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Old 06-08-2015, 21:02   #1
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Steel Hull?

Some time ago I read an article about an individual who was sailing from the Panama Canal to the UK. Sometime during his crossing he is believed to have hit a whale while under auto-pilot. His boat was sunk and he spent some time on a life raft before being rescued (this was in the time before sat phones, EPIRBS, PLB's etc.).

How big of a concern is this type of incident during a ocean crossing? Second would a steel hull prevent this type of incident from happening, or is it just a risk you accept on a crossing?
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Old 06-08-2015, 21:41   #2
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Re: Steel Hull?

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Some time ago I read an article about an individual who was sailing from the Panama Canal to the UK. Sometime during his crossing he is believed to have hit a whale while under auto-pilot. His boat was sunk and he spent some time on a life raft before being rescued (this was in the time before sat phones, EPIRBS, PLB's etc.).

How big of a concern is this type of incident during a ocean crossing? Second would a steel hull prevent this type of incident from happening, or is it just a risk you accept on a crossing?
How would having a steel hull stop you from hitting a whale? Maybe you have something there, because I just spent almost three months in the Atlantic aboard a steel-hulled schooner, and only saw one whale during the whole time.

Fortunately, we didn't hit it.
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Old 06-08-2015, 21:47   #3
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Re: Steel Hull?

A bit of a concern, I've hit one whale and very nearly hit (or been hit) by a couple of others. But yes, any whale hitting a steel boats gonna have one hell of a headache. I don't think a whale would be able to hole a properly built and maintained metal hull.

Of more concern are whale attacks. Ive heard of a couple of chilling cases where a few young bulls harassed a yacht for a couple of hours, in one case bending a prop shaft, and cracking some bulkheads, but the Fibreglass skin survived. I had a young minke charge us once after half an hour of play, but he (suspect it was a bull?) veered away at the last minute. Very scary!

Ive sailed lots of non steel boats, and it's a pretty low risk. The boat we hit a whale in was a 45 foot ULBD plywood thing and we where surfing at about 15 knots when we went bang. No damage, so a whale wont always sink you. At the end of the day getting in a car is much more likely to kill you, and we don't think twice about that.
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Old 06-08-2015, 21:50   #4
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Re: Steel Hull?

I guess I should have been more clear with my question. Steel vs Fibreglass. Any advantage to steel over fibreglass in a collision ?
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Old 06-08-2015, 21:55   #5
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Re: Steel Hull?

Yes, steel dents, fibreglass cracks. Fibreglass is still pretty tough if it's built right.

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Old 06-08-2015, 22:00   #6
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Re: Steel Hull?

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Yes, steel dents, fibreglass cracks. Fibreglass is still pretty tough if it's built right.

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OK. That was I meant to ask.
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Old 06-08-2015, 22:08   #7
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Re: Steel Hull?

Would love to hear the cons and pros of ALUMINIUM vs FIBERGLASS catamaran Sailboat

Have a look at these photo's. Steel is strong, there are a lot of tradeoffs, such as weight and rust. Overall a well built FG boat is more than strong enough for all except the rarest of events. Steel or Alloy can give you a second chance if you hit a rock or something else. I wouldn't have any concerns sailing a well built, designed and maintained boat out of any material across an ocean. But have chosen an alloy boat, having had both steel and fibreglass boats, and growing up on a ferro-cement yacht.
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Old 07-08-2015, 02:12   #8
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Re: Steel Hull?

There is a nice clip on youtube somewhere of a whale throwing himself on the deck of a yacht, not pretty.
For reasons of collision resistance I too am focusing on a metal yacht, preferably aluminium.
There are also plenty containers to hit out there, and I don't hear of them sinking yachts all the time, but I'd rather minimize the chance of becoming the topic of such tales.

Would a foward sounder help?

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Old 07-08-2015, 02:52   #9
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Re: Steel Hull?

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I guess I should have been more clear with my question. Steel vs Fibreglass. Any advantage to steel over fibreglass in a collision ?
Steel is popular because it's cheap - there's nothing cheaper. Steel will deform long before FRP breaks.

Fibre reinforced composites cover a large range of materials, and most of them far exceed the energy absorption of steel - meaning that the steel will break before the same weight of FRP does.

In that case the FRP will maintain its form while and after the steel has deformed. Then the steel will break, and finally the FRP will suddenly break (no plastic deformation beforehand).

Steel is not stronger than FRP (generally, and assuming the same mass).

