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Old 29-11-2009, 15:20   #1
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Steel vs Fiberglass

I plan to go cruising in a few years with my girlfriend and have giving thought to the best cruising boat for me. I would like a "go anywhere sailboat" around 30 - 40ft. that would take me across oceans, to the tropics, yet I would also like to have the possibility for a trip to icy waters such as Antarctica or the the high latitudes. I haven't been able to make up my mind on whether to go for a steel or fiberglass boat.

What are the general advantages/disadvantages of each one?
Could a fiberglass boat make a trip to Antarctica?
Which is easier to maintain?
Which is cheaper to mantain?
Which is easier to repair?
Are steel boats really that much slower under sail?
Which is generally more expensive to buy?

Any other info. would be appreciated.

Thanks
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Old 29-11-2009, 15:54   #2
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Hi, for hig latitudes like antartica,steel is my favorite, a fiberglass boat is capable to sail to this latitudes, but you dont have the streng of the steel, steel is heavy and fiberglass light, a 2 totally diferents materials, steel rust, and rust usually from the inside of the boat, like bilges, frames etc... but today modern paint systems are wonderfull in steel, fiberglass in the other side dont rust, but suffer from delamination, osmosis, etc... and break in a impact. Easier to maintain ?? fiberglass win in this isue. Cheaper?? i think fiberglass to, , well you have steel in any part of the world and welders to, but cutting and welding bottoms plates is tricky, fiberglass is easy , i think fiberglass win here to, as a captain for 6 years in a 61 steel cutter i can tell you that fast or slow depend of the size and weight, rig confi, etcc... expensive to buy?? FIBERGLASSS...
and finally in my opinion steel boats are just batleships , dificult to break , heavys, a safety isue in hig latitudes.
Best regards.
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Old 29-11-2009, 15:59   #3
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fibre glass is easy to maintain all you really have to do is wax it about every 2-3 months repairs are pretty strait forward, just has to be a good quality build.
steel has the advantage that if you hit something it shouldn't puncture hull. if you can find a good design that was maintained and it was painted properly it would be a better boat for northern/southern lat. cruising(hitting bergie bits). steel is a lot heavier at 30 to 35 ft. than glass, unless you get into the old CCA style boats from the late 50s and 60s, but if you're not going to race it makes no difference anyway.
baots are boats you have to decide which build medium you like better
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Old 29-11-2009, 17:19   #4
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I have a 33' steel boat, a Murray 33 designed by Ted Brewer. There is at least one on the market (yachtworld) now for $39,000 US, been out there for over a year so I think you could do quite well on that. It was owner finished so it will be "different" down below. BTW, I keep my boat in Newfoundland, and it has foamed urethane down to the waterline. I added an Espar heater after the second year as the little kero bulkhead heater would not dry the boat sufficiently.

Also, when I bought my boat I bought a set of "owners plans" from Ted. It is enough to see how the boat is built and understand the boat but not all the build details. I find value in that.

I can't compare boats because I have only ever sailed on my boat. But I can get around in it OK and while I do have to keep after the metal I don't find it onerous.

We are now in the process of buying a second boat. In our search we limited our picks to three boats, two steel and one aluminum. We then we hired Ted Brewer to give us advice. Ted will talk to you for a "reasonable" amount of time for $300. As he designs for glass, wood, steel, and aluminum he is comfortable with all mediums and is quite clear in his reasoning. I found it money well spent.

Here are specific answers:

Could a fiberglass boat make a trip to Antarctica?
I think you will find that while wood and glass boats have done it the "regulars" usually use Aluminum. Google "Morgans Cloud" and "Beth Leonard." There is another charter guy with a swing keel aluminum boat out of Ushuaia but I can't recall the name.

Are steel boats really that much slower under sail?
My Wife's favorite question. I can't answer because it depends. As said above under a certain size (~40) steel gets heavy and glass will have an advantage. In light air a glass boat has clear advantages. As wind and wave build those advantages go away. A lay person can't evaluate this, you need experienced assistance.

