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Carbon Fiber Boatbuilding

  • By Chris Caswell
  • Updated: July 14, 2016

Carbon Fiber Boatbuilding

Like the word stealth, carbon fiber has crept into our modern language, and you’ll find its distinctive black diamond pattern on everything from clipboards to refrigerators. It is an absolutely crucial material in the F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft, but probably not so essential in the glove-box door of your SUV. Carbon fiber has become a trendy decorating item.

Fiberglass was once heralded as the miracle material for boats, and it did, indeed, take a bite out of wooden-boat construction. Though it revolutionized boat construction, it didn’t quite prove to be the no-maintenance material originally promised (laughter in the wings), but it was a major step forward. There was a time, more recently, when Kevlar was touted as the be-all and end-all for composite boat construction.

Today, the magic words are carbon fiber. You’re going to see them bandied around by builders and dealers (and a few snake-oil salesmen) as the material hastening a new revolution. But is it really one?

Well, the absolute definitive answer is yes — and no. Carbon fiber has some wonderful properties, but it also brings higher costs and a few downsides. We got to experience it firsthand aboard the Paragon Super Sport 28 from Carbon Marine. Here’s what we found.

Carbon Fiber Boatbuilding

The Carbon Upsides We all know that fiberglass is a composite made from strands of glass that are woven into fabrics and reinforced with resin to create hulls and decks. Carbon fiber simply replaces those glass strands with filaments of carbon. On the chemical side, carbon crystals are shaped like honeycombs, and they align naturally into long, flat ribbons, which are then woven into a matrix much like a coarse fiberglass cloth is.

In the case of the Paragon Super Sport 28, the carbon-fiber matrix is bonded with high-quality vinylester resin, which is essentially what aircraft (Boeing) and car (Lamborghini) manufacturers are using in their high-performance products, as do high-end boatbuilders such as Viking Yachts.

Why carbon fiber? This is a three-word answer: lighter, stronger, stiffer. These are the qualities that have endeared carbon fiber to the aerospace, automotive and military industries. Here’s a breakdown of those attributes.

Carbon Fiber Boatbuilding

Lighter: In simple terms, if you can build an object in carbon fiber — whether a boat, car or airplane — that is lighter than a similar object in fiberglass, you’ll get more speed and better fuel efficiency. Carbon fiber has a strength-to-weight ratio about twice that of the S-glass used in most boats. That translates into the same strength at half the weight of fiberglass, or twice the strength at the same weight.

Carbon Fiber Boatbuilding

Stronger: Carbon fiber is stronger than fiberglass, so it adds extra strength to the equation, which is why the driver of the first McLaren carbon-fiber Formula One race car walked away from a major crash when the car’s surrounding “tub” saved him. A material that is stronger also allows builders to use less of it to achieve the original strength, and once again, lighter is faster and more efficient.

If you build a boat that is lighter with equal strength, you’ll spend less time at the gas dock and more time fishing or doing whatever it is you like to do while boating. Running the Super Sport 28, we saw 2 mpg at 51 mph, so Paragon owners shouldn’t count on Christmas cards from their fuel suppliers.

Carbon Fiber Boatbuilding

Stiffer: Stiffness is the last trait of carbon fiber, which has a modulus of stiffness about six times that of E-glass, an upgraded fiberglass used in boatbuilding. In real-world boating use, that stiffness translates into a hull that doesn’t “oil can” (flex at high speeds) or warp when it sits on a trailer.

Strength is obviously desirable, especially when it comes with the bonuses of lightness and stiffness. All these features are valuable assets when building a boat and make carbon fiber the new buzzword. You already see it in accessories.

Taco Marine launched a new line of carbon-fiber sport-fishing outriggers, which promptly won an Innovation Award at the 2016 Miami International Boat Show. Product development manager Jose Chao notes there was a learning process to take advantage of the material, but he adds: “Carbon fiber outriggers are an easy choice — they’re lighter, stiffer and stronger. We don’t need to use spreaders to support them, and with the growth of electric reels and big teasers, fishermen put a bigger load than ever on the riggers, and they handle it easily.” Taco makes 16- and 20-foot outriggers but, due to the spiral wrapping design, Chao adds, “We have to educate our clients as to what proper carbon fiber looks like.”

Carbon Fiber Boatbuilding

The Downsides Every silver lining has a dark cloud, and carbon fiber has a few, the first being higher cost. One manufacturer estimated the price of commercial-grade carbon-fiber composites to range from $5 to $20 per pound, depending on the variables, while fiberglass ran from $1.50 to $3. Some of that cost differential is mitigated by the fact that you use less carbon fiber (by weight) than fiberglass to build a boat, but the hard reality is that carbon fiber is a considerably more expensive material.

Do you need that extra cost? For a Formula One car, speed is measured in ounces saved, so it clearly makes sense — for a boat to take your family on an afternoon outing, perhaps not so much. However, you can’t disregard the “cool” factor. Those thousand-dollar rims on your SUV don’t make one iota of difference in speed — but they look great, and so does a carbon-fiber hull, as long as the builder uses clear gelcoat like Carbon Marine does. With colored gelcoat (as used by Yellowfin Yachts on its carbon-fiber models), you need to look places, such as under the gunwale, or in the bilge or engine bay, to see the black-fiber pattern.

Carbon Fiber Boatbuilding

Carbon fiber is also fairly inflexible, which makes it unsuitable for products that need to flex such as skis and helicopter blades. Baseball bats and boat bottoms are another thing, however, and you want these to be rigid. That inflexibility leads to one issue: Fiberglass will often warn of an impending failure by fracturing, whereas carbon fiber has a reputation for what engineers call “catastrophic failure.” That means that everything is fine right up to the instant when it breaks. That, of course, is not as much of an issue in a well-designed boat, but it’s still something to consider.

