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Bill H

So you want to build/buy a boat in the PH, here is the place to discuss it!

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Bill H

Ferrocement, GRP, and plywood as boat building materials

 

 

I'm going to start with ferrocement because it is a medium that fascinates me, although I've never actually built a boat using cement.  I do think this medium has some very serious advantages for the Philippine people, if (big if) you could ever get them away from the banca style boats.  I mentioned earlier that ferrocement boats got a bad reputation because back in the 70's a lot of hippies jumped into building boats this way.  Most of the projects were doomecd from the beginning, and resulted in the poor reputation of ferrocement.  If a ferro boat is built well, using the right materials, it is in fact an outstanding boat building medium, probably third behind steel and aluminum.  There are big IF's however.  You have to know what you are doing, you have to use the proper materials, and you have to get the mud to the hull the right way, just the right amount, not too much, not too little.  I think an experienced plasterer here could learn how to plaster a hull and do a good job of it if he really understood what was needed to be done and had the desire to do a good job.  Yet more if's.

 

One of the downfalls of the back yard ferro boats was builders using chicken wire in lieu of bird mesh.  Chicken wire is much less expensive and simply not an acceptable substitute.  It can also be difficult to find.  The other common problem with these amateur built boats was the builders lack of understanding of the importance of applying the mud in such a way that there are no air pockets.  It must also be applied so it's not too thick (gives you a heavy hull) or not thick enough (the underlying wire and structural steel is not protected from sea water, so it rusts.)

 

Then there were the guys who built their fuel tanks out of ferrocement apparently not knowing or not caring that diesel fuel destroys cement and in time it crumbles and fails.  Leaky fuel tanks in your boat will get you in more trouble than you can imagine or want with the environmental folks and the fines are breath taking, but not in a good way.

 

All of the above problems are surmountable and the resulting hull would be very durable and cost effective to build.  It would not handle being driven onto a reef as well as a steel boat, but it would have a much better chance of surviving the experience than any boat other than a metal one.

 

Epoxy, GRP, epoxy foam and mat construction and plywood

 

I have owned two fiberglass (GRP) boats in my life.  I pray every day I will not own a third.  It is my opinion the only reason most boats have been built this way is because the medium lends itself better to mass production than any other.  Impact resistance of GRP (including Epoxy, Epoxy foam and mat constructed hulls) is very poor.  Oyster is a brand name for a line of glass boats that are pretty much the Rolls Royce of production boats.  The quality of their design and construction is second to none.  A few years ago a couple was sailing their 50ish LOA Oyster to Bermuda and were a few hundred miles out.  It was a dark night the seas were relatively calm, the stars were out, but visibility was poor.  Suddenly there was a loud bang, the boat shuddered and water could be heard rushing into the hull. 

 

The couple should be commended.  They did everything right, even to the point of stepping up into the life raft as the Oyster sunk less than thirty minutes after the loud bang.  They were not injured and were picked up in a day or so by a passing freighter.  Why did the Oyster sink?  Container!  Every year 10,000+ ocean shipping containers are washed off the ships who are carrying them into the sea.  Most sink and are never seen again, but most is not all and it's the ones who don't sink that make them so very dangerous.  These containers are made of steel and are very heavily built since they receive rough use throughout their working life.  If your boat happens to hit one on a dark night when you can't see it floating just at the surface, you will probably sink if you are in any kind of glass/epoxy/mat built boat.  None of these boats have good impact resistance.  I was once looking at a boat on Martinique in the Caribbean.  The yard was full of glass boats who had hit something and were in the yard for repairs.  It was quite a scene to behold.  Of course, I was looking at steel boats, so I didn't really care, but the visuals were striking.

 

Beyond that, these boats are notorious for leaking.  GRP is porous, it is not water impermeable, it seeps water.  A full full of water between the laminates is a nightmare to repair.  Most quality boats today have an epoxy barrier coat applied to the outside of the hull for this very reason.  For the amateur builder the process to build one is not normally practical.  First you must build a mold, then you apply the layers of mat and roving to the mold (either male of female) until the desired thickness is achieved.  It's slow, very stinky, very messy work.  Too much resin and the boat is too heavy, too little and it is not strong enough.  In my view, not a good medium for the home builder.  It is also breathtakingly expensive in the PH.

