Our family has been actively searching for the perfect boat to liveaboard and cruise. A boat that will have plenty of space for 5 kids and at least 2 adults.
We seem to have been leaning towards mostly steel boats. Lots of folks have said that steel is maintenance intensive, a labor of love. They say that you will spend a lot of time chasing rust. We decided to get some perspective on the rust issue. What better place to check out steel boats than, Historic Gloucester, America’s oldest fishing port.
We saw several steel fishing boats. I was surprised by the extensive rust on some of these boats. Wondered why they were so rusty? Maybe commercial fisherman just don’t have the time to keep the rust at bay. Maybe it is a loosing battle? Maybe they are too busy fishing to constantly fight with rust? Maybe they are hauled once a year to have the rust addressed?
Some of the boats that we saw were in very good condition. I also noticed that the smaller steel boats seemed to be in better condition than larger boats.
This was an interesting pic of a well cared for steel hull, right next to a not so well cared for hull .
We also stopped by Rocky Neck, which layes claim to the “Oldest Working Shipyard in America”.
A guy was there working on his boat; prepping for paint. Said it took him two days to sand the bottom. It was cool to watch and brings the question, “What does it really take to keep a steel boat in good condition and rust free?” How much rust maintenance is involved with steel PLEASURE boats?
I came across an interesting article in Passagemaker, “Cold Hard Steel“, in which Bill Parlatore explains that he spoke to Teresa and Richard Flowers of Custom Steel Boats in Merritt, North Carolina, in regard to steel boat rust maintenance. The Flowers family have been building steel and aluminum pleasure boats since 1981, although Teresa’s father, Richard Flowers, has been constructing steel tugs, ferries, and barges since 1948. Here is an excerpt from the article:
When asked about rust, Teresa Flowers told me there are two words that spell the difference between long-lived cruising yachts and those that don’t make it: coatings and technique.
Coatings have come a long way since the early 1960s. Before that time, buying a steel boat was a potluck affair, as technology just did not exist to bond dissimilar metals properly or coat them adequately with durable finishes. Chipping away rust and endless paint schedules insured a solid relationship with the maintenance yard.
As a result, many older steel boats require an inordinate amount of attention to get protected and stay that way.
Steel vessels built in the 1960s and 1970s were coated with zinc primers, products still used today on many commercial and pleasure boats. The top paint coating of protection, however, produced a cosmetic appearance near a workboat finish, or required repainting somewhat frequently.
Around 1975, epoxy coating systems became better understood, and epoxy technology slowly made its way into boat yards. New epoxy coating systems proved to be a vastly superior surface coating if applied properly to a wellprepared surface.
But epoxy coating systems are just one element of the total solution. When I asked the Flowerses about rust and its maintenance, I was informed that a new steel boat, correctly fabricated from precut and pre-primed steel, then properly painted with an epoxy coating system, will offer its owner no more maintenance than a similar-size vessel built in fiberglass. Period.
(I found that last bit very interesting)
We also got a close look at the inner works of a wood hull.
Only saw one fiberglass boat today. The rest were either steel or wood. Love that pilothouse. I could definitely see myself with a similar style. This baby is 72′. Owner said he does the paint himself. Takes two guys about four days to prep and paint the bottom and hull.
After seeing all that rust, I’m not sure if I will still lean towards steel boats. But, the well-maintained ones will have a lasting impression.
Would love to hear your thoughts on commercial and pleasure boats and rust? What do you think? Leave a comment and add your 2 cents!!!