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Old 29-07-2009, 16:29   #1
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Deck Moisture - CS 36T

My wife and I are getting ready to take our first cruise, and are planning on spending two years in the South Pacific, but will be living aboard for a year or two before we leave while we save money. We've been looking for the right boat for awhile now, and have found a CS 36T (1984) that we like a great deal.

We just got the boat surveyed, and moisture showed up in the decks. The surveyor advised me that it's unlikely to be a safety issue, and unlikely to require maintenance of any kind during our projected four year window of ownership. Basically he told me that other than resale value, I'm not risking a great deal, and it's probably not a show stopper.

My broker is recommending that we counter at 10% under the agreed upon sale price based on the survey and that we move forward.

I'm relatively inexperienced and am not quite sure how big a deal this is, but I don't want to make a mistake and buy a boat that will give me trouble or might be unsafe offshore. On the other hand, she's very well equipped, reasonably priced (deck issues aside) and suites our needs very well.

I'd love to get some feedback on how big a risk I'm taking here. I don't actually care all that much about resale value since presumably when I return, I'll be back at work, not trying to pad the cruising kitty, and I'm willing to take one in the shorts at that point if I can get a good deal on a boat today.
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Old 29-07-2009, 17:35   #2
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Run away from this broker!!!!!!
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Old 29-07-2009, 17:38   #3
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because i should offer less, or because i should walk away from the deal?
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Old 29-07-2009, 17:41   #4
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Depends on a lot of things.
What percentage of moisture did his meter indicate?
Where on the deck is it and how big an area does it cover?
Is the area subject to high load or not?
Where did the water come from (usually a leaking chainplate, hatch, portlight, stanchion or cleat)?
Did the seller do anything to stop the water ingress?
Did the surveyor find any delamination?
If so, were and how big an area did it cover?
Did the seller disclose this information and if so how long has he known there's moisture in the core?

You might want to bore a hole or two into the highest moisture areas and see if the core is still solid, if the seller will let you.

Moisture in a core is not a good thing, but all the things above can make a big difference. Personally, I would not trust a boat with a wet core for 4 years unless the level of moisture is very low and the source has been found and fixed, a lot of rot can take place in that time.
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Old 29-07-2009, 17:54   #5
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I'm not sure exactly how the moisture meter works (or what the units are that it reads in), but readings came back as high as 175 - I'm not sure how to translate that to percentages.

The high readings were pretty widespread and basically covered the whole deck from the cockpit forward. It wasn't obvious where the moisture is coming from - levels ranged from about 130 to 175 over most of the deck (is that a lot? I was told that 45ish is normal, but I wasn't really clear on the high end). There wasn't any delamination, and the decks didn't feel soft or spongy. There's some cracking and crazing in the gelcoat, but it doesn't seem to be leaking according the surveyor.

I don't think the seller knew about it. The surveyor I used happened (by coincidence) to have also surveyed the boat for the seller about five years ago, and he didn't have the moisture meter then, so didn't check it at that point.

I was told that short of a GIANT project replacing the entire core, there's really nothing that I can do but live with it... Making the sale contingent upon a core sample seems like a good idea though. Thanks for the suggestion.
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Old 29-07-2009, 18:29   #6
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Talk to a yard or shipwright - get a couple estimates for it's repair, deduct that at a minimum from the sail price. This is a buyers market, don't shortchange yourself.
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Old 29-07-2009, 19:33   #7
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This CS36T is 25 years old. It is a well built sturdy boat with a solid glass hull and cored decks. If there is no delamination in the deck I would not be too concerned with the moisture. Balsa cores can take a lot of moisture and still be strong. The worry is delamination. The boat is probably going at a very attractive price and will depreciate at a very slow rate now. I would be more concerned with the condition of the engine if it's the original Westerbeke. If the hull is good (some early CS's had blister problems) and everything else is working I'd make an offer. I own a CS, a Merlin not a Traditional so there might be some bias in my opinion but I have seen many of these boats and the Traditional would make a very good voyager.

