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Old 12-05-2020, 17:00   #1
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30yr old Steel Sailing Yacht: a viable option?

Firstly, as a first time poster, and long time reader, I would like to thank this forum for the knowledge that I gained. After reading the posts avidly, as they arrive, finding out about topics that I had never considered, I feel as though I have come to know the regular posters quite well. I have enjoyed the generosity of spirit and the camaraderie that flows through these writings.

I have been looking at a steel yacht, 1990 vintage, wondering whether it represents a viable purchase or a nightmare waiting to unfold. Professionally constructed, with robust scantlings: steel 5-6+mm thick, it appears well looked after. After reading Scott Fratchers book on metal boat maintenance, it seems have some red flags: age: 30yrs, and spray foam internally. Scott writes as if terminal deterioration of steel hulls is simply a matter of time.
I expect to do maintenance, and steel hulls will require prompt attention to any appearance of rust. I would consider this acceptable. I would be keen to avoid inevitable general deterioration requiring regular major surgery, which inevitably becomes too great to justify.
I was keen to find out about the age related deterioration of paint: whether the quiet generalised oxidisation of the hull would be occurring underneath apparently normal looking paint, hidden by internal furnishings?
Does normal looking paint, without rust streaks or bubbling, indicate reasonable certainty of normal steel underneath?
Would I have to strip off the internal foam layer to get a true picture of the state of the paint/internal hull? All, or how much?
I would be carefully examining the hull/deck in the chain locker area, under any through hull/deck fittings, in the bilges, around hatches/portholes.
I would be keen to know whether the epoxy paints and undercoats of the 1990 era would have given the hull greater longevity than previously possible? And if so, how much?

I know that many experienced members on the forum are very dubious about steel hulls, some apparently without having ever owned a steel yacht. Fair enough, I have felt the same, however this yacht interests me. I would be most interested in comment from experienced steel yacht owners or craftsmen who work on these yachts.
Many thanks
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Old 13-05-2020, 02:05   #2
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Re: 30yr old Steel Sailing Yacht: a viable option?

56 South you are asking some good questions there. I was on a Roberts steely a few weeks back that had spray foam on the inside. The owner had removed at least a square meter of foam and the paint still looked good after 30 + years. He was going to leave the rest of the foam as there really seemed no point doing further inspection.
The inside coating breaking down would not worry me as long as it's kept dry. I survey plenty of 30+ year old steel yachts that have the original interior paint system and it looks fine. But it needs to have been well applied when the boat was first built. I have surveyed some steel boats that were very rusty on the inside and I can only assume the paint was badly applied in the first place.
I am not sure how much coatings have approved since the 1990's? No matter how good a coating is you still need the correct paint thickness for it to work.
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Old 13-05-2020, 02:48   #3
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Re: 30yr old Steel Sailing Yacht: a viable option?

Spray foam is OK so long as it does not get wet. When it does it can wifi the moisture up and cause problems.

The first couple of hull repairs you do give you a heart attack. But then it becomes no big deal, so long as you can get to the inside, that is the Royal PITA.

Our boats are 1985 and 1987. But we bought them 15 and 12 years ago.

You don’t have to worry about keel bolts or the keel falling off or hauling for inspection every thine you hit bottom or (generally) the rudder falling out. The bulkheads stay in place, no tabbing to be redone, chain plates are good, no soft spots in the deck, over tighten the shrouds is no big deal. Blisters.

Each type of boat has its issues.

There is a lot more to be talked about in doing the survey. A good flash light, big screw driver, hammer and sufficient bad attitude to use it will prove a lot. Just not in the water.

Someone once said steel is generally forgiving, it will start to weep with small leaks and let you know there is a problem. I haven’t experienced those small leaks yet.

Ultrasound testing is OK to examine specific areas of interest. I don’t think it generally shows too much when trying to do an entire hull. The rust spots are usually small, localized problem areas.
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