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Old 28-04-2013, 16:32   #1
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Why did you get an aluminium boat with a lifting keel?

More simply: "Why did you buy an OVNI?"
OVNIs are lifting keel sailing boats form the french ALUBAT shipyard.
They are not one of the most popular brand worldwide but they certainly are in France as ALUBAT is the historical leader in this domain.
OVNIs can be seen all around the world as they are designed for long cruises, are almost custom made and can go anywhere, provided there is some wind and 4 feet of water.
Jimmy Cornell sailed one, it was a 435 and he circled the world at least 2 times with her.
Hence, for the standard OVNI owner (which I am) this is the killer question.
During the last 2 week it poped up at least 4 times when looking for crew members for my ARC and World ARC plan for 2013-2015: twice orally, 2 times by email.

In a nut shell here are the reasons I did give to my potential team mates.
  • Aluminium can be bent but punching a hole through the hull almost never happen.
  • There is not one OVNI known for having sunk because of a hole in the hull.
  • Having the hull and the deck made of the same component (here aluminum) ensure that there won't be different dilation or resistance coefficients to manage. Important if temperature may vary from very high to very low.
  • As it is entirely made of metal it is easier to spot on a radar screen.
  • The lifting keek makes possible to go almost anywhere and to beach the boat if needed, for pleasure or repair or maintenance if needed.
  • If you hit a whale or or some floating log the dagger board will come up into the hull.
  • Last but not least the second hand market (at least in Europe is good which means that there is a significant demand for those boats).
  • The downside is that it is more expensive than polyester and aluminium is more difficult to weld than steel.
Those are simple and easy answers and if I had to make a choice now, it would probably go for a 445 OVNI again.
I had no doubt about it up until the 25th of April (3 days ago) when visiting the shipyard to plan for some hull work to do before the World ARC they invited me to test their new OVNI they call ALUBAT 52 or OVNI Evolution.

After the 5 hours we sailed this brand new boat that gives a new vision of what a "bateau de voyage" could be I could not resist putting my thoughts in writing, in french and english of course.

People interested can access it through this link: ALUBAT 52 Testing

Note: in french OVNI is also an acronym, translated into english would give 'UFO'.
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Old 28-04-2013, 16:47   #2
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Re: Why did you get an aluminium boat with a lifting keel?

Looking through the link (I'll read it in detail later), I can see why you're excited about it. It looks very nice and very much as "the business".
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Old 28-04-2013, 17:48   #3
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Re: Why did you get an aluminium boat with a lifting keel?

Franchement, I don't think the expansion coefficient is a valid objectionto mixing materials at this scale (and that's coming from someone who's planning to build an alu hull and deck with lifting keel. The keel, in my case, will be steel and lead. There are potential problems with mixing these materials in seawater, but even at this smaller scale, I don't think thermal expansion is likely to be one of them ... but the other measures I'm taking to isolate the lead from the galvanised steel will be resilient, so the problem should not arise).

The structures are large enough at the interface (say of hull with deck) that any stresses arising from differential expansion are easily accomodated by flexion.

In any case, it is unusual to use a different material for the deck from the hull; one time where this is sometimes done is an aluminium superstructure on a steel hull. Perhaps that's what you're thinking?

It would be interesting to hear from people with OVNI experience (I have a friend whose brother in law is shopping for one at the moment)
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Old 28-04-2013, 22:26   #4
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Re: Why did you get an aluminium boat with a lifting keel?

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Originally Posted by Andrew Troup View Post
... (and that's coming from someone who's planning to build an alu hull and deck with lifting keel. The keel, in my case, will be steel and lead. ...
Andrew -- I'm curious, why will you make the keel out of steel?

By the way, our alloy boat has a lift keel and bulb. The draft varies from 1m to 2m. It's quite cool, but ... I am a little afraid of the forces involved and the massive hydraulics. When raising the keel, the boat ... squats ... in the water as 1/4 of it's weight is moving.
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Old 28-04-2013, 23:14   #5
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Re: Why did you get an aluminium boat with a lifting keel?

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Originally Posted by msponer View Post
Andrew -- I'm curious, why will you make the keel out of steel?

By the way, our alloy boat has a lift keel and bulb. The draft varies from 1m to 2m. It's quite cool, but ... I am a little afraid of the forces involved and the massive hydraulics. When raising the keel, the boat ... squats ... in the water as 1/4 of it's weight is moving.
Probably better if I PM you on that, rather than risk derailing the thread !
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Old 28-04-2013, 23:58   #6
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Re: Why did you get an aluminium boat with a lifting keel?

