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Old 12-21-2007, 10:26 AM   #1
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European trends

A comment made by Capnwil has got me thinking.* He has noticed that there are many more steel and iron boats made and sold in Europe than in the US.* I have thought about this as well and possibly there are reasons for this.*
The Europeans have a long history of boat building and have kept the experts who could build boats and kept the yards busy.* In north america plastic boats are popular because they are cheaper to build and there are not too many yards left that have kept the steel boat building experts because steel is more expensive to build in. Am I right and are there other reasons?
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Old 12-21-2007, 11:00 AM   #2
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European trends

There are a lot of fiberglass boats made in Europe and the UK, too.

Another possible explanation for the popularity of steel boats is that there has been a long history of demand for smaller steel boats--- canal boats in both the UK and Europe, where they are still used commercially, and coastal boats--- small freighters, trawlers, etc. This demand continues to some extent. Steel is particulary good for small commercial craft because these boats tend to take more of a beating than recreational craft. So there are a number of boat yards that have been working with this material for ages. It's easier to work with steel than aluminum (I think), so the popularity of steel continues for certain kinds of boats.

There is not much of a market in the US for small commercial craft made out of steel. Aluminum is more popular for this application if you want a metal boat, and fiberglass is more popular still. Delta, the big yacht-maker down the road from my office, makes some pretty big boats--- upt to 150' and perhaps even longer--- out of fiberglass. Since fiberglass solves a lot of problems inherent with metal hulls, there is no incentive for Delta to use metal.
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Old 12-21-2007, 02:57 PM   #3
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European trends

A fiberglass boat is only cheaper if you plan to build more than one(whatever the break even point may be). All costs related to building the mold and such are much more expensive that just welding steel scantlings together.

That is why most custom boats in this here US are built of steel or metal. It would not be cost effective to build a one-off in fiberglass. This may or may not be the reason there are more in Europe.
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Old 12-21-2007, 08:45 PM   #4
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European trends

Thank you RTF for starting a discussion about the use of steel in boat building. I will add a little here and then I'll try to take this discussion onto the "General Discussion" area under the topic European Trends as you've started out here. And, thanks again for starting this out.

I have developed my own priority list for buying a boat. If I can convince my wife to go cruising than this would be my number one priority; Safety. Period, Period. Steel, to me evokes...Safety. Ergo my interest in steel boats.

This all kind of started off with Jim Leischman at PAE, builder of Nordhavn's. In his writings he espoused the quality of Nordy's and did a comparison of steel and fiberglas and I am logically convinced that there is very little difference if both are built by builders adhering to high standards....but I just like steel. That probably comes from my Navy days. By the way. Before I get too far along, I just want to do a commercial for Nordhavn's. "Nordhavn is the only boat I'd feel confident buying right over the telephone and no others..none and that's because I'd feel my family would be safe" on one.

Bruce and Joan Kessler, famous for directing and acting and putting together the film for the NAR (Nordhavn Atlantic Rally) and world explorers and circumnavigators lost a trawler right out from under them. It was holed on a cruise, I believe on their way up to or returning from an Alaskan cruise on a very well made fiberglas boat of about 70'. They had struck an uncharted rock. Seems like their boat was a Northern Marine but the details are a little foggy because it was quite awhile ago.

On the other hand, John Milici taking his steel "Peking" Diesel Duck back home to Connecticut from a Solomons TrawlerFest banged into an uncharted rock around the Delaware Bay ICW area. When hauled later, there was only minor paint scratches.

Not imperical by any stretch but nonetheless it kind of gets my attention. Besides I spent 10 years on steel Navy vessels and just got used to chipping and scraping, red leading and painting her back to "new". Rich Gano came probably related to steel and its pluses as well as some serious minuses, having been former Navy as well.

So, why doesn't Nordhavn build in steel? Shoot. Seems like that would be perfect. Nah, never happern. Oh well.

Best regards,
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Old 12-21-2007, 11:27 PM   #5
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European Trends

I have friends who have had two steel boats. The previous one was a converted fireboat. The current one is an LCM6. While steel is plenty strong, it has some drawbacks. For example, they spent a lot of time on their previous boat trying to keep the bilges dry. He told me that most steel boats rust out from the inside, not the outside. Not a concern with fiberglass. They are fighting the same battle with the LCM.

Also, steel aparently gradually goes away. A 120' steel yacht I was associated with for a bit was built by Abbeking & Rasmussen in Germany in 1966. This is one of the world's premier shipyards. The corporate owner of the boat sold it last year mostly because it had become too small for the purpose for which it was used, but also because the steel hull was so thin in places it could no longer be patched. This was not from neglect or poor maintenance, it's just what can happen to steel hulls over time. The man who bought the yacht had the hull totally replated in Vancouver at a huge expense. The company replaced this yacht with a larger vessel from Delta--- in fiberglass.
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Old 12-22-2007, 04:11 AM   #6
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" He told me that most steel boats rust out from the inside, not the outside. Not a concern with fiberglass. "

Just right.

Steel is fine but must be designed TO be maintained , Euro yards and Brit yards understand this and build accordingly.

The difficulty is the ENTIRE interior , all of it , must be built so it can be removed with out damage , and without too many man hours of labor.Every 7 to 15 years.