Another surprising downside to carbon fiber in boats is that it conducts electricity. Hook a battery to the stern of a carbon-fiber boat, wire up a lightbulb at the bow, and the bulb will light without wires. That makes construction more complex for builders because they need to insulate everything from the carbon-fiber structure.

It’s an issue also faced with steel yachts, so it’s easily manageable, and the American Boat and Yacht Council addresses carbon fiber in a technical bulletin (E-11) that essentially says to insulate anything that has power coming or going. Insulation should be used with everything, from electronics to something as simple as a switch panel, to prevent electricity from reaching the carbon fiber. That includes special care around through-hull fittings in salt water because salt water becomes an electrolyte that can lead to damaging corrosion and electrolysis.

Communication is another thing. While fiberglass is transparent to wireless signals, carbon fiber (like steel and aluminum) can reduce a Wi-Fi signal by up to 95 percent, according to Raymarine, which suggests taking care to separate electronics from carbon fiber by at least 4 inches to eliminate any ground effect that would inhibit the signals. It also recommends testing each area before drilling holes (which is good advice to heed anytime).

Carbon fiber also requires more skill in craftsmanship simply because of its color. Carbon fiber is black, so when a crew lays up carbon fiber, they have to be alert to spot any bubbles as the resin wets out, which can easily be seen in white fiberglass materials.

So there you have a look at carbon fiber. With it, you’ll get a boat that is faster, more economical, stiffer and lighter, plus has a better cruising range. And, if Carbon Marine is the new standard, an all-carbon-fiber boat also gives you an edge in having the newest and coolest boat around.

Carbon Fiber Boatbuilding

The Carbon Marine Paragon Super Sport 28 The Paragon Super Sport 28 from Carbon Marine is fast (high 70s in mph), super-strong, light (4,500 pounds with fuel) and drop-dead gorgeous. At the launch ramp, two men in a hot Tahoe stopped to take pictures, a guy in a new Corvette pulled in to scope it out, and even the Fish and Wildlife guys came over.

But here’s the thing: With the carbon-fiber fabric plainly visible under the clear gelcoat, everyone had to run their fingers along the hull. Owners of hot offshore powerboats with $30,000 paint jobs will be mightily irked that a Paragon gets more attention.

Pushed by a Seven Marine 627 hp supercharged outboard that looks like Darth Vader’s helmet, we hit 74 mph in early tests, even though we were seeing lots of propeller slippage despite changing props. This boat is so light and strong that no one knew how much prop bite was needed. Dialed in, I’d expect this boat to hit the low 80s.

Carbon Fiber Boatbuilding

A beautifully handcrafted center console, the Paragon is spare-no-expense first class, from the electric head in the spacious helm console to the gorgeous bright-red upholstery and more JL speakers than I could count. Where the gelcoat isn’t transparent to show the carbon fibers, it glitters silver from the aluminum powder in the gelcoat, and the SeaDek flooring provides traction and a cushy surface.

Underway, this is a waterborne rocket ship with impeccable manners. A touch of engine trim (on the Uflex wheel with paddle controls), and the boat runs fast and hot. We found a big trawler digging a hole and ran through its tall wake at 70-plus mph. Nothing happened — no slamming, noise nor sore knees. We went back and turned in the wake without chine-walking or control issues. We threw it sideways off the wake. The Paragon landed flat and soft and arrowed away. Even better, we were getting an astounding 2 mpg at 51 mph. At 74 mph, we recorded 1.2 mpg.

This boat ain’t cheap, but neither is a Lamborghini. This is about speed, looks and uncompromising quality. I loved it.

Carbon Fiber Boatbuilding

High Points *Drop-dead gorgeous from the carbon fiber visible in the hull and console, plus the silver shavings in the gelcoat that added sparkle. *Grab rails are everywhere for safety, along with padded coamings, bolstered seats and SeaDek flooring for comfort underfoot. *Incredibly fuel-efficient — even flat out, it gets better than 1 mpg. *Super-strong Armstrong outboard bracket is perfectly braced on the transom.

Low Points *Trim tabs are too high for good “bite.” (The builder is moving them.) *Expensive, although much of the price is the $100,000 Seven Marine outboard.

Price: $345,000

Cars, Planes and Boats Carbon fiber is not new to performance vehicles. Check out some of its uses in other forms of exotic transportation.

Carbon Fiber Boatbuilding

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The largest, fastest, most technical and arguably most exciting catamaran in the Nacra family, the Nacra F20 Carbon is hailed as the company’s flagship. Because the construction method’s significant use of strong carbon, it’s lighter than the smaller F18 Infusion despite being larger. Every technical detail is optimized for super fast sailing, both with the standard daggerboards, as well as full hydrofoiling with the Foiling Package.  Made for the

more heavier crews, this boat can take a punch or two. With the choice of multiple light and ultra-strong sailcloth options, the sails will power the F20 Carbon through anything Mother Nature throws at it. And even in low wind conditions you can still get it to foil quite easily. The Nacra F20 Carbon is a recognized World Sailing international competition Class.


Very stiff and very powerful, the Nacra F20 Carbon features carbon fibre epoxy hulls, a fractional sloop rig with a rotating carbon mast, vertical transom, transom-hung rudders controlled by a tiller and come standard with retractable daggerboards, with the option of full carbon fiber L-shaped hydrofoil daggerboards and T-shaped kick-up rudders, unique to the F20 . All in all, this is a beautiful boat capable of blistering speed and a truly thrilling ride in a wide range of conditions.

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NEW MATERIALS Unimaginable power – you just need a breeze.  The sail plan for the Nacra F20 Carbon consist of a variety in high aspect carbon infused mainsail and jib configurations – from material to cut to use. A flying crosscut carbon aramid Decksweeper set or a super light Endumax® Foiling set, the choice is yours. Regardless, all our sails are ultimately optimized for incredible speeds and the power needed to fly.

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These so-called  Foil sets are designed to fly in a wide range of weather conditions, to make competitive catamaran sailing accessible to even more sailors, and are built to meet the highest safety standards. A real treat for the more, or a little less, experienced sailors.