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Originally Posted by Andrew Troup View Post
In any case, it is unusual to use a different material for the deck from the hull; one time where this is sometimes done is an aluminium superstructure on a steel hull.
There are two French manufacturers at the moment that are doning this: Allures (composite deck on aluminium hull) and Fora Marine (Composite deck on plywood hull).
Both make interesting boats. If I had the money for an Allures... But in that case I might be tempted to get a Boreal in stead.
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Old 29-04-2013, 04:24   #7
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Re: Why did you get an aluminium boat with a lifting keel?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Caracal View Post
Looking through the link (I'll read it in detail later), I can see why you're excited about it. It looks very nice and very much as "the business".
Hi,
Thanks everyone for the comments and answers.
Regarding the keel your point is very valid and your are perfectly right.

Here are some explanations:
Alu only versu Alu+composites
  • What I wanted to avoid was having an aluminium hull and a composite deck. The junction between both is glued and then 'screwed' (dangerous word) with 1 bolt every 20cm or so. The reason are several: (1) I knew for long, walking through supermakets, that when a vegetable can fall on the floor it got a big bump and usually stay closed whereas when it is a coffee can with a glued cover the can goes one side, the cover rolls somewhere and the coffee is all over the place after the thin aluminum lead is torn apart. (2) When a broken bone is fixed with a piece of metal and the patient gets hit or fall it will, most of the time, break at the junction as the resistance and torsion coefficients are different (hip replacement are a good example). Of course this can and must be criticized but the picture of the spilled coffe is alway in my mind.
  • I must recognise that building a moulded deck+roof+cockipt is easier and faster than building it out of welded aluminum. Hence price should be lower but ... it is not. Therefore a potential advantage of this solution disappears even if the supposed benefit in thermic isolation remains.
The dagger board
On OVNIs previous to the 445, that means up to the 395, the dagger board is made of a simple aluminium plate.
On the 445 is is shaped steel and very heavy (half a ton). This one of the reason for the good behavior when sailing windward.
Corrosion prevention (it is always a concern) is done through isolation with nylon rings around the axis and nylon sliders in the dagger board compartment. But there are other metalic parts other than alu on these boats that can generate galvanic corrosion and for this reason Hanami II got an Isolation transformer.

On this basis there were very few options:
  • All aluminium was either Alubat or Garcia but Garcia was extremely expensive in the million euros range. Garcia disappeared and was bought a couple of years ago by Allure.
  • Aluminium and Composite were Alliage and Allure but I did not want this. Alliage was the bought by ... Alubat and those boats are not built any more.
  • Boreal would have been a option but did not exist at the time and if the concept of he dog house is fantastic there are a few things I am not comfortable with in this boat.
  • Last but by no point least was the Meta shipyard in Tarare, next to Lyon. They build semi-custom boats: very strong and minimalists, a bit like the land-cruisers from the past. Joshua, Bernard Moitessier's boat, was buit by them. Same for Ph Poupon I believe and J.Riguidel's Frequence Jazz. Looked good but the boat was bit too much minimalist if I can say.
  • There are other small shipyards in Vendée building custom made ship but I wanted something more "from the main stream" if I can say: you dont keep a boat all your life, one day you have to sell it too.

So here are the reasons for the combination: "all alu and from Alubat". This why I stay interested by the 52 and the 47 if they build it because they seems more manageable to me than the 2 cigale 16 I tested before. My wife and I often sail alone and the Cigale 16 (not to mention the 18) is too demanding when short handed. Of course I love their backward looking huge salloon and their performance but I want something smoother.

Not sure this will answer all the others comment I have seen after yours but I tried.
Thanks again, I love receiving comments or critics as it what I lear from...
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Old 29-04-2013, 04:31   #8
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Re: Why did you get an aluminium boat with a lifting keel?

Quote:
Originally Posted by hanami2 View Post
[*]Boreal would have been a option but did not exist at the time and if the concept of he dog house is fantastic there are a few things I am not comfortable with in this boat.
What is you are not comfortable with? To me the Boreal looks very attractive. It would be interesting to hear another viewpoint.
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Old 29-04-2013, 04:31   #9
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Re: Why did you get an aluminium boat with a lifting keel?

Thanks for the very valid comments.
I posted an answer to it but ... in the wrong message: I answered Carcal's one.
If you go to the web site you will get it of course.
Best,

Marc
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Old 29-04-2013, 04:58   #10
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Re: Why did you get an aluminium boat with a lifting keel?

OVNI = UFO is a new one for me. Cheers.
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Old 29-04-2013, 05:24   #11
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Re: Why did you get an aluminium boat with a lifting keel?

Objet volant, non identifié, IIRC

but the same initials work in several other languages, including Spanish and Italian.
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Old 29-04-2013, 06:05   #12
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Re: Why did you get an aluminium boat with a lifting keel?

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Originally Posted by David_Old_Jersey View Post
OVNI = UFO is a new one for me. Cheers.
There is also the OFNI, Object Flottant Non Identifié.

