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Old 14-09-2005, 18:37   #1
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steel power boats.

I am thinking of buying a 76' very old power boat. I called a loan broker to find out what lenders think of very old boats. He said that it is not hard to get a loan on old boats as long as they are not home made or made of wood. I will pay cash for the boat but want to be able to resell it to someone that may want a loan. I don't know much about steel boats. What goes wrong with them? This boat is a project, but it could be fun and I plan on making money when I'm done.
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Old 14-09-2005, 19:41   #2
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I have never owned one, but I am intrigued by steel vessels. Good Old Boat, did a great article some time back on hull materials, and had good things to say about steel.
You might consider reading "Ice Bird" by David Lewis. He sailed one to the Antarctic. Bernard Mortessier did his thing on a steel vessel. If you did have not read his book, it is worth the time.
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Old 14-09-2005, 19:52   #3
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Steel are the first boats I worked on

Compliments of the US Navy.

One thing's for sure, if they go to sea a lot, paint will be on the menu. You start at one end and paint your way to the other. And when you're finished you start over again. Iron oxide will become part of your vocabulary.

If they are in good shape when you get them, they're not hard to keep up. But if the cancer has set in, even a sand blaster can't go deep enough to stop the progression.

GOOD LUCK!
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Old 14-09-2005, 19:58   #4
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In this harbor, about 1/2 the fishing boats are steel, and most of the other half are wood. Every off season, the dock sounds like a body shop with all the grinders going, but every year, they all come home. I will say that if you get as far as a survey, get a surveyor who specializes in steel boats. The average plastic fantastic surveyor will not have the tools or the knowledge to find hidden problems. An ultrsound device to test thickness of the steel is a must.
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Old 14-09-2005, 21:42   #5
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Steel

There is a chat group on yahoo under the origami heading that has a bunch of steel lovers.
David Lewis wrote about how damp Ice Bird was inside. Newer baots are sprayed with foam inside to cut down on the condensation. I have only been out on wooden fishing boats not steel so can not comment further. The Oriana was quite comfortable but it may be a bit big for what you want.
Michael
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Old 14-09-2005, 21:48   #6
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If you are into radio, a steel boat will get you signals you would not believe!
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Old 15-09-2005, 05:22   #7
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Rust

The big problem with steel is rust. You cannot get around the problem that plagues all the large ships of the world. It is not the seen rust, but the unseen rust that corrodes the hull in areas where it cannot be inspected without removing major components such as the engine or tanks.
A thorough survey by a surveyor who is familiar with steel vessels is a must.
Jim
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Old 15-09-2005, 06:23   #8
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The big thing to remember when building a steel hull is access.Rust is not a problem if you can see it.POR15 works very well to protect steel and can be applied without blasting.NEVER plan on making money rebuilding a boat unless someone else is getting the work done by you. quote Compliments of the US Navy.

One thing's for sure, if they go to sea a lot, paint will be on the menu. You start at one end and paint your way to the other. And when you're finished you start over again. end quote If it moves salute and if it doesn`t paint it.
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Old 15-09-2005, 23:01   #9
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I was going to comment on the making money on a boat thing, but I have actually made money on a couple of them. Unfortunately, not enough to offset what I have lost on others.
Got to be a labor of love.
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Old 16-09-2005, 05:26   #10
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I apologize that this was taken from a piece written for another venue and does not specifically address steel power boats but I think that it may contain a lot of good information.

As I have said before, I am not a fan of metal boats. Compared to wood or glass I think they are way too heavy for the strength achieved and too difficult to maintain. They are noisy and prone to have problems that are not easy to get to and repair. For the distance cruiser any bonehead can carry and use glass or wood to repair wood or glass boats anywhere in the world. Welding a metal boat in some atoll on the backside of no-where is another story.

There is a relatively small market in this country (US) for metal boats; a bit in ignorance and a bit because metal boats really do not make sense for the venues that most of us sail in. While cruising people are a bit more open minded toward metal boats, I think metal boats will be a hard sell in this country for a long time making resale a bit difficult. Many of the metal boats that we see over here are crudely built hardchine affairs. The chines are often laid out without care for their visual impact. Cabin and deck structures are often rather primitive. Hardware is often painted galvanized steel. As they age they develop areas that have been dented in between ribs and other framing. It is not to say that there are not well built metal boats, but the perception of metal boats comes from the poor examples.

Amongst the proponents of Metal boats, much has been made of the ability of metal boats to bend rather than puncture. I think this is a little bit bogus. That may be true of the extremely heavy boats designed to workboat standards, but not really true of boats built to meet yacht standards which tend to be much lighter. These lighter weight metal boats use lighter weight skins spanning between a more closely spaced frame and stringer system. If the impact is on a frame you are more likely to bend the boat than puncture the skin but an impact next to a frame or between a frame is more likely to sheer the skin than bend it in any impact that would be hard enough to puncture the average fiberglass boat.

The one advantage of steel is a higher abrasion resistance. In the unlikely event that you end up rubbing against a rock for hours on end without puncturing the skin, a steel skin can withstand abrasion better than glass. If you sail in an area where abrading against rocks is a serious problem then steel may make sense. It doesn't for me.

