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Old 09-08-2009, 14:15   #1
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Steel Boat Maintenance

What exactly is involved in maintaining a steel boat?

There seem to be a bunch of European built vessels that seem to have rather reasonable prices all over the yachtworld.com.

Is it a matter of hauling the boat out every year to replace zincs, and them painting? Much the same is required for fiberglass, no? Or is it much worse, and much more imporant?
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Old 09-08-2009, 15:06   #2
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The big difference is you will find yourself chasing down rust bleeds quite frequently. They do need anodes of course. Your biggest enemy becomes corrosion. The advantage is that steel is easier to make modifications and to repair. Hauling out once a year is a good idea with a steel hull.
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Old 09-08-2009, 15:26   #3
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It all depends on how well it was built and how much attention to detail was spent in the construction phase. We once owned a steel boat which was badly built. I spent the years replacing plate and chipping away rust, slapping on zinc rich paint etc etc .. all to no avail. Rust eventually own.

Maintenance can range from replacing plate every 12 months or not much more than one would do on a glass boat.

Steel boats rust from the inside out.

If you're going to buy a steel boat, make sure you get a well known steel boat builder to survey it for you to ensure it has been built well.

Apart from the rust issue, it is reassuring to know that you can crash into reefs, shipping containers etc. to your hearts content - this is a very reassuring feeling at 8 kts at night.
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Old 10-08-2009, 02:28   #4
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are you gone sail on salt or clear water...

i have found when sailing on a steel boat that (we were on salt water) your first mate is sand paper, paint, brush etc. you will need to maintain every chip asap.

other then that they are strong
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Old 10-08-2009, 07:07   #5
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It all depends on how well it was built and how much attention to detail was spent in the construction phase.
So true.
You will find many threads in this forum about steel boats maintenance, spot blasting and coating. Properly built a steel boat does not leak, does not rot internally, does not have problem of osmosis and has many more advantage over other material. Main disadvantage could be the weight. Again you will find in CF many informative threads and links on this subject.
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Old 10-08-2009, 13:56   #6
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Yes and no

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Originally Posted by ViribusUnitis View Post
Is it a matter of hauling the boat out every year to replace zincs, and them painting? Much the same is required for fiberglass, no? Or is it much worse, and much more imporant?
If the boat is in good condition then it´s not so bad but you need to keep at it. Inside is worst if you have a problem, access can be a nightmare. Very good book (and cheap download) here
Metal boat maintenance-A do it yourself guide by Scott Fratcher (Book) in Engineering
Many long distance cruisers favour steel so in Europe you may well find one that has been well looked after is already well suited for bluewater if that´s what you are after.

PS Avoid wood, almost every steel boat I meet in the tropics which has wood outside has problems with rust. Me included.




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Old 10-08-2009, 17:02   #7
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If you find a steel boat that interests you, look in all of the bilge spaces for rust first. See if all of the bilges are accessible for inspection and to keep after rust. Make sure that there are no areas where water will sit...this will tell you whether it was built by a knowledgeable builder or an amateur. Big flakes of rust in the bilge is bad news.
As far as maintaining goes, buy an air compressor and a needle gun. The needle gun is great for removing flakes and surface rust. You will also probably get to know Ospho very well. It treats the rust and makes it inert and ready for painting.
Steel boats are great, but as they get older they take more work than other boats except for wood maybe.
Brian
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Old 10-08-2009, 17:55   #8
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I only hauled my steel 31 footer twice in 25 years . She has the original paint job, almost as good as the day I first painted her. Make sure the inside was well painted before foaming.Lack of inside painting is the only reason a steel boat would rust from the inside out.
My maintenance is about an hour or two a year. Welded down fittings don't work loose, or leak.
Brent
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Old 10-08-2009, 18:06   #9
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We have had a steel yacht for more than 20 years. Once a year I get on board with a compresser, needle gun and small hand held blaster ( the kind that sucks out of a bucket of grit). Any chips in between times get a dob of five minute araldite. Otherwise a dob of thick grease. I agree with Brent that fittings should be welded, not bolted.
The toughness of steel gives a wonderful sense of security! In club racing , others would call "Starboard", we'd just call "Steel" !
Regards, Richard.
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Old 10-08-2009, 20:16   #10
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Penetrol CIP?

