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Old 19-05-2018, 19:08   #1
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Why are metal boats popular among seasoned cruisers?

Among cruisers who replace their boat after several years of bluewater cruising, it is common to select a metal boat (steel or aluminum).


Metal cruising boats are, otherwise, vanishingly rare.


School me. I would like to understand both aspects of this dynamic, that is, why they are sought after by the experienced, and shunned by others.
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Old 19-05-2018, 19:31   #2
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Re: Why are metal boats popular among seasoned cruisers?

It comes down to strength. Not much else to it as far as I can tell.

Steel's a pain after the initial 'honeymoon' period when new, unless it's a really high-end build.

I've owned 2 glass boats, one steel, and the current one is carbon fiber.

The steel boat had a big dent in the bottom from hitting a shipping container at 7 knots off S. Africa. None of my others would have survived that impact, they would have sunk, and quickly. The carbon boat has a bunch of Kevlar in the bottom, so maybe it would have held together a little longer, but the glass boats? Glug, glug.

I think that about sums it up!

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Old 19-05-2018, 19:44   #3
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Re: Why are metal boats popular among seasoned cruisers?

Of course, not ALL experienced cruisers follow that pattern. For instance, after nearly thirty years of fiberglass boat ownership and 17 years of full time cruising, we switched from glass to timber... strip planked western red cedar and epoxy, with thin glass inside and out. Light, strong and very low maintenance. Not as puncture proof as metal, but with two crash bulkheads forward and one aft, and tanks that make much of the hull a double hull, well, we reckon it's an OK way to build a cruising boat.

And I've seen a few folks with metal boats reverting to glass, mostly because of maintenance issues, and some because of weight issues. It isn't a one way street!

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Old 19-05-2018, 20:13   #4
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Re: Why are metal boats popular among seasoned cruisers?

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Of course, not ALL experienced cruisers follow that pattern. For instance, after nearly thirty years of fiberglass boat ownership and 17 years of full time cruising, we switched from glass to timber... strip planked western red cedar and epoxy, with thin glass inside and out. Light, strong and very low maintenance. Not as puncture proof as metal, but with two crash bulkheads forward and one aft, and tanks that make much of the hull a double hull, well, we reckon it's an OK way to build a cruising boat.

And I've seen a few folks with metal boats reverting to glass, mostly because of maintenance issues, and some because of weight issues. It isn't a one way street!

Jim
This is what we did-I couldn't stand sailing our steel boat, at all. Sure, it was strong, but at something near 20 tons at 43 feet, I HATED sailing that thing.

Light and fast will be my philosophy forevermore, unless I want to do something around ice, then I'd go with a very spartan steel boat, and ditch it right after the expedition.

So, we're a case in point...
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Old 19-05-2018, 20:16   #5
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Re: Why are metal boats popular among seasoned cruisers?

Long time steel boat cruisers here... tropics to arctic for further info re: your seeking.


https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/origamiboats/info
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Old 19-05-2018, 20:29   #6
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Re: Why are metal boats popular among seasoned cruisers?

If you are into the lighter is faster frame of mind, then aluminum starts looking attractive to a lot of cruisers: there are some pretty nice production French made, consider the Allures, and take a look at the Bestevaer 49 thread, about a very modern custom build done in Holland.

People with a lot of cruising experience still sometimes want to "upgrade", and sometimes that means changing from some kind of a production boat (mostly fiberglass) to something else, and that mostly means, aluminum, steel, carbon fiber, or some form of timber (nature's carbon fiber ), mostly triple-skin or modern composite construction, and those are mostly one-offs. Not everybody is comfortable with one-offs.

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Old 19-05-2018, 20:42   #7
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Re: Why are metal boats popular among seasoned cruisers?

Thank you all for the replies.


Quote:
Originally Posted by JPA Cate View Post

People with a lot of cruising experience still sometimes want to "upgrade", and sometimes that means changing from some kind of a production boat (mostly fiberglass) to something else, and that mostly means, aluminum, steel, carbon fiber, or some form of timber (nature's carbon fiber ), mostly triple-skin or modern composite construction, and those are mostly one-offs. Not everybody is comfortable with one-offs.

I would agree that there is really no substitute for field experience and that one-offs, by definition, lack field experience. I would not want to be a beta-tester for a hull.



I had thought that a custom boat would typically involve the use of a production hull with a custom fit out. I am surprised any cruising couple would want a cruising boat with a fully custom hull. There must be much that I do not understand.
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Old 19-05-2018, 20:47   #8
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Re: Why are metal boats popular among seasoned cruisers?

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Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
Of course, not ALL experienced cruisers follow that pattern. For instance, after nearly thirty years of fiberglass boat ownership and 17 years of full time cruising, we switched from glass to timber... strip planked western red cedar and epoxy, with thin glass inside and out. Light, strong and very low maintenance. Not as puncture proof as metal, but with two crash bulkheads forward and one aft, and tanks that make much of the hull a double hull, well, we reckon it's an OK way to build a cruising boat.

And I've seen a few folks with metal boats reverting to glass, mostly because of maintenance issues, and some because of weight issues. It isn't a one way street!

Jim
Considering the virtues of cold-molded boats, I've often wondered why there aren't more of them.
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Old 19-05-2018, 21:04   #9
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Re: Why are metal boats popular among seasoned cruisers?

Steel is immensely strong. Properly painted and cared for will last forever. Compared to wood or glass, it's easy to cut out a damaged area and weld in new metal. Aluminum to be strong and resist damage needs to be thick, too thick for yachts. But it also is easy to repair. Some alloys don't need painting. I know of several commercial fishing boats made in aluminum that have never been painted.
Metal is probably not as good for racers. But if I ever went sailing again I'd have a steel boat.
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Old 19-05-2018, 21:07   #10
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Re: Why are metal boats popular among seasoned cruisers?