Using the best possible manufacturing techniques available, we’ve obtained maximum strength with minimum weight using autoclave technology, curing the pre-impregnated carbon/epoxy at 120 degrees Celsius at an atmospheric pressure of 6 bar. It will put you miles ahead of any fleet in terms of performance and joy.

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We built with you in mind for over 138 years. We’ve transformed living spaces and the list of innovations in hull design and navigation continues to grow at a rapidly increasing pace. Since 1884, BENETEAU's philosophy of building the strongest, safest, most beautiful boats on the water is alive and well. The BENETEAU family’s pride in craftsmanship and passion for performance can easily be recognized in every FIRST, FIRST SE, FIGARO, OCEANIS, and OCEANIS YACHT built today.  

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The  world reference  in cruising. Oceanis is our range of long-distance, blue water cruisers that for years has set the standard for sailboat design and construction, with a hull that is a marvel in hydrodynamics,  Oceanis delivers superior performance  while providing stability and safety while under sail. Despite her strong sea legs, she doesn’t sacrifice luxury and comfort. You can choose your layout based on different configurations below deck and also have  your choice  of interior finishes. Your Oceanis will be a joy to sail and be  your home away from home . The Oceanis range continues to  appeal to all sailors  around the world.

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The  Oceanis Yacht  is the culmination of our Oceanis philosophy where cruising comfort, performance, and customization reign supreme. Her elegant design and luxurious interiors add a new dimension to life at sea with an enormous salon, impressive galley, spacious staterooms, and plenty of ambient light from the many large windows and skylights. Despite her lavish details, our Oceanis Yacht maneuvers as easily as a smaller yacht thanks to a perfectly centered sail plan and twin rudders. She is a yacht that represents the  art of sailing  at its regal best.

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40 years of iconic  brand heritage. The signature features of the FIRST range have not changed since its conception in 1977 – these boats have always been designed for  sailors  who enjoy club racing as much as cruising, joining them into one cohesive product line, the proverbial  best  of both worlds. Today, BENETEAU takes another step in this direction with the launch of the new FIRST range.  These boats offer simplicity, performances, and comfortable interiors and cockpits geared towards daysailing and coastal cruising. Renewing the competition spirit of the brand, they represent a true adaptation to the  needs and expectations  of the widest variety of sailors.

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High-tech performance from the cutting edge of racing into the hands of the recreational sailors.  First SE - Seascape Edition encourages and empowers sailors to expand their comfort zone by joining competitive one-design racing and adventure sailing . It grows a community of owners linked by shared values and a drive to strengthen their sailing skills. Whether owners are racing against others in one-design classes or are engaging in adventure sailing, the First SE connects them to the elements and helps them experience nature in the most authentic way. A carbon rig, laminate sails and other technological features give sailors the ultimate sailing experience, performance and control.

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A true legend. The Figaro is an ode to excellence in offshore racing. The one-design sailing yacht was initially designed for the Solitaire du Figaro, allowing some of the greatest skippers to compete at sea on equal terms, much to their pleasure. The sailor makes the difference on a Figaro.   

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Are you looking for a  sailing yacht dealer ? Leisure boating, short trips, competitive sailing, regattas – whatever type of sailing you like, BENETEAU has a wide range of  sailing yachts  and  luxury yachts , so there’s bound to be a boat to fulfill your dreams. 


We built our first sailboats over 138 years ago and many things have changed since then. The oak we once relied on has been replaced with strong but lightweight resin and carbon fiber. Where canvas once caught the wind, now it’s Kevlar and Vectran. We’ve transformed dark, confining salons and cabins into bright, open living spaces. And the list of innovations in hull design and navigation continues to grow at a rapidly increasing pace.

However, some things haven’t changed and never will. Benjamin BENETEAU’s philosophy of building the strongest, safest, most beautiful boats on the water is alive and well. The BENETEAU family’s pride in craftsmanship and passion for performance can easily be recognized in every FIRST, FIGARO, OCEANIS, and OCEANIS YACHT built today.  

Knowing what to keep and what to change – that’s why BENETEAU continues to set the bar in sailing.


Oceanis is our range of long-distance, blue water cruisers and for years has set the standard for sailboat design and construction. With a hull that is a marvel in hydrodynamics, Oceanis delivers superior performance while providing stability and safety under sail. Despite her strong sea legs, she doesn’t sacrifice luxury and comfort. You can choose your layout based on different configurations below deck and also have your choice of interior finishes. Your Oceanis will be a joy to sail and be your home away from home.


BENETEAU is also there to help you buy a top-quality boat. The OCEANIS Yacht line delivers  luxury sailing yachts  that satisfy this requirement perfectly. The line comprises two luxury craft of over 50 feet, designed by renowned architects and designers. 


 Our 7th generation of the First range offers you the experience of pure sailing joy while staying true to our standards for safety and stability. She is lightweight with a streamlined design, making her highly adaptable to whatever the wind and water have in store. The First is fast but forgiving, spicy but safe – perfect for the thrill-seeking novice or seasoned competitive sailor alike.


First SE - Seascape Edition encourages and empowers sailors to expand their comfort zone by joining competitive one-design racing and adventure sailing. It grows a community of owners linked by shared values and a drive to strengthen their sailing skills. Whether owners are racing against others in one-design classes or are engaging in adventure sailing, the First SE connects them to the elements and helps them experience nature in the most authentic way.


A marvel in racing innovation, the Figaro BENETEAU 3 is the first production foiling one-design monohull to ever grace the seas. Designed in collaboration between BENETEAU and Van Peteghem Lauriot-Prévost (the architects of the last two Vendée Globe winners), her greatest and most visible feature is the inverted foiling system created to reduce drift and improve the righting moment without increasing movement. The Figaro BENETEAU 3’s radical design makes her the logical choice when winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.


