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Old 09-01-2016, 13:01   #1
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purchasing fresh water vs salt water

do you think a boat that had it's life in fresh water (Great Lakes) will be in significantly better shape than a boat sitting in salt water (Florida) for 10+ years?

Not only hull wise but in general boats, equipment, hulls etc. take a beating from salt water. Just looking at fresh water listings pics the boats tend to look like they're in better shape.

Would you guys agree?

If so I'll probably purchase up in the Great Lakes and do half the great loop to make my way down to the Bahamas. Think this would ease me into my cruising experience. What do you guys think?

thanks!
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Old 09-01-2016, 13:20   #2
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Re: purchasing fresh water vs salt water

As a gross and unusable generalization, yes. Northern boats usually get hauled out for a good portion of the year, and fresh water is not as corrosive as salt. Downside is any trapped water goes through freeze and thaw cycles if the boat is stored somewhere unheated. There can be damage from the expanded frozen water.

The more useful metric is examining the maintenece history and current condition of the boat in question. A boat kept in the tropics and slavishly maintained can easily be in better shape than a neglected northern boat. A boat fit out for whatever kind of sailing you intend to do in the climate you intend to sail in can be a good deal, since it will already have equipment and changes made that are appropriate for your specific purpose.
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Old 09-01-2016, 13:23   #3
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Re: purchasing fresh water vs salt water

Hello, challenge,

Well, that is a concept I've heard mentioned here from time to time, along with the suggestion that those boats are only used a little over half of each year.

However, what I really think is that it depends entirely on how well a given boat has been maintained during its life time.

Nonetheless, buying in spring in the Great Lakes (cold) and going down the route and coming out in Louisiana or some such will not prepare you very much for your debut into the ocean. Now, if you're already an experienced ocean sailor, it's a different deal, but river travel is very different from coastal, imo. It can be a pretty tranquil experience, and have a high proportion of eye candy.

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Old 09-01-2016, 13:44   #4
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Re: purchasing fresh water vs salt water

I think you also need to calculate the costs in terms of transport, your time, and outfitting the boat for a different location.

While it seems like a good idea on the surface, make sure you're comparing apples to apples.
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Old 09-01-2016, 14:08   #5
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Re: purchasing fresh water vs salt water

Effective boating season for most folks in the Great Lakes is 4 to 5 months. So the use duty cycle is way lower by a factor of at least 2.

A factor not mentioned which has significant impact on degradation of gel coat, fiberglass, plastics, etc. is UV exposure. I suspect a 1/3 less total UV in the Great Lakes.

Do not under sell fresh water when compared to salt. Salt corrosion is insidious and works on just about everything metallic used in a boat including rigging, chain plates, fasteners, electrical, engines, gen sets, plumbing, pumps, and on and on.
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Old 09-01-2016, 14:20   #6
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Re: purchasing fresh water vs salt water

Something else to consider with great lakes boats is if you can find one in Canada the exchange rates are very favorable right now. I'm sure there's some hoops to jump through importing one the states but the savings would more than make up for it I would think.
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Old 09-01-2016, 14:33   #7
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Re: purchasing fresh water vs salt water

Quote:
Originally Posted by challenge View Post
do you think a boat that had it's life in fresh water (Great Lakes) will be in significantly better shape than a boat sitting in salt water (Florida) for 10+ years?

Not only hull wise but in general boats, equipment, hulls etc. take a beating from salt water. Just looking at fresh water listings pics the boats tend to look like they're in better shape.

Would you guys agree?

If so I'll probably purchase up in the Great Lakes and do half the great loop to make my way down to the Bahamas. Think this would ease me into my cruising experience. What do you guys think?

thanks!
After looking at 125 yachts during our global search in 2012 we found Florida to be somewhat unique in terms of boat condition. We looked on the US west coast, the entire gulf coast from corpus cristi to bradenton georgia, the NE, NW, europe and australia. These are generalizations of 40 -50 ft cruising boats. Here's why.

1) more cruising boats in florida than anywhere else globally if you plot yachtworld results on a map of the globe. You logically think this is where the good cruising boats are.
2) we encountered very few boats in florida owned by sailors. What I mean here is that all but one we looked at had been worked hard, left to rot and good maintenance was not evident. Sailing is about toys here. Being bristol is a missing concept. Air conditioners are more important in this part of the world.
3) general condition of florida boats was very poor compared to US NE and NW. Very different attitude by both brokers and owners. Very few even thought about maintenance let alone doing it.
4) when you combine the humidity and the generally poor condition of florida boats you find a lot more junk. Our 125 yacht sample is not statistically significant but the trend was obvious.

Several brokers, not florida based, suggested that the reason for this may be due to the fact that cruising in florida only requires very short hops to the bahamas. If you break down then there is always a powerboat near to tow you. So there is little incentive to maintain a vessel well. It also means the boats come with no spares.

We did see 100% correlation between owners who were pedantic and knowledgeable about maintenance and boat condition.