OVNI's are for people who want to be certain they will win against an OFNI :-)
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Old 29-04-2013, 11:58   #13
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Re: Why did you get an aluminium boat with a lifting keel?

Thanks for the answer.

The PLUS on the Boreal
There are some very good points about the Boreal like the dog house and the chain that comes back to the mast level before dropping down: that is very good as it improve weight repartition.

Where they are more or less equals
Similar to OVNIs the Boreal gets the shines (good for stability) the waterproof compartments at the bow and in the transom.
They can beach easily.
The quality of the alu is OK.
The tanks capacity is almost similar and was not a major factor as for a 3 or 5 weeks crossing you need more and must have a water maker and some fuel jerycans you can't even store on the transom as it doesn't exist on the 44.

The visit during a boat-show
The only one I really saw was the 44 during the Grand Pavois in la Rochelle two years in a row and almost 4 years ago. The new models improved it but I never visit nor sailed them.

What I was bit reluctant about, on the 44 which is the only one I saw, and was the size I wanted is:

  • The cockpit and specially the transom part of it. Now it is very different with a really usable transom very similar to the Allure and OVNI's ones.
  • The lack of an aft arch for the solar panels, the wind turbine and all antennas that always end up there. If the arch is not there it will have to be added in a second phase with a real risk of getting something ugly made of aluminum tubing and with lots of cables going in and out instead of being nicely organized inside it and well protected.
  • The lack of something where to hang the tender on short cruises on the 44 unless by adding davits: this goes with the arch comment as it is usually from the arch that the tender is hanging. Having the tender on the fore part of the deck has nothing attractive from my point of view. The arch now exist on the bigger models but it is not clear to me if they are standard or optional and can be built on the smaller ones without paying an additional cost for something that should be in from the beginning.
  • The single rudder as I like the feeling given by twin rudders.
  • The shorter dagger board (the draught is 3m on the 445 when it is down) .
  • The two there dagger boards that, for me, increase complexity without a benefit I would be ready to pay a premium for. For this one I may be wrong as I never sailed the boat. It is more gut-feeling than anything else. It is a bit like all the bells and whistels you get on every new version of Microsoft Word but never use.
  • The multiple levels inside and how lockers were organized. I am sure that like with OVNIs the inside can be custom made as long as the dagger board, the engine and the tanks positions are not changed.
  • I was looking for boats that could accommodate the Yanmar engine that has the power generator integrated and at the time it was not the case. Having only one diesel to take care of is a plus. It may have changed, I do not know.

The 50 and above are too big for sailing short handed.

To make a long story short the Boreal is a very good boat with plenty of good ideas and I think it competes well with the OVNIs. It seems to me they tried to do something between META and GRACIA and they succeeded.
The one I saw was probably their number 2 or 3 and they will improve with time. No doubt about this.

What would I do now if I was to buy a new boat?
Well to be honest I would scratch my head and try those boats on open seas before making a tough decision.
It would be difficult to choose between the OVNI 47 evolution with its dog house and the Boreal. That's sure too.

"Moneywise" the discussion will be a 'hot" one as the Boreal is not particularly cheap and if you pay a premium you must know why.

Thanks for your comments and ideas.
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Old 29-04-2013, 12:30   #14
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Re: Why did you get an aluminium boat with a lifting keel?

As an owner of a french built Trisbal from the "expedition" era of french alu boat making I want to cover some of the points you mention. I also am a huge fan of Ovni's as well so I am not dissing them by any stretch.

I am an exceptionally happy owner of aluminium but I must disagree with some of your assertions

Quote:
Aluminium can be bent but punching a hole through the hull almost never happen.
I know 2 alu boats that were holed and sunk on a reef. In many cases a well laid fiberglass hull can have more strength to impact ratio than aluminum. The above statement is completely untrue and not supported by the evidence of insurance claims, accident reports, etc.

For a quite detailed thread on this topic see this link:

Fibreglass vs Aluminium Impact Strength

Quote:
There is not one OVNI known for having sunk because of a hole in the hull.
That may be true - but there are many aluminum boats that are at least as well built as Ovni's that are resting on the bottom.

Quote:
As it is entirely made of metal it is easier to spot on a radar screen.
Also not true - except in perfectly flat conditions. Your visibility is more dependent on your mast height and radar reflectors. I have owned plastic, wood and aluminum boats and noticed no difference to radar visibility for ships. Just one exampler: On a passage across the south atlantic we had an instance where we took down our reflectors and asked a ship that was less than 5 miles from us if they could see us on radar. We were in 3 meter rolling swells and 3 different ships could not see us on radar...

Quote:
The lifting keek makes possible to go almost anywhere and to beach the boat if needed, for pleasure or repair or maintenance if needed.
Ovni's beach better than Trisbal's so this may be true. I however have only beached twice and couldnt say I would do it often, especially as aluminum boats have issues with bottom paint and copper and when you beach you abrade the epoxy bottom paint barrier and end up making quite a project for yourself during haul out time. I think this is an option that looks better in the marketing material than in real practice.