Most FRP is *relatively* poor at handling abrasion though, so perhaps not the ideal choice for ice.
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Old 07-08-2015, 02:54   #10
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Re: Steel Hull?

Fwd sounder? No chance it will help in any useful way. From what I hear they can be useful in smooth water for finding nearby rocks. The only time I skippered a boat that had one, it was broken.. If your worried fit a few partial watertight bulkheads up fwd.

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Old 07-08-2015, 08:25   #11
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Re: Steel Hull?

The same idea...

3D forward looking sonar

It seems the problem is recognising an object against the sea surface....when you most need the extra help, the sonar is blind. Hence the hull that can take a few hits. Go steel...
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Old 07-08-2015, 09:00   #12
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Re: Steel Hull?

There was a self reporting study of small boat and whale collisions that ran up until 2010. http://www.m-e-e-r.org/uploads/media...ilors_2010.pdf

The last 8 years of the study had the most REPORTED whale/boat collisions. Averaged out over that period you get about 9 collisions a year with about 1 sinking. However, 46% of the boats had minor damage and 43% had major damage that caused sailing restrictions. The collisions were self reported so a person had to know about the study to make a report so I think it is safe to say that there are more whale/boat collisions than in the study. When I was first looking into this, I was shocked at the number of whale/boat collisions you can find searching the Internet.

There was a multihull that was sunk, almost certainly by a whale, off Hawaii in the last year or so. The watch stander did not see what hit the boat, but the boat was damaged on one hull near/on/below the water line as well as on deck. Sounds like they hit a whale that then slapped the top of deck.

Whale collisions occur, in greater numbers than I would have guessed, but they are still very rare.

I have read of a wood boat hitting floating trees and it survived. One of the Dashew FPB hit a large log with no damage and a Nordhavn plastic boat hit one or two somethings at sea with no damage. So a well design and built boat can survive hitting stuff at sea.

I would still prefer metal over wood or plastic but the odds of hitting a whale, tree or shipping container are very low, much less getting sunk. But I still want metal for this and other reasons.

Later,
Dan
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Old 07-08-2015, 12:15   #13
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Re: Steel Hull?

Excellent boat building material that it is fibreglass has a serious vulnerability in it's flamability, once it starts burning there is little chance of putting it out with the equipment available on most boats.

The ductility of metals is their strongest property in resisting holing, no other boat building material surpasses them in this quality.
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Old 07-08-2015, 16:53   #14
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Re: Steel Hull?

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I guess I should have been more clear with my question. Steel vs Fibreglass. Any advantage to steel over fibreglass in a collision ?
Of course steel is much tougher and less likely to be abraded through on a reef, and would do better than fiberglass in any collision. But....unless it's an awfully overbuilt glass boat, the steel boat is going to weigh more and have a less streamlined shape, so you will sacrifice performance. You do gain confidence that at the speeds sailboats typically travel, if you hit just about anything, you won't be holed. You will also have maintenance issues that a glass boat doesn't have to deal with, maybe not worse, but different. The steel boat is likely to not be as esthetically pleasing as a glass boat will be. Yet another another but....the likelihood of hitting something that will hole and sink a well built glass boat is extremely slim, and with a satellite epirb or two aboard, as well as a liferaft, unless you happen to hit something during a hurricane, it's pretty likely you'll barely get settled into your liferaft before being rescued in most areas. I weighed all that a couple of years ago, as well as considering aluminum when i was boat shopping, and decided that a glass boat would be best for us. If I were planning to do a lot of very high latitude sailing in areas where rescue is unlikely and hard to see bergy bits are common, I would probably go with steel, but for almost all other sailing, I think the advantages of glass outweigh the very, very small risk of hitting something hard enough to sink it.
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Old 07-08-2015, 21:54   #15
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Re: Steel Hull?

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Originally Posted by SUSailor View Post
Some time ago I read an article about an individual who was sailing from the Panama Canal to the UK. Sometime during his crossing he is believed to have hit a whale while under auto-pilot. His boat was sunk and he spent some time on a life raft before being rescued (this was in the time before sat phones, EPIRBS, PLB's etc.).

How big of a concern is this type of incident during a ocean crossing? Second would a steel hull prevent this type of incident from happening, or is it just a risk you accept on a crossing?
Read the following thread I posted giving 5 examples of actual yacht sinkings due to whales.

Sunk by a Whale : Survival Stories
Sunk by a Whale : Survival Stories - Cruisers & Sailing Forums

And then this one too, which is a little different twist on the subject:

You Thought You Hit a Whale
You Thought You Hit a Whale - Cruisers & Sailing Forums
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