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Why a Steel Hull?

In this modern world and almost everybody sailing a glass fiber reinforced boats some of our readers could ask why a steel hull.

The short answer to this question certainly is:

  • · It was available

  • · Price was right

  • · This particular hull form appealed to us

  • · Steel is strong

Now all these above answers are very subjective and of course everyone must feel comfortable with their own decisions. A boat generally is a “floating compromise”. There is no such thing as perfect boat. So, we just have to live with the one we have and try to improve features that we find most disturbing or less attractive and hope that we can change them. Or we must accept it.

Typically today boats are built with fiber glass or the other more official term is glass reinforced plastics (GRP). There are several aluminum boats and steel boats but typically the material is GRP. Wooden boats, particularly large ones are not built so often today.

I once saw in Norway a large wooden new colin archer (if I remember right it was about 18meters LOA). Beautifully build. An absolute gem. However, very very expensive, unless one can build it on his own.

One professional metal worker once told me that the difference between a carpenter and metal worker is that a carpenter has to get it right the first time. In metal you can always weld more material or cut off. Metal is a very forgiving.

To extend GRP is very much possible and doing with wood it a bit more of a challenge.

Let’s take an example the same length, width and thickness of aluminum and mild steel bar. Start bending them back and forth. How many times can you bend the mild steel bar vs. aluminum bar. The answers you can bend mild steel numerous times more often than the aluminum. Quite often the (of course depending on the aluminum alloy used) aluminum bar breaks after 4 to 6 times back and forth bending. Not so with mild steel. During this test you wish at some point to have an angle grinder to break it.

Steel is more flexible. No doubt. So while I am building a boat and making a lot of designs of my own with out detailed mechanical calculations it is easier and safer to build a boat out of steel.

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