Don..it's because unless you can build it yourself, the labor costs are too high these days. Triple diagonal with epoxy has got to be the best hull though.
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Old 19-05-2018, 21:34   #11
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Re: Why are metal boats popular among seasoned cruisers?

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Thank you all for the replies.





I would agree that there is really no substitute for field experience and that one-offs, by definition, lack field experience. I would not want to be a beta-tester for a hull.



I had thought that a custom boat would typically involve the use of a production hull with a custom fit out. I am surprised any cruising couple would want a cruising boat with a fully custom hull. There must be much that I do not understand.

I'm an owner of one of these fully custom boats, hull included, There's a heck of a lot of design work that goes into these boats, at least the ones built to a high level.

My boat had a lot of FEA (computer modeling), as well as actual destructive testing done of panels prior to build, both for blunt impact (waves) and impact.

I know exactly how strong my boat is, empirically, which is not information that most production boat owners possess.

I didn't commission the build, but the data is there, and is quite comforting when things get fresh to frightening.

So, I don't think I'd hesitate to do a one-off again, provided I had solid info on the build. This isn't rocket science... Oh wait, it is.
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Old 19-05-2018, 23:00   #12
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Re: Why are metal boats popular among seasoned cruisers?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
Of course, not ALL experienced cruisers follow that pattern. For instance, after nearly thirty years of fiberglass boat ownership and 17 years of full time cruising, we switched from glass to timber... strip planked western red cedar and epoxy, with thin glass inside and out. Light, strong and very low maintenance. Not as puncture proof as metal, but with two crash bulkheads forward and one aft, and tanks that make much of the hull a double hull, well, we reckon it's an OK way to build a cruising boat.

And I've seen a few folks with metal boats reverting to glass, mostly because of maintenance issues, and some because of weight issues. It isn't a one way street!

Jim
I'm no "seasoned cruiser", but I concur with Jim that it goes both ways. I've got a strong (40+ yrs) emotional attachment to my (aluminum) boat and will likely never sell her. That said, If I were forced to replace the boat, I would not rule out any material (except ferro) and would look at strip plank/epoxy/glass boats as perhaps the best material for my needs.

To answer the original question (why metal popular among cruisers), I will submit that the biggest reason to have a metal boat is not about the HULL. Rather, it is the metal DECKS that provide the biggest advantages over other materials. There is just no easier way to build a permanently watertight, and strong deck. No hull to deck joint. No fastener holes. No repetitive re-bedding of hardware. Just weld everything down.

I'm reminded of cruisers forum member "Dockhead" and is writings about is magnificent balsa cored Moody. He sails his boat hard and I do not recall him having a lick of trouble with is very strong hull. However, I seem to remember a fair amount of trouble with the deck leaking and eventual hardware detachment (jib track torn off?). Perhaps he will chime in and confirm.

Steve
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Old 20-05-2018, 00:54   #13
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Re: Why are metal boats popular among seasoned cruisers?

youtu.be/nsOsWEo4p1Y

The sheer toughness of metal is pretty reassuring. Try doimg this in a grp boat... I saw a dented alloy boat that had been caught in pack ice and sold my GRP boat for a steel one. Now I've gone alloy for the performance.

The lack of deck leaks is a big bonus...
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Old 20-05-2018, 01:48   #14
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Re: Why are metal boats popular among seasoned cruisers?

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I had thought that a custom boat would typically involve the use of a production hull with a custom fit out. I am surprised any cruising couple would want a cruising boat with a fully custom hull. There must be much that I do not understand.
There is no perfect boat building material, but for a long distance cruising boat aluminium is hard to beat. It is light, strong and impact resistant. Aluminium boats are also great to live with. The insulated hull is condensation free and the boat is both warmer in cooler climates and cooler in hot climates. If done well the boat will have few (or even no) deck penetrations. A dry boat is important. Salt water in upholstery and bedding is difficult to get rid of. The salt remains and attracts dampness and mould. The aluminium hull and deck is low maintenance especially if there is not a lot of paint.

There are many aluminium boatbuilders that sell production models. These are often designed for the long distance cruising market so can be great boats in their stock form. However, some aluminium boatbuilders have more custom options than would be typical on a fiberglass boat. The main reason is that the internal fit out (furniture and plywood bulkheads etc) is not normally a part of the strength of the aluminium hull, as it is with a fiberglass boat. Consequently the fitout can be altered without any structural concerns or recalculations.

So one option is to choose a proven hull design, but then design a custom interior layout. This is what we have done with our latest boat. Some choose to have a completely new hull and interior design comissioned. If you cannot find a suitable hull design this can be a good option as well.

The main drawback of aluminium is that it is expensive and owners need to be knowledgeable and diligent about things such as equipment installation. The boat should also built to highest standards. Aluminium does not tolerate bad construction. The weld quality and aluminium material has to be first rate.
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Old 20-05-2018, 02:42   #15
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Re: Why are metal boats popular among seasoned cruisers?

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Thank you all for the replies.





I would agree that there is really no substitute for field experience and that one-offs, by definition, lack field experience. I would not want to be a beta-tester for a hull.



I had thought that a custom boat would typically involve the use of a production hull with a custom fit out. I am surprised any cruising couple would want a cruising boat with a fully custom hull. There must be much that I do not understand.
Except there's not anything called a prototype with production boats either. Of course they might take some minor upgrades after enough of warranty issues but the hull and all the "numbers" stay the same regardless..

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