Results 1 to 14 of 14

Thread: What's best for saltwater; aluminum or fiberglass?

  1. #1

    Default What's best for saltwater; aluminum or fiberglass?

    THere is a discussion about this on Most of the replies to the thread are by those that own fiberglass, so naturally the consensus is fiberglass is better. I personally use an ACB (aluminum chamber boat).

    What is predominantly used in AK? Is it true as one poster said "aluminum boats start to crack, and even though repaired just keep cracking" ?

  2. #2
    Member Alaska Gray's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Anchorage, Alaska, United States


    I have aluminum boat. right now from what I see it might be 60-40 split aluminum over fiberglass

    Fiberglass is heavier and thus it cut through the waves much easier. Smoother ride.. Down side very expensive

    aluminum. Cheaper the fiberglass, eaiser to take care of. Down fall is in rough weather it rides like a keeping mule.
    Living the Alaskan Dream
    Gary Keller
    Anchorage, AK

  3. #3
    Member DMan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Wasilla, AK


    In Alaska Aluminum holds it value better than Fiberglass, and thats not my opinion I was told that by an appraiser last week.
    ... aboard the 'Memory Maker' Making Memories one Wave at a Time!

  4. #4
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006


    It's hard to compare the materials by themselves as the style of boats built with the different materials differs. The fiberglass boats tend to be more cruisers and pleasure boats, the aluminum boats tend to be work boats / fishing boats. The comment about heavier boats cutting through the chop is right on, but those heavier boats are also heavy drinkers, when it comes to fueling them up.

    The upsides of aluminum is almost no maintenance, strong, gives more before failing so you can beach it, and as mentioned better resale. Downsides of aluminum are the boats tend to be louder and they are colder, as the cold water radiates right through the hull.

    Considering we spend half the year with our boats covered with snow, and 1/2 the boating season waiting for weather windows, a boat that needs little to no maintenance is hard to beat.

    As far as aluminum boats cracking, that is typically just the inexspensive paper thin ones. With proper scantlings (thickness) and alloy an aluminum hull won't crack.

    I'd say the style of boats that work best in Alaskan conditions when one balances layout, speed, range and economy tend to be built out of aluminum.

  5. #5
    Member JOAT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Soldotna, ALASKA since '78

    Thumbs up Aluminum

    Aluminum wins hands down... of course you didn't mention the type of boat, so I'll SWAG that you're talking a small southcentral CI or PWS recreational fishing craft.

    Glass is higher maintenance and quite fragile. You don't beach a glass boat on a rocky shore. Repair work is difficult and can be costly. The advantages of glass is that it's quieter and warmer due to the insulating properties. That's why you see it more often with large recreational cabin boats. Oh, and it looks "pretty".

    I personally feel the attraction to glass is due to man's attraction to "cool-looking" shiny machinery. A glass boat generally "looks" better with the high-gloss gelcoat finish. The same guy might have chrome and a flame job on his truck. It's all for show. Ever heard the saying, "if it don't go, chrome it"? That's the way I see most small glass recreational boats.

    Aluminum will take a ton of abuse and maintenance is pretty simple. You can hit rocks and beach the boat (depending on make/model... many of the factory "stamped" river boats from down in America won't hold up to Alaska). Repairs are pretty easy (if you're a welder), but they certainly can cost some money if you have to take it to a pro. The operator's abilities, hull design and loading have more to do with the "ride" than the construction material.

    As for the crack thing, there is an element of truth, but the answer is, "it depends". Most of those stamped factory river boats that find their way up here from the Pacific Coast fall into the poor design category. Flat transoms, little to no structural bracing, minimal original joint welds. Now, toss it on a cheap roller trailer and tow it around our smooth Alaskan roads, and you're going to get stress cracks. (Note, our roads do a lot more aluminum boat damage than the water does.) If you just weld over the crack, it will just crack along the edge of the repair weld. This is not aluminum's fault, it's the crappy boat design. Until you fix the structural problem that's causing the area of the crack to flex, it will crack again.

    Now, take a solid Alaskan designed boat made of 1/8 & 3/16" sheet with lots of welded hull stiffeners and internal cross bracing with a curved transom braced by a full seawell and the whole thing carried around on a full bunk trailer. There is almost nothing you can do to break such a boat and decades from now you could pass it down to your kid without a single crack on it.

