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Displaying items by tag: glassfibre

When glassfibre boat construction started becoming mainstream, there were those who said it would never last as a manufacturing trend, for in those days plastic and longevity somehow weren't associated concepts. But then, as the builders overcame problems such as osmosis and de-lamination even as we learnt more about plastic's extraordinary durability, the pendulum of concern swung the other way. In a throwaway era, out-dated and un-loved and abandoned plastic boats were increasingly a matter of growing alarm in their seemingly inevitable eventual contribution to semi-permanent pollution.

It's a problem for which solutions are only gradually being developed. And it's a problem which will long be with us, because from a purely manufacturing point of view, glassfibre is a wonderful material, as you create it as you need it. It really is a case of making it up as you go along, with its easy variability of final shape being a real boon for boat-building.

Yet there are those for whom buying a plastic boat is seen as an act of eco-hooliganism, and the more rarefied minds among them are even reluctant to go for wood construction. The best timber takes a very long time to grow, its wastage in boat-building can be at a significant level, and in any case, many of the most popular boatbuilding methods are reliant on epoxy resins and other similar unfriendly substances which require handling with enormous care.

But there's an alternative material which has been used in boat-building for a long time, yet with every passing year as environmental concerns grow, its eco-virtues give out increasingly strong signals. It's our old friend aluminium. It may not have the warmth of wood, and it cannot easily be shaped into some of the weird curves into which glassfibre can be moulded with little bother.

However, in terms of being kind to the planet, aluminium rates quite highly, as apparently it is the third most common element in the earth's crust. And though some variations of aluminium alloy can have problems with salt water, the continuing longevity of the alloy built 1979 Fastnet Race winner Tenacious and the treble Bermuda Race winner Carina of 1969 vintage is indication of how problems have been sorted.

Clayton Ewing's Sparkman & Stephens designed alloy-built DynaClayton Ewing's Sparkman & Stephens designed alloy-built Dyna was constructed by Burger Boats in Wisconsin, and in 1960 became the first Great Lakes boat to win her class in the Bermuda Race

That said, it takes a bit of conscious effort to feel friendly towards aluminium. Yet after you've sailed on a well-finished boat built in this way, you become something of an evangelist for it. Not that being an evangelist is necessarily an easy way to go. Having been converted to its virtues many years ago, and being subsequently impressed with the quality of the aluminium workboats being built in the new yard in Arklow, we suggested that for continuity, the builders in Arklow should be commissioned to build a new double-skin aluminium hull for the 1981-built sail-training brigantine Asgard II, which had recently (it was around 2003) undergone an expensive spars and rig replacement programme.

The new masts had served to make her well-used and hard-driven wooden hull look very tired indeed. But needless to say, the suggestion that Asgard II should have anything other than a wooden hull, or indeed that the hull should be seen as a replaceable unit rather than the heart and soul and the very essence of Asgard herself, was an idea which was slammed right out of the ballpark, so we don't allow ourselves to dwell on what might have happened had it come to fruition before the ship sank in 2008.

But meanwhile aluminium marches quietly along in its low key utilitarian way, and when we see boats like Jarlath Cunnane's Arctic Circle-girdling Northabout built in it, we are reminded of its usefulness. And someone else who is well aware of its usefulness and virtues is yacht designer Don O'Keeffe, originally of Schull but since 1987 based in Manitowoc in Wisconsin, where he became senior designer with the 1863-founded Burger Boats, and has overseen the creation of some very large power yachts.

However, the firm is up to any challenge, and in 2019 they pre-fabricated two alloy-built eco-friendly tour boats for the Maid of the Mist company at Niagara falls, and the bits in various pieces were lowered onto the Niagara Gorge for assembly beside the waterway, emerging complete to go in under the falls for the total Niagara experience.

environmentally-friendly electrically-powered Nikola Tesla, prefabricated in alloy by Burger Boats in ManitowocThe environmentally-friendly electrically-powered Nikola Tesla, prefabricated in alloy by Burger Boats in Manitowoc in Wisconsin and then assembled in the Niagara Gorge, came into service in October 2020 as the newest Maid of the Mist for cruises into Niagara Falls

At Manitowoc they had also built Clayton Ewing's Sparkman & Stephens aluminium yawl Dyane, the first Great Lakes boat to win her class in the Bermuda race (it was in 1960), so they can turn their hand to anything. It's an approach which Don himself exemplifies, for as we have seen this week on Afloat.ie, a recent personal project was building a wooden replica 25ft Heir Island lobster boat, the Fiona, while in another direction a few years back, he linked up with Ken and Karen Schuler to design their 33 Eco-Trawler, which we'll let them describe themselves:

Don O'Keeffe's plans for the 33 Eco-TrawlerDon O'Keeffe's plans for the 33 Eco-Trawler created a very easily-driven hull which locals on Lake Michigan describe as being "like a sailboat without a mast".

"The Eco-Trawler is a 33-foot welded aluminium full displacement trawler. By the use of ideal proportions and perfect ratios, a most successful hull form has been established. Rigid adherence to these principles has resulted in a very sea-kindly boat with excellent stability, together with economy of operation.

According to the American Chemical Society, "aluminium is light, strong, corrosion‐resistant, nonmagnetic, non-toxic and naturally good-looking", making it the most eco-friendly material to use in boat building. It is the third most common element in the Earth's crust.

The welded aluminium construction makes it very strong and safe. Designed with an 8-foot beam, it is legally trailerable anywhere in the US and weighing approximately 7,000 pounds, it can be pulled with a modest tow vehicle.

The Eco‐Trawler is powered by the latest generation of quiet, clean‐running, fuel efficient outboard motors. There is an emphasis on advanced reliability and low maintenance. Salt water protection is delivered by using stainless steel parts, highly engineered painting, and easy to use fresh water flush. The blue Eco-Trawler is powered by a Mercury 115 hp and the red one has twin Evinrude E-Tec 50 hp outboards.

trailerable easily-managed boat like the 33 Eco-TrawlerKeep it simple, keep it trailerable. In a vast country like the USA with big roads and many large lakes, a trailerable easily-managed boat like the 33 Eco-Trawler adds a new dimension to your cruising options

There are no through‐hull fittings on the boat, also making it very eco-friendly. Much thought and research was given to the components that keep the systems as simple as possible and yet afford the creature comforts that most of us want in a boat".

When set against his day job of designing large and complex luxury yachts, you can see the attraction for Don O'Keeffe in planning the 33 Eco-Trawler. She's the essence of simplicity, and though to many modern eyes she looks narrow, as mentioned that is dictated by the legalities of road trailing in the US, with it clearly reckoned that 33ft LOA was as far as they could go while maintaining reasonably healthy proportions.

In Ireland when we think of easily-trailed cruisers, they tend to be smaller than this. But even so, there's something about the 33 Eco-Trawler which has a special straightforward appeal, and after hearing so much about Great Lakes states like Wisconsin and Michigan in recent days in an entirely different context, it's refreshing to contemplate a boat which so successfully combines simplicity and practicality and decency in an environmentally-friendly package.

Don O'Keeffe has given the 33 Eco-Trawler a stylish yet modest sheerlineDon O'Keeffe has given the 33 Eco-Trawler a stylish yet modest sheerline in keeping with the boat's philosophy.

Published in Boatyards
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