Metal boats are seen as being very durable, but again in the weights of materials used in yachts I seriously question that idea. All boats flex; it is only a mater of degrees. Over time this flexing work hardens and fatigues the steel. especially the skins at frames and other hard spots. Rust, mostly from the interior makes the skin thinner. Like any other material each boat has a real lifespan. It may exceed our own but it may not. It is true that fiberglass will also fatigue and weaken over time especially non-cored hulls which tend to flex more. It is true that cored f.g. hulls may eventually delaminate from the core or the core itself may sheer but in well-built boats this is a very long-term process.

In a number of studies that I have seen over the years, steel is generally seen as being the most maintenance prone material out there, both long and short term. This is slightly offset by some of the exotic steels being used in the last couple years but for the most part, just like wood you need to keep the actual hull and framing protected from water and air. Unlike wood this means both inside and out. There are areas on a steel hull that are inaccessible but just because you can’t see them that does not mean that they aren’t deteriorating. Rust never sleeps and metal boats actually deterioate mostly from the interior out.

A couple years ago I looked at a steel hulled power yacht with a potential buyer that I did the drawings for during the period that I worked for yacht designer Charlie Wittholz. This boat has been built at a very high quality yard and appeared to have been extremely well constructed. The boat was less than 20 years old. Portions of the bottom had been replated. It had been through a number of surveys and come out reasonably clean. When we began to examine the hull in less than perfectly accessible areas we found that there were major areas of rust behind and along the longitudinal stringers that reduced the strength of the hull greatly. On a power boat where pounding is a serious issue this would have eventually lead to a major failure.

Then there is electrolysis. This used to be the kind of problem that was a compelling reason not to own a steel boat. In the early 1970’s I worked in a boat yard that had to do an emergency hauling of a steel power boat to prevent it from sinking. This boat which had been launched weeks earlier in perfect shape had changed slips and was tied up next to a boat with an improperly grounded 110 electrical system and in a mater of days the bottom of the power boat in question had lost sufficient thickness and was covered with small pin holes that the boat needed entirely bottom plating. This kind of loss was not covered by insurance. Today, there are ways to completely combat the electrolysis problem but, in my mind, they are bandaides treating symptoms rather than real cures to the problem.

My biggest gripe comes down to sailing ability and how this affects deck and cabin materials. Some of this goes away as the boat gets to be 45 feet or bigger. In boats under 45 feet, steel hulls are just plain heavier for a given strength than any other material except perhaps ferrocement. Weight in and of itself has no advantage at all. More weight means that you need to have more sail area for a given speed and a given sailing ability. More sail area means that a boat needs more stability to be able to stand to this bigger rig which means more ballast which means more weight which means more sailarea. The problem gets worse because steel boats often have steel topsides, steel decks and steel deckhouses. This is weight high above the center of buoyancy and as such reduces stability further making it hard to carry a decent sail area to weight ratio. In the ultimate bad sailing day, it also means that once inverted you are more likely to remain inverted longer. This problem is often addressed by the use of wooden deck and cabin structures. Deck and cabin structures are the area of greatest maintenance in a wooden boat and so you are just upping the amount of manitenance even further.

In fairness, I must point out that puncture resistance has never been a criterion by which I select a boat. My personal taste leans toward lighter boats. My prior boat is a 4,100-lb. 28 footer made of kevlar over high density closed cell foam. I have always been a proponent of buying a boat suited to your anticipated sailing conditions and in my case my sailing conditions are strictly coastal and do not include passages to remote areas. If you are looking at passages to the remote areas of the Pacific Southern Ocean, then puncture resistance becomes more critical and the ability to make repairs in a remote area becomes even more critical still. You may also sail in a windier environment that I and maybe able to tolerate a heavier boat.

No matter what material you use, workmanship and quality materials will be critical. I do not believe that steel tolerates poor quality any better than any other material and since so much depends on the welds the welding needs to be top notch. Steel is not just one material but a family of iron based materials. How the metal is made, purified and alloyed affects initial strength, fatigue qualities and its resistance to corrosion.

You often hear that steel can be built cheaply. Quality metal construction never was cheap. You could build a quality boat in almost any other as cheaply or for less. With advent of computer driven cutters and the more common availability of some of the newer (last 15 years) welding techniques steel has come down in price to the point that custom steel boats maybe less expensive than custom boats in many other materials. The problem in saying steel is cheap is that simple hard chine steel boats with workboat levels of finish are often compared to yacht quality boats of other finishes. Probably a comparable and less expensive construction is glass over sheet plywood. Properly done this can actually be a far stronger and less puncture resistant material than steel. Glassed inside and out with quality laminates and epoxy resins, the plywood boat would have far and away less maintenance costs and would have a much lighter hull weight than steel, thereby having considerably better sailing characteristics in all ways.