The lifting keel and shallow draft however is a major boon both to sailing performance downwind and to shallow passes!!!

Quote:
If you hit a whale or or some floating log the dagger board will come up into the hull.
Only if you hit straight on. The previous owner to me hit a log at 20 degrees off and it bent the lifting keel enough that he coudlnt raise it and had to drop it in the next shipyard and have it straightened.

Quote:
Last but not least the second hand market (at least in Europe is good which means that there is a significant demand for those boats).
YES!!! Huge demand!

Quote:
The downside is that it is more expensive than polyester and aluminium is more difficult to weld than steel.
The welding issue is a huge one that I am living right now. Finding qualified welders for regular work on aluminum is not hard - finding boilerplate qualified welders to do hull welding below the waterline is incredibly difficult to find outside of the states and europe.
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Old 29-04-2013, 17:40   #15
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Re: Why did you get an aluminium boat with a lifting keel?

Thanks for the comments and I completely agree with all of them and that is why I did say:

"almost never happen" and not never, which means that it sometime happens. Of course if I crash the boat on a rock something bad will happen but when you get hit by other boats (which is what I was thinking of) usually the aluminum only bend most of the time. Unfortunately it doesn't come back as polyester would do. That is the reason why I have a nice bump on one side (port) of the hull. A friend of mine OVNI got hit by a pontoon that went loose during a boat show and finished squeezed between two pontoons. The boat had a very bad hit on the water line. As it was during a boat show (Grand Pavois in la Rochelle) for which his boat was used for demonstration the boat was hauled out and fixed by the shipyard but no water went in. Not sure polyester would have given the same result. Those are the cases I was thinking of. An other OVNI got badly hurt by a other boat, in Martinique or Guadeloupe 2 years ago. The hull was seriously bended but no hole. A very good paper about this case was published in the french "Voiles et Voilers" at the time.
Most (not all, I become careful in my wording now) boats that go in the arctic or antarctic regions are steel or aluminum for this very reason: hitting or pushing ice is less dangerous if you are made of metal.
Conclusion: everything can happen and there are examples that support both view points.

"easier to spot" and not easy to spot as what ever you are made of in very big seas your are not visible.
Now, if you are moored by night with fog, even with the light on ,you get better chances to be spotted by a radar if you are made of steel or aluminum. That was my point as it is a very frequent situation.

"Makes possible … to beach …". Of course it is just an option. I beached the boat a few times for maintenance (e.g.: changing anodes, checking the rudders or the propeller after coming across fishing devices or floating ropes etc …) and on the sand for pleasure. Of course you need to have tides that allow for doing it. With my boat it is a bit tricky to beach on the concrete as I have a forward looking sounder I have to protect, usually with a tyre but it is very convenient. I agree you don't buy a boat just for that!

"hitting whales or other things": I perfectly agree with you. No one is lucky all the time but last year, during the ARC Europe, one of the yacht did hit a whale one day after leaving Bermuda and sunk. The keel was the issue not the hull by itself. The people on board were rescued by a cargo ship. I believe that with an OVNI and a lifting keel the hit may have had less dramatic consequences. Of course it is just a assumption.
In the same domain it did happen to me to go in shallow waters I did not spot early enough or was not aware of (despite the forward looking sounder that is not always swiched ON). With my previous Dufour boat I got stuck as we were in the low tide phase. With the OVNI it did happen twice (once in Martinique, entering le Marin) and the keel just went up, the sound of it scratching the bottom forced me to lift it up completely and we went off unharmed. Of course I should have been more vigilant but no harm was done.

For the last two we seems to have the same opinion.

So I am not saying that aluminum or steel boats are perfect. OVNIS are just one of the kind, they just happen to have a lifting keel. Because of this combination that exist on many other boats there are a few risks that some people, including me, think they minimize. Not because they are OVNIs but because of the combination Metal + Lifting keel.
It would be the same if the brand was Allure, Garcia, Meta, Boreal and a few others.
It is all about minimizing risks , not risks exclusion as it is impossible. It is also about beliefs of course and some of mine may well be wrong.

To be complete there are lots of very negative points in having an Aluminium or Steel boat.

Corrosion is first, particularly the galvanic one and also the need to isolate very piece of metal that is fixed to aluminum with a special product. This is a real pain.
Double wiring for all electrical equipment and the impossibility to use the hull as ground.
Impossibility to use seacocks that are not plastic which carries a risk in very cold waters.
Extra cost when compared with fiberglass or polyester.
Mandatory use of metal free antifouling that are almost twice the price of conventional ones
And surely a few others I forget.
Nothing is perfect we just try to find the solution we believe to be the safest.

Thanks again for the comments as it forced me to clarify and give details.
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