 

Epoxy is good stuff.  However, it is not true that epoxy here is filler free.  Actually almost all epoxy here has fillers in it, which is why it is gray or white in color.  Epoxy is clear with a slight yellow tint depending on the brand.  Open any can of epoxy labeled "Marine Epoxy" here and it will contain fillers.  The only exception is laminating epoxy, which is pure epoxy with no fillers.  Laminating epoxy is also rather thin, kind of like light cream.  Epoxy is very expensive here.  I'm told if you go to Singapore and purchase large quantities from the chemical plants there you can get the price down.  But unless you're building a 70' GRP boat, you don't need epoxy in 55 gallon drums.  Mat and roving are also very expensive as is structural foam.

 

It's true I'm not a fan of these materials and now you know why.

 

Which brings us to plywood.  PT boats in WWII were built in plywood, as were most of the landing craft you see on the beaches of Normandy and Leyte.  In fact many were built in Louisiana.  I like plywood, it is very strong and relatively light weight.  You may be asking yourself plywood is just wood, why is it stronger than the tree it comes from?  Good question, I will answer that.

 

All wood has grains, meaning a unidirection the fibers in the wood tend to grow.  Generally speaking the grain runs logitudinally in the trunk of the tree.  The secret to plywood is they cut the trunk into short lengths (usually a little over 4' long.  These logs are then placed on a giant lathe and turned while they peel off a very thin piece, perhaps as thin as 1/32 of an inch, but often closer to 1/16 or 1/8".  The sheets are steamed and flattened then shipped to the plywood plant.  Now the tricky part.  First they lay down the finish side with best side facing down, then it is coated with glue and the second layer is laid down, but it is turned so that its grain is at right angles to the grain of the layer before it.  This process continues until the appropriate thickness is achieved and the top sheet is laid down.  Plywood is so strong because of the orientation of the grain in the layers being at right angles to the other layers.  Marine plywood is carefully inspected and any voids in the layers are filled so there are no voids in the wood.  Voids are a path to rot.  The more layers in a given sheet of plywood, the stronger the plywood is (but the extra layers also add to the weight of the sheet).  Consider two 1/2" thick sheets of plywood.  One sheet has 3 layers total the other 5, which is stronger?  The one with the higher number of layers.  Marine plywood also uses glue that is more resistant to water.  When water seeps into the layers of the plywood, they can begin to separate.  This is called delamination and it's a very bad thing in a boat.  One way to judge the quality of a marine plywood is to count the layers in the ply.  If there are only three you probably don't want to use it for boat building.

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Bill H

 

 

Bill, check out one of these

 

Yes nice little boat.  The price was not posted but I'm guessing over 100k plus a motor.  It would be a fun boat, but I would not want to go to far from land in it or out on a rough day.

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Bill H

 

 

Umm No, epoxy only contains  fillers if you add them,

 

That may very well be the case in Oz, but it is definately not the case here.  Any can you pick up labeled "Marine Epoxy" will have fillers in it.  The only exception is "Laminating Epoxy."  See my post #17 above.

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cebulover2000

Boats is all about maintenance. With the cheap labour available here, I wouldn't even leave it in the water.

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Bill H

Boats is all about maintenance. With the cheap labour available here, I wouldn't even leave it in the water.

 

 

Where do I leave my boat?

 

This is an interesting question that is largely answered by circumstances and boat size.  The larger the boat, the more difficult (and more expensive) it will be to remove it from the water.  That said, if you can do it, it's the best way to store your boat.  The "boatie" term for this is being "on the hard" meaning the boat is our of the water and on dry land.  Lots of advantages for this, not the least of which is the little critters who live to eat your boat only live in the water for the most part, so once it's out of the water the boat is safe from them (but not from termites, but that's another story).

 

A few common sense things about being on the hard.  Be sure you are above the surf line so even if a large storm blows through you're boat will remain high and dry.  Be sure the boat won't fall over if you've blocked it up.  Some boats are very light and have a lot of surface area so they are susceptible to being picked up in high winds.  Does the area where your boat will rest on the hard have any security?  Talk to the locals, they will tell you if boats in a given area are commonly stolen or stripped of engines and other valuable parts.

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Davaoeno

 

 

Talk to the locals, they will tell you if boats in a given area are commonly stolen or stripped of engines

 

 

Oh no Sir- your boat is totally safe here !   We will even watch it for you ! 