Then the interior can be blasted to "water white" and 7 to 9 coats of paint put on.

The blasting MUST be well done , using high priced surface material, 2 part epoxy ect, still REQUIRES a great clean surface.

Best hull design will use no T bar , all flat bar in the hull, so the blaster can clean better.

Steel is not well understood in the US , so resale is harder, .

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Old 12-22-2007, 05:09 PM   #7
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Steel boats built at quality yards today and in the past 2 decades are not in the same family of steel boats as those built in the 60's. Pretreating the steel before or after cutting, computer/laser cutting, improved insulation materials and techniques, and modern technologies have made for a different class of steel yachts.
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Old 12-23-2007, 03:49 AM   #8
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"Pretreating the steel before or after cutting, computer/laser cutting, improved insulation materials and techniques, and modern technologies have made for a different class of steel yachts."

Again true , the newer boats don't need the thousands of pounds of filling and fairing the older boats did to have a "yacht" finish.And the assembly is far more rapid .

But no matter the perfection of the cutting , bending and welding steel still needs a "perfect" barrier to NOT RUST .

And most undamaged steel boats do rust out from inside.

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Old 12-23-2007, 07:08 AM   #9
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I agree that it depends on the manufacturer as to the entegrity of FG or steel in a hull. Nordhavn and Grand Banks have great thickness and strength and are arguably stronger than many steel hulls. Steel boats can still get holed of course, look at the HMS Nottingham, a British destoyer which struck a rock off Lord Howe Island Australia in 2002 and nearly sank. This year the cruise liner Sea Diamond struck a rock off Santorini in Greece and sank with the loss of two lives. Incidently I was in Santorini last year and filmed some interesting ship manoeuvres as I was under the impression that there would be a collision - fortunately I was wrong.

This year I was in France and was able to carry out an inspection of a "Sturdy" canal boat. These vessels are Dutch and are the most beautiful yachts on the water, classic lines and elegant interiors. They have steel hulls and shallow draft. I was talking to an English fellow who had sailed his across the Channel - saild it handled really well. They have an interesting web site and there is a review from PMM there as well.

http://www.linssenyachts.com/2007/index.php?taalid=3
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Old 12-23-2007, 02:03 PM   #10
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There is a Sturdy in our marina in a charter fleet. Their hull finish is simply amazing, and awhile back I read an article that explained why. The non-commercial hulls built by this company are treated like automobile bodies. When they have finished welding up the hull, it is filled and faired perfectly with the same process automakers use to fill and fair car bodies. The company also makes commercial vessels using the same hulls as their recreational boats. The article included photos of one of their commercial boats and a recreational boat with the exact same hull. The difference between the un-faired commercial hull and the auto-body-finished recreational hull was substantial. Of course in terns of strength and build quality, both hulls were identical.
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Old 12-23-2007, 07:02 PM   #11
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RE: European Trends

Of the 2000-plus boats in our marina, my absolute favorite is a 36' double-ended salmon troller built in Port Angeles, Washington in 1946. Still powered with her original gas engine, "Donna's" owner fishes her regularly in SE Alaska and keeps her in immaculate condition. She looks a little rough in these photos because her owner was unable to get affordable insurance so he had to take her out of our marina a couple of years ago. He kept her up north at a private dock that was very exposed to the weather that he said played havoc with her finish despite his best efforts to protect her. He was finally able to get insurance at a decent cost so "Donna" is back with us. I took these photos shortly after she came back to Bellingham early last summer. She has since been completely repainted.

As Charles says, the operative word is maintenance.



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Old 12-24-2007, 05:50 AM   #12
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RE: European Trends

Quote:
*vessels are Dutch and are the most beautiful yachts on the water, classic lines and elegant interiors. They have steel hulls and shallow draft.
I have sold 3 Linssen trawlers. They are not only beautiful hulls, but are*of excellent build quality and survey well. The last one I sold was a 41*several months ago; the buyer had previously owned 2 Linssens and had shipped one of them back and forth bewteen US and Europe. He bought the*Linssen 410*in Tenn. and had her shipped to*northern Ca. His plans are for*cruising PNW* and ALaska. The seller had switched from a Nordhavn to a Linssen and was sorry family*health forced the sale.
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Old 12-31-2007, 12:03 PM   #13
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A 40+ year old steel boat mentioned above seems to have lasted longer than many fiberglass boats of the same age. I see tugboats and other steel boats much older than 40 years that are still going strong. Yes, steel needs to be maintained but now with fully faired hulls and topsides, sprayed expanding foam insulation and the metal free paints, steel is still a good bet for a blue water boat. Another thought is that steel can be repaired even in a remote area. I can not say the same for the high-tech fiberglass.
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Old 01-01-2008, 04:09 AM   #14
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" I can not say the same for the high-tech fiberglass."


This is true , BUT most cruisers are built quite low tech, and EZ to repair.


I wouldn't want to try to repair a carbon fiber autoclaved boat anywhere , even outside the factory's door, but cruiser cheap single skin or any of the better grade foam core (Airex) would be a snap , if temps could be kept above freezing.

Happily all the repair materials could be carried aboard , and outside labor would not be required.

Most of the long term damage we see here in FL is from ignoring the boat for years .

Steel needs its protective paint at ALL times (corten included) or it goes the way of wood.

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