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Old 09-22-2014, 11:50 PM   #1
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Refugio

healhustler mentioned in my Gig Harbor thread that he was happy to see a profile picture of Refugio. While I think my boat is interesting, I don't generally share much about it - mostly because it's ferro-cement and I have the suspicion that most people just won't "get it".

Though I've owned Refugio for more than 10 years, I don't have that many pictures - but here's one from Thetis Island last summer:


My boat's hull is a modified version of the Samson C-Rover:


In particular, it has a fishing cockpit similar to the C-Reaper combined with a substantial bulwark forward that extends above the deck:

The builder had plans of fishing the boat - hence the cockpit, a huge insulated fish hold, and even an ice flaking machine. And the trolling valve that I use on occasion. The builder did many things right - 1100 gallons of fuel in 4 insulated fiberglass tanks, very skookum running gear, all Diamond Sea Glaze windows - and many things that are truly mediocre - wiring and plumbing in particular. He died soon after launching the boat, which was then bought as a liveaboard by a lady psychologist who removed all of the electronics, dinghy davit, etc. and installed house-sized kitchen appliances. Full-size fridge, electric range, trash compactor, disposal - even separate water heaters for the head and galley. I bought it from her, and I still have the disposal - very handy for transforming 30 pounds of garbage into 30 pounds of smaller garbage.

As I think everyone's aware, ferro-cement didn't survive in North America, though it's still thriving on a small scale in NZ and Australia. But back in the 70s it held great promise - here are a couple of designs by someone I think everyone's heard of:

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Old 09-23-2014, 12:01 AM   #2
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There was a ferro cement racing sailboat/yacht, "Helsal".I think there was a series of "Helsals". Also known as "The Flying Footpath", a strong competitor in the Sydney> Hobart annual bluewater race.
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Old 09-23-2014, 12:07 AM   #3
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+ 1 Refugio - very cool boat!
Thanks for posting.
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Old 09-23-2014, 01:00 AM   #4
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Wow - looks even better than your avatar hinted at.

Is that John Samson, who built a number of skookum (very apt term) sailing vessels out of ferro cement back in the day? I recall that he sailed the world on his very successfully.
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Old 09-23-2014, 06:14 AM   #5
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I always thought the weight of a ferro hull would make a good trawler. There is a 50' sailboat in the marina where I used to keep my boat which fell into disrepair after the second owner died. The hull was built and sailed around the world and when the orginal owner got to old to handle the sails he parked it and built a ferro cement house, dome, where he lived until death. His sailboat hull is still solid as the day it was built but the cabins were built of wood so they have about gone to the elements. I still say it would make a heck of a trawler except for the 6' draft.Larry
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Old 09-23-2014, 06:38 AM   #6
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My next-door neighbour built this ferro superstructure on his old CIE barge; it's still in good condition even though he died 5 years ago and the boat has been empty since then. He also built a small 25' sail boat in ferro back in the 60's and told me he grounded it several times with no problems; after 25 years he sold it and said it was as good as the day he built it.

Ferro cement got a bad reputation because people used poor quality materials and didn't understand how to use concrete in the correct way. Low resale value also blighted second hand boats.

Maybe it's time to revisit this form of low cost construction.

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Old 09-23-2014, 09:45 AM   #7
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I helped build a ferro sailboat a long time ago. It worked out OK but the reality of boat building is that the hull is often the cheapest part of the project. Better IMO to buy a FG or steel hull or old boat and gut it.
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Old 09-23-2014, 09:53 AM   #8
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I helped build a ferro sailboat a long time ago. It worked out OK but the reality of boat building is that the hull is often the cheapest part of the project. Better IMO to buy a FG or steel hull or old boat and gut it.
Problem with an old hull is that after all the work you have put in its still only an old boat with low resale value.....

I've seen several reworked boats from the 80's advertised as totally reconditioned and $$$$ spent, but still unsold because they can't get anyone to offer a realistic price for a 35 year old hull.

It seems there's no clear cut solution, except build your boat just for your own use and forget about resale.
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Old 09-23-2014, 11:09 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Conrad View Post
Is that John Samson, who built a number of skookum (very apt term) sailing vessels out of ferro cement back in the day?
Yes, John Samson was co-founder of Samson Marine out of Vancouver, and at one time they had a substantial dealer network:


Their catalog from the day makes interesting reading. Everything was all cash in advance, and there were a large number of options. Here are the pages for the FL120 that was recommended for many of the boats:



Of course, there was certainly some imprecision built into their numbers. For example, the C-Rover design above had a maximum speed of 8.5 knots with 100 (shaft) HP. In a subsequent book they wrote that if you had 125 (shaft) HP your max speed was 9.5 knots - it only took an extra 25 HP to push a knot above hull speed in a FD boat! What design genius!

