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Old 07-11-2016, 19:52   #1
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Soft Decks

I'm relatively new to sailing and looking to buy a budget boat and refit so I can better know my boat and how to fix and maintenance it as time goes by.. A boat yard told me a boat I was looking at had some deck sections that were going soft.. Is this internal rot or just fatigue in these situations or something else and; is this a relatively easy repair and or replace, a symptom of a bigger problem, or should I just walk away? Thanks for your imput.
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Old 07-11-2016, 20:47   #2
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Re: Soft Decks

Budget boats are somewhat of an oxymoron.

If you buy a project boat the effort and resources needed to get it in a condition that you desire will always be greater than what you estimate.

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Old 07-11-2016, 21:37   #3
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Re: Soft Decks

This is a very common question and a little searching would have brought you to a number of threads dealing with deck repair. Depending on the amount of deck core deterioration it could be a very large job costing 10s of $1,000s of dollars or many hours of your labor.
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Old 07-11-2016, 22:25   #4
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Re: Soft Decks

Walk away is the best answer from here. Even if it's not something you'd be too concerned about and don't mind buying a crappy boat if it's cheap enough, some day that will haunt you, like when you're the one trying to sell it. Pretty much nobody wants a deck core problem, it's one of the most intensive and costly repairs. As far as putting up with it, well, if it's saturated then you've got a lot of extra weight exactly where you don't want it-on the high side of the boat. If it's just rotten, well it might stink. Either way, along with softness, not fun.
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Old 07-11-2016, 22:51   #5
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Re: Soft Decks

It's not that big of a deal and depending on where and how much, there are lots of options. there's tons of YouTube videos on it.

Also checkout dryboat.com. Very interesting.
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Old 08-11-2016, 00:44   #6
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Re: Soft Decks

Do some research on this within cf. Lots of old threads on soft spots.
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Old 08-11-2016, 00:53   #7
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Re: Soft Decks

Often soft decks are a big, big problem. Especially since if they're cored with plywood, or balsa, the spores which are causing them to be soft are a kind of fungus which eats wood. And this fungus reproduces, & spreads further & further throughout the decks as it grows & eats more, & more. Which as this is happening, the cores are turning into a nasty pate.

Soft decks are a structural problem, as the cores function in the same capacity & manner as the vertical web in an I-beam. So that when they go bad, a huge portion of the deck's stiffness & strength goes with them. And major surgery is required in order to replace them. With the cost figures for such repairs commonly being quoted at $250/sqft to well over double that. Since the materials are far from cheap, ditto on the tools & consumables used when repairing such problems. And it means lots & lots of hours wearing protective gear, while grinding fiberglass in order to carry out the fix.

Do a search under "deck cores", "soggy decks", "soft decks", "teak decks" (which commonly have cores needing replacement, followed by glassing over them once fixed/replaced).
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Old 08-11-2016, 01:43   #8
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Re: Soft Decks

How many cars have you fixed or restored? Do you build things? Do you realize your strengths and weaknesses in your building and fixing abilities to know when to diy or pay someone better skilled?
If you cannot do the above OR don't have money to throw in a hole in the water (a boat cliche I've heard too often but it really does have merit) then this is not your boat - at all.

We just put together a lengthy budget for a project Gemini Cat from the 90s that's currently for sale that has major soft spots. Went down to look at it and checked it out thoroughly. We know what we are doing by now (double- digit boat ownership between the both of us) and we still don't know for sure or not if it is worth the hassle even at a salvage purchase price. When people let maintenance go on a boat it can be exponential very quickly! Boat problems can quickly snowball. Add in harsh environments on boats (tropics, high or low temps, sitting in the water for years) and low quality builders (usually low price point production boats) and it makes sense why they can be selling for $.20-$.30 on the dollar vs other like makes and models tyat are well maintained and built to a higher standard.
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Old 08-11-2016, 01:50   #9
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Re: Soft Decks

Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidF32 View Post
I'm relatively new to sailing and looking to buy a budget boat and refit so I can better know my boat and how to fix and maintenance it as time goes by.. A boat yard told me a boat I was looking at had some deck sections that were going soft.. Is this internal rot or just fatigue in these situations or something else and; is this a relatively easy repair and or replace, a symptom of a bigger problem, or should I just walk away? Thanks for your imput.
Welcome Aboard CF David.

