In the heart of the subject! Finding the right boat is the first big step of any marine project! When i bought my first yacht it went easy peasy, but this time it was much more difficult. And for good reason: the project is much more ambitious …

Paradise has to be paid

Mythical sentence that a pair of Corsicans had thrown indirectly to my father during a stopover. They pretended to talk together but the message was well addressed to the man of the continent who came to tread their sacred land. Painful greeting, but we must admit that the reality of our world sometimes often gives them reason!

I had in total 20000€ for le vilain project, in other words very few!

Compromises and strategies…

We can find cheap boats on classified ads websites, but more of them require a lot of renovation work.

Maritime work is really expensive in time, money and energy. One must be careful regarding impatience and crushes because chosing the wrong boat might sentence it to the shipyard for years. It’s easy to spend few thousand of euros and hundreds of hours without because of “small details”.

So, the idea is to find the yacht that matches best with the needs of your project.
In my case it was the cheapest with the least workload, which is obviously the ideal case! Another strategy is to include the renovation time in the project itself, which perfectly makes sense if you like such work. At least you will know your yacht in all its details! A last option is to get a cheap yacht that have somes troubles that can be fixed while using the boat. In this last case the price might be low enough because of the troubles but they would not prevent your projet to start smoothly.

Defining your yacht’s ideal profile

Let’s start with the beginning. We don’t buy a formula 1 to do rally, you’ll need to get the boat according to what you are intending to do with. As consequence, you have to know you want to do! You need first a project.

I have personally chosen to define few rules for the vilain project:

  • Live on board. It means comfort, and by this mean space for the man and his things.
  • Work onboard. Telework means energy autonomy, a minimalist office and so protect these furnitures from the sea air.
  • Travel. The boat must simply be in perfect sailing condition, including a proper sail set, an engine without trouble. I also plan to be alone most of the time. This is a non-negligible detail, how to safely climb alone up to the head of the mast to fix something for example?
  • Experiment everything and anything. The experiments will mostly adapt to the boat, but a minimum of equipment will be needed as well as an on-board workshop.
  • Do not become marginal. Suffice to say that the boat must be able to allow me to receive people, team members as visitors. An annex will be imperative to get to shore from anchorages.
  • Laugh and be happy. The boat must allow all that is listed above in a balanced way so that all the programs can succeed.

To resume, I was looking for an energy autonomous yacht, where I would have enough space for my stuff an other people, a workshop and it would be perfectly operationnal to navigate!

Fiberglass or steel?

Now that we roughly defined the settings of the ideal boat, it’s time to reduce the scope to reality.

Back in the time we used to build wood boats, then steel and since the 70’s in glass fiber. Professionals sailors use carbon fibers and we also make boat in aluminium, but these materials are way too expensive, let’s keep with what is affordable: steel and glass fiber. Wood boats are splendide but the maintenance is too complicated according to what I heard and read.

Note: I am convinced that we can realize that project with a wood hull without it being as terrible as I heard it. My aim is to complete my project, not prove my intuition is right, so it is best to hear the wise advices of experienced people.

Fiberglass: plastic sounds like fantastic!

Polyester and glass fiber is a lightweight material, relatively easy to work with and quite cheap. The major issue we heard about it is osmosis.

Osmosis

With time the hull polyester is a victim of this chemical reaction, which roughly converts the material into a kind of vulgar chewing gum. It is well handable but the owner has still to do it, and well.

The problem happens less in Scandinavia because the boats spend the low season out of the water. This is due to the freezing sea, so the phenomenon actually occurs much later in the life of the boat, whose hull often meets the rock before osmosis makes its first blister!

I can’t help but think really hard that “Actually Norwegian people just put their toys away when they’re done with it!”

I may be a little mischievous because some do it in France too, and besides these boats are the good deals!

With a small budget like mine and a size of more than 9m we quickly realize that we must look for boats over 25 years. In other words, osmosis is the first thing to look at.

How much fixable?