I have a brochure for a product called Penetrol CIP.

It is claimed that the Penetrol has a low surface tension and so can penetrate the rust through to the underlying metal. After it dries it can be overcoated with single pack or two pack paints.

Does anyone have any experience with this product?

The problem with steel is that any rust contains moisture and air. Painting over the top just seals in the moisture and air so rust continues, forcing the paint off the steel still further. Hard to get on top of it.
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Old 10-08-2009, 22:57   #11
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I know there are big fans of steel boats here and for work boats I would not hesitate to go steel. For a liveaboard I would consider it carefully.

There are 3 steel boats around here and each one takes at least 5 times more maintenance hours per month than any of the fiberglass boats. One guy - a good friend of mine, traded his fiberglass 30 footer for a 36 foot steel. He has been buried in work on this boat.

To be fair he does not live aboard full time. The two other guys and the previous owner of my friends boat also do not live aboard but they have maintenance crew that tend the boat for them - hey what can I say, labor is still cheap in asia - LOL...

The issue with my friend is this. He travels for business and uses the boat seriously about 2 times a month. The boat was painted and they did not remove all the deck fittings and portlights. Rust bleeds from everywhere. He finally got fed up with the portlights, removed them all, touched up the paint, resealed them conmpletely and is just finishing the last of the twenty-gazillion screw installations.

To be fair the hull and interior/bilge paint is rock solid. But so is my fiberglass hull after 20-30 years.

I am not trying to indict steel boats. Just relaying my friends wake-up call on the amount of maintenance he is having to apply.

The biggest advantage in my mind is the security of knowing you could hit just about anything made of fiberglass and probably anything your own size or smaller and win the head butting contest hands down.
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Old 10-08-2009, 23:32   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ViribusUnitis View Post
What exactly is involved in maintaining a steel boat?
As other knowledgeable owner’s have said:

  • Not much if it was built and protected properly in the first place
  • Not much if you are aware of the weaknesses and are on top of it.
  • Not much, if the inherent benefits of that material make it worth while

I think that applies to all materials you would use on a boat and intelligent surveying of any boat for inherent weaknesses is strongly recommended.

My dutch built, Corten Steel Hull has bilges and scantlings that are like new after 26 years of ocean going use and I would never replace it with a plastic hull in the poorly charted areas I prefer
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Old 11-08-2009, 00:10   #13
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I have an Amazon 44, and am just now getting comfortable with "rust patrol." The various nicks have been gooped-over with bag balm, which is great when you don't have time (or weather) to do a proper fix; lanolin works too. When there is time, just sand/chip/scrape/grind down a bit to a mix of bright metal and rust (for the bad ones) and slap on a bit of Ospho. Makes iron oxide into iron phosphate, which is passive, black, and takes paint.

Assemble a kit of primer (I like Pettit Tie-Coat) and suitable paint for all colors (I use Interlux Brightside one-part polyurethane, as it's easy). Having the "rust patrol kit" in one box makes it a quick job.

Main advice: Think "workboat patina" instead of "bristol." The former is easy; the latter will cost a fortune.

And as Conachair said, avoid wood in contact. Must be the moisture retention or something; every tang supporting my Teak toerails has rust issues, despite very nice Awlgrip that is fine elsewhere.

Cheers,
Steve
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Old 11-08-2009, 16:36   #14
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and slap on a bit of Ospho. Makes iron oxide into iron phosphate, which is passive, black, and takes paint.
Steve,

You might want to Google Fertan. Better that mere Ospho. Of course, more expensive, but then not that expensive in the overall scheme of things.

Kewl that Vitamin C is one of the many active ingrediants. Patent
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Old 11-08-2009, 17:03   #15
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Main advice: Think "workboat patina" instead of "bristol." The former is easy; the latter will cost a fortune.
You phrased very well my whole philosophy about how I keep the boat looking. It took me many years and lots of unnecessary work to learn that lesson.
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