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Old 07-08-2014, 21:40   #1
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When is Musty, Moldy, and/or Water in the Bilge a yes/no for Boat Buying?

I've sailed for a long time,and I've been surprised by the number of musty, moldy, and/or water in the bilge boats I'm seeing while boat shopping. Even those shows well, ready-to-set-sail, turnkey boats.

A musty smell or a lot of mold growth predisposes me to say no.. Obvious water staining makes me consider repair costs, engine oil or diesel in the bilge make me consider engine repairs. I don't want a project and I seem to be saying no to a lot of boats. I'm looking to buy a boat around 32 feet for 30-40k, and I've been looking at boats listed at 35k-90k.

I've explored the threads here on must mold and interior water. So I'm wondering, when is it yes or no for buying a boat? Thoughts?

Boat with no musty smell and no visible mold or water stains. One interior light on the coachroof was corroded. Diesel-tainted water in the bilge (on a lake). Engine compartment smelled of damp, engine oil, and diesel.

Boat with musty smell, except in anchor locker and lazarettos. No visible mold or water stains. One interior light on the coachroof corroded. Water in the bilge (on a lake)

Boat with musty smell except in anchor locker, dark mold inside salon lockers, water stains on salon side of forward bulkhead teak tho teak felt solid, water in bilge covered with white mold (on seawater, but was not tasting that mold!).

Boat with musty smell except in anchor locker, most wood cabinetry swollen shut for years, no mold visible, no water in the bilge tho anchor bolts rusty. (in salt water)

Boat with no musty smell, water lines running down from portlights, water damage to teak interior corresponding to previous hull and deck/hull joint damage and repair, no visible mold, diesel-tainted water in bilge (in salt water, but was not tasting that diesel)
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Old 08-08-2014, 07:36   #2
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Re: When is musty, moldy, and/or water in the bilge a yes/no for boat buying?

We just went through the boat shopping process, and we too saw/smelled a lot of musty/moldy boats. I recall one beautiful Beneteau, it all looked nice and clean, but when I peaked into the back of the headliner that was loose in a cabinet, the back side of it was all BLACK (read mold/mildew). The seller's broker was standing there and commented, "oh, you'll find that on all boats." Really??? I don't think so. We moved on. Being new to the sailing game, boat shopping was new to us, but I just couldn't believe that line.

They say when you find the right boat, you will KNOW, and that's exactly what happened for us. Yes, she has interior wood water damage, but the ports were replaced and she is dry now -- the PO just didn't get to repair the damaged wood. No biggie, that will be one of our projects. Everywhere else she is dry, no moldy headliner, no smells.

Keep looking, you'll find The One.
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Old 08-08-2014, 07:43   #3
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Re: When is musty, moldy, and/or water in the bilge a yes/no for boat buying?

yes or no for buying a boat revolves around what YOU think YOU can live with. until you find the boat that makes your heart beat, all decisions are simple.. answer is NO...lol.. when you find what you are lusting for, you will not like anything. is all clear as mud. when you find the object of your lust, all will fail ....
boat purchasing is a very personal thing.. kinda like finding your lofve of your life and soulmate.
no one can answer for ye, only you can answer that question.
sorry. is in your hands and heart.
you will be surprised at what you will be able to overlook when the RIGHT boat comes along....
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Old 08-08-2014, 08:04   #4
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Re: When is musty, moldy, and/or water in the bilge a yes/no for boat buying?

"When is musty, moldy, and/or water in the bilge a yes/no for boat buying?"

When the water has caused structural damage to the cabinetry, hull or decks &/or the source of ingress has not been determined - unless you want to be a boat rebuilder.

For those willing to put in the elbow grease, and the survey reveals no structural issues a bargain can be had for the cost of cleaning up someone else's boat.

The economic times have caused a lot of boats to be left alone for a lot of time, I would guess. And there is no reason believe that a seller has not painted over and cleaned up some mess that you may not know exists until after purchase.

Now - oil in the bilge is another animal in my book...
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Old 08-08-2014, 09:22   #5
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Re: When is musty, moldy, and/or water in the bilge a yes/no for boat buying?

Mold is a good indicator of general condition because it appears quickly and needs constant attention to keep under control.

Water staining is a bit more serious.

Corroded metal components is more serious.

Fastidious owners and well maintained boats will have less obviously.

When owners talk the boat up and it obviously doesn't match their words is when I get suspicious.

Keep looking. You'll know a good one when you see it.

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Old 08-08-2014, 09:22   #6
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Re: When is musty, moldy, and/or water in the bilge a yes/no for boat buying?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cattar View Post
I've sailed for a long time,and I've been surprised by the number of musty, moldy, and/or water in the bilge boats I'm seeing while boat shopping. Even those shows well, ready-to-set-sail, turnkey boats.
I agree that musty, moldy, and/or water in the bilge is a sign of lack of maintenance. But it wouldn't be a deal breaker for me.