This diversity has led to the BENETEAU brand being represented on all the world’s seas. But wherever they are, BENETEAU boats are easily recognizable for their taut lines, innovative design, robustness and performance. No doubt this will continue, since BENETEAU is constantly reinventing itself to provide ever more enjoyable, high performing, safe and user-friendly recreational craft. BENETEAU achieves this by making the most of current and future innovations such as ship control, dock and go, foils, etc.

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We build light and therefore fast sailing yachts from carbon. Our credo is to reduce a yacht to what is necessary to provide our customers with a reliable, safe and pure sailing experience. At 70 to 100 feet - or 20 to 30 meters - in length, you will enjoy the ultimate comfort that only a luxury yacht can provide. It goes without saying that our designs are developed by the best architects in the world. Likewise, you can be sure that as a German shipyard we deliver only the highest quality. Following our motto: Keep it simple: It should look good and must sail nicely. 

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YYachts owners should feel comfortable on board. That's why we only work with the most renowned designers such as Sir David Chipperfield, Bill Tripp, Lorenzo Argento, Design Unlimited, Surge Projects or Norm Architects.

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All lines and winches are located near the helmsman's seat - this guarantees easy handling of the yacht with a very small crew. For cruising, all YYachts models have a self-tacking jib.

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Maritime Affection

27. April 2022, updated 6. August 2022 | 0 Comments

Circumnavigation , Hull Material , Sailboat , Sailing Cruiser , Technical Advice

Sailing Cruisers: The Ultimate Comparison of Hull Materials

sailing cruiser with one man on the deck in cloudy weather

Perhaps you have already read our article about the best reasons to live on a boat and we managed to convince you? And now you are looking for a proper cruiser sailboat to turn your dream of living as a liveaboard into reality? Sooner or later, you will definitely ask yourself which hull material is most suitable for a cruiser and this is exactly the question we want to discuss in the following.

Table of Contents

What Materials Are Considered?

The materials used for hull construction of sailboats are GRP (glass fiber reinforced plastic), carbon, Kevlar, wood, aluminum, steel, ferrocement and also various hybrids of these. Some of these materials are not suitable for use in cruisers due to their specific characteristics. Carbon and Kevlar usually only play a role in extremely lightweight high-performance boats typically found in racing, not to mention that they are astronomically expensive.

Wood disqualifies itself due to the extremely costly maintenance and thus it is not practical for use in cruisers. Ferrocement never really caught on as a hull material and primarily played a role as an easy-to-handle material in DIY sailboat construction. This leaves GRP, aluminum, and steel as materials that come into question for us.

GRP vs. Aluminum vs. Steel

In the following, we will take a closer look at these three materials and compare them with each other under various aspects that are important for a cruiser.

GRP is the weakest of the three materials, especially when it comes to impact and abrasion resistance. However, the strength of GRP is highly dependent on its processing quality, as GRP can be laminated in very different ways, which can make for large differences in stability. For example, the first GRP boats built in the 1960s and 1970s often featured much thicker material thicknesses because people were not yet familiar with the material and this resulted in nearly indestructible hulls. There are also some manufacturers who additionally reinforce their GRP hulls with Kevlar or metal inserts. So, there are a lot of differences in terms of stability, but in general a GRP hull is clearly inferior to metal hulls in terms of stability.

In the video below you can see a few crash tests of a Dehler 31, which is made of GRP and takes the collisions impressively well.

Aluminum and steel hulls, on the other hand, have extremely high impact and abrasion resistance, with steel being even slightly superior to aluminum here, as steel is more elastic and has a higher tensile strength. Thus, a metal boat is much more robust and therefore safer than a GRP boat, especially in collisions.

GRP is far superior to steel in terms of weight. For boats up to about 40 feet, it is also superior to aluminum, since aluminum has a minimum thickness of about 5mm making smaller boats heavier than their GRP competitors. Above the 40-foot mark, the tide can turn, and aluminum may be lighter than GRP, but it depends on the exact construction.

Aluminum as a material itself weighs only about a third as much as steel, but the typical weight saving of a hull is typically 20-25% (but up to 50% savings are possible in some cases). This can be attributed to the fact that aluminum requires thicker material thicknesses than steel.

As should already be clear, steel boats are by far the heaviest of the materials we are considering here.

Sailing Characteristics

The sailing characteristics are of course not primarily dependent on the hull material, but rather on other characteristics such as the hull shape, the rig, etc. Nevertheless, certain characteristics are attributable to the hull material.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Oyster Yachts (@oysteryachts)

GRP boats sail very fast because of their low weight, but the residual flexibility that is unavoidable in the material can cause annoying creaking noises inside the boat.

Aluminum boats, on the other hand, also sail very fast, but much more stiffly and you are not plagued by creaking noises.

Steel also makes for stiff sailing and there are no creaking noises, but due to the enormous weight, a steel boat sails rather sluggishly. However, the high weight also gives steel boats good-natured sailing behavior, which is more likely to forgive too much sail area.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by WELTREISE | ABENTEUER | MEER (@bluehorizon_exploration)

Interior Space

Unlike metal hulls, a GRP hull does not need an internal reinforcement structure that reduces the space inside the boat. Thus, GRP boats offer a lot of interior space relative to their dimensions.

The stability of aluminum hulls, on the other hand, depends on an internal reinforcement structure (consisting of frames and stringers), which takes up some of the valuable space inside the boat. Especially for smaller boats this can be more important than you might think. In the image below you can see the construction of an aluminum hull built by Dutch shipyard KM Yachtbuilders.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by KM Yachtbuilders (@kmyachtbuilders)

Steel boats also need such a reinforcement structure, but it is much more compact than that of aluminum boats, thus offering more interior space.

Insulation Properties

Due to its sandwich construction, GRP is inherently a poor conductor of thermal energy and therefore requires little insulation and, under certain conditions, none at all. Along with the good insulating properties, GRP boats also have less condensation to contend with than their metal competitors. In addition, it also has good sound insulation.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Hallberg-Rassy (@hallbergrassy)

Aluminum and steel boats have very similar properties in terms of insulation. Both materials are very good thermal conductors, which makes good insulation essential. Due to the cold bridges found in metal boats, a lot of condensation occurs inside the boat. The sound insulation of metal hulls is also poor.