    I believe the point is... you can't tell a boat by it's material. Design is everything.
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2006


    There will never be a winner in this debate. One thing not mentioned before was that it is easier to make a mold than it is to form metal hulls into complex shapes.
    Due to the hull shapes (exceptions to every rule) glass boats generally ride nicer and handle the chop better.
    In todays market glass is also less expensive. Our Sea Sport with more HP and more factory options was less than a Hewes Craft when we purchased it 3 years ago.
    As far as metal being less maintence thats absolutely true. But the same people who claim it is easier to maintain are the one's trying all different products to keep the hull shiny, lol.
    We wax our Sea Sport once a year before it goes into storage and thats it.
    Once you spend a few trips riding in a glass cabin boat with zero condensation and a smooth ride you will understand why people like glass.
    But if I had to sell our boat and buy a Glacier Craft I certaintly wouldnt feel bad.

    Buy the best boat that you and your family can enjoy and hit the water!

  7. #7
    New member
    Join Date
    Jun 2008


    I would have to agree with Randy about the improved ride of a heavier, well designed fiberglass boat in harsh sea conditions as compared to its aluminum cousins. I have fished off both the Hewescraft Sea Runner and Ocean Pro, and they are both fine boats. But I was a little concerned about the light weight and low bow height of the boats in adverse sea conditions.

    When I was looking to buy a new boat in the $30,000 to $40,000 range last year, I was thinking Ocean Pro but ultimately went with the comparatively new design of the fiberglass 19' Trophy. I was impressed with the extremely high bow height of the boat (see picture, if I attached it right!), the pronounced flare of the bow, the high cockpit giving great visibility, the high windows protecting the occupants from spray and wind, the heavy weight of the boat (about 3600 pounds with motor), among other attributes. So thats what I bought.

    You all know what a cauldron of winds and waves Port Wells can be. One day last summer we we're coming home in the worst wave action I've seen out there--6 foot plus "confused" seas battering us from seemingly every which way. We were traveling besides a Sea Runner. The high bow and flare of the Trophy gave us dry, relatively smooth ride; the Sea Runner was awash on the bow, with water hitting the windows. I was worried about them, but, thankfully, we both made it back safe.

    All in all, when you're pulling in a 60 pound halibut on a beautiful PWS day, with whales broaching and dolphins jumping, you're boat is the perfect boat, be it aluminum, fiberglass or wood.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  8. #8

    Default Stringers

    I agree with everything that has been said about fiberglass versus aluminum. I have been power boating for about 45 years (15 years chartering) and owned fiberglass and aluminum. The one thing that I have not seen mentioned in this discussion is stringer replacement in fiberglass boats.

    I was at a boat shop and seen the workers replacing a stringer that had gone soft. The boat was only 5 years old and had been in “fresh water” only. A few years ago I read an article about not believing that fiberglass boats having none rotting material under the fiberglass.

    Ten years seems to be the magic number for me when it comes to fiberglass. At that point I find dry rot some place. Or the hull starts to blister and the fiberglass has water penetration between the layers. If you ever buy a used fiberglass boat it is well worth having someone check for water in the hull glass layers with one of those electronic moisture detectors.

    If you are a blood, gut and slime fisherman it is just hard to beat the ease of which you can clean up an aluminum boat.

    Yes I have had to replace the floor decking on an aluminum boat, put compare that to the man hours of cutting out a deck and repacking an entire stringer the whole length of a boat.

  9. #9
    Member spoiled one's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Tough to answer without bias but...

    ...the best boat is the one that gets you out on the water and back to the harbor safely. Personally, I favor aluminum. I like the fact that they hold their value, very little upkeep, and are generally lighter in weight. I currently own a glacier craft and am very impressed with the ride. It is my third aluminum boat and she rides as well as any glass boat I have been in. The tightly stacked seas that Passage Canal served up last Sunday afternoon was not a problem. I believe that the smooth ride can be attributed to the near 50 degree entry as well as the wide reverse chines. I never came off step. I could not have done this in my old 24 foot sea runner. The hewes hull design is also much different not to mention the huge weight difference. Condensation is not an issue due to the cabin and birth being completely insulated and heated. I do not have an answer about the cracking issue. My old hewes never cracked and I assume she is still crack free.