Which is generally more expensive to buy?
There are far, far more glass boats available and thus you have the chance to get a "steal." But steel is generally cheaper and there are some real sweet steel boats on the market. US pricing seems better than European.
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Old 29-11-2009, 17:36   #5
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A go anywhere will likely be over 40' - especially so considering the arctic regions. It is not so much about being there, as about the risk and effort of getting across. A plastic boat can go to arctic/antarctic, if she is well built. Wooden boats have.

Plastic is easier to maintain. Repair cost and difficulty depends more on your skills and availability of materials and tools - lamination is same level of skill like welding. So it depends on what you can or cannot do.

If a steel/grp boat is slow then it is not because of the material but rather by design/built or the sailing skills of the crew. Some say it is relatively difficult to build a -30' steel boat, but look at some Koopmans and one may doubt the statement is true. Thinking about arctic/antarctic, I would look for strength, safety and comfort before speed.

In the tropics the boat can be smaller as much life is in the cockpit and on the deck; weather may be easier and less stuff is dragged along - no need to heat the boat, no need to insulate the cabin, etc.. I would say most 30'+ boats are big enough for the tropics (mine is 26').

To go nearly everywhere I would be looking for a well build Bruce Roberts of 40'+ or anything better than this.

b.
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Old 29-11-2009, 17:45   #6
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Hpeer, with the foam insulation in place, how do you monitor the condition of the hull? BTW, I want a steel boat so bad my teeth hurt...lol....Allan
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Old 29-11-2009, 18:05   #7
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Hpeer, with the foam insulation in place, how do you monitor the condition of the hull? BTW, I want a steel boat so bad my teeth hurt...lol....Allan
You don't. Theoretically the hull is properly prepped, then foamed, that protects the hull. Some (few?) don't like this.

You can get an ultrasound done every 10 years or so if you are inclined.

I have a hollow keel. Previous owner used keel to store very nice SS water thanks. Except I could not get there to monitor the condition. So I pulled them out this last year and replace with a flexible water tank under a berth and a bunch of 2 gallon jugs. (Get Annie Hall's book Cruising on a Small Income to read that theory - interesting.)

I then wire brushed and treated the interior of keel. The keel now has dry storage that was once under the berth. Raised the center of gravity a bit but lowered the center of anxiety a lot.
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Old 29-11-2009, 18:25   #8
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I too am planning a trip to Antartica, and I have chosen a steel boat to do it with.

Having owned and lived on Wood, Fiberglass, and Steel boats, I like steel the best.

As for repair, I think that hands down steel is the easiest to repair anywhere. Even if you personally don't have a welder, I challenge anyone to find somewhere in the populated world where they cannot locate a welder within half a day's journey, and someone who knows how to use it. Try locating 2 gallons of polyester resin and woven roving cloth in a backwater town in Borneo.

As for fiberglass being faster than steel, maybe, maybe not depending on the overall design.

Steel is cheaper to build a one-off or small production run of boats than fiberglass due to the costs of building plugs and molds for the fiberglass pieces (hull and deck).

Also it is easier to make changes or modifications to a steel structure than to fiberglass. Take for instance my boat, I did not like the lack of headroom below the center cockpit, so I have cut out the cockpit, and I will relocate it in the stern as an aft cockpit. When I am done, no one will be able to tell that it was not originally built this way.

See http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/...albums572.html for photos.
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Old 30-11-2009, 06:10   #9
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As for repair, I think that hands down steel is the easiest to repair anywhere. Even if you personally don't have a welder, I challenge anyone to find somewhere in the populated world where they cannot locate a welder within half a day's journey, and someone who knows how to use it. Try locating 2 gallons of polyester resin and woven roving cloth in a backwater town in Borneo.
Yes, I second that.

In Newfoundland I find that I need to carry some resin and roving if I want it available. You would think that with a harbor full of glass fishing boats the stuff would be easy to get. But NOPE! Amazing, truly amazing.
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