Visual Design Options

GRP hulls offer a lot of room for styling, since gelcoats are available in all possible colors and applying them is easy. Another big advantage of GRP is that round shapes can be realized very easily with this material, which makes ergonomics and design very appealing.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by beneteau_official (@beneteau_official)

In contrast to GRP boats, round shapes in metal boats can only be achieved with significantly more cost as this requires a lot of effort and special skill in welding. The many welds on metal boats can in some cases look rather rustic, which may bother some people.

Aluminum hulls usually leave the shipyard unpainted, as painting them is very time-consuming and expensive and therefore rather unusual. The raw aluminum look does not appeal to everyone.

docked aluminum sailing boat with unpainted hull

Steel boats can be painted as desired, but they almost always have minor visual rust spots somewhere, which are hardly avoidable.

Safety During Thunderstorms

Unlike metal boats, a GRP boat offers no protection to the boat, equipment, and crew against lightning strikes, and you are dependent on a proper lightning conductor system.

In contrast, boats made of aluminum and steel provide excellent protection against lightning strikes purely due to their construction, because they act as a Faraday cage – the inside of the electric field created by a lightning strike is reliably shielded.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Energy Observer (@energyobserver)

Risk of Material Decomposition

A known risk of material degradation of GRP is osmosis, which occurs when the hull is not properly protected, and moisture can penetrate through the gelcoat where the moisture collects in the hull cavities. The resin in the laminate is decomposed by the penetrated moisture and an acid is produced. Due to its chemical properties, it draws further moisture into the cavities. The pressure in these then increases and pushes the gelcoat outward forming blisters. The brittle gelcoat cracks open and the laminate is progressively decomposed as osmosis continues.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by @sailinghuakai

However, we want to emphasize that osmosis is often overdramatized, and we are not yet aware of any case where a boat has actually sunk because of osmosis. Nevertheless, you should not underestimate this danger and prevent it from happening in the first place through proper care. Unfortunately, structural defects in the hull of used boats caused by osmosis are difficult to see as a non-expert.

In the case of aluminum, there is a risk of galvanic corrosion, in which the base metal aluminum decomposes under the influence of electric current when it comes into contact with a more noble metal. Although such galvanic corrosion can cause considerable damage to the boat within a very short time, this risk can be virtually eliminated if the boat is professionally constructed and regularly maintained. However, this means that any electrical leakage currents must be eliminated, and the many sacrificial anodes must be maintained. Besides, when it comes to electrical installations, you need to know what you’re doing.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Gate Service Barcelona (@gateservicebarcelona)

Steel is generally known to be very susceptible to corrosion. Once steel comes into contact with oxygen in the presence of water, rust forms as a result of oxidation. As owner of a steel boat, there is not much you can do against the constant danger of corrosion, except to always make sure that the steel is protected from external elements, which requires a lot of maintenance. In addition, it should be emphasized that the greatest danger of corrosion is the rusting through of the hull from the inside to the outside and not the other way around. Often it is difficult to see all the areas inside the hull and this harbors some undetected dangers.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Fundacja Klasyczne Jachty (@klasycznejachty)


Even fairly extensive damages in the GRP can be repaired quickly and easily because all you need are fiberglass mats, resin, and hardener. Minor blemishes in the gelcoat such as scratches or small chipping can be repaired with ease.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Manta Marine Services Goa (@manta_marine_services_goa)

Repairing aluminum, on the other hand, is much more difficult, because you first need aluminum plates with the right alloy, and then you also need the right welding equipment. In addition, not everyone has the necessary know-how to weld aluminum properly. Minor blemishes such as scratches can be polished, and dents can be attempted to bulge from the inside. However, if you can’t get to the dent from the inside, you’ll have to live with it willy-nilly.

Steel must be welded as well, but suitable steel plates can be found in most workshops around the world and welding is also much easier than welding aluminum. In addition, the required welding equipment is cheaper and more widely available. The repair of scratches can be easily done yourself, but this is often much more time-consuming than repairing the gelcoat on GRP boats. Dents can be attempted to be removed in the same way as with aluminum boats.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Dimos Ganiatsas (@dimosgan)

Maintenance Effort

The maintenance effort is kept within limits with GRP. You should just sand, fill and seal the underwater hull regularly. The great thing about GRP is that such maintenance can be postponed once in a while without having to fear immediately serious consequences (but don’t let it become a habit!).

View this post on Instagram A post shared by SailingJoa (@sailingjoa)

Aluminum boats also require little maintenance, as you only need to regularly renew the antifouling coating and maintain the numerous sacrificial anodes, as well as ensure that there is no potential for galvanic corrosion. However, unlike GRP, the maintenance of aluminum boats allows significantly less time leeway, because if galvanic corrosion does occur, it can cause significant damage in a very short period of time.

Steel boats, unlike GRP and aluminum, require constant maintenance, as there are virtually always some rust spots that should be treated early to prevent worse. At regular intervals, the entire hull should also be sand stripped followed by priming with an epoxy system and then sealing with a paint (polyurethane based). Although a steel hull does not rust as quickly as aluminum does with galvanic corrosion, you should avoid postponing maintenance for anything, otherwise nasty surprises can await you.

The cost of GRP boats, from serial and semi-custom production is the lowest compared to those for metal boats. This is mainly due to the fact that a mold only needs to be designed once, which can then be used for all builds of the model. Custom builds, on the other hand, cost significantly more because a mold must be made individually, which involves high costs.

Metal boats are more expensive in serial production as they require a lot of manual welding, with aluminum being even more expensive than steel due to the more complex processing and higher material prices. However, metal boats can be more attractive than GRP for custom builds, but it depends on the individual project.