    It is hard to beat a molded boat for uniformity, but the GC is pretty close. The hull and cabin are all cut with a CNC router table and put together in a gig. Pretty impressive process.
    Spending my kids' inheritance with them, one adventure at a time.

  10. #10
    Member bhollis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007


    About time we had this debate again. After all, it's been at least three weeks since we had it the last time.

    For what it's worth to the OP, neither material wins this debate "hands down." As is often the case, it really comes down to a matter of personal preference.

    My recommendation is to decide the size and type of boat you're looking for. Decide what kind of power and options you're looking for. How many people you want to sleep. What kind of range you want. Whether you're primarily interested in cruising or fishing or both. Etc., etc., etc.

    Then consider all the available boats that meets your specs--in both aluminum and fiberglass. Compare prices, and try to take each of the boats on your short list for a test run to see how they feel. Then make your choice.

    I'll have to admit, that if it came down to two boats that were otherwise equally desirable, one aluminum and one fiberglass, I'd go with the aluminum-just for the durability and ease of maintenance. But that didn't happen in my case. After I went through the above drill, the best boat for me and my wife, considering all the different factors, turned out to be a used fiberglass boat. And we have no regrets.

  11. #11
    Member Dupont Spinner's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007


    I do want to offer a word of advice to Aluminum boat owners. I just took apart my '97 NR for a repaint due to blistering paint. (This boat seen salt water usage with a previous owner) Come to find out it was actually galvanic corrision between any and all areas where the top snaps were attached, the downriggers were attached, etc, etc. Now that I have it apart and repainting I am ensuring that I am leaving no bare aluminum to come in contact with a dissimilar metal by sightly enlarging the holes and coating the inside of the hole with a good epoxy paint. Also adding backing plates to some of the more flexible areas, like atenna mount spot and rubber spacers or washers as needed.

    I should have done this when I bought it 4 years ago but just put it off till now.

  12. #12


    I like wood rafts......they don't sink and are cheap to build. But, they are really, really slow with a 6hp honda on the back. However they are self bailing to a point which is really nice Plus, you can make a lot of them for 50,000 bucks. How can you beat that? Paint? You're kidding right? I choose fiberglass on the ocean, but a beercan boat has its good points too. Buy what you want -they are both really pretty good and hard to beat. As it was said, it comes down to personal preferences.

  13. #13


    I would love to have an aluminum boat. But for the price of even 1 new 22' or 24' I can buy multiple nice fiberglass boats. Fiberglass boats hold there value too. My 76 fiberform was appraised at almost 18K. That's not too bad being 32 years old. No rot, 1 patch that was done very nicely and no water damage. I have around 13K into it as it sits now. Do I have problems with it? Mostly just a belt here or there. I did wet sand and buff the gelcoat. That helped immensely with cleaning. I would take an aluminum boat though in a heartbeat. They are just too expensive for what they are.

  14. #14
    Member ocnfish's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007

    Default Here's my vote

    I have owned both aluminum and now fiberglass, for what I like to do I could not immagine a better boat than the one I have now. The Osprey 26 long cabin is the perfect PWS/Kenai Fiords 4 person fishing boat. With all the bells & whistles it was $102k in 2004. The hull design has built in safety features like stringers constructed of foam blocks that are fiberglassed over, basically it makes the boat unsinkable. High bow, flush deck, built so that no water gets below or inside. I think that there is 3" of fiberglass below the waterline. The hull is also designed for speed, 31 mph, 3400 rpm, 2.3 mpg in up to 4 ft seas. The rear helm station is a necessity when trolling for salmon, you can look through the rear window and to the Simrad sounder and see if you are coming up on a bait ball. With 150 gal of gas you have really long legs, works out to around 400 miles on full tanks. With a real refrigerator, running water two burnner stove, coffee maker, nice sound system and flush toilet it is real comfortable to over night in.

    As always, I am looking for the next bigger boat, but with the price of fuel and everything that this boat does well I will likely keep her for a long time ...


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts