Aluminum or Aluminium,
Advantages However You Spell It.

      During the summer SailNorthEast received a press release from Philbrook's Boatyard in Victoria, BC, Canada, about the Chinook Post, a newly completed 65 foot Aluminum Express Cruiser they had just launched. Chinook Post was designed by Gregory C. Marshall for a California couple to replace their sailboat. The hull was based on a William Garden design originally adopted for Canadian Fisheries patrol boats around 35 years ago.

      Now, the Chinook Post is a powerboat and I usually try to indulge my preference for sail, but the aluminium hull intrigued me. Besides, I'm at the age where I look at every trawler when I put into a marina and having an express cruiser's speed for returning to port when storms threaten is a very appealing thing. Philbrook's says that Chinook Post's top speed is 24 knots, with a cruising speed of 20 and over 1,000 nm range at 18 knots. With three private head staterooms, washer/dryer, deep freeze and even a workbench she looks like a floating mansion..!

     But I digress, for more information specifically about Chinook Post you should go to www.philbrooks.com where you'll find all the information on this and other of their recent projects. Details on an aluminum hull sailboat, Tintagel, which was recently refitted at Philbrook's yard and is shown above to the right may be found at www.svtintagel.com.

     Having already broken every journalistic rule in this rambling article I will now, (finally!), get to the point... I called and asked Drew Irwin, president of Philbrook Boat Yard, to tell me more about aluminium hulls and their advantages and disadvantages. Here's what Drew had to say...

Q. The Chinook Post's hull design was based upon a 35 year old Canadian Fisheries Patrol boat design. These patrol boats were also constructed at Philbrook's yard, which has been in existence since the 1950's. What was the original material used for the patrol boat's hull? Why wasn't this used again?

A. Philbrook's built five of the original patrol boats from fiberglass and has frequently reused the hull because we had the molds available and it was designed for the nearby waters. Chinook Post is a replica and was built for a former sailor who liked the material and its advantages.

Q. Your press release says, "There are many reasons to favour aluminium construction. First, consider its predictability which is mainly responsible for aluminiumís current popularity for yachts in the 80 - 140 foot range, and its increasing rise as the material of choice for even larger yachts." What exactly do you mean when you say to consider aluminium's "predictability"?

A. When molding boats in fiberglass there's a lot of variance in thickness and quality. Aluminum is a more consistent material. In terms of thickness and solidity it's better.

Q. What about corrosion? I've seen some elaborate electrical devices that are intended to prevent galvanic attack on aluminum hulls. Are these necessary?

A. Unpainted Aluminium protects itself with a thin layer of oxidation. Yachts are painted inside and out but scrapes still protect themselves. Dissimilar metals are a more serious consideration and it's most important to isolate things like stainless steel fasteners from the aluminum but meters monitor all the time when the boat is in use. We've never felt the need to use an active anti-corrosion system.

Q. Can aluminum hulls be painted successfully?

A. Yes, they are painted with material similar to Awlgrip. It's been done successfully for years. Repairs and spot painting can easily be done. Color match is the major issue, just as with any other material.

Q. Isn't painting aluminum expensive?

A. There is an additional etching step, but costs are similar to Awlgrip.

Q. Does painting the hull offer any increase in corrosion resistance or any other advantages beyond the cosmetics?

A. Perhaps, but unpainted aluminium workboats seem to have a similar lifetime to the painted ones. Yachts are usually painted and I suppose it might help...

Q. What about anti-fouling?

A. Traditionally tin based paints were used but these are mostly prohibited now. International Paint's Trilux is compatable with aluminum and, if a barrier coat is used to isolate the aluminium, traditional copper bottom paint can be used but scrapes have to be repaired promptly.

Q. Are there any special advantages, disadvantages or considerations in using aluminum for sailboat construction?

A. People traditionally associate metal hulls with hard chines but aluminum is especially adaptable for rounded shapes. Rolled shaping can easily produce rounded shapes and compound curves. The Dutch pioneered this technique long ago and it's a matter limited only by budget.

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From Whites International Yachts (Mallorca) on Saturday, May 17, 2008 at 07:15:13

We have an aluminium Nordia 50 and one Trintella 49A for sale. Dutch custom built boats. Please visit our website www.whitesyachts.com if you need further information.

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From editor on Thursday, December 7, 2006 at 14:27:06

Contact information for Philbrook's boat yard may be found at http://www.philbrooks.com/philContact.php

I'm sure they will be able to help you.

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From Osman Onur «OLAK on Thursday, December 7, 2006 at 13:43:24

Can you send me a document paper about all the advantages and characteristics of aluminum yacht construction please? thank you (urgent)

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From Bethany on Sunday, October 29, 2006 at 19:33:31

may i just have a list of all the advantages and disadvantages for wooden, aluminium, fibreglass, and polyethylene constructions?

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From Bob Martin on Friday, January 7, 2005 at 05:53:57

I am just starting out in ship repairs and have had difficulty forming 5083 to 90 degree bends and welding 5 mm hulls (as the heat is drawn from the area). Could you give me some guidance in these areas.

Regards,
Bob Martin

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From ingrid on Monday, October 4, 2004 at 23:48:38

hi
we are doing a project on boats! we have to make a boat. we were wondering what the advantages and disadvantages for a spped boat and if you would recommend any sights to look at on how to make a boat!
thanks

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From Simon Dutchman on Sunday, August 29, 2004 at 19:41:37

I am looking into taking on an unfinished project in the 30-45' yacht category. I would like to know of any recommended reading available on the aluminium hull?

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From HBDP KUMARASINGHA on Friday, March 19, 2004 at 03:16:39

please let me know about more information about advantages of aluminium in attack craft building

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From david Glasser on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 at 09:40:46

Am doing an Hnc and I'm needing info on aluminium for corrosion resistance, welding and forming and as i'm interested in boats, Why not ask the experts?

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From JORGE ACOSTA on Thursday, October 9, 2003 at 19:20:58

CAN YOU HELP ME WITH THE HULL FRAME PLANE FOR BUILT FISHING COMERCIAL BOAT I BUILT
MYSELF PLEASE.

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From Peter Davis on Sunday, September 28, 2003 at 13:18:18

We are thinking of buying a second hand Trintella 49A yacht, biult in 1989 which is of aluminium construction. is their anything we should watch out for?

Peter Davis
We are going to see her in Mallorca on the 8th of Oct 2003

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From rachael on Monday, September 8, 2003 at 22:20:24

What are some disadvantages about aluminum boats?? colud you please send me an e-mail before wednesday September 10th because i have to do a science project on aluminum boats thank you

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