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Bill H

Making your boat move from point A to point B...the power plant

 

 

Most boats in the PH have some kind of power plant, this may take the form of the equivalent of a old gasoline fueled lawn mower engine to a sophisticated marine diesel.  What is best for you?

 

By far and away the "standard" for marine propulsion is the diesel engine.  Diesel engines burn less fuel per horsepower than gasoline engines, diesel fuel is much less volatile and prone to catching fire, diesel engines last longer and are more reliable.  However very small (under 8hp diesel engines are hard to find) so if you're boat only needs an engine between 5-8hp it will probably be a gasoline engine.

 

Gasoline fumes are very explosive, so be sure your storage containers are tightly sealed and out of direct sunlight as gasoline tends to evaporate.  Always carry spare spark plugs, a spare starter rope etc. and the tools necessary to install them.  Never smoke or have an open flame near your gasoline engine or spare fuel cans.  Water and gasoline don't mix and in fact will stop your little motor cold, so be very careful to keep your gasoline water free.

 

If your boat requires an engine larger than 8hp you will probably want to have a diesel motor, even though they cost more than an equivalent gasoline motor.  The larger your motor in horsepower the more you will want to choose diesel over gasoline.  Keep in mind that most diesel engines require a return fuel line because they usually suck more diesel than they end up burning and the unused fuel is returned to the fuel tank.  Keeping diesel fuel clean is a must.  The prudent sailor has at least one and frequently two or more fuel filters for this very purpose.  Water in diesel fuel can lead to a disaster, so the prudent sailor has a fuel water separator to insure no water gets to the engine in the fuel.  As with all things engines, changing your oil on a regular basis is the best insurance policy you can buy.  The typical oil change frequency is every 100 operating hours, but some people do it more often.  It's always better to do it more often than needed than not enough.

 

No matter what fuel your engine burns, the propeller at the end of the shaft is a critical component of your drive system, don't ignore it.  Propellers are measured by two factors, the diameter of the propeller (usually the first number listed) and the pitch, (usually the second number listed.)  So a prop stamped 8 x 12 means the propeller has a diameter of 8" and a pitch of 12".  Pitch?  Pitch is the distance the propeller moves forward in one revolution.  Think of the propeller is a screw.  As you turn the screw it travels forward.  So the 12" pitch means this propeller moves 12" forward for each revolution.  You can also think of the pitch as the gear ratio in a boat.  The lower the pitch the lower the gear.  How do you know when it's all just right?  It's really not that hard, but you need some instruments, principally a tachometer and you need to know the specifications of your motor particularly its rated RPM.

 

With a tachometer installed and the engine at full throttle, the RPM should equal the rated RPM of the engine.  So if the diameter of the propeller and its pitch are correct an engine rated at 3,200RPM will in fact read 3,200RPM at full throttle.  What if it doesn't?  If the RPM reads high (then you need to either increase the size of the prop or the pitch.  (Usually you start by just increasing the pitch.  If the RPM is reading low, then you need to reduce the size of the prop and or the pitch, but again usually you start with decreasing the pitch.  It does not take much.  If you have that 8 x 12 prop I'd swap it for a 8 x 11 if my RPM was low or a 8 x 13 if it were high.  The diameter of the prop is often limited by the design of the boat.  If the diameter is too large the propeller will hit the hull which is a very bad thing.  This is why we adjust pitch first.

 

Now the fun part of doing all things boats in the PH.  It is not uncommon for the local propeller maker to have no idea what your're talking about when you ask for the pitch of the prop.  He only deals with diameter and may not even understand the concept of pitch.  When this happens, it's a new ball game and you just have to play it all by ear.  Thus the prudent sailor always demands he be able to swap his propeller for a different size when he buys a new one to be sure he can keep trying new sizes until he gets the right combination for his boat.

 

One more concept before we leave this subject and that is the blade count.  The higher the number of blades the lower the diameter of the propeller.  So a two bladed propeller will have a larger diameter for a given power range than a three bladed propeller.  Also, the higher the number of blades the "smoother" the propeller will run, but also the more expensive it will be.  It is often said matching the correct propeller to the boat is as much art as science and there is some truth to that.