We always have some water in our bilge. In previous years it was because we had slow drips from our stuffing box. The last winter I installed a dripless adapter. We still have water in the bilge. But now it's all fresh water. So we have some rain intrusion spots. I am in the process of running them down. I know it's not the chain plates as I have rebedded all of them 4 years ago and when I checked them after a rain event, they were dry. About half of the stanchions have been rebedded by a yard for the PO. I think they did a bad job and rebedding all of them is on my list. My boat is relatively new; it was built in 2001. It has continuously been rated as very good to excellent condition on surveys (1 purchase, 1 refinance and 1 insurance) over the last 4 years. When we purchased our boat in 2010 it was 9 years old and there was visible water staining on some bulk heads. My point being, having a truly water tight boat takes more effort than production builders and most owners are willing to put into the boat. So you will almost always have some water intrusion issues in a used boat. It doesn't mean the boat is junk but it might mean you have to do some maintenance.

One of the reasons you will always have some water in the bilge is the standard Rule pump and float switch. This setup just simply doesn't empty all the water. So if you don't spend the time to upgrade this system or use a shop vacuum to clean it out on a regular basis, you will have water.

My advice is to pump out the water, inspect the bilge and see what you have for permanent issues. If there are no permanent issues they keep the boat on your list. This is also were pre-inspection/offer research is critical. For instance, water in the bilge on most newer Catalinas is not a real issue. Water in the bilge in pre-1987 Catalinas can be a problem due to the wooden keel stud and compression post base that was used by the builder.

Quote:
A musty smell or a lot of mold growth predisposes me to say no.. Obvious water staining makes me consider repair costs, engine oil or diesel in the bilge make me consider engine repairs. I don't want a project and I seem to be saying no to a lot of boats. I'm looking to buy a boat around 32 feet for 30-40k, and I've been looking at boats listed at 35k-90k.
At that size and price range you are dreaming. Anything that fits those parameters will need work. Thus is the nature of boats. Or anything for that matter. Find me anything you can buy with mechanically moving parts that is 20-30 years old and is selling for less than 25% of the cost of a brand new item that doesn't need maintenance.

Quote:
I've explored the threads here on must mold and interior water. So I'm wondering, when is it yes or no for buying a boat? Thoughts?
This depends on your budget and willingness to do or pay for work. I have a friend that traveled across the country (literally from Seattle to Boston) to buy a boat because it met his balance. I had looked at the same boat a year before it passed on it because it was too much of a project for me. But he is a really talented, finish carpenter with boat building experience. So he pulled out all the floor boards, cabinetry, hatches, etc. and started making new ones from scratch. He and his wife lived on the boat for 2 years now and traveled from Maine to Florida in an incomplete boat with no headliner, wet decks in spots, only one battery bank hooked up, etc. He is one of the happiest guys I know because that $9K boat allowed him to go on his time frame. He spent about $20K on his boat in the first year getting it ready. I went for a new boat that cost 7 times as much and I'm still working to build my cruising kitty. Some times I still wonder who made the better decision.

Quote:
Boat with no musty smell and no visible mold or water stains. One interior light on the coachroof was corroded. Diesel-tainted water in the bilge (on a lake). Engine compartment smelled of damp, engine oil, and diesel.

Boat with musty smell, except in anchor locker and lazarettos. No visible mold or water stains. One interior light on the coachroof corroded. Water in the bilge (on a lake)

Boat with musty smell except in anchor locker, dark mold inside salon lockers, water stains on salon side of forward bulkhead teak tho teak felt solid, water in bilge covered with white mold (on seawater, but was not tasting that mold!).

Boat with musty smell except in anchor locker, most wood cabinetry swollen shut for years, no mold visible, no water in the bilge tho anchor bolts rusty. (in salt water)

Boat with no musty smell, water lines running down from portlights, water damage to teak interior corresponding to previous hull and deck/hull joint damage and repair, no visible mold, diesel-tainted water in bilge (in salt water, but was not tasting that diesel)
Sounds to me like you are being too picky given your price and size requirements. If buying a boat free of mold, musty smell, residual diesel and oil is really a requirement, then you might need to go down in size and go with an outboard. I have been on less than 1 year old boats that wouldn't meet this standard.
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Old 08-08-2014, 14:08   #7
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Re: When is musty, moldy, and/or water in the bilge a yes/no for boat buying?

Thanks for all the feedback.

That was a sampling of what I'd seen in cruising boats, sounds like it's typical.

I did want one of those musty moldy boats, but it needed structural repair and that didn't seem wise.

While I don't like that musty, needs-better-ventilation smell, I know it's cleanable and I ignore it while I'm looking. Mold makes me wonder what else isn't maintained, and I look. And water in the bilge makes me wonder where's the leak, and what has that leaking water damaged, and I look.

