well might, but a glancing blow isn't going to knock the keel off, which is something you don't want...
All hull types have their traps, issues and advantages, but the historical reasons (and they are now largely historical) for the vehement distrust of ferro hulls is, in my opinion, no longer justified. Wooden hulls require far more maintainance and steel is also prone to deterioration, I've seen boats of both types that I'd be afraid to take out of the harbour - in one case I wouldn't like to take it into
the harbour, and that was a steel
hull. Think paper thin and perforated in places...
If you are that concerned, a surveyor
that speaks Ferro (and most don't or simply don't want to) armed with the right gear
(a hammer is not the right gear) can give you a good idea of the state of the hull, the plaster and the armature beneath.
I hear low power
ground penetrating radar
will show voids and and deterioration of the armature quite well. This is third hand and I have not had this verified, but from what I understand of GPR, it's at least likely.
Just my 2c for what it's worth.