 

A final thought on this subject.  As the propeller turns it is exerting a lot of force on the shaft.  if the shaft is not well supported it will actually wobble up and down considerably.  "The Book" says a propeller shaft should never be unsupported for a distance of 4" from the end of the shaft.  In other words, you will want a bearing within 4" of the end shaft in your boat, but 4" is the maximum number 2 or even 1 is better.  That said this is a very common rule to break by local Pinoy builders.  For fun grab a hold of an outrigger and watch the propeller shaft wobble as you are dragged through the water by a banca.  You will be amazed as to how much wobble you will observe in the shaft.

 

 

Other power sources

 

 

​It's a sail stupid.  That large sheet of fiber attached to some sort of pole on your banca when filled with wind will move the boat forward, sometimes if the wind is strong enough faster than you really want to go.  Pinoy's use almost any kind of cloth as a sail.  The common blue plastic tarp is very common, but so is canvas and even rice bags sewn together.  A sail is really nothing more than an airfoil which moves the boat because there is lower pressure on the front of the sale than on the back of the sail thus the sail pulls the boat along (and all this time you thought the wind blew the boat!  LOL)  Modern sails are engineering marvels, usually designed by computers and actually far more complex than you would think, but you will rarely see them in the PH unless they are on a boat brought here from somewhere else.  Typically these sails are made of Dacron, but some are made of Nylon and even Mylar depending on the design and use of the sail.  No matter what the sail is made of or how it is designed the principle is the same.

 

 

 

Electric Propulsion

 

 

Another one of my favorite subjects.  Actually, the old electric motor originally designed by Tesla at the turn of the 19th century is a ideal source of power to turn a propeller.  Electric motors have much higher torque than either gasoline or diesel motors and torque is what it's all about when it comes to turning a propeller.  They key to electric propulsion is how you generate the electricity in the first place.  Submarines and aircraft carriers utilize nuclear reactors which Mikala is far more qualified to discuss than I am.  In the modern pleasure boat the diesel motor is most often the source of electricity, but solar panels have also been sued as have wind generators of one form or another.  I believe this is the future of the marine industry, but emphasis should be placed on "future" we aren't there yet, but we will be one day.

 

 

Paddles, Oars and such...

 

No boat under 12m in length should go to sea without a paddle.  It's a very bad thing to find yourself up a creek without the old paddle and often worse to find yourself on a lee shore being driven into the rocks because the $##@!!# motor won't start.  It's amazing how well even a medium sized boat can be moved by paddle alone.  It's very good exercise too!  An oar is just another kind of paddle which is attached to the boat in some form or fashion, but eh principle is the same.  Paddle wheels are just another form of paddles, but built into a wheel and turned by muscle power or some other power source.

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Bill H

Oh no Sir- your boat is totally safe here !   We will even watch it for you ! 

 

Ok smart ass point well made.  I will amend my statement to read, "talk to a local you can trust."  Is that better Ian?

 

Or..."As long as he's not Korean, not a midget and not a lawyer you might be able to trust him."

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Oz Jon

A

Impact resistance of GRP (including Epoxy, Epoxy foam and mat constructed hulls) is very poor.

 

A very good post - thanks Bill

 

I agree with most of what you said,  but your statement that epoxy-foam construction has poor impact resistance is too much of a generalisation.

 

In fact it's impact resistance is very good, if you use the right kind of foam in the right places (the tough, flexible type in high impact risk areas, like hulls) - practically indestructible if you slip a bit of Kevlar into the e-glass mix. .

 

Plenty of stories of epoxy-foam boats surviving pounding for hours on rocks in storms [in Airex Foam Company literature and elsewhere].

 

But, epoxy-foam construction is intended for a high performance racing/cruising market - probably not what any LinC readers are looking for.

 

Nor can I imagine that GRP construction would be an attractive proposition in the Phil environment. Too many specialised materials and techniques and skills needed to do it well (using epoxy....... polyester is a disaster).

 

Given the low cost of labour and the skillsets available in the Phils, concrete construction looks very attractive if anyone wanted a good sized (35ft+) live-aboard or cruising boat. They would need to find out how to do it properly and train their workers though.

 

I guess that most LinC members would be more interested in well built versions of the local pump-boats or bancas to do a bit of recreational fishing or short island-hopping adventures? Maybe, just a bit of off-the-beach sailing?

 

"There is nothing like messing about in boats"

Edited by Oz Jon
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Bill H

A

 

A very good post - thanks Bill

 

I agree with most of what you said,  but your statement that epoxy-foam construction has poor impact resistance is too much of a generalisation.

