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Old 03-03-2016, 11:53   #61
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Re: Steel Vs Fibreglass

With fire, as with most things in life, what happens and if the boat survives depends on many factors.

I have seen plastic boats survive and I've seen steel boats go down (and vice versa). Even a beautiful, strong steel one I had spent the weekend on just a few weeks before.

We'll never know exactly what happened, as she is still at the bottom of the sea. But this boat was meticulously maintained, and had all the safety precautions and installations .
For whatever reasons, even tho the fire went out, all their systems went down one by one in just a matter of minutes while the crew were fighting to safe the boat. Obviously, they lost that fight and she went down. You can google translate the website for more info.

The point being: ships don't go down for just one reason, but because of some domino effect of .. I don't know, bad luck, human error, one-in-a-million chance things actually happening. And it can happen with steel boats as much as it can with plastic ones. Or wood ones, or aluminium, or cement ones.

Some boats are in such a crappy condition, nobody really understands how they are still afloat and sailing around. Others are impeccable and go down anyway. Such is life.

If the OP feels safer on steel, it doesn't really matter if he really is: feeling safe matters. If you don't trust your boat, you'll never go anywhere. And fear isn't always a rational phenomenon

For me, personally, the only reason to consider steel over plastic is if I were to sail where there be icebergs. Which is unlikely as I dislike the cold and am afraid of polar bears But that is just a personal preference, and what works for me doesn't have to work for someone else, and vice versa.
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Old 03-03-2016, 15:32   #62
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Re: Steel Vs Fibreglass

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Originally Posted by Lizzy Belle View Post
With fire, as with most things in life, what happens and if the boat survives depends on many factors.

I have seen plastic boats survive and I've seen steel boats go down (and vice versa). Even a beautiful, strong steel one I had spent the weekend on just a few weeks before.

We'll never know exactly what happened, as she is still at the bottom of the sea. But this boat was meticulously maintained, and had all the safety precautions and installations .
For whatever reasons, even tho the fire went out, all their systems went down one by one in just a matter of minutes while the crew were fighting to safe the boat. Obviously, they lost that fight and she went down. You can google translate the website for more info.

The point being: ships don't go down for just one reason, but because of some domino effect of .. I don't know, bad luck, human error, one-in-a-million chance things actually happening. And it can happen with steel boats as much as it can with plastic ones. Or wood ones, or aluminium, or cement ones.

Some boats are in such a crappy condition, nobody really understands how they are still afloat and sailing around. Others are impeccable and go down anyway. Such is life.

If the OP feels safer on steel, it doesn't really matter if he really is: feeling safe matters. If you don't trust your boat, you'll never go anywhere. And fear isn't always a rational phenomenon

For me, personally, the only reason to consider steel over plastic is if I were to sail where there be icebergs. Which is unlikely as I dislike the cold and am afraid of polar bears But that is just a personal preference, and what works for me doesn't have to work for someone else, and vice versa.
I am sure the day the Titanic sunk there was a Yachtsman somewhere on a small wooden boat smirking of all the people who told him how unsafe his boat was and how they would stick to the ocean liners.
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Old 04-03-2016, 00:39   #63
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Re: Steel Vs Fibreglass

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Hi Raymond, good point didn't think of fire and then you reminded me of a friend that bought a burnt out Adams 40 steel hull, the interior was cactus, and even the base of the mast melted. But the hull and deck ok! Total refit required of course.

I noticed you are a Roberts owner. What do you think of the Roberts 38 Offshore, aft cockpit, multi-chine steel?

Cheers Daz
There was a steely in WA which caught afire and the owner was able to bucket water onto the deck to keep it cool then sailed it back to shore and onto the beach. Wood fires tend to burn slower and one has more of a chance of putting them out.

I have to say I am not a big fan of Roberts designs although I really like his bigger boats - the Mauritius/Offshore 44 and the big 50' one.

The modified design I have was the aft cockpit 36' which we stretched to 39' to allow longer bunks because I am 6'7" tall. Other than the stringer related corrosion problems it has been a good boat. In the 40' range I like the Joe Adams designs of fast cruising boats in metal.

