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Old 09-13-2014, 08:25 AM   #1
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Steel vs Fiberglass/composite

Ok, again, new here and looking for my first trawler...I'd like to get opinions on a steel hull vs a fiberglass or composite.....hope I'm not opening a can of worms, but I'm serious about the question. Any and all opinions will be welcome!

Thanks in advance
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Old 09-13-2014, 10:04 AM   #2
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Well, virtually all steel trawlers are custom built such as the Diesel Duck and similar. No production builder that I know of builds in steel. As a result steel trawlers are very expensive. There are some exceptions like some converted fishing trawlers, but you have to look hard and carefully at those.

Also steel can be a great construction material. But in smaller size trawlers, like under 40' it almost always is heavier than an equivalent fiberglass boat. And you absolutely need to stay on top of corrosion protection if it is going to last and have a resale value.

David
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Old 09-13-2014, 10:17 AM   #3
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As an aside, many "production" boats are made of Al. From car toppers to mega yachts. Books, classes and internet ramblings cover wood vs Fe vs Al vs FRP vs RIB in great detail and some truths even!
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Old 09-13-2014, 10:41 AM   #4
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Steel, with the coatings we have today, is not the same bear it was when I was scaling, sanding, and cussin on a Destroyer in 1969. Ya still, as was said, stay on it. See rust, do not wait, fix it quick.
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Old 09-13-2014, 11:08 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djmarchand View Post
Well, virtually all steel trawlers are custom built such as the Diesel Duck and similar. No production builder that I know of builds in steel. As a result steel trawlers are very expensive. There are some exceptions like some converted fishing trawlers, but you have to look hard and carefully at those.

...

David
Diesel Ducks made by Seahorse are much cheaper than fiberglass boats of similar size. I don't know what a new Nordhavn costs, but the used ones are about double the price of a new steel hulled Seahorse Diesel Duck. I would consider a Seahorse a production builder not custom.

The critical issue with steel is the INTERIOR hull prep to prevent rust. Now a days, most builders I have read about are using 2-3 coats of epoxy paint topped by insulation, mostly closed cell foam or maybe a flexible sheet foam product glued to the interior hull. The epoxy paint is to protect the metal from rust and the insulation, beside making the boat more comfortable, is to protect the epoxy paint and to keep condensation from forming on the hull.

I know of Diesel Ducks that have sat on a reef for a couple of weeks because the captain/owner made the wrong turn in a tricky, poorly marked channel. Another hit an iceberg and the boat rose six inches out of the water before backing down. Another Duck had the current with the boat and was doing around 13 knots when the boat hit a rock. In these cases, the hull was not damaged. I just don't see how a wood or fiberglass boat could have survived these incidents.

There is an aluminum hulled sail boat whose owner is on CF. The boat has been in his family for decades, I think close to 40-50 years. That boat hit a log raft in the PNW one night while going at a pretty good speed. They just backed the boat off the logs and kept on going. No damage.

One of the Dashew FPB's hit a huge tree off of New Zealand. They had no damage even though it sounded like an explosion when the boat hit the tree at about 10 knots. They were very worried about their active stabilization fins but they got lucky and the tree did not hit them.

There was a guy whose family had a steel hulled boat, I think down in Australia, and the boat had a galley fire that they could not put out. They sealed the hatches and made best speed to port where the fire was put out. The family made some temporary repairs and went back boating a week or so later. The boat was not a Diesel Duck and I think I read this on one of the metal boat building websites.

One design/build point missing from many boats, which I find appalling, is water tight compartments. The Seahorse Ducks have multiple water tight compartments, which at a minimum, would provide the crew more time to abandon the boat if it was sinking or on fire. Most likely, the compartments would prevent the boat from sinking. My 17 foot long sea kayak has two watertight compartments for goodness sake, it is unreal to me that more boats do not have water tight compartments. Course that is not a hull material issue. My kayak is kevlar and fiberglass but it has watertight compartments. Methinks a steel kayak would be a wee bit heavy and hard to lift on the truck. Though I always wondered about an aluminum kayak.

Later,
Dan
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Old 09-13-2014, 11:38 AM   #6
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Ok, and thanks to all....I also did 4 years at sea in USCG cutters, so know a little about chasing rust/running rust etc etc etc.........but I've see a few customs that I might be interested in, and they're all steel....Sooooooooooooooooooo, guess I'll keep on lookin. These boats that I'm looking at all have water tight integrity/compartmentalization etc and that's a selling point for me. I'm looking for blue water capability and feel better in the proper boat.
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Old 09-13-2014, 11:53 AM   #7
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Modern steel construction is exactly the same as epoxy cored sandwich construction, the only difference is it's the steel that's the core material between two layers of epoxy paint!
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Old 09-13-2014, 12:31 PM   #8
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...These boats that I'm looking at all have water tight integrity/compartmentalization etc and that's a selling point for me. I'm looking for blue water capability and feel better in the proper boat.
Have you looked at the Seahorse Diesel Ducks? SEAHORSE MARINE

Most of George Buehler's Duck designs have been built by Seahorse though people have built the boats themselves and there are some built in the US as well. Bill Kimley, who owns Seahorse in China, has made some design tweeks to the original Duck designs that are pretty nice.

The most popular models are the 382(41 feet) or the 462(51 feet). There is a new boat being discussed/designed named a Puffin based on the 382 model. The Puffin will be a cheaper boat, they are hoping to be able to be able to price the boat around $350,000 delivered to the US. The boat will not have less wood, no SS rails, no integrated swim platform to simply and lower shipping costs, a workboat coating, hanked on sails, etc.

There is a 542 which that has been built and I think it is based on Buehler's Diesel Duck 55 design. There is a 492 design that is new and being built now that is about 54 LOA, it is basically a 462 with 3 feet added.

The Puffin, 492, and 542 are not listed on the Seahorse website but are mentioned on Duck Talk, Forums

Later,
Dan
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Old 09-14-2014, 06:16 AM   #9
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>Modern steel construction is exactly the same as epoxy cored sandwich construction, the only difference is it's the steel that's the core material between two layers of epoxy paint!<

Not really , when the paint is damaged or wears out the under laying steel begins to depart,
the GRP does not look good but stays intact , paint or not.

Steel is best in countries that love it , the boat can easily be maintained and repaired at low cost.They have the skills and techniques down pat. A steel boat in Holland is fine , and will retain its resale value.

GRP is almost forever if solid , fine if built with a marine foam core (like Airex) a possible problem with a balsa core , and a horror if simply slathered over plywood.,Chinese Composite.

So >cored construction< can be excellent or a constant horror show , depending on the core material.

Caviat Emptor !!!!
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