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Old 23-04-2016, 20:31   #1
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Steel boat maintenance?

My wife has chosen a steel boat as our next boat. I might of liked a faster modern cruiser this time around but my wife wears the pants.

Our last boat was fiberglass so we've gotta a learn a new game. I'm especially worried about making sure the wiring and anodes are right so we don't burn any holes in the hull and keep the boat rust free.

What are the steel specific issues we need to learn about? Are there any especially good steel sailboat maintenance web sites or books? Anything else?
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Old 23-04-2016, 20:46   #2
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Re: Steel boat maintenance?

Keep the bilges dry, and vacuum them regularly. Buy a wet and dry vac so you can easily rinse them with fresh water. Watch those little spots were plumbing or such can chafe the paint inside. Congratulations, steel is real!

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Old 23-04-2016, 22:18   #3
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Re: Steel boat maintenance?

I have had a steel boat for twenty nine years but am in the process of buying a plastic boat because: I am getting too old and lazy to keep up with the maintenance on the steel hull. Need a boat where I can have guests aboard fairly long term want a change of boats.


I am of the opinion that steel, aluminium and fibreglass are really the only three materials for a long term cruiser, ferro and anything with wood suffer from durability and potential rot problems. With it's high potential for corrosion and uncertain welding properties I would prefer steel over alloy.


My overall experience with steel has been good and I believe that from a cost viewpoint I am way ahead of where I would have been with a fibreglass boat. On insurance alone I have only ever had third party liability insurance which is a considerable saving over 29 years. I have boating acquaintances who have been through the osmosis thing and would not want to go there myself.


The vessel I have now has 4 heavily distorted parts, one of which would have lead to it's loss in either fibre glass, timber or ferro. I have a fried whose 52' steel Roberts spent 7 weeks bouncing around on a reef in the Solomons before being dragged off by 2 trawlers, which I think is a pretty good advertisement for the durability of steel.


An interesting aspect of my present steel vessel is that the internal parts where water cannot collect are completely rust free with the original 29 year old coatings however any place where water can be trapped or where the coating is not continuous and water cannot drain or is retained by capillary action, such as on in water traps created by the intersections of frames and stringers and between frames and hull plates have had to be de-rusted and recoated regularly. However on the basis of the 29 years of experience I now have I believe that a properly designed, fabricated, coated and maintained steel hull could be the most durable and maintenance free of all the practical hull building materials.


It was my wife who originally chose steel as a hull material for our family boat and although I have often cursed her for it during times spent in the bilge I think her instincts at the time were sound.
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Old 23-04-2016, 22:43   #4
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Re: Steel boat maintenance?

Steel is durable. Often a steel boat will survive where other materials don't. Several years ago a large steel fishing boat was leaving a central Oregon port. Going thru parallel jetties, it lost steering control and the ocean pushed it stern first onto the jetty rocks. The rudder was ripped away and the propeller shaft was bent 90. It pounded on the rocks in bad seas for an hour before the Coast Guard could get a tow line to it. I saw it after hauling. There were dished in plates, but only a small leak in the stern bearing/stuffing box because of the distortion of the 3" bent propeller shaft.
Steel lasts as well as any other material. The trick is proper steel prep and proper painting system. Also, attack rust when first noticed, not years later.
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Old 24-04-2016, 05:33   #5
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Re: Steel boat maintenance?

Thanks guys. Sounds like the most important thing is to make sure water does not accumulate anywhere. So far, the boat looks 100% dry on the indside so we will keep it that way.

Any comments on electrical systems and anodes for steel boats?
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Old 24-04-2016, 05:55   #6
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Re: Steel boat maintenance?

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Originally Posted by svseachange View Post
Thanks guys. Sounds like the most important thing is to make sure water does not accumulate anywhere. So far, the boat looks 100% dry on the indside so we will keep it that way.

Any comments on electrical systems and anodes for steel boats?
Good quality simple wiring. Switch off the power when you leave the boat, and don't get too paraniod, after all its not aluminium, and fg boats have lots of metal below the water as well.