If you want to feel good about steel boats go read the thread on Successful Osmosis Treatments.
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Old 04-03-2016, 08:28   #64
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Re: Steel Vs Fibreglass

It appears that most expedition boats that sail the far northern and southern latitudes choose steel or aluminum. And, in comparison with Europeans, it is my impression that Americans have little experience with metal boats. Perhaps those with first hand experience owning metal boats could respond to this interesting topic. I have toyed with the idea of a steel boat for a proposed trip North and feel that in ice-laden waters that are poorly charted, steel would have a distinct advantage over a glass boat where sailing characteristics and displacement would be secondary to strength. Is this a myth? What parameters would be essential during inspection before one would commit to steel?
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Old 04-03-2016, 09:47   #65
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Re: Steel Vs Fibreglass

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It appears that most expedition boats that sail the far northern and southern latitudes choose steel or aluminum. And, in comparison with Europeans, it is my impression that Americans have little experience with metal boats. Perhaps those with first hand experience owning metal boats could respond to this interesting topic. I have toyed with the idea of a steel boat for a proposed trip North and feel that in ice-laden waters that are poorly charted, steel would have a distinct advantage over a glass boat where sailing characteristics and displacement would be secondary to strength. Is this a myth? What parameters would be essential during inspection before one would commit to steel?
From a repair standpoint you can weld steel in very cold conditions, granted in doing so you have to worry about pre-heating and other such issues or your welds will just crack apart again.

With composites epoxy just will not cure below a certain temperature.

Now I no experience with boats in a setting where the marina freezes over in the winter, but it is my understanding that with a FRP boat you need to have an agitator in the water to keep it from freezing around the boat or it can crush the hull.

I also know when planning on sailing into ice laden waters the ships they use to do so have much thicker hulls, especially in the bow.
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Old 04-03-2016, 13:36   #66
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Re: Steel Vs Fibreglass

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From a repair standpoint you can weld steel in very cold conditions, granted in doing so you have to worry about pre-heating and other such issues or your welds will just crack apart again.
I don't think that would be a problem with the relatively light plate steel boats are built from.

I have a contingency system for emergency repairs which involves the use of an air driven drill from an engine driven compressor, pieces of alloy or light steel sheet and closed blind rivets. Worked well on the one occasion I used it and the compressor was also rigged to supply air for a hooka.

With composites epoxy just will not cure below a certain temperature.

Now I no experience with boats in a setting where the marina freezes over in the winter, but it is my understanding that with a FRP boat you need to have an agitator in the water to keep it from freezing around the boat or it can crush the hull.

"Fram" was built very strong but also had a hull shape which promoted it popping up onto the top of the ice in a crushing situation. Built by the Norwegian bloke who was first to the south pole, sensible chap who carefully and meticulously planned his exhibition unlike the unsuccessful Brit Scott who came second and killed his entire team in doing so.

I also know when planning on sailing into ice laden waters the ships they use to do so have much thicker hulls, especially in the bow.
Ice breaker are also shaped to allow the bow to rise up over the bow so that the weight of the vessel breaks the ice.

If I was going to go poking about in the Arctic or Antarctic I would not use anything but a solidly built and well insulated steel boat.
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Old 05-03-2016, 22:54   #67
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Re: Steel Vs Fibreglass

Always a well warn topic lol.....
I see it as a personal choice, I was originally looking at steel for the reasons many state, strength and safety first Sure, rust is an issue, but a well maintained steel yacht should not pose an issue, too much rust and its worth only as scrap. Stay away from Dynel over ply, that was my first yacht and ended up as a total pain as once fresh water finds its way in (and it will) to the ply it is plenty of work.
I ultimately purchased a hand laid fiberglass yacht (on advice), the strongest of all fiberglass constructed yachts, relatively easy to repair and wack a coat of pant on.
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Old 06-03-2016, 03:38   #68
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Re: Steel Vs Fibreglass

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Originally Posted by rognvald View Post
It appears that most expedition boats that sail the far northern and southern latitudes choose steel or aluminum.
You can build a strong boat in any material if you engineer it right. Wood for example shouldn't be underestimate either. On a by-weight basis wood can even be stronger than steel.

What metal however is very good at is resisting abrasion. Boats that go off the beaten path often end up sharing a commercial quai with local fisherman. Unpainted aluminium means you don't have any delicate topsides to worry about...
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Old 06-03-2016, 03:56   #69
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Re: Steel Vs Fibreglass

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Originally Posted by Lizzy Belle View Post
I have seen plastic boats survive and I've seen steel boats go down (and vice versa). Even a beautiful, strong steel one I had spent the weekend on just a few weeks before.

