Strength of Materials
Fiberglass is an economical material for building production boats, but it requires expensive tooling for shaping and complex methods for balancing weight, stiffness and strength, high-profile resins, foam or balsa coring, uni- and bidirectional fabrics, often made from carbon fiber or Kevlar for maximum strength. (Few if any large fiberglass yachts, expect racing sailboats, use Kevlar or carbon fibers because of the expense.) In production fiberglass boat building, tooling expenses are spread over many hulls, and materials expenses are offset by quick assembly; a fiberglass hull that can be laid up in days might take weeks to weld in steel or aluminum.
So why build in metal? Metal, whether steel or aluminum, is tougher than fiberglass and can take more abuse without damage; that’s why most commercial boats are built of metal, not fiberglass. This shouldn’t be a concern with yachts, but if you hit something it’s nice to have a hull that bounces off rather than cracks or shatters and is easily punctured. If you like snooping around in shallow water, and/or live in an area with lots of rocks or reefs, a metal hull is an excellent stress-reliever.
With metal, the material itself can be tested beforehand to ensure it meets metallurgical standards – that it’s the right grade of steel or the right alloy of aluminum. With steel construction, as the boat is built, the welds can be inspected, even X-rayed, to ensure they are as strong as possible - any flaws are easy to remedy. Fiberglass, on the other hand, is essentially an “alloy” that’s built on-site - its properties can vary widely from what they should be, depending on the skill and care taken by the laminating crew and the batch of resin received that day. If damaged, steel is easy to repair – you can find a welder almost anywhere.
Why Steel, Not Aluminum?
Metal-boat fanatics can argue from now until Doomsday about which is better, steel or aluminum. If weight is an issue, boatbuilders choose aluminum. For plating of a given size, steel is about twice as strong, but aluminum weighs 1/3 as much. Double the thickness of aluminum to match the strength of steel, and you still save roughly 30% on weight. Steel is less expensive, and can be welded with open arc; aluminum is easier to cut and bend, but must be welded with shielded arc to prevent it burning – that takes different equipment and a little more skill. Aluminum doesn’t rust like steel, but is easier to dent...this can go on and on. There is no “right” answer.
There is Nothing Like Steel
The bottom line is, the better material for building a boat the size of the Dynamic 1700 is one most suitable for the mission of the boat. In this case, it’s steel. VanDerHeijden uses Grade 42 shipbuilding steel, 5 mm plating for the hull, 4 mm for deck and superstructure. The keel is 10 mm. There are four main bulkheads and intermediate frames every 40 cm. Galvanic protection comes from traditional zinc anodes welded to the bottom.In addition to the high tinsile strength of steel it is also ductile, which means it can bend without breaking. If you hit a rock, the hull might dent, but chances are it won’t puncture. Steel is easy to modify for structural changes. Further, you don’t have to worry about your hull bottom blistering or about water osmosis into a cored hull. Because all VanDerHeijden boats are Awlgripped, there is no gelcoat that is constantly oxidizing and needing compounding and waxing three or four times a year. The elimination of gelcoat also eliminates worries about crazing or gelcoat crackling, admittedly something that is rare these days with modern materials.
Downside to Steel
Every material has a downside and steel is no exception. Steel has two traditional enemies – rust and corrosion. Happily, polyurethane paints such as Awlgrip are flexible and durable, typically keeping their high gloss finish for 10 years or more. Nicks and scratches are easily touched-up, and thereby rust is avoided. A steel hull is most vulnerable to corrosion in a marina where another boat is oozing stray current into the water. Dropping a sacrificial anode over the side attached to a point on the deck not only handles stray current, but also tells you if it is there in the first place. Steel is also heavier than cored fiberglass. However, for boats going displacement speeds that is not a significant factor. In a semi-displacement mode, the added weight will require larger engines.