I've been surprised by the owners and brokers who've said things like "every boat is fill in the blank". And I've appreciated the owners and brokers who are open about the condition of their boats.

I did wonder about my preferred price range, and I found that higher price doesn't mean a better maintained boat.

I'm glad for the internet and the forums. I'm still looking. And I'm ready to clean up and maintain, maintain, maintain a sound boat when that one comes along.
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Old 08-08-2014, 14:15   #8
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Re: When is musty, moldy, and/or water in the bilge a yes/no for boat buying?

I say if it's too musty moldy walk. It's very hard to get rid of. However, most boats do have at least some of that smell. Water streaks from portlights etc may not be leaks, if heated in the winter the condensation just runs off those.
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Old 08-08-2014, 15:31   #9
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Re: When is musty, moldy, and/or water in the bilge a yes/no for boat buying?

On some bigger boat access to the lowest bilge spot is so bad that they always carry some oily water there.

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Old 08-08-2014, 17:11   #10
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Re: When is musty, moldy, and/or water in the bilge a yes/no for boat buying?

Heck - Boats that aren't lived on and opened up every week get musty and moldy. It is a "watertight" space in a humid environment.

When you live on the boat it will be frequently aired...

Killing mold is a PITA and of course the visible mold is only the tip of the iceberg - it is inside and behind all the cabinetry work.

It is not a minor undertaking to find it all and kill it. But at the 30-50k price point for 30+ foot boats you are gonna have some warts...
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Old 08-08-2014, 17:20   #11
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Re: When is musty, moldy, and/or water in the bilge a yes/no for boat buying?

I am dealing with core rot, but it is worth the end game. One thing I stayed away from was oily bildges, usually a result of a leaky engine seal.

I am replacing all portlights and windowshatchesen you are . I think 90% of the boat issues was leaks, one that scared me on many boats was hull joints and toe rails.

One thing that is amazing is if you take the time to learn how to work on a sailboat there are amazing deals. The down side is it seems to be harder to be allowed to do the work yourself.

One trick I have found is to use a strong flashlight at night around the joints, we found a factory gap in the top of one area of a chain locker this way and the boat went from wet to not a drip in the bildge, with simple glass mat and thickened epoxy tubes.

Go early when you are checking out a boat, my wife and I try to show up hours early. Then you get to see the truth and it has saved us form bad buys. Also we like to feel the engine, if its been warmed up...suspect

Last we lay out doggy pee pads all around the boat in areas we think are suspect, under the mast step, in the bildges, under the motor, fuel tank, holding tank, a couple of days can tell you a ton about why there is water, mold, fuel or oil.

Best
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Old 08-08-2014, 17:49   #12
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Re: When is musty, moldy, and/or water in the bilge a yes/no for boat buying?

I figure the boat I buy may end up being somewhat musty/moldy somewhere. I was envisioning taking everything possible off and opening up all the lockers and using a sprayer with a soapy bleach solution while running the bilge pump, then a sprayer with freshwater rinse and running the bilge pump. Then wiping all that down. Maybe do it a couple of time.
And then add ventilation.

Cushions covers and curtains could be washed, but the foam would have to be replaced. Not sleeping on moldy foam.

And it seems that most portlights need to be rebedded or are condensating a lot. Seems like a lot of chainplates and stauntions need rebedding too.
The jobs that have concerned me are the structural ones like soft hull/deck joint and toerail or soft bulkhead. Seems like I don't want to start there. And yards that allow owner work are few.
I'm used to working on smaller boats. Boats with heavy displacement, bulkheads and inboards are new to me.

I think that going early to see what the owner/broker is doing with the boat may be a good idea. Recently a broker said he told the owner to clean it up before I saw it, and it made me wonder. Though I suppose it may have been full of pizza boxes.
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Old 09-08-2014, 08:34   #13
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Re: When is Musty, Moldy, and/or Water in the Bilge a yes/no for Boat Buying?

Must and mold can present itself in as short as a couple weeks in a closed boat here in Florida. Many bilges will have the fill of the effluent hose fall back into the bilge at cut off so a few ounces of water might always be present. I usually have a condensation from two air conditioners entering my bilge.

Musty smell, mold and bilge water are not independant causes that should cause someone to "walk away", but they are cautions that can often lead to reasons to reject a boat. The source of the mold and water should be the reason to reject a boat.
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Old 09-08-2014, 09:09   #14
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Re: When is Musty, Moldy, and/or Water in the Bilge a yes/no for Boat Buying?

OP--your expectations are unrealistic.

Boats that are listed for sale are likely not being used or even opened regularly.
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Old 12-08-2014, 07:47   #15
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Re: When is Musty, Moldy, and/or Water in the Bilge a yes/no for Boat Buying?

Great thread.
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