FC boats are different in many subtle ways from traditional methods. For example cutting or adding hull penetrations requires specialized tools. Here's a sequence from a couple of years ago when I added a cockpit door:



I was going to build a mold of the door because I figured it would be too heavy, but the door ended up weighing about 65 pounds so we just re-attached it with a couple of heavy duty hinges.

As a boat-building material today in North America I'm afraid it wouldn't make any sense. The tooling for the hull isn't going to survive many copies and the cement process by its nature isn't very precise (notice the change in thickness on the door cutout).

Beyond that, it's impossible to know the condition of the hull "armature" without destructive testing. Sure you can whack out a small area and patch it, but then you're left with there being virtually no surveyors with experience with the construction. If you can't survey it, the you can't insure it. And if you can't insure it, then you can't finance it. Game over in today's economy.

Fortunately my boat's been insured by State Farm for 30+ years . For under $700/year I have full coverage from Ensenada to Cape Spencer (AK), and they've never required a survey (pause to knock on, um, the wood caprail).
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Old 09-23-2014, 11:33 AM   #10
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The re-bar looks brand new!
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Old 09-23-2014, 11:40 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Rustybarge View Post
The re-bar looks brand new!
You can also see the mesh - no corrosion there either.

I've got a photo album of the construction on the boat - I'll post a couple of pictures from there when I get a chance.
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Old 09-23-2014, 11:41 AM   #12
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Thanks for sharing the details of your fascinating FC vessel. There are many gorgeous FC sailors around here that few know about because they give no indication of the FC construction. Yours is certainly the most desirable of all the FC trawler builds I've seen. Great info on Samson! Are the bulkheads FC? Presumably, there must be at least stringers for powertrain, yes? Are there athwartships stringers/ribs?
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Old 09-23-2014, 12:49 PM   #13
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Some good boats were built of Ferro Cement and Refugio appears to be one of them. The pictures show one of the problems with this construction method, it must be cut apart to inspect the steel matrix that is the structure.

FC boomed here on the West Coast of North America (and to a lesser degree in Northern Europe) in the 1970's because the materials for a hull and deck could be purchased for a few hundred dollars. But the labour required to get a really good boat was huge, thus it was hopeless as a commercial undertaking. And of course the amature builders found that the FC part was only a small portion of the overall cost. Today the materials are much more costly, I suspect you could build a steel hull for the same material cost but far less labour.

The beauty of FC is that a properly built hull is basically inert, it might just last forever. The Powell River breakwater ships are still floating, they were built in the second world war and have had no maintenance in at least 40 years.....
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Old 09-23-2014, 03:09 PM   #14
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I see the C Rover specs 80 to 100hp. At 80hp she's got 4hp per ton. Not many trawler types w that little power but I saw one in PMM w half that much. A big old woodie. Was powered by a Gardner.

It's interesting the Beebe boats had 250hp. Dosn't make sense. I would think a passagemaker would be the last boat to be overpowered.

There is at least one fishing boat in Craig AK that's obviously ferro cement.

My ballast is concrete and water got in there. Needed to be removed as the expansion was pushing a bulkhead out of shape. We had jack hammer boating for a bit.
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Old 09-24-2014, 01:18 AM   #15
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I grabbed the construction photos this evening. I'll do a post tomorrow <fingers crossed>
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Old 09-24-2014, 11:40 AM   #16
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OK, here goes....I've organized the construction into three phases roughly corresponding to the three sheds built during the process.

Phase 1 - Build the Hull
  • Build a shed
  • Build a set of wooden frames
  • Add mesh
  • Add steel
  • Add more mesh
  • Plaster


Phase 2 - Finish the Hull
  • Build steam tent
  • Steam cure
  • Demolish tent & shed
  • Geta RBC (really big crane) to flip the boat
  • Build another shed
  • Add bulkheads, tanks, engine


Phase 3 - Finish the Vessel
  • Demolish second shed
  • Get a second RBC
  • Borrow a friend’s trailer
  • Move the boat near the water (often overlooked)
  • Find a Travellift (may come in handy later as well)
  • Build shed #3, try to blend in to the neighborhood
  • Secure the shed, because you’re going to put a full shop in there
  • Finish as per usual methods
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Old 09-25-2014, 01:35 PM   #17
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Hey there...thanks for posting!

It's not often that we have photos of the construction of our vessels. When you see all of the effort that goes into the building process, it kind of helps us understand why boating is not inexpensive. (Doesn't ease the pain much though!)

Yes, you sure have a beautiful boat. Any chance of some interior photos?
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Old 09-26-2014, 01:17 AM   #18
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Yes, it was and enormous amount of work, and I am very grateful that someone else put forth the effort so that I could enjoy such a great boat.

I will try to remember to get a couple of interior photos, but it's really like most other boats except perhaps for the pilot house.
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Old 09-26-2014, 02:13 PM   #19
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I will try to remember to get a couple of interior photos, but it's really like most other boats except perhaps for the pilot house.
No two boats are ever the same...I suspect that given the unique nature of Refugio that the interior is quite interesting! I'm looking forward to having a peak.
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