In addition, it can be said that aluminum boats have a very good value retention compared to GRP and steel boats, which is also reflected in the second-hand market. On the second-hand market, aluminum boats are usually traded at very high prices, whereas GRP boats depreciate significantly and there is a large supply at low prices. The supply of steel boats is rather limited, but the prices for them are nevertheless rather low.

Besides these initial costs, you should also always consider the follow-up costs, because these can make a lot of difference in the long run, especially when you look at the differences in maintenance requirements. Consider how much time and money you will have to put into the boat and even if you want to do most of it yourself, keep your individual opportunity costs in mind.

A Summarizing Overview

In the table below, we have briefly summarized the various characteristics of the respective materials.

An Important Note

Finally, we want to note that there is no such thing as the perfect hull material, because as we have pointed out, each has its strengths and weaknesses. Keep in mind that the properties of the various materials we have discussed are the general ones that apply to most boats. However, the properties of a hull also depend on the specific boat because construction and quality of workmanship are at least as important as the material itself. When comparing different hull materials, you should always keep these differences in terms of construction and workmanship in mind and not compare apples with oranges. It would not make sense to compare a production GRP boat produced under cost pressure with a custom aluminum boat and then conclude that the GRP boat is inferior to the aluminum boat.

Our Recommendation

In general, we claim that for the majority of people a GRP boat makes the most sense. It is very user-friendly in both use and maintenance and is also relatively affordable. We see no reasons against the use in bluewater or for a circumnavigation, although this scene is strongly influenced by advocates of metal boats. We can certainly understand the aspect of increased safety of metal boats, especially in collisions, but we doubt that this justifies the disadvantages of steel or the additional costs of aluminum. Severe collisions are of course a high risk, but always keep in mind how low the probability of such a collision actually is. Nevertheless, we can understand that the increased sense of safety is a very high priority for some.

When using the boat under extreme conditions, such as in Antarctica or Patagonia, we would also want to use a metal boat due to its increased robustness. So, it’s best to ask yourself honestly which areas you actually want to sail.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Live To Sail (@live_to_sail)

In addition, you should also let your own skills and experiences that you have made with the respective material flow into the decision-making process. For example, if you have had a lot of professional experience with steel processing, then you will see the work involved in a steel boat from a completely different perspective… In this sense, listen a little to your gut feeling.

And last but not least, as already mentioned above, it always depends on the specific boat and especially if you are on the second-hand market, you can certainly be a little more flexible with regard to the choice of material and look at the overall package. But we hope that we could help you understand what to expect from the different materials and assist you in making your decision.

If you have any other questions, need advice on your upcoming boat purchase, or want to give us feedback, feel free to post it in the comments, we’ll try to answer everyone!

Happy sailing!

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Save Weight Aloft

A Forte carbon fiber mast weighs about half that of an aluminum mast. Weight savings aloft translates into increased righting moment and reduced pitching moment. In heavier winds, your boat will pitch less in chop. Increased righting moment means you can keep more sail up and/or sail with less crew under any heavier conditions.

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Transfer Power Efficiently

Power created by your sails is transferred by your mast to your hull. Softer aluminum masts lose some of this power because of bending, flexing and vibration. Due to greater strength and stiffness, a carbon fiber mast efficiently transfers the power from the wind into forward sailing momentum for greater speed.

Meeting Every Requirement

Forte carbon fiber masts are engineered to meet your exact requirements. Your mast can be built straight or tapered, to your specified weight or stiffness. Localized reinforcements (additional material) are laminated into the spar at areas of high stress and locations of any hardware or holes in the spar wall.

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The little (electric) engine that could: The Port of San Diego unveils the nation’s first all-electric tug boat

The 82-foot, all-electric eWolf tug boat, dockside at the Port of San Diego.

The 82-foot eWolf expects to eliminate 3,100 metric tons of carbon dioxide

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The nation’s first all-electric tug boat has docked at the Port of San Diego and expects to begin emissions-free operations in about a month.

Operated by Crowley Maritime Corporation , the 82-foot eWolf will escort ships entering and leaving the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal using electric power instead of diesel fuel, helping slash greenhouse gas emissions at the port and its neighbors in Barrio Logan and National City.

For the record:

1:58 p.m. March 13, 2024 This story has been updated to show the correct amount of government funding that went to the project.

“This is a big deal,” said port chairman Frank Urtasun at a news conference Monday. “This is new technology.”

Capable of speeds of up to 12 knots, the eWolf is powered by a 6.2 megawatt-hour main propulsion battery and two electric drives. The tug has thrust — also known as bollard pull in the parlance of the shipping industry — of 76.8 short tons, which is more powerful than the diesel-powered counterparts at the port.

Constructed in Alabama, the eWolf is equipped with two small generators for emergency use that allow the boat to travel longer distances at a reduced speed.

“Like an electric car, you step on the gas and it jumps,” said Paul Manzi, vice president of Crowley Shipping, based in Jacksonville, Fla. “All of the attributes that you have with an electric motor operation in a car or in an electric truck, you see here in the (eWolf) at massive scale. And it’s extremely quiet so when it pulls away from the dock you literally won’t hear any noise.”

The tug boat’s electricity will come from a charging station that is part of a microgrid facility equipped with two energy storage containers. Battery modules in each container have storage capacity of nearly 1.5 megawatt-hours.

Interconnected with the help of San Diego Gas & Electric, the charging station at the port is designed to allow the vessel to recharge quickly and reduce peak loads on the electric grid.

Operators plan to charge the eWolf overnight so it can perform its chores during daytime hours.

“This technology has individually been around for a while, but it hasn’t necessarily been integrated and optimized to all work together — and that’s kind of our role,” said Bruce Strupp, vice president at ABB Marine & Ports , the company that designed the boat’s propulsion system. “Some of the technology is our technology, some of it’s third-party technology, but we integrate it all together.”

