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On my Gar­cia Ex­plo­ration 45, a boat that I helped to de­sign to my ex­act spec­i­fi­ca­tions, the two alu­minium rud­ders are sup­ported by skegs. As an added pro­tec­tion, the up­per sec­tion of the rud­der blades is made of light com­pos­ite ma­te­rial that will crum­ple and com­press with­out caus­ing any dam­age to the hull it­self. This is ex­actly what hap­pened in a col­li­sion with a large lump of ice in the Arc­tic and the rud­der con­tin­ued to func­tion nor­mally for sev­eral thou­sand miles un­til re­pairs could be made. As in the case of dis­place­ment, un­less hull ma­te­rial is put at the top of the list of pri­or­i­ties, or you or­der a one-off, this is another de­ci­sion that may be taken out of your hands. In most cases boats are built in the most suit­able ma­te­rial the ar­chi­tect and builder have agreed upon. For a long voy­age the builder might be per­suaded to put some ad­di­tional strength in crit­i­cal ar­eas, so it is worth dis­cussing this as early as pos­si­ble in the process so that such mod­i­fi­ca­tions can be done dur­ing the ini­tial build­ing stages.

Metal hulls, whether steel or alu­minium, are at­trac­tive for their in­trin­sic strength, but there are dis­ad­van­tages to both ma­te­ri­als as well. Steel hulls and decks need good ini­tial prepa­ra­tion for paint­ing, and then care­ful main­te­nance through­out the boat’s life­time. In the case of alu­minium hulls, some peo­ple may be con­cerned about the risk of elec­trolytic re­ac­tion. This is quite un­jus­ti­fied: mod­ern al­loys as well as build­ing meth­ods have taken care of that.

For high lat­i­tudes, alu­minium or steel hulls are the best choice

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