This material has another disadvantage, it is rigid and relatively brittle. It consists of glass fibers coated with polyester resin. That’s why we also talk about “laminate”.

A shock a bit too strong will crack and break these fibers in depth. These damages will remove the tighteness and the strength off the material. The fix will have to be done as quick as possible.

The fix often consists in resealing the chips with resin and reinforcing the repair by laying new layers of fiberglass. Depending on the damage, it may require the equipment of a professional to inject the resin under pressure. But in most cases small damage can be repaired quite fine. In extreme cases it is not repairable…
I want to emphasize that what I evoke is only intended to give an order of magnitude of the processes, not to describe them exactly, what I describe here is incomplete!

If the water infiltrates into the wound it will tend to spread by capillarity (like coffee in sugar) possibly bringing in impurities.
If the wound has been wet, we must wait until it has completely dried before it can be repaired.

To summarize, fixing glassfiber has much constraints and forgives little.

But normally, we avoid rocks!

Ecological footprint

By its composition, this material is polluting. A research on a search engine will give you an idea. A wreck made of glassfiber and polyester is an ecological disaster. This breaks the green aspect of sailing doesn’t it?

But nonetheless things are moving on in France. An association called APER is setting everything up to recycle yachts.

Steel, metal for life

Steel is heavy, but strong. When looking at the offers, these yachts are often associated with keywords like “travel boat”, it is a sign…

For the maintenance, the main problems are rust and electrolysis.

Rust

The hole in the floor plate seems to have been filled. As a consequence, there is a zone of water stagnation.

Rust is in chemistry a reduction-oxidation (see wikipedia). By this process, it tends to turn into rust gradually until it completely disappear. The owners of steel hulls are in perpetual fight against rust, it is a maintenance normally light but permanent:
A rust point appears? You sand, you paint and it’s finished.

The interior of the keel of a sailboat that I visited. She would need sandblasting and treatment.

For that, and consequently we must look, know where to look and even look where we don’t see.
Take the example of the keel which is filled with ballast. Sometimes it happens a gap between the ballast and the sheet of metal which constitutes the keel. This gap allows access to humidity laden air that will enjoy to rust the keel from the inside.
So you need to be vigilant and think about all the nooks and crannies where rust might be.

The titanic has surely already melted while the Eiffel Tower, which is constantly maintained is always and proudly standing in place.

Ductility

Ductility: if you twist a piece of steel within reasonable limits, it will still be resistant. The same experience with wood, plastic and some other metals does not have the same result.

The old car testify: the steel of the body is dented but still holds good. By cons it lacks pieces with plastic bumpers!

How much fiable?

Its “ease” of repair is also an advantage: either we correct a deformation, or we change a piece.

From the moment we know how to weld and handle the grinder we are able to do a lot of things: replace a surface too rusty, a sheet that has received a shock, or simply make changes.
The example of Guirec Soudée is obvious: because of the oxidation, he has replaced a lot of the hull of Yvinec. Then he left to get his boat caught in the ice and it held up well!

A drowback however, before doing this kind of operations properly you must have some skills in metalwork that are far from innate (an article will come about this).

Electrolysis

Another disadvantage is the risk of electrolysis. It is a chemical process that will flee the atoms one by one from the hull to nature due to an electrical imbalance of the boat with its marine environment.
Typically a current leak from the boat’s electrical circuit will stimulate this process and you have to watch it closely.

Conclusion

Before this rather objective analysis, the steel hulls did not interest me that much. I saw only problems and imagined them as inefficient boats with complex maintenance constraints.

With hindsight they are not actually designed to be performent. They are rather spacious, comfortable and permissible. Their solidity is foolproof and their maintenance is ultimately reasonable provided we are rigorous.

So in the end, the mentions “long trip” and “world tour” seem to me rather legitimate regarding steel hulls. The loop is complete, I do not think I’ll be disappointed with Øya!

Last Updated on 12 December 2019 by Vincent