I think much of the answer in picking a metal boat comes from picking the right designer. If I had to list designers of metal boats that I like, I think that Van de Stadt from Holland does a nice job. Some of their designs seem to be IOR based, and as such, do not appeal to me as much as Van de Stadt's more straightforward cruising designs. Their design 46A is very appealing to me. Van de Stadt has a very strong reputation for quality engineering and has designed some very fast boats in their day. I think they offer some of their designs on disk so that they can be computer cut saving a lot of time and perhaps money. From what I gather they are a class act.

Yves Tanton in Newport Rhode Island does some very nice work. I think he is a very creative designer with a very nice eye for visual proportions. He is a sometimes participant on this board and I have seen his catalog and it is really an impressive body of work.

Dudley Dix from South Africa is a very interesting designer to me. He is terribly creative and seems to understand what it takes to design a nice performing boat that is also a comfortable cruiser.

How could I forget Charlie Wittholz? I actually worked for Charlie Wittholz in the early 1980's. Charlie did some very nice, very interesting traditional designs in steel. Charlie was a neat guy. He actually worked for Alden and Rhodes before opening his own shop. I liked his work. His boats had a certain simplicity that was very elegant. He had a nice eye for proportion and a sweet line. Hard chine boats are actually very hard to design so that they look right. The chine forms a strong accent line that has to work with the desired hull shape, the physical properties of the plating and the other visual lines of the boat. Charlie was able to keep these sometimes-contradictory lines under control to produce attractive traditional craft. While I liked most of Charlie's work, one of my least favorite boats of his was a bilge keel cruising boat. (I drew many of the drawings for her) This was a purpose built boat for the European canals and as such was a good boat for its purpose but was not my kind of boat. Charlie and I would have lively lunch time discussions on our divergent points of view on modern lightweight boats. We both loved wood as a building material. I loved his stories of Alden and Rhodes. Rhodes was very much a patrician gentleman but Alden was a very colorful character.

Charlie made the final passage to Fiddler's Green a few years back. His family still sells his designs by mail order. I don't know if they have study plans but he used to have simple list of designs that listed the basics of each design. I believe that their phone number is 301 593 7711. Also WoodenBoat still markets some of his designs.

Bruce Roberts is popular but I am not a fan of his work. It is not so much that I do not like his work per se. I think that for the most part Roberts designs conservative simple boats, but to me they are dated. His Spray series have less than no appeal to me. Having read about the original Spray and the sailing ability of some of the so- called copies of her, I have come to believe that Josh Slocum made it around the world despite the short comings of Spray rather than because of her sterling virtues. Josh Slocum was the consummate seaman. Spray was a coastal oyster boat. Why anyone in this day and age would want to use her as a model for a whole line of boats is completely beyond me. But I emphasize this is only my opinion and Roberts has sold a bunch of these things so my opinion is not shared by everyone on this.

Roberts more modern designs were probably good designs in the 1970's but a lot has happened since then. To me his design ideas have not advanced as well. That said, Roberts has a boat he calls a 434 that someone built as a long range single-hander that looks like a nice boat but slightly dated to my eye. Still in all these are very heavy boats and I strongly believe that weight, in and of itself, has no inherent virtue and is a very serious liability.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, much of the questions in sailing have no one right answer. That does not keep people like me from having strong preferences and opinions. My opinion suits me, and the way that I choose to sail, very well. It may not suit you at all. It is easy for someone to refute my opinion on some other criteria than my own. As I have said before on this BB, ultimately that debate can have no more substance than a trying to prove that Vanilla ice cream is inherently superior tasting than strawberry ice cream, (which is why these are called 'opinions').

Good luck
Jeff
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Old 16-09-2005, 06:29   #11
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That is a lot to take in! The boat that I have interest in is Dutch build by a very respected company.
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Old 16-09-2005, 09:18   #12
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See the “Good Old Boat” magazine online article guide at:
http://www.goodoldboat.com/articles_onl.html

BoatUS is posting selected articles from “Good Old Boat” magazine at:
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Is there a metal yacht in your future? ~ by Ted Brewer, July 1999
http://www.boatus.com/goodoldboat/steelboat.htm
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Old 16-09-2005, 12:42   #13
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Gord You should have a steel hull just to protect you from moose in Thunder Bay.I was up there last winter and drove up to Dryden.WOW
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Old 17-09-2005, 12:29   #14
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Gord, thanks for locating the Good Old Boat Article. That is the one I was referring to.
Jeff, HMMMM... Steel boats with wooden house and deck, I think I am in love
You are correct about the resale market for these boats, and also about the work boat look. I personally like the workboat look, but if you are looking for a true yacht, well, unless you have VERY deep pockets, steel is probably not the best choice. As this boat is 76' long, I would guess that it has potential to be very plush, but as it is dutch built, I would expect a perpensity towards it's workboat roots. If that is your style, get a good survey and go for it, but keep in mind that if you ever decide to sell, you will probably be on the market for a long time.
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Old 18-09-2005, 20:57   #15
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I'm not sure where the "work boat" came in. I have no interest in a work boat. What I am thinking about is a Feadship. It is a yacht in most ways, but it looks like crap. But that is how I make my money. Buy what others don't want and make it so people do.
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