We'll never know exactly what happened, as she is still at the bottom of the sea. But this boat was meticulously maintained, and had all the safety precautions and installations .
For whatever reasons, even tho the fire went out, all their systems went down one by one in just a matter of minutes while the crew were fighting to safe the boat. Obviously, they lost that fight and she went down. You can google translate the website for more info.
I've now read the story, and it's indeed sad. It also gives me a lot to think.

I think that the danger of fire is often underestimate, and that understanding fire, how to fight it and thinking about its consequences is something that everybody should do.

Fire requires three components: Fuel, energy and oxygen. That's what fire engineers (of which I have two in my family) call the fire triangle. You fight fire by removing one of the components.
The usual picture we have of fire fighting is that of firefighters throwing lots of water at a fire. Fighting a fire with water removes energy, breaking the triangle.

You can also fight a fire by removing the oxygen, and this is what the automatic fire fighting equipment in the case of the Cornelia did. However it is important to realise that this does not remove the energy. This is one reason why fire fighters are very carefull when opening a door to a room where it might have been burning. Even if the fire burnt out because of lack of oxygen there might be still be enough heat left that when oxygen is added the whole thing flares up again. There was even a movie made about that :-). The owner of the Cornelia appeared to be quite well aware of this risk.

So on the Cornelia the fire extinguishers put out the fire, but the engine room remained extremely hot, and this probably led to some hoses melting, the article mentions that there were 8 (!) thru-hulls in the engine compartment.

This is something that could have been executed better when the ship was build. Suppose that in stead of 8 thru hulls the boat had had a proper sea chest, or a stand pipe, extending above the water line...

I think the skipper however reacted in all the right ways. First the people, then the boat. So when the fire alarm went off the first order was for his son to get dressed, and then they got the life raft ready. Then they turned their attention back to the boat. So they both got of without injuries. That is worth a lot.
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Old 11-03-2016, 21:50   #70
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Re: Steel Vs Fibreglass

The characteristic of steel which would allow the construction of a fairly fire proof vessel is that it is not inherently flammable. SOLAS rules on ship building require the use of non flammable materials in fitting out. Spring loaded poppet valves with melt pins solve the problem of disappearing hoses. Alluminium is a candidate for metal boats but if you are paranoid about fire, as the Brits found out during the Falklands war, aluminium tends to have a lower melting point and bulkheads collapsed into molten globs on the floor.


If you are really concerned with safety issues and want to go places with lots of spiky bits, am inclined to bump your way about or become stranded on rocks and reefs, can find a design and builder which wont corrode from the inside out, and don't mind doing an occasional bit of maintenance steels your material mate.
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Old 12-03-2016, 19:19   #71
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Re: Steel Vs Fibreglass

Fiberglass or Steel.....It's all simply going to come down to your choice on the day, if the boat you are looking at is the one you want, it's not an issue Fire, well, all the if's buts and maybe's matter zero.....a fire will almost certainly start somewhere on board, and no matter what the construction, unless you are right there with an extinguisher you are going to end up with floating scrap metal that you will need to dispose of, or bits and pieces of a fiberglass boat floating around.
Only real construction to avoid is ferro, if you spring a leak, crack, you are going down like a stone......
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Old 14-03-2016, 01:49   #72
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Re: Steel Vs Fibreglass

I own a fifty year old steel yacht so I know all about rust its not the instant boat sinker people rattle on about its very slow and very easy to see.If you keep on top of it it isnt a problem.Definitely a lot more maintenance than fibreglass to keep looking pristine.Also hear a lot of rubbish about steel boats being heavy and bad sailors,Thats bull too have done thousands of miles on steel yachts,good New Zealand designs like mummery and Ganleys they sail as good as most.Any cruising yacht will be loaded to the hilt and loose a bit of performance so hull material and weight doesnt mean much.My little 32 footer goes well even in the light but she does hold a lot of canvas,In a good wind she will sit on 6.5 to 7 knots happily all day and night.
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Old 07-04-2016, 17:15   #73
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Re: Steel Vs Fibreglass

To everyone who joined in on this discussion, I thank you all. Your inputs have be interesting, informative and sometime entertaining... a bit of emotion out there at times From your help I am not so steel centric any more and have realised I can be confident, and enjoy some benefits, with a fibreglass boat. So now I am looking at both hull types and focusing more on design and condition than the hull material. Cheers to all
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