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Old 26-11-2012, 14:45   #1
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How concerned should I be about water in the bilge for a month?

Hey gang,

I'm considering buying a boat but when I went to look at it the bilge was full of water (fresh water). The broker indicated it must have been that way for a month and was probably a partial result of hurricane Sandy. There's no obvious source of the water but the boat has been on the hard all that time so it seems fair to assume it's rain coming through the deck somewhere (i.e. a broken cockpit drain hose or some other such thing). The water has since been pumped out but I'm wondering how concerned I should be that the bilge held fresh water up to the sole for an entire month. I imagine the sole may need to be replaced due to being saturated. Mold and mildew is a concern, as is corrosion of metals. The water was half way up the drive shaft but it didn't appear to be touching the bottom of the engine, and the batteries were not wet. Anyone have experience with this? I'd like to make sure if I proceed with this boat I'm asking the current owner to do enough to prevent recurrence and to repair damage. I've insisted that as a minimum the leak source be traced and repaired, and that all standing water and moisture be wicked up using a wetvac or towels or whatever means is appropriate. The owner laid out cans of dessicant but that doesn't seem nearly sufficient. I'll be having the boat surveyed but before too much moisture damage sets in I'd like to know what the current owner should be doing.
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Old 26-11-2012, 15:47   #2
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Re: How concerned should I be about water in the bilge for a month?

It may merely be running down through the mast.
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Old 26-11-2012, 15:56   #3
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Re: How concerned should I be about water in the bilge for a month?

Was the automatic bilge pump disconnected for some reason? You mentioned the batteries being in, so I would have thought the bilge pump should have taken care of the water. Any fuel tanks or other stuff down there that could have been under water? I have seen this on a lot of stored boats--it's one reason I leave my bilge pump hooked up when in storage.
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Old 26-11-2012, 16:00   #4
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Re: How concerned should I be about water in the bilge for a month?

The seller doesnt seem to care about how the boat shows nor finding the source of the problem. Wonder what else he has been ignoring and doesn't care about. Allot of boats for sale.....I'd move on unless he pays for an out of water survey to determine the extent of the issues.
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Old 26-11-2012, 16:12   #5
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Re: How concerned should I be about water in the bilge for a month?

I must say it isn't a good sign. I once looked at a boat touted as a circumnavigator, ready to go again. The water over the floorboards turned me off.
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Old 26-11-2012, 16:54   #6
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Re: How concerned should I be about water in the bilge for a month?

A bit of water sloshing around the bilge is not a big concern, even if it's there for a while with the bilge pump dead. No builder worth his salt would use materials down there that are vulnerable to moisture damage.

If the water was up to the sole, that's more serious. It's rare for the cabin sole of a yacht to be sealed well enough to withstand submersion- if it was soaking for a while, some of the wood parts might be in rough shape. Once it's thoroughly dried out, poking around with a mirror and flashlight should give you some idea of whether there's going to be a mould / mildew issue. (Hint: There probably will be. Adjust the price accordingly.)

Shafts and their seals should be fine. Engines and gearboxes can tolerate splashes but not continuous contact with water. A lead-acid battery's lower case can handle water, but its top (posts / caps) cannot. Any electrical connections that were immersed are toast.
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Old 26-11-2012, 17:05   #7
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Re: How concerned should I be about water in the bilge for a month?

My rule is "salt water is your friend; fresh water is your enemy" so I'd want to be 100% sure where it came from and how long it took to accumulate before I went any further.
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Old 26-11-2012, 17:32   #8
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Re: How concerned should I be about water in the bilge for a month?

Rain water gets into older boats. Window leaks, masts, hatch leaks, stauntions etc etc. Its simple enough to remove it. The trick is finding it. Obviously you will look for "run" marks, stains etc.

The old trick is to put some talcum powder in areas that you 'think' it may be coming through. After some heavy rain, you simply look for the tracks in the talc.

The only other problem you face with the current boat is the high volume of moisture in the air and the onset of mould. It needs a couple of days fully opened up and aired, with all lockers open.

But, water in the bilge gives you leverage on the price. If you save a grand for the sake of a tube of silicone, well done!.
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Old 26-11-2012, 18:09   #9
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Re: How concerned should I be about water in the bilge for a month?

Without knowing what kind of boat you are talking about, there is a lot of speculation as to the problem(s) which can be misleading. For example, some boats have an extremely shallow bilge and only a few gallons of water can appear to be a problem when in fact it may only be a small annoyance.
Also, without seeing pictures, it is impossible to predict what, if any, damage may result directly or indirectly.

The internet is not the place from which you should be getting advice here especially when none of us have a clue about what boat, what the source(s) are of water, previous or anticipated maintenance and what the owner's real intent is.

Frankly, if you want guesses, you came to the right place.
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Old 26-11-2012, 19:03   #10
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"My rule is "salt water is your friend; fresh water is your enemy" so I'd want to be 100% sure where it came from and how long it took to accumulate before I went any further."

Quite sure I don't understand the logic here. Thought salt water was far more corrosive. At any rate, apparently the float on the bilge pump was faulty which explains why the water wasn't pumped out. Doesn't explain how it got in and that is of equal concern. As for seeking "guesses", the few responses so far have been helpful but I fully intend to have the boat surveyed. In the meantime I'll repeat the core question: is there anything specific I should ask the owner to do to prevent further damage from mold or to fix damage already done? The advice of having a survey, using talc, and checking connections us all helpful. Thanks.
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Old 26-11-2012, 19:22   #11
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Re: How concerned should I be about water in the bilge for a month?

Fresh water will rot every bit of wood it passes through or touches along the way. Salt water is just a leak which can be fixed or pumped overbord. Fresh water leaks will cause you a whole lot more trouble than salt water. If you've got a big enough leak to sink you then it doesn't much matter but don't discount water in the bilge because its "just fresh water."
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Old 26-11-2012, 20:00   #12
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Re: How concerned should I be about water in the bilge for a month?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bobofthenorth View Post
Fresh water will rot every bit of wood it passes through or touches along the way. Salt water is just a leak which can be fixed or pumped overbord. Fresh water leaks will cause you a whole lot more trouble than salt water. If you've got a big enough leak to sink you then it doesn't much matter but don't discount water in the bilge because its "just fresh water."

I kind of agree aside from the following saying. "Salt water ingress sinks a boat. Fresh water rarely does". In other words the salt water leak is usually underwater and continuous (even if only a dribble) . Fresh water requires rain, which of course, is usually spasmodic at best.

The down side about auto bilge pumps is you dont know how much work they have been doing while you are away from the boat. In a perfct world they would have an hour meter attached to them :-D
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Old 27-11-2012, 06:57   #13
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Re: How concerned should I be about water in the bilge for a month?

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Originally Posted by ozskipper View Post
The down side about auto bilge pumps is you dont know how much work they have been doing while you are away from the boat. In a perfct world they would have an hour meter attached to them
Very easy to attach such a meter, or a counter that tells you how many times it has come on since you last checked. I'm surprised that manufacturers don't install such devices, and even more surprised that more owners don't retrofit their boats this way. I've done it and it really is very easy and inexpensive.
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Old 27-11-2012, 07:32   #14
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Re: How concerned should I be about water in the bilge for a month?

The only issue is how did it get there. Some boats have water in their bilge for their entire lives,, It won't hurt the boat or it's bilge...
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