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Old 11-02-2015, 23:17   #1
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Owners opinions on aluminium boats?

I have been looking at aluminum boats recently, and for some reason can't bring myself to like them. Whenever I see them, all I can think is noise, cold, electrolysis and corrosion. Are any of these actual problems? I really like how strong aluminium boats are and the potential for polar cruising, but can't get past thinking about the downsides. It would be great if anyone could tell me about how they deal with these problems, and possibly name some aluminium boats between 35-45 feet suitable for polar cruising.

Thanks in advance for answering.

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Old 12-02-2015, 00:28   #2
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Re: Owners opinions on aluminium boats?

My first thought after reading your opening sentence is if you can't bring yourself to like aluminum boats, don't fight it. Choose a different material. Boats are not supposed to be just liked. They are to be loved!!

On to your questions:

-Noise is not a problem if the hull is insulated with blown-in foam.

-Cold. Interior temperature control is excellent with blown-in foam insulation. Very cosy. On the otherhand, sitting outside on the metal decks will freeze your butt off in winter unless you have a cushion.

-Electrolysis. Volumes have been written about this subject. For me the simple answer is that Panope has never had any hull electrolysis. She has never been plugged into shore power (boat was first launched in 1982).

-Corrosion. Panope has experienced very little paint bubbling over the years. The tiny bit corrosion that has developed under the paint as all occurred above water line. The boat was painted "industrial style" meaning thick paint applied with a brush and roller with no attempt to create a glossy finish. This bumpy paint work will hide bubbling paint to a certain extent and when (if) the corrosion becomes noticeable, a quick sanding and spot painting (with a brush) is easy. Note: I have never executed a spot paint repair on Panope but she has been completely repainted twice (never stripped to bare metal).

As somone who is comfortable working/welding aluminum, I find the benefits of this material far outweigh the downsides.


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Old 12-02-2015, 02:25   #3
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Re: Owners opinions on aluminium boats?

Well ... Panope gave a very good answer ... I'd just add that always insulating your dissimilar metals is important for avoiding galvanic corrosion.

Look at the French and Dutch alloy yachts ... garcia, alubat, meta, as well as some of the less well known / one-off yards.
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Old 12-02-2015, 02:30   #4
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Re: Owners opinions on aluminium boats?

I am currently refitting a 47 foot aluminium cruiser that was very cheap because it was badly neglected by the previous owner. You can see details in my thread in the refit forum.

The boat is very quiet even in rough seas due to being strongly welded, very stiff, and having blown in foam.

I have had to resolve a number of severe areas of corrosion / electrolysis, including holes in the hull, holes in the fuel tank, plate thinning, corroded welds, and corrosion at the mast base. I am in the process of grinding the paint, fairing, and corrosion off where there is deformation, then priming/fairing/sanding/priming/painting.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about aluminium boats on the internet but resolving these issues has given me a good understanding of how and why corrosion and electrolysis occurs in an aluminium boat. It has also made me confident that any issue I find can be reasonably easily resolved by a grinder or welder.

1. aluminium oxide protects the metal. The corrosion in my boat has always been in areas of low oxygen, such as between metal plates, underneath damaged paint, under diesel, or under wet wood or foam. Most if not all corrosion in my boat could have been avoided if the previous owner had fixed the deck leaks and quickly addressed any paint deformation. If all areas of the boat are easily inspected you can quickly identify a problem (e.g corrosion under damaged paint) and fix it.

2. aluminium should not be in contact with most other metals. Some of the corrosion on my boat could have been avoided by welding on aluminium fittings instead of using stainless steel screws and bolts to attach stainless steel fittings. Isolating the metals will also help to avoid electrolysis.

If a steel, wood, or fibreglass boat had had a similar amount of neglect as my boat I think they would have much worse issues to resolve (rust, rot, osmosis etc)
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Old 12-02-2015, 02:55   #5
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Re: Owners opinions on aluminium boats?

Boreal from 44' and up. Boréal Yachts : des Tropiques aux Grands Froids

Full description, factory tour, design comments and test sail here on Morgan's Cloud Series: A Go-Anywhere Voyaging Boat—The Boréal 44 (Free) «

A well built insulated aluminum (or steel) boat is the warmest, driest, quietest boat built. No deck leaks as every fitting is welded on. Most survivable if you hit a hard object or end up on the beach.
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Old 12-02-2015, 04:06   #6
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Re: Owners opinions on aluminium boats?

We had one for 6 months. Spent a chunk having unseen failed welds below deck and below floor fixed. Promptly got rid of it. Saw one recently that was purchased by a happy new owner until the yard pressure washed her. It revealed so many holes it was amazing the boat hadn't sank.

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Old 12-02-2015, 09:05   #7
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Re: Owners opinions on aluminium boats?

As an owner of an aluminum boat that once had a well known French production boat, there is no way I would go back. Unless maybe I wanted a little pocket cruiser.

The strength and sense of security that a well made aluminum boat provides is hard to beat. On the other hand aluminum is like teak, it does not particularly care for anything coating it. It likes to provide it's own coating and leave it at that. Many find raw aluminum beautiful and easy to care for.

My Meta has a coating of zinc silicate applied by the factory which not many other metal boat builders have chosen to do. The Metas are typically made with the Strongal method which involves very think alloy plates with little to no internal structural members.

As mentioned previously the French and Dutch are the most active alloy builders but there are great examples from South Africa, New Zealand and even the USA.

Victor Raymond
S/V Rajah Laut
1988 Meta Dalu 47

completion by Peter Smith
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