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Concrete Boat

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  • #16
    Re: Concrete Boat

    There has been a concrete ship in Galveston Harbor as long as I can remember. (SS Selma)

    Here's her history:

    The Selma, a 7500 ton reinforced concrete tanker built in Mobile, Alabama, was launched on June 28, 1919. She was one of several concrete ships conceived and designed during World War 1. Construction was not completed until the war ended. She had a length 420 ft., a beam of 54 ft. and a draft with full cargo of 26 ft.. Her loaded displacement was 13,000 tons. This vessel marked the first use of shale aggregate expanded in rotary kilns for lightweight structural concrete. Steel was in short supply because of the war efforts and concrete was then proposed as a viable alternative material for use in ship building.

    The Selma served several ports in the Gulf of Mexico quite successfully. Unfortunately she ran aground on the South jetty at Tampico, Mexico on May 11, 1920, creating a sizeable crack about 60 ft. long in her hull. She was towed into Galveston for repairs. Although the damage was repairable, the dry-dock crew lacked the knowledge and had no experience repairing a hull of such material. With no guarantee of proper restoration, the U.S. Government's Emergency Fleet Corporation decided not to gamble.

    A channel 1,500 ft. long and 25 ft. deep was dug to a point just off Galveston near Pelican Island's eastern shoreline. After being stripped of all valuable equipment, on March 9, 1922 she was towed out to her final berth, and laid to rest. This left the hull partly submerged, although awash when seas were rough.

    The Selma has over the years been object of many failed plans to convert her for use as a fishing pier, pleasure resort and oyster farm. Long a source of curiosity and local legend, she remains important to concrete and academic experts as an object of study of her construction and durability following decades of exposure to marine conditions.

    The Selma is still quite visible today from the historic marker on Pelican Island and has become an interesting artifact to be viewed by the locals and visitor tourists alike. Although she will never sail again, she has been proudly resurrected by Daniels and other proud Texans who believe she lives on in spirit.
    Construction Photos At:


    • #17
      Re: Concrete Boat

      The remains of one is beached in the harbor at Charleston, SC. I believe it was built during WWI. Will try get a picture and more facts to post.

      EDIT: No pictures but the ship's name is "Archibald Butt" who I learned was the military aide-de-camp for Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and W.H. Taft. Known as Archie, he perished in the Titanic sinking. The only date I have found associated with the ship is 1929, but it is not clear what occurred.
      Last edited by Willyclay; July 23rd, 2009, 11:02 PM. Reason: Additonal comment
      Old geezer who never worked a day as a professional in the marine industry but has been fooling with outboard motors for 60+ years!


      • #18
        Re: Concrete Boat

        Yes, we built one in school, well kinda, it was a concrete canoe. We had to design, build and race it against other engineering schools. I forget how many students had to ride/power it. but it was pretty big.

        Concrete ships were built and used in WWII to help ship supplies to England and overwhelm the German U-boats.

        From the Concrete Ships. Org:
        "Just as steel had become scarce during the First World War, the Second World War was again consuming the country's steel resources. In 1942, the United States Maritime Commission contracted McCloskey and Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to build a new fleet of 24 concrete ships. Three decades of improvements in concrete technology made this new fleet lighter and stronger than its WWI predecessors.

        The ships were constructed in Tampa, Florida starting in July of 1943. The ships were built at an incredible rate, with one being launched a month. The ships were named after pioneers in the science and development of concrete.

        Two of the ships were sunk as blockships in the Allied invasion of Normandy. Nine more were sunk as breakwaters for a ferry landing at Kiptopeke, Virginia. Two are wharves in Yaquina Bay in Newport, Oregon and seven are still afloat in a giant breakwater on the Powell River in Canada."
        2005 Glastron GX-255
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        • #19
          Re: Concrete Boat

          I've seen concrete sailboats in the 50' range. Floating.
          Also there are several concrete ships sunk as a breakwater off of Kiptopeake Beach near Cape Charles, Va. They formed the ferry landing, and now are great fishing reefs. Some may say they're ugly hulks; others find them historical and biological points of interest. PLus it's a great oxymoron.
          A man of constant boat tinkering.


          • #20
            Re: Concrete Boat

            Originally posted by jakebrake View Post
            there's the remains of one about 50 feet offshore at the cape may point. just look for diamond beach. you cannot miss this thing...seriously.

            the water is ripping the crap out of it, so look it up online while it still exists.
            2008 SeaRay 185 Sport w/ 4.3(190HP)
            2006 Envoy Denali


            • #21
              Re: Concrete Boat

              Did Hurricane Ike do any further damage to the SS Selma and is she still in place?
              Midland, TX
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              GO K-STATE Wildcats!
              Hook 'em HORNS!


              • #22
                Re: Concrete Boat

                Remember one in Philadelphia Harbor in the early 90s; it was a green sailboat around 100 ft long. It lasted about three seasons as an excursion boat and was then taken to somewhere in New England. Haven't heard about it since.

                It's better to push ahead twice than to ever back once!


                • #23
                  Re: Concrete Boat

                  I graduated from WVU and the civil engineers each year had contests to build a concrete "boat".

