Steel Boats: A Strong Alternative
For strength and security, steel boats deserve a good look. Some, you may be surprised to discover, are even downright pretty
Adventure cruising down Chile’s exciting southern waterway, we chose to make a side trip up one of the many fiords. Like most, this one was uncharted. "Must be as deep as the hills are high around us," Margaret and I agreed. The crew of an approaching local fishing boat waved enthusiastically as we tacked from shore to shore against a fine breeze.
Those fishermen were really waving their hands in the air at us. "Guess they’ve never seen a sailboat with such good windward ability," I thought as we left them rapidly astern. If we hadn’t dusted them so completely, perhaps we would have seen their hands go down onto their heads and then over their ears. Full sail and at some seven knots of boat speed, 13 tons of Skookum plowed onto a pile of sharp glacial boulders lurking below the surface.
Was the boat holed due to this colossal blunder? Was the keel parted from the hull? Was the rudder torn off? Was that the end of our cruise? Well, there was a loud bang, we felt the cockpit rapidly rise then suddenly fall, but on we sailed, red-faced and with sails luffing to slow us down. Skookum’s full keel tapers down to a 2 1/2-inch-diameter solid-steel bar. That and the heavier keel plating probably made more impression on the rocks than the rocks did on us. A boat of other material could have sustained trip-terminating damage. Once again, my decision to build in steel had paid off.
Joshua, Williwaw, Damien II: These famous steel cruisers bring to mind high-latitude epic trips, often among ice. But steel is not just for extremist cruisers. As a matter of fact, the finest steel hulls are passing you by, indeed overtaking you under sail. Only you don’t realize they’re made of steel.