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Thread: Fiberglass vs aluminum... why?

  1. #1
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    Default Fiberglass vs aluminum... why?

    Alright, I'm heading off to the boat show later this morning. I'm new to the boat world and want to know what's the deal with fiberglass vs aluminum.

    Seems to me that you can save thousands going with a fiberglass....

  2. #2
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    Suggest accomplishing a search. Tons of information about the differences and the preferences on this forum.
    Good luck.
    Tennessee

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    Member Sobie2's Avatar
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    Emu,

    You are totally right. Around 24-26 for al aluminum you are looking at 70-100k. I've found a new Parker 23 with extended transom and trailer for 55K and a Seasport 24 extended transom for 69K. I really like this 23' Wooldrige boat at 66K it is 11K more than the 23' Parker and that is hard to argue.

    Fiberglass boats are usually heavier and tend to ride better, they tend to be warmer as well... but you have to wax them and some charter guys argue the gel coat can crack over time.

    Usually ligher weight with the same power will have better fuel economy.

    I have 2 large uniflites and love them to death. My wife grew up with an aluminum boat and loves to beach it at our cabin and goes beachcombing so guess what the next boat to my fleet will be?

    I know for a fact that many people who want aluminum say they want to be able to beach it and then they never do. You aren't really going to beach a larger aluminum boat with any regularity... especially if it is a cuddy cabin with a high bow.

    When at the boat show and find aboat you have to have ask for a test drive make it part of the purchase agreement, and then get a test drive on the opposite alum of fiber boat.

    From what I've seen some of the 22' aluminum boats are nothing more than a glorified skiff and a 22' fiberglass is really more of a boat.

    I am not looking to start a fight or debate. I am just giving you my own experiences and opinions. Aluminum can take more abuse and neglect and not show it and gets better mpg... fiberglass boats are more wife friendly when they come out and when the weather makes a turn for the worse.

    Ok in summary you need at least one of each... like me.

    Sobie2

  4. #4

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    I too would like to know what others think and prefer and why. I have one of each right now. The glass one has an ob. the alum. one has a 5.0 with od. The glass one gets way better fuel milage. I dont know which is heavier. I have beached the aluminum once and I wont ever do it again. Take the zodiac. The glass one will ride thru seas the aluminum will scramble for cover from. The aluminum has more fishing room and has a higher capacity for payload(by some 700 lbs).They are both 21 ft boats. The glass is 8.5 ft beam,the alum. is 8.ft .They both have the same cuddy space down below. I have had 3 glass boats and one alum. In a nut shell I think a good quality glass boat is smoother and more of a pleasure to spend a 3 day weekend in PWS with. my 2 sense. dirt

  5. #5
    Member bhollis's Avatar
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    There's no right answer to this. Just generalized pros and cons.

    For a given size, fiberglass boats tend to be heavier, ride better, and are generally warmer and quieter inside. They also tend to require more maintenance and care to avoid damage.

    Aluminum boats tend to be lighter and more fuel efficient, more durable, and require less maintenance.

    But these are just generalizations, and not all of them may hold for a particular boat. For example, good sound proofing and insulation can go a long way toward making an aluminum boat a lot warmer and quieter (at the expense of making it somewhat heavier).

    Unless being able to beach the boat, or refusal to do any hull maintenance are key to your decision, I think the best approach is to decide what size boat you're looking for, what kind of power, amenities and so on, and then look at all of the available options in both aluminum and fiber glass. Then make your decision based upon the particular boats rather than a bunch of generalizations.

    We were recently in the market for a new boat. We wanted something around 30 feet, that would allow my wife and me to go off cruising and fishing around SE Alaska for one or two weeks at a time. We initially focused just on aluminum boats, due to their greater durability. But then we came across a used 30' SeaSport in good condition at a reasonable price and decided to buy it. We're very happy with it, and glad we didn't just limit our options to aluminum boats. Which isn't to say that our SeaSport is a "better" boat than many of the aluminum boats that are out there with similar features. It's just that we considered the SeaSport the best choice for us at the time, considering all the factors.

  6. #6

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    Hey Dirt, what kind of boats do you have? The size range is right up my alley. I just looked at the Parker 21 cabin and 23 cabin; the 21 would probably be more in my range but I wish they would offer it with a full transom and bracketed motor; not sure why not because the hull appears to be the same as the 23', same beam. Anyone have a Parker? Who sells them in AK?
    Thanks,
    Jim

  7. #7

    Default Best Choice

    Glass or Aluminum?....depends on what you plan to do with the boat.

    Do you trailer alot? I travel a lot of bad roads, and the gravel constantly sprays up on the bow. If my boat were fiberglass, it would be all chipped up by now.

    Are you a fisherman? If you frequently give your boat a bath in fish blood and fish slime, you'll find most Aluminum boats are easier to clean. No worries about dropping 10 lb downrigger balls on the deck, or that 100 lb halibut slapping your circle hook around. Are you one of those guys that hits the boat with the club or harpoon more than the fish (like me)? No worries with aluminum.

    Do you anchor up? With aluminum there's no worries about your chain and anchor damaging the boat. I pull my chain right over the gunnel and allow my anchor to "bang" its way up the side until I'm able to throw it in the locker. Can't do that with glass.

    Do you clam-dig, beach-comb, or hunt? Plan on taking up additional space with an inflatable raft if you've got a glass boat. Aluminum can handle beaching after beaching. In fact my bow rail unpins, swivels down, and doubles as a ladder...step right down to the beach. Lift up your outboards and just let her go dry if you want.

    Do you shrimp? If so, it won't take many pulls to realize the pots, clips, and rope, can tear up the side of your glass boat. I use the side of my aluminum boat to actually bang the mud off my pots.