About VanDerHeijden Steelyachts
The yard was founded 16 years ago by Ronald VanDerHeijden. Being from Holland it is not surprising that since an early age he dreamed about building boats that would ply the world’s oceans. Indeed, boat building is one of this tiny nation’s major industries and there are dozens of boat and ship yards scattered all over the country. VanDerHeijden spent 10 years in the Dutch navy as an engineer. When he left the navy he decided to follow his life-long dream. Over the last 16 years the yard has built over 400 boats and as time has gone on the boats have gotten larger and larger. Today, the yard builds boats from 36’ (11.25 m) to 65’ (20 m) in four basic designs – Exclusive (36’-44’/11.25 m-13.50 m), Dynamic (50’-58’/15.5 m-17.9 m), Dynamic Deluxe (50’-70’/15.5 m-21.5 m), and Superior (65’-78’/19.3 m-24.10 m). Recently, the yard drew up plans to build a yacht of 33 meters (107’) so megayachts are not out of the question. Visit the yard’s website for more details -- http://www.vanderheijdensteelyachts.com.In 2009 the yard produced 16 boats, which we find remarkable given the world’s economy. One of the reasons that the yard is so busy is because its pricing is extremely competitive with fiberglass production boats. For example, a 44’ Exclusive design with a single engine costs 269,000 Euros ($342,000 U.S.), and a 68’ Dynamic Deluxe with pilothouse and twin diesel engines costs about 1,645,000 Euros ($2,089,150 U.S.). As you can see, these prices are the same or even less than comparable size production fiberglass boats.A spokesman for the yard says that it is able to keep prices down due to low overhead, in-house designing and engineering, no debt service, and low marketing expenses. These savings are passed along to the consumer.The yard is located in Waalwijk, Holland, on a canal. The yard currently can have six boats under construction at any one time.
The Dynamic 1700 is built to CE classification (“C” rating (inshore) is standard), but the builder will upgrade to “B” rating (offshore) for 5,000 Euros extra. A “B” rating is for winds up to Force 8 (39-46 mph), seas to 4 meters (13’) – plenty nasty for most of us. Yes, there is also an “A” rating, for unlimited open-sea service, but unless you’re planning to cross the ocean, you don’t need an “A”-rated vessel. “C” is fine for most of us, but we'd spend the extra 5 grand for a "B!"
Standard power is a pair of 220-hp diesels, although a single also comes as standard. The 64,000-lb. Dynamic 1700 is a displacement-speed boat, and it doesn’t take much power to push it to hull speed. We estimate an economical cruise speed at about 8 knots (not tested by us, though). The engine room is under the saloon, and it is the crawl-in type arrangement.
The Bottom Line
Base price for the twin-screw pilothouse version shown here is 670,000 Euros, about $851,000 U.S. at press time. Other versions are less, as low as 630,000 Euros ($797,000) for the single-engine, open-bridge (“windscreen”) variation. Don’t forget you have to get the yacht back to the U.S., but if you plan ahead, freight rates on Dockwise or commercial shipping are surprisingly reasonable – particularly these days. Better yet, why not leave the boat in Europe for a few seasons of cruising before bringing the boat back? Sounds like fun to us.
From the time the contracts are signed and the plans are finalized it takes two to three months for the boat to be started, then another 12 months to completion, we are told. This is faster than many yards building in fiberglass or aluminum. VanDerHeijden is able to do it that quickly because all of the hull, deck, and supporting frames have already been designed and the CAD-CAM system is immediately ready to begin cutting steel plate. The yard has thoughtfully standardized on most of the ship’s more complex systems such as electrical, plumbing and HVAC so that the often time-consuming aspect of original engineering can be eliminated. To a large degree, parts are standardized as much as possible, for example the pumps used in a small vessel are also the same ones used in a large one.
Who among us wouldn’t love to own a yacht built by that great Dutch yard Feadship? But the reality is, a yacht in the $15 million+ category is beyond most people, and anyway, they require large crews and are too big for an owner/operator. But the VanDerHeijden Steelyachts yard specializes in just the size and type boat that can be easily handled by an owner/operator, a couple, or an owner with a deck hand. With prices from about $400,000 up to a couple of million, this yard offers the world’s owner/operators the opportunity to have a boat made out of steel for the price of a fiberglass production boat. We like the sound of that.Contact VanDerHeijden Steelyachts via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Standard and Optional Features
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