I would be more concerned with the rigging as you're contemplating long voyages. Also be aware that if you go offshore in one of these you should plug the fuel tank vent (in the transom) as you'll get a lot of water in your fuel if you don't.
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Old 29-07-2009, 19:46   #8
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Thanks, Rick.

I do have the original Westerbeke 33 in there, but the engine surveyed very well with only a few minor findings (lose hose clamps and the like). The hull was actually treated with epoxy and 100% blister free and very sound. Standing rigging was replaced about five years ago...

I'll double check with the surveyor, but I don't think there's any delamination. Is there anything that I can do (e.g. some tap testing) to test for delamination? Again, the deck seems sound when I walk or jump on it...

Thanks for the fuel tank tip
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Old 29-07-2009, 20:58   #9
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What level of risk can you accept?

Your surveyor looks to be telling you that there is moisture, but they believe the level of risk is manageable.

Personally, knowing that my boat had too much moisture in the deck would drive me crazy.

It sounds like there have been small leaks for many years. Can you develop a maintenance schedule to manage the moisture? I'm guessing (over a period of time) reseat all deck hardware properly, checking the core as you go. Maybe you could even progressively bore appropriately sized holes in the underside of the deck so any moisture can evaporate/seep/drip out. Your surveyor might be the best person to advise you here.

If the balsa is not rotten then it might be OK.
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Old 30-07-2009, 05:28   #10
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Thanks, Rick.

I do have the original Westerbeke 33 in there, but the engine surveyed very well with only a few minor findings (lose hose clamps and the like). The hull was actually treated with epoxy and 100% blister free and very sound. Standing rigging was replaced about five years ago...

I'll double check with the surveyor, but I don't think there's any delamination. Is there anything that I can do (e.g. some tap testing) to test for delamination? Again, the deck seems sound when I walk or jump on it...

Thanks for the fuel tank tip
Get an experienced guy with a proper sounding hammer and have him go at the deck. If there's delamination you'll hear it.

Vasco is certainly right about the construction of CS's, they were very well built boats. Their fiberglass layup was strong enough that you might not notice any softness even if the core is rotted away in small areas. Since no one seems to know how long the moisture has been there you really need to look further.

I bought a boat with moisture in the deck, however, it was in a very small area, cause was known and easily fixed, hole drilling and pulling hardware proved the core to be sound and we were able to get moisture level down to normal with some simple treatment. It also had a couple of production voids in non-critical areas that we were able to fix by epoxy injection. I am not afraid of water in a deck. But there is no way I would contemplate doing what you have in mind with a boat with that much moisture over such a large area unless I knew for sure the core was still solid and the moisture level could be brought down. It will rot, sooner or later.

Blue water sailing in any boat with a suspect deck is not something I would consider doing. While I know you're not concerned about re-sale value, I would be concerned about survival should you get caught in a blow and the deck proves not up to the task. Just the opinion of one kinda wimpy sailor.
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Old 30-07-2009, 06:31   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kb79 View Post
I'm not sure exactly how the moisture meter works (or what the units are that it reads in), but readings came back as high as 175 - I'm not sure how to translate that to percentages...
... levels ranged from about 130 to 175 over most of the deck (is that a lot? I was told that 45ish is normal...
Although moisture meters actually test for capacitance or RF reflection, they generally display a percentage of relative moisture content.

Readings of about 15% or less are usually considered acceptable.

All moisture meters are calibrated for one particular material or group of materials. In the case of wood moisture meters, the industry standard is Douglas Fir. However, different materials have slightly different properties, which influence the meter reading. This means that for materials other than the calibration standard, the meter readings must be corrected in some way.

Some excellent references:

Don Robertson's Marine Marketplace - The Use & Misuse of Moisture Meters

Understanding the Moisture Meter / Electrophysics CT-33 Photo Gallery by Maine Sailing at pbase.com

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