The electric tug boat is expected to begin commercial operations at the port in mid- to late-April, depending on the completion of the charging station.

The all-electric eWolf tugboat at the Port of San Diego

Officials at Crowley did not release the eWolf’s price tag Monday, saying only that it cost about twice as much as a conventional diesel-powered tug boat of comparable size.

But, Manzi said, the company expects the eWolf’s maintenance and operating costs will be “dramatically lower” than what’s spent on a diesel-powered tug boat because the electric model has fewer moving parts.

The entire project — the vessel as well as the charging station — received four grants that added up to $13.67 million, with two grants of $10.9 million from the San Diego Air Pollution Control District, one grant of just over $2 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and $750,000 from the federal government’s Maritime Administration.

In 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that directed state agencies to transition off-road vehicles — including tug boats — and equipment to 100 percent zero emissions by 2035.

By replacing one of the port’s diesel-powered tugs, the eWolf is expected to eliminate the consumption of about 35,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year. In its first 10 years of use, the electric tug boat is expected to reduce about 3,100 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the port and its surrounding areas such as Barrio Logan and National City.

“We’re trying to be good neighbors and trying to be able to help to reduce emissions here to help the electrification movement,” Urtasun said, adding that the port has spent about $130 million on various electrification projects.

Last year, the Port of San Diego became the first in North America to install a pair of all-electric cranes to load and off-load heavy cargo. Each 262 feet high, the cranes replaced an older crane that ran on diesel fuel. Together, the cranes expect to help the port reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 47 metric tons per year.

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Computer rendering of Sempra's proposed Port Arthur LNG facility on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Biden hits the pause button on new LNG projects. It may cloud expansion plans at a Sempra project in Texas

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A Security member stands guard at one of the entrance of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

National Business

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Islamic State group claims responsibility for bombing at Afghan bank and says it targeted Taliban

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FILE - A Mega Millions ticket is seen as a person makes a purchase inside a convenience store, Aug. 7, 2023, in Kennesaw, Ga. The winning numbers for a nearly $1 billion Mega Millions lottery prize will be drawn Friday night, March 22, 2024, offering the hope of sudden riches for a lucky player and almost certain disappoint for everyone else. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

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Sergio Gómez and Carla Cavallini pose for a picture outside their store, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, March 6, 2024. Gómez and his wife are among a large group of Argentines who say their economic situation is worse now than a year ago as a consequence of a series of austerity and deregulation measures ordered by President Javier Milei in his first 100 days in office. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Milei’s first 100 days: Argentines struggle to make ends meet as support for president remains high

A butcher shutting down his shop barely eight months after opening it

FILE - Vietnam's President Vo Van Thuong addresses the media during a joint press conference with Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida after their meeting at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. Vietnam’s president resigned in the latest episode of the ruling Communist Party's “blazing furnace” anti-corruption campaign, and Vice President Vo Thi Anh Xuan was named acting president. The appointment is Xuan's second stint as acting president after she stepped in when Vo Van Thuong's predecessor resigned in early 2023. (Richard A. Brooks/Pool Photo via AP, File)

Vietnam’s president resigns in latest twist of anti-graft campaign shaking its fast-growing economy

Vietnam’s president has resigned as the ruling communist party in the latest episode of a “blazing furnace” anti-corruption campaign

BritainÅfs Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps, center right, and BritainÅfs Foreign Secretary David Cameron, left, walk with the Premier of South Australia Peter Malinauskas, right, Deputy Prime Minister of Australia Richard Marles, second right, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong, second left, and United StatesÅf Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy, during a visit to the Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide, Australia, Friday, March 22, 2024. Australia is set to provide 4.6 billion Australian dollars ($3 billion) to British industry to support the construction of nuclear-powered submarines and ensure its new fleet arrives on time. (Matt Turner/AAP Image via AP)

$3 billion deal with the UK gets Australia closer to having a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines

Australia is set to provide $3 billion to British industry to support the construction of nuclear-powered submarines and ensure its new fleet arrives on time


  1. Columbia Carbon 32 Sailboat

    The Carbon 32 is an all carbon-fiber vacuum resin infused constructed sailboat. It's stiff carbon structure maximizes power transfer from the sails into boat speed. This sailboat is light - only 4,000lbs ready to race - allowing it to plane easily and stay on that plane longer! The deck layout brings everything close to hand making the ...

  2. Carbon Fiber Boatbuilding

    Carbon Marine. Lighter: In simple terms, if you can build an object in carbon fiber — whether a boat, car or airplane — that is lighter than a similar object in fiberglass, you'll get more speed and better fuel efficiency. Carbon fiber has a strength-to-weight ratio about twice that of the S-glass used in most boats.

  3. HH44- Innovative, Immaculate and Incomparable

    HH44-SC (Sports Cruising) The HH44-SC integrates the very latest in race boat technology but remains equally as comfortable as a family cruiser. This is a "no-compromise-boat" with C-shaped carbon daggerboards, a carbon rig, a painted hull finish, 4,232 watts of solar and our EcoDrive as standard equipment. Click here to view the HH44 Brochure.

  4. Carbon Spars

    GMT has been building carbon composite sailboat spars longer than any other manufacturer. Our lead engineer has been designing carbon spars since 1990, and our lead shop technicians have been with GMT for 15 years or more. That consistency provides GMT with more experience and a unique and unmatched approach to designing and building carbon ...

  5. HH Catamarans

    Experts in carbon fiber construction, we offer a five year hull warranty and we expect our boats to be sailing the world's oceans for 50+ years. HH Catamarans' award winning designs are built to exacting specifications using the most advanced construction methods in the industry. We deliver semi-custom cruising yachts tailored to each owner ...

  6. SAY Carbon Yachts

    Low emission - high performance. With our SAY 42 we prove - stylish, luxurious and above all sustainable boating with family and friends is possible. Equipped with two certified ultra-low-emission V8 engines (860 hp), the SAY 42 consumes up to 50 % less fuel compared to conventional motoryachts - still with the same, well-known performance!