 

In fact it's impact resistance is very good, if you use the right kind of foam in the right places (the tough, flexible type in high impact risk areas, like hulls) - practically indestructible if you slip a bit of Kevlar into the mix. .

 

Plenty of stories of epoxy-foam boats surviving pounding for hours on rocks in storms [in Airex Foam Company literature and elsewhere].

 

But, epoxy-foam construction is intended for a high performance racing/cruising market - probably not what any LinC readers are looking for.

 

Nor can I imagine that GRP construction would be an attractive proposition in the Phil environment. Too many specialised materials and techniques and skills needed to do it well (using epoxy - polyester is a disaster).

 

Given the low cost of labour and the skillsets available in the Phils, concrete construction looks very attractive if anyone wanted a good sized (35ft+) live-aboard or cruising boat. They would need to find out how to do it properly and train their workers though.

 

I gues that most LinC members would be more interested in well built versions of the local pump-boats or bancas to do a bit of recreational fishing or short island-hopping adventures?

 

"There is nothing like messing about in boats"

 

 

Thank you Jon, we will have to agree to disagree when it comes to all things Arex.  Please keep in mind these folks are trying to sell you their product, so of course they will put it in the best light.  That said, if I were going to build a all out racing boat, epoxy and foam would be my first choice.  Remember the racing boat leaving Hawaii a few years back who had the misfortune of running into a sleeping whale, thereby pissing off the whale in the extreme?  The whale rammed the sail boat amidships and stove in the entire side of the boat sinking it.  The whale swam off leaving the crew to survive in a the boat's lifeboat until they could be rescued.  I'd like to think the whale got a goodly headache from that incident, but maybe he didn't, we will never know.

 

I would really like to see someone build some 20-30ish meter mono hull fishing boats here out of ferrocememnt.  I think they would certainly open some eyes to a different way of doing things.  My first concern would be getting the proper sand.  You need good washed silicon sand for the job but here in Mindanao and on Cebu most of the sand I've seen is naught but limestone, which would be a bad choice.

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Oz Jon
I would really like to see someone build some 20-30ish meter mono hull fishing boats here out of ferrocememnt. I think they would certainly open some eyes to a different way of doing things.

That would be interesting - 20-30m is a serious boat!

 

I looked-up Helsal the ferrocement winner of a Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race.

 

Apparently she was in Manila in late 2012, sunk but recovered badly damaged after a typhoon.

Now "With a half a dozen families living aboard."

 

<http://www.rolexsydneyhobart.com/news/2012/pre-race/helsal-tribute-to-joe-adams-in-rolex-sydney-hobart/>

Edited by Oz Jon
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easydrifter

That was a great read Bill. Being a retired Alaska fisherman I totally enjoyed it. I spent my last years of fishing out of an outboard powered aluminum skiff, and I can say a good aluminum skiff with a 1/4" flat bottom is hard to beat. I will be returning to live in Panabo next month and would love to have a boat, but don't know if I'll be able to get a boat, but if I did it would be a fast aluminum skiff. Russ

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Bill H

That was a great read Bill. Being a retired Alaska fisherman I totally enjoyed it. I spent my last years of fishing out of an outboard powered aluminum skiff, and I can say a good aluminum skiff with a 1/4" flat bottom is hard to beat. I will be returning to live in Panabo next month and would love to have a boat, but don't know if I'll be able to get a boat, but if I did it would be a fast aluminum skiff. Russ

 

There is a Canadian company that offers some really nice 13-16' aluminum skiffs that would make really nice tenders.  They sell you the CNC files cheap then you have the plate cut and weld them together.  That might be something for you to look into if you can find 5052 plate here.  PM me if you want more details, I'll try to dredge them up for you.

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thebob

I'm a big fan of the Core Sound 17.

 

http://bandbyachtdesigns.com/core-sound-17/

 

I know some people who have built these in aluminium. I have the plans for one of these but I've never got round to building one. They sail really well they work well with an outboard, easy to adapt for an inboard.

 

Even with poly tarp sals and bamboo masts these things fly. Stitch and glue plywood, butterfly construction.

 

I've got a couple of Catspaws.

 

http://bandbyachtdesigns.com/sail/catspaw/

 

One as a rowing dinghy and one with a centreboard and windsurfer sail. Nice easy first project.

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