Online Book: How To Buy an Offshore Boat, Chapter 16 of 22

What is The Best Boatbuilding Material?

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A sure way to start a fight on a boating forum is to ask what the best boatbuilding material is. If you do, you’ll likely be rewarded with a drawn-out battle between the metal-heads, the wood lovers and the plastic addicts, running to hundreds of posts before getting either modded or Godwinned to oblivion.

The reason nobody ever gets a clear win in these fights is because there is no generally applicable right answer. Most private vessels in the 20 to 100 foot range fall very near the balancing point where you could get excellent results in aluminum, fibreglass or wood composite, and a significant fraction of those boats could be built equally well in steel or in traditional wood methods. What really matters is whether it’s designed and built correctly—it’s quite possible to build a modern ultralight ocean racer out of wood, and it’s quite possible to spend a few million dollars on a wallowing pig made from the finest aerospace composites.

That being said, there are quantitative ways to compare the structural properties of different materials, and we’ll look at a few of them today.


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Meet the Author

Matt

Matt, Engineering Correspondent, is a Professional Engineer and true renaissance man, with a wide range of expertise including photography and all things boat design. He has a unique ability to make complex subjects easy to understand and he keeps an eye on the rest of us to make sure that we don’t make any technical mistakes. Working as M. B. Marsh Marine Design, Matt designs innovative powerboats of all shapes and sizes.

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