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Old 11-09-2008, 12:35   #1
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Aluminum Vs. Plywood

I am considering having a hull designed and built (economics are very important) for a long-term liveaboard. I am looking at a simple design for freshwater use. I would prefer a 70% motor sailer, and for the 30% of the time that I am using the sail, I would prefer a wooden mast, a simple rig and dagger or lee boards. It should be shallow draft, light in weight to reduce operating costs, fully insulated, and low maintenance. Two people should be able to handle it easily, and I require no bells and whistles whatsoever - electronics will be mostly hand-held, etc. I require at least 6'4" headroom throughout. A workboat finish will be fine with me, and I would like both fairly substantial storage and a workspace. I am comfortable with a plywood hard-chine hull, but from my research, it appears the aluminum is far more economical and practical, and comes closer to meeting the requirements above.

What would you recommend?
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Old 11-09-2008, 12:56   #2
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You have a lot of things competing here. Building a custom hull would not be to err on the side of affordable. It means you'll assemble the rest of the boat from parts and pay a premium even if you do all the assembly work you won't save money. If on a budget I would never build your own boat let alone hire it done if saving money is a consideration let alone a requirement.

I wouldn't go for a motorsailor. It's the worst of all worlds. They sail almost always poorly but still require all the rigging. Being light weight does not reduce operating costs at least just on it's own. Using wood anything won't reduce maintenance costs either. Maintenance is not low on any boat and dependent on climate greatly.

I think you would do better with a used power cat. It's the only thing I know of with 6 - 4 headroom everyplace. They haul more stuff and have more square footage. With two smaller engines you might be more economical. Sailing gear buys a whole lot of fuel.

Bells and whistles can come in many forms. Hot water? Refrigeration? Air Conditioning? Hydraulic crane for the dinghy? SSB or HAM radio? TV? TV with satellite receiver?

You have not indicated the type of travel you plan on either. If you desire to cover long distances with ocean passages you might have blown the budget. Your list of requirements really needs more work and next to it would be a more refined list of expectations with a budget.The budget needs to consider purchase costs, operation costs, and other expenses to compute to a number that leads you to a total boat budget. In the bigger picture the cost of the boat is the only easy computation but only after all the rest are added up.
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Old 11-09-2008, 13:16   #3
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Paul offers good points. Personally I would suggest you go see a designer. They are good (or should be) at asking all the right questions so as they come up with a design best suited. Yes I know that will cost some money, but it could be a saving of both money and heartache in the end. Especially in regards to material. You are asking such a varied question with one of the main differences being construction. If budget is a concern, I would suggest Ally would be the most expensive, but it depends on several other variables. Especially in the area of finish.
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Old 11-09-2008, 14:05   #4
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If you would be content with a workboat finish no "bells and whistles" I'd get a subscription to Boats and Harbors and see whats available in the well used utility market.

What you are seeking may be there at a bargain price.
I agree with the power cat idea also. Lots of room and economical to drive around.

If you are thinking plywood as an economical way to go there will still be layers of costly fiberglass and epoxy involved for structural strength and other reasons that will become obvious after a few seasons. Just a little standing water on plywood could be be costly over time.

If building with aluminum was the next option I'd put my money towards an older, but sound fiberglass hull. You say freshwater. If you are referring to freshwater in the North where it gets cold in the winter an aluminum hull will require much more in the way of finishing than a wood hull to keep it reasonably warm. Aluminum conducts heat into the water and cold into the boat faster than anything afloat.

I am reading into your desires here but, if economy is the main priority, "design and build" don't seem like the way I'd start. You don't say when you want to begin the adventure but if its soon or even in the near future I'd scour the used market for a while. There are so many good boats out there waiting for someone like you its not funny.
Just my thoughts. Many may disagree.
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Old 11-09-2008, 21:01   #5
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I would also suggest a power cat. There are several discussions here on the forum about the economics of a power cat vs a sailing cat. They are surprisingly close. Plans are available everywhere. Building these boats from Composit is a relatively simple operation, and the living and stowage space is substantial. Without going hi tech, you will have some weight considerations, so what you want to stow will have to be considered. Even with a composite mono, you will have to consider weight closely. More info would help.
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Old 11-09-2008, 21:07   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DeesSqueeze View Post
I am considering having a hull designed and built (economics are very important) for a long-term liveaboard.
If economics really are important then I would not build a boat from scratch in the first place. I would find a used boat for less than half the price that comes very close to what you want.

If you really do want to build your own, then I would choose aluminum...and dont paint it. Aluminum "hates" paint and shows up as paint blisters within the first year. Also, get yourself a darn good aluminum welder with lots of experience. Don't be like the guy who built his boat from materials from Home Depot.
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Old 11-09-2008, 21:18   #7
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Custom and economical are rarely in the same paragraph together.

You could also consider converting a workboat but fundamentally I agree with the others that "custom" building a boat costs more.

I was following the blog of an Aussie couple that converted a fishing boat out of Brisbane I think. It wasn't cheap.
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Old 12-09-2008, 05:12   #8
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I agree with this completely. There are many good used boats on the market that can be had for the cost of the gear alone.

Regarding welding aluminum, as David said get a GOOD welder. The problem with welding aluminum is that you cannot see the puddle. Dificult stuff to weld well.

Quote:
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If economics really are important then I would not build a boat from scratch in the first place. I would find a used boat for less than half the price that comes very close to what you want.

If you really do want to build your own, then I would choose aluminum...and dont paint it. Aluminum "hates" paint and shows up as paint blisters within the first year. Also, get yourself a darn good aluminum welder with lots of experience. Don't be like the guy who built his boat from materials from Home Depot.
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Old 19-09-2008, 10:22   #9
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If you plan on welding your own boat out of aluminum plan on first outlaying 1-2 thousand dollars for a decent tig welder. Then practice practice practice. Fiberglass is easily learned and carried out but quality welding is a hard earned skill. Use the wrong filler, too much or too little heat and your welds will break along with the first wave.

Unless you are first an experienced welder, or willing to pay one I would go with wood/glass composite
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Old 04-09-2009, 17:20   #10
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Thanks all for the information. Sorry for taking so long to respond. Damned doctors anyway...
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