Check the anodes are actually electrically attached to the hull with a multimeter, ideally weld them on, even if its just a small dab somewhere. Negitive earth is Ok on a steelie. Positive leaks are are the killer.

On the internal moisture issue, good ventilation is important, open the hatch when cooking, and try not to let too much steam into the boat showers also fog up the boat badly. An outside vented diesel or wood heater dries out the boat nicely.

Once a day try to get a good flow of fresh dry air into the boat even in cold weather if possible.

Check behind insulation and panelling that condensation and mold aren't building up.

But enjoy the strength and safety of your metal hull. The worst case its not hard to weld in a few new plates. A freind with a big 70 foot steel boat reckoned it was easier and cheaper than sandblasting the rusted metal.
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Old 24-04-2016, 18:08   #7
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Re: Steel boat maintenance?

Thanks Snowpetrel. That's the kind of information I was looking for about steel boats.

There is some good info linked to in your blog too. Like your wood stove and dodger photos. You asked about other terms for "slipping". In the US Midwest they called it "hauling out" to go "on the hard".
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Old 24-04-2016, 18:49   #8
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Re: Steel boat maintenance?

Thanks seachange. Yeah, almost forgot, look after your bottom paint, if its flaky in a few areas do your best to feather it out back to good epoxy, then re epoxy and antifoul. Snowpetrels bottom got much worse after I gave up and slapped some one pot primercon on it. I also suspect in retrospect that she might well have been over anoded, thats question is a whole minefield in itself. But she had a bunch of anodes on the keel, and thats where I lost the most paint.
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Old 28-04-2016, 12:44   #9
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Re: Steel boat maintenance?

Properly coated steel boat will be almost rust free for first 20 years! If you are buying used, you should know that steel boat rusts from inside out.
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Old 28-04-2016, 13:59   #10
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Re: Steel boat maintenance?

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Originally Posted by svseachange View Post
Are there any especially good steel sailboat maintenance web sites or books? Anything else?

Download this one, mass of real world information. He's not very keen on Internet forums....


http://www.amazon.com/Metal-boat-mai.../dp/B0070QRME4


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Old 28-04-2016, 15:27   #11
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Re: Steel boat maintenance?

Guys, thanks for the info. For a brief thread, it answered a lot of questions that I'd had about steel boats, & their upkeep.


BTW, if anyone cares to share their favorite steel, & or metal boat forum links, I'm all ears. Particularly if they have For Sale pages. And yeah, I'm aware of the Metal Boat Society, as well as Michael Kasten (to some degree, as I lived in PT, where he does).
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Old 28-04-2016, 16:13   #12
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Re: Steel boat maintenance?

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Originally Posted by conachair View Post
Download this one, mass of real world information. He's not very keen on Internet forums....


http://www.amazon.com/Metal-boat-mai.../dp/B0070QRME4
This is a good book, but it tends to deal more with the terminal case situation. With proper intenal paint, and care things shouldnt get this bad. Makes for depressing reading, but worth a read.
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Old 28-04-2016, 16:14   #13
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Re: Steel boat maintenance?

I noticed that 'immediate' maintenance seems to help. You spot any rust or scratch, wipe it with some paint immediatelly. The boat may end up looking patchy but there is very little sanding and priming and painting end of season.

BTW There are some pretty well performing boats in steel too so I think you will find something to please both of you equally.

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Old 28-04-2016, 16:49   #14
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Re: Steel boat maintenance?

i have lived onboard my steel yacht since 1998. She is still beautiful and in good condition. Rust is easily stopped by spraying with lanolin until time for painting. All electrics MUST be negative return including the engine. Do not earth to the hull. Keep steel correctly painted and she will outlast you.
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Old 01-05-2016, 16:17   #15
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Re: Steel boat maintenance?

Thanks for the lanolin tip, Ray.

The bit about not grounding to the hull reinforced by the marine surveyor.

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