I wouldn't worry about freshwater versus saltwater. In fact a well maintained vessel that's been in salt water all its life will often be a better buy. Why? Because the previous owner will have replaced all those items that degrade in salt water.

Florida did however allow us to see lots of boats that helped us to simplify our search.

Not many cruising boats for sale in the great lakes. The US NE, NW and entire west coast are better places to search IMHO.

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Old 09-01-2016, 14:59   #8
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Re: purchasing fresh water vs salt water

Sounds like you plan to purchase the boat and then immediately take off to go cruising. You don't indicate how much experience you have, but I would be somewhat apprehensive to make the voyage from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic on a boat with which I am unfamiliar. The Mississippi route could be pretty hairy with the strong spring currents, having to maneuver with tugs pushing a dozen or more barges, and getting into and out of massive locks. The other route going out the St. Lawrence Seaway would only be slightly less daunting. The best route would probably be via the Erie Canal to the Hudson and then out NY harbor.

Not saying you couldn't or shouldn't attempt this (delivery crews do it all the time), but I would want to have some experience with the boat before departing. On the positive side there will likely be numerous boatyards enroute to help you with the inevitable breakdowns, and when you reach the SE US you will be very familiar with your boat's systems and shortcomings.

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Old 10-01-2016, 08:24   #9
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Re: purchasing fresh water vs salt water

Wooden boats survive better in salt water, less dry rot, fungi, mildew, and general rot. Salt is a preservative. Metals obviously do not like salt water. Otherwise its a toss up. The bad thing about northern boats is their exposure to extremes in low temperatures that can crack sealants, craze glass, and so forth, unless kept in a heated warehouse. Otoh, boats that are kept in heated warehouses for the winter are usually in as new condition even if they are 30 years old. Hinckley has warehouses filled with old boats that look brand new. But you pay for this. In other words, no free lunch.
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Old 10-01-2016, 08:45   #10
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Re: purchasing fresh water vs salt water

As a sailor who spent 15 years as a boat owner in the North East and one who has then spent the last 13 as a boat owner in Miami, there is no question in my mind, what so ever. I'd always opt for the northern boat unless the Florida boat had recently arrived for the North.

My 2 cents based on my life experiences. Happy sailing!
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Old 10-01-2016, 08:57   #11
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Re: purchasing fresh water vs salt water

One of the best places to buy fully equipped and in good condition sailboats is in Hawaii. Very common for crews to bail in Hawaii after finding long distance sailing really is boring, uncomfortable, and just plain icky. So a lot of west coast boats get put up for sail in Hawaii. Take advantage of others' pains and save money.
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Old 10-01-2016, 09:30   #12
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Re: purchasing fresh water vs salt water

I'm considering the same thing, except to the Keys vs Bahamas... so I appreciate your post and all the fine answers.
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Old 10-01-2016, 10:08   #13
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Re: purchasing fresh water vs salt water

I highly recommend a Great Lakes boat if you can handle the transport. Obviously depends where you are taking it but:
Sail to Chicago and down the Mississippi. Mast down & motor a lot.
Sail to the Erie Canal. Mast Down to the Atlantic
Sail out the St Lawrence and turn south at Newfoundland.
Truck anywhere. Cost is highly size dependent.


If you care to sail the Great Lakes, you might just decide you like it here.


We are currently on Muskegon Lake with deep channel connection to Lake Michigan. You will find many brokers on the Lakes. The first search is to Yachtworld on line and specify Great Lakes boats. We are at Torresens. They have a large brokerage yard. If you can drive around the clubs & yards in season there are many for sale by owner as well.


Most boats on the Great Lakes will not be outfitted for extensive cruising. This only means that anything you add will be new and state of the art.


Season here is May to Sep for most of us. Most boats only go out on weekends and only if the weather is fair. Many are dock queens. As noted above, boats are exposed to less intense UV. Winter covers protect the decks form exposure more than half of the year. Older hulls otherwise known to be blister prone will likely have no problems. Old rigging is nearly as good as the day it was installed and corrosion of the aluminum is also not an issue.


You should expect to apply Interprotect 2000E or other sealer. Many boat hulls are not sealed.


Carefully inspect any cored rudder for water ingress and freeze/thaw. Also, inspect spaces below the floors for signs of standing water or damage. Any well maintained boat will be OK but a hull not well maintained over winters may have had standing water in the bilge. Most of us pour pink juice in the lines and bilges for winter. I pump out a couple of times per winter as the level rises due to rains or snow. It is rare that a boat is stored indoors & heated but this is OK if the bilge is dry.


Finding a well maintained old gem here is sort of like finding a low mileage T-Bird in grandma's garage in Arizona.


Brokerage at Torresen
Brokerage Department | Torresen Marine
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Old 19-02-2016, 13:40   #14
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Re: purchasing fresh water vs salt water

thanks everyone for your input. great information
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Old 21-02-2016, 18:39   #15
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Re: purchasing fresh water vs salt water

I am in Florida now looking for a boat. The only boats that are not beat up and crappy looking are new boats.

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