  7. Carbon sailboat

    day-sailer sailboat dS6. 1-cabin twin-berth carbon. Overall length: 6 m. Width: 2.19 m. Draft: 0.12, 1.65 m. ... return to the construction materials that present the best results in the boat life cycle, combining epoxy, marine board, carbon fiber, and technical glass fibers. TOWABLE As his big brother, the Sarch dS6 is easily ...

  8. Columbia Carbon 32

    Carbon Fiber Boat Stripe just above waterline retractable or fixed bowsprit A view of the cockpit layout from the transom $135,000. We've made the investment and developed over 70 vacuum infusion molds for the Carbon 32. We have the knowledge and tools to build the sailboat efficiently, enabling us to build you a superior, custom sailboat, at ...

  9. Nacra F20 Carbon

    Taking the best from the sailing world, the Nacra F20 Carbon is born out of the capabilities of the hydrofoiling AC50 America's Cup yachts, designed by Morelli & Melvin, and all the best features and functions of the F18 Infusion. This incredible boat is suited for a double crew and is designed for both technical course and inshore/coastal ...

  10. New age of sail looks to slash massive maritime carbon emissions

    Ceiba-Sail Cargo Inc. transports freight using a sustainable carbon-neutral sailing system.Its first ship, CEIBA, will offer something special to exporters and importers: an eco-friendly means of ...

  11. CARBON 32

    A boat with a BN of 1.6 or greater is a boat that will be reefed often in offshore cruising. Derek Harvey, "Multihulls for Cruising and Racing", International Marine, Camden, Maine, 1991, states that a BN of 1 is generally accepted as the dividing line between so-called slow and fast multihulls.

  12. Carbon Fiber Yachts

    BOAT SALES, RESEARCH & ACCESSORIES. Compare builders, models, shop, or sell your yacht with us. We offer the most up to date information on the carbon yachting industry. Understanding the values and differences of marine construction materials made easy. We are Carbon enthusiasts with a passion for assisting and educating others in leading ...

  13. The Reference in Cruising & Performance Sailboats since 1884

    We built our first sailboats over 138 years ago and many things have changed since then. The oak we once relied on has been replaced with strong but lightweight resin and carbon fiber. Where canvas once caught the wind, now it's Kevlar and Vectran. We've transformed dark, confining salons and cabins into bright, open living spaces.

  14. Fast Luxury Carbon Superyachts for sale

    Welcome to YYachts! We build light and therefore fast sailing yachts from carbon. Our credo is to reduce a yacht to what is necessary to provide our customers with a reliable, safe and pure sailing experience. At 70 to 100 feet - or 20 to 30 meters - in length, you will enjoy the ultimate comfort that only a luxury yacht can provide.

  15. Carbon sailing yacht

    Carbon sailing yachts | Choosing the right sailboat In this section, we will focus on the main materials used in the construction of the hull: fiberglass, carbon and aluminum. Fiberglass: This is the most widely used material for the construction of sailboats, especially for the hulls of mass-produced cruising sailboats.

  16. Masts

    GMT carbon masts are light (approximately half the weight of aluminum), safe, dependable, and will make your vessel faster, stiffer and drier. They are less inclined to heeling and hobby-horsing (pitching) and thus are able to provide a more comfortable motion at sea or on anchor. Their beautiful finish, compared to aluminum, is easier to care ...

  17. Booms

    Our conventional carbon sailboat booms use a D-section that has an appearance similar to the typical mast shape and is made in a similar fashion. All lugs, exits and pad eyes are placed in reinforced areas of the boom for maximum strength and safety. A GMT carbon boom will weigh half as much as a similar sized aluminum boom, and provide a nicer ...

  18. Sailing Cruisers: The Ultimate Comparison of Hull Materials

    The materials used for hull construction of sailboats are GRP (glass fiber reinforced plastic), carbon, Kevlar, wood, aluminum, steel, ferrocement and also various hybrids of these. Some of these materials are not suitable for use in cruisers due to their specific characteristics. Carbon and Kevlar usually only play a role in extremely ...

  19. Offshore Spars

    Offshore Spars manufactures seamless moulded and autoclave cured carbon fiber sailboat masts, booms, and poles. project inquiry store project inquiry store. Experience is Everything. We're launching an entirely new experience at Offshore Spars. Coming soon in 2024. Thank you! Your submission has been received!

  20. » Masts and Booms

    A Forte carbon fiber mast weighs about half that of an aluminum mast. Weight savings aloft translates into increased righting moment and reduced pitching moment. In heavier winds, your boat will pitch less in chop. Increased righting moment means you can keep more sail up and/or sail with less crew under any heavier conditions.

  21. Sail-powered cargo ship 'shows potential of wind'

    Using sails reduced ship's fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions, company data indicates. ... Sails have powered boats for millennia - but the type of sails trialled on the Pyxis Ocean are ...

  22. How hydrofoil boat startup Candela took a wild idea and made it fly

    That meant more range using less batteries, cutting costs and carbon emissions. ... Because the boat is so energy efficient, its batteries aren't even that big, only requiring a 200kW charger to ...

  23. Boarding Systems

    GMT Composites designs and builds custom carbon boarding gangways, passerelles, Sea Stairs, and ladders for boats of all sizes. Whether you need a simple swimming ladder for your sailboat, or a complete custom boarding solution for your yacht, GMT will work with you to design and build a boarding system to fit your specific needs. The strength ...

  24. The Port of San Diego unveils the nation's first all-electric tug

    In its first 10 years of use, the electric tug boat is expected to reduce about 3,100 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the port and its surrounding areas such as Barrio Logan and National City.

  25. Ride1Up CF Racer1 review: Testing the lowest cost, quality carbon fiber

    Ultra-light, but at a cost. And then of course there's the carbon fiber frame, which, along with the modest battery and motor specs helps to reduce the weight of the bike to a mere 28 pounds!