                  On a second note, I knew a guy that tried to pour a concrete pad for a boat launch. Poured in on the shore then pushed it into the river. Guess what she floated off, well not totally on top of the water, but ended up not where he wanted it. Lot's of trapped air even in a slab of concrete.

                  Last story, many years ago,before plastic, I know of a guy that put a concrete septec tank in the ground, replaced the dirt, but did not fill the tank. A huge rain came an lo and behold, emerging from the earth was a floating septic tank.
                  Safe Passage


                  • #24
                    Re: Concrete Boat

                    It does seem counterintuitive that a big slab of concrete can float. However, consider that a modern aircraft carrier weighs 97000 tons.

                    Archimedes Principle: "Any object, wholly or partly immersed in a fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object."

                    Bouyancy is a function of density.

                    "A ship will float even though it may be made of steel" (concrete in this case), "because it encloses a volume of air, and the resulting shape has an average density less than that of the water."

                    "Mentsch tracht, Gott lacht."


                    • #25
                      Re: Concrete Boat

                      Originally posted by lowell7963 View Post
                      SNIP - On a second note, I knew a guy that tried to pour a concrete pad for a boat launch. Poured in on the shore then pushed it into the river. Guess what she floated off, well not totally on top of the water, but ended up not where he wanted it. Lot's of trapped air even in a slab of concrete. SNIP -
                      Across from us is a public boat ramp. Since the lake levels can fluctuate, every so often, a trailer would fall of the end of the ramp when the lake was low. So the DNR came in late in the winter, cut across all 4 lanes, and pushed the existing sections further into the water and then poured a new 10 foot section, effectively extending the ramps 10 foot further out.

                      And yes, the ramp gets used 12 months a year. I do have some photos of fishermen launching in a snow storm and play ice breaker to get out of the cove to the ice-free main channel. When the ice gets too thick, the DNR brings in a motor grader with a front plow to break up the ice around the ramps. This February, he ran the machine into the water to just before the cab. My first thought was that he was getting ready to take a very cold swim, but he obviously knew what he was doing.
                      2009 Neptoon 25TT Sport Sun Lounger
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                      Older than dirt and just about as active.


                      • #26
                        Re: Concrete Boat


                        Ferro cement boats can be wonderful masterpieces!

                        My friend (now 81) built himself two amazing sail boats - one 60' and on 40' using the ferro cement method. It is labour intensive, but the results are amazing (if you know how to finish the cement well).

                        Just looking at his boat, you couldn't tell that it was cement.. it looked exactly as a fibreglass boat would, until you knocked on the hull. They are solid, beautiful boats that are still sailing strong today (40 years later).

                        If I had money, time and the patience I would certainly consider building a cement boat. They are like any boat though.. improperly built, or improperly maintained, and they will bite you some way or another.

                        My friend ran aground on his boat and punched a 6" whole in the hull - the fix was to mix some concrete on the spot, apply, let dry, and away he went!

                        google ferro cement.. you can see alot of construction blogs and step by step pictures.


                        • #27
                          Re: Concrete Boat

                          Just FYI, the ice/sawdust mixture was known as Pykrete. It was the invention of a guy named Pyke. There was a plan to build a floating, mobile airfiield out of it, complete with below surface level work and living spaces. A model was built on a lake in Canada and I believe it took over two years for it to melt away. The effects of shell fire, torpedo or bombing was negligible. It was so big and the ice just cratered and refroze. Surface craters could just be filled in and refrozen. The expense and change of the tide of war put it to bed.


                          • #28
                            Re: Concrete Boat

                            There's a lot of history on concrete boats and ships on the internet. But what first intrigued me is there is one here in Bethlehem, PA. It was brought here by a boat salesman sometime after WWII. I don't know much about it or what he planned to do with it. He had it up on a wooden drydock near his sales shop. But when I-78 was constructed, he moved his business but left the concrete boat there. In the winter, when the leaves are off the trees, you can still see it beyond Rt. 378 going South just past the I-78 overpass. It's easier to see, however going north on 378 just before the I-78 overpass - but only in winter. I believe the old wooden drydock it was on rotted away and dropped the boat on it's side - but it is still there.


                            • #29
                              Re: Concrete Boat

                              Welcome to 2010, Lady.
                              Oh, Happy New Year!
                              It's almost 2011 here.
                              1995 SeaRay BR200 5.0 Alpha I "Texas Belle"
                              1999 Starcraft Aurora 2415 5.7 Alpha I "MO Belle"


                              • #30
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                                Re: Concrete Boat

                                Originally posted by Bilgamesh View Post
                                There are remnants of a concrete ship on the shore of the beach near Santa Cruz Ca. I walked on the deck several years ago. I think the story was that it was used at a time in WWII when available metal was used for warships.

                                Check this: http://www.concreteships.org/
                                This was the SS Palo Alto built in 1919 as a tanker. She was one of many concrete cargo carriers build during WW I. She was in San Francisco until 1930 until she was towed to Rio del Mar and used as a night club until the depression. There is also the story that she was in service when driven ashore by a storm but that is a romance. She was still showing orange paint during the '50's when I last saw it, it has also broken since then.