    If you plan on customizing your boat with pot pullers, rod holders, seats, or any other do-dad's, good luck with fiberglass. On the other hand Aluminum modifications can be fabricated easily. And major repairs (like damage from hitting a rock) are something that usually can't even be attempted on a glass boat. Cleats, tie-downs, rails, fittings and fixtures, etc. are welded to the hull, not bolted. Forget the teak trim.

    Then there's loading, unloading, docking, fueling, and moring along other boats. Forget the bumpers with aluminum. And when the wind slams you against the dock, you won't have a repair on your hands...well, maybe the dock.

    I use my boat hard. I don't have time for fixing dings and scratches, scrubbing white decks, polishing hulls, or being fussy with stuff when I'm on board.

    Don't get me wrong....there are some nice commercial grade fiberglass boats around that are tough. And there are some nice aluminum boats that are luxury liners. But in my opinion aluminum boats were made for Alaska waters.

  8. #8

    Default Well Said

    Big Water

    Very Well Said!!!
    What-a-Day
    27' x 9.5' Glacier Craft - Volvo 300hp D4 Diesel
    Remember: Any fool can be uncomfortable.
    Denny

  9. #9
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    In short, for rough duty aluminum wins, for a comfortable cruiser glass wins. Neither material is bad, you just need to be honest with your use and what material is best for you.

  10. #10

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    I run my boat like Big Water. I don't carry fenders, but my 'glass boat friends sure do.

    Reminds me of this day, when I tree had fallen across the inlet to an area I wanted to shrimp. I simply ran my boat up on the log are far as it would go, broke out the chainsaw and started cutting. Yes it was surrounded by unforgiving rocks, but I wasn't in a 'glass boat...


  11. #11
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    Over the years this entire debate has grown old.
    Buy what is best for you and your family. There is no perfect baot for all conditions. Every boat is a compromise of some sorts.
    But do enjoy the water and the fishing up here and be happy you have the ability to be able to afford not only the boat but the fuel needed to run it.
    Tennessee

  12. #12

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    Aluminum boat owner... "I'll run up on the beach to make life simple"

    F'glass boat owner... "Can I tie off on your starboard quarter? I don't want to damage my boat."

    True story...



    Nice guy, the 'glass boat owner, and I didn't fault his reasoning at the time.

  13. #13

    Default Fenders

    Sure hope Big Water miss spoke about carrying fenders. I would hope that at the transient dock when you do tie off to a fiberglass boat you do use fenders.

  14. #14
    New member Sockeye Salm's Avatar
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    You must be kidding!!!!! Here in Alaska there is only one way to go.....ALUMINUM. I've gotten stuck in a bay that unexpectedly froze solid on Kodiak while late season deer hunting in a WOOD 32' Bristol bay Bow pickerbefore, and we had to wait for something to happen....when the ice finally cut loose we pretty much had no control and did quite a bit of damage by the time we got out. Fiberglass would have been the same problem, in fact it most likely would have been worse.

    I wouldn't even concider anything other than aluminum.

  15. #15
    Member AKDoug's Avatar
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    I've seen ice poke holes in aluminum too.

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    Member Xerophobic's Avatar
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    Im obviously partial to aluminum myself but one very important point I haven't seen mentioned is resale value.

    Aluminum seems to hold its value longer than a glass boat. I suspect this is due to an alloy hull lasting nearly forever if taken care of.

    Cheers
    Skinny water addict

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by mainship34 View Post
    Sure hope Big Water miss spoke about carrying fenders. I would hope that at the transient dock when you do tie off to a fiberglass boat you do use fenders.
    That was something I wrote, not Big Water. And yes, if I think I'll be tying up alongside another boat, I may find a fender or two onboard.

  18. #18

    Default Fenders? Bah humbug!

    Quote Originally Posted by mainship34 View Post
    Sure hope Big Water miss spoke about carrying fenders. I would hope that at the transient dock when you do tie off to a fiberglass boat you do use fenders.
    Transient dock? Nah, I just dump her on the beach and let the tide come in.

    Actually I did make a comment about the bumpers. And no, I don't use them...Like many that have commented here, I don't even carry them in my aluminum boat. Why would I? They take up valuable storage space. I don't usually tie off to glass boats (or any other boats for that matter), but when I have to, I just use my buoy(s) as a cushion - out of courtesy for them. Most of the glass guys will have their bumpers out...at least the smart ones.

    That's true Alaskan ediquette...Arrrgg mate, lets go for a mug up!

  19. #19

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    If you're looking for a day boat, buy aluminum. Its economical to operate, easily trailered, and tough.

    If you're looking for a boat that you'll be sleeping on, buy fiberglass. It'll have a better ride due to its weight and you'll sleep better because you won't be bobbing around as much as you will in an AL boat. You won't be beaching a large cuddy style boat regardless of the material so beach-ability is a non-issue for most people. Also, most fiberglass boats seem to have more creature comforts as compared to aluminum, so if you're taking the family out, they'll likely enjoy themselves more.

    Buy for your specific needs and ignore the folks who tell you one is definitively better than the other. Each serves a purpose.

  20. #20
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    All this bias makes me wonder if a bunch of aluminites aren't trying to convince each other they did the right thing? Go to ANY marina in this state and look at what's popular! Glass rules! Yea I shouldn't beach my C-dory. but after all it is a boat and should be in the water. And all that macho slam bang stuff is fine when your 20 years old. Now days the wife and grandkids prefer a civil ride and amenities!
    To each his own, we chose glass for more reasons than you would care to read about.
    Mike

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