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Old 09-23-2018, 06:54 PM   #1
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Question Steel Hull Maintenance....

How does the maintenance of a steel hull boat compare to that of fiberglass and wood?

What are the major issues the arise when steel is kept in salt water?

And finally, would you say that steel hulls are more expensive, less expensive, or equally expensive to maintain as other hull materials?
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Old 09-23-2018, 08:55 PM   #2
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A well-built steel hull ought to last a few lifetimes. "Well built" means plate of a thickness appropriate to the strains it will have to withstand, and seams welded evenly and at the appropriate thickness. Bulkheads and stringers placed appropriately so as to ensure stiffness.

Keep a steel hull painted above and below the waterline, and your worries will be few. There are lots of coatings on the market, and builders these days typically deliver new boats painted with two-part epoxy, which means you're married to the same coating system. If it gets dinged, superficial rust is easily fixed, but then you have to mix up a batch of primer on a day when the weather is just right, then do likewise with the finish coat. It can be tedious, but it is not difficult.

Electrolysis is a hazard to any metal, so the steel boat owner wants to assess the environment where the boat is berthed, and make sure the on board electrical system stays properly isolated.

With those things under responsible management, salt water or fresh shouldn't make much difference. A steel hulled boat is rugged and durable. It can be a great comfort in tough conditions. In terms of maintenance burden and longevity, it meets or beats fiberglass on most days.

Wooden boats are a whole different story. I've owned one (or it owned me), and will not do so again.
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Old 09-23-2018, 09:33 PM   #3
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Most commercial applications of steel typically have a 30-40 year service life on salt water. They're generally ridden harder and put away wetter than most yacht owners would do. They also go through thousands of load/unload cycles throughout their lifetimes, so they get pretty tired.

The first ship I worked on lived to be 78 years old. She'd lived her whole life in fresh water, and had been fairly well looked after for most of her years, so the hull was actually still pretty solid. Most of the rivets were still good! Then we started hauling rock salt. She rotted out within 15 years.
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Old 09-23-2018, 11:28 PM   #4
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The commercial menhaden fleet here on the bay fishes steel boats exclusively. Until recently, the fleet was made up of WWII ships built in the 40's. Now, most of the fleet consists of converted oil rig supply boats built from the late 60's through the 90's ,all used exclusively in a salt water environment. I think a huge factor in their longevity is that they're all equipped with shore-power isolation transformers. It's almost remarkable to me how they can stay in such relatively good condition considering the hostile working conditions they're continuously subjected to.
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Old 09-24-2018, 05:05 AM   #5
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Steel boats need to be protected from rusting , Inside and Outside.

EZ to see dings or rust on the outside but harder to inspect , and then cure when on inside.

When looking at boats,, look for reinforcement inside of flat bar stock, instead of L or T stock.

Eventually sand blasting the interior will be needed before repainting and its harder to see under , behind structure of L or T section.
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Old 09-24-2018, 06:28 PM   #6
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This is why I was asking... Trawler Forum - View Single Post - The Shrimpless Shrimper...

But it seems no one will finance steel hulls these days.
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Old 09-24-2018, 07:36 PM   #7
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Delfin is 53 years old and is good for another 53. Steel below, aluminum above decks. Having owned wood and fiberglass, I don't find much difference in the maintenance, although with a steel boat much depends on how the raw steel was initially protected during either build, or subsequent refits.
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