Here are some links to previous discussions on the topic of "Soft Decks."

https://cse.google.com/cse?cx=011403...cks&gsc.page=1
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Old 08-11-2016, 02:57   #10
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Re: Soft Decks

As a rank novice sailor on a shoestring budget in about the same position as yourself, here's what I did...

To avoid marina fees and yacht club ones too, I bought a boat with a decent trailer. To avoid road permits and heavy hauling services this starts to set limits on the boats dimensions. Around here we haul out for winter every October. Boat and trailer weighs 6000lb and I rent a 3/4 ton 4x4 pickup for haulout/launch.

This size boat will be light, nimble and closer to dinghy sailing so that you'll get the "feel" of sailing and start developing boat handling skills without ramming the fuel dock with a 15-20,000lb full keel liveaboard.

Look for a boat with as much rigging brought back to the cockpit as possible. I'm single handed most of the time.

Make do with as little accommodation as possible, enough for a weekend on board. You can work out what your dream boat will look like while you cook on a decent camp stove in the cockpit and pull a beer from the cooler.

Oh yeah, soft decks... go look at a bunch of boats. Take a small hand awl with you. Find a boat with rot, there will be plenty. If the deck is like a trampoline in places you got rot. With the awl in your palm, plastic handle down, start tap tap tapping on the rot until you get to its "edge" listening for a change in the sound. Have fun at this, mess around until you have an ear for soft vs hard decks. Don't even pretend you're a rot expert or that you won't miss anything at this point. You will, that's guaranteed. Check anything bolted down by reefing on it. The stanchions holding the lifelines are meant to keep you on the boat, if the deck flexes obviously around them, not good. Can you wriggle any of the cleats, definately not good. Boats that are covered in little drill holes filled with gobs of hardened glue are a giveaway that there are "issues".

The mast will likely step on the deck in this size boat, lie on you belly and eyeball the area to see if it is depressed. Or pour some water from your drink bottle and see if it sits there or runs off the crown properly. If it sits there and slowly disappears, make a note! While on deck make a note of where the shrouds go to on the deck, the chain plates. Time to go below.

Find out where the chain plates enter the deck and what they are bolted to. Using the pointy end of the awl push gently into the surface. Likely plywood under fiberglass. If it sinks in readily, make a note. Or runaway. Look for water stains running down the inside, look everywhere carefully. Easier to figure out what's leaking and needs sealing up on the top sides this way. Make a note.

My bottom line was I wanted enough boat that I could sail gently immediately. I wasn't buying my dream boat, or even something approaching it. A mast that was punching itself into the cabin top or through the cabin floor wasn't worth fixing, to me. The boat I bought had three chain plates per side, one rotted attachment per side, I could live with that. They've been fixed, only because it wasn't major surgery.

So I have a boat I'm "happy enough" with for 2-3 years until I a) can sail better thus will want a stronger safer boat and b) want more boat for longer term stay aboard. I got lucky, but it took a year. Bonus was a relatively new inboard diesel, folding prop. Little things that told me the owner had taken reasonable care of the boat.

Soft decks.... just one of a dozen problems, not a showstopper. Structural defects that make sailing unsafe are showstoppers. Sails in fair condition don't stop you sailing provided you don't demand too much from them. The idea was not to sink money into trying to make a boat I wasn't going to keep longterm into something more than I need presently. Nor am I expecting to flip this boat and makes scads of money for the next one. I'm sailing, I'm happy. KISS.
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Old 08-11-2016, 04:17   #11
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Re: Soft Decks

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dymaxion View Post
As a rank novice sailor on a shoestring budget in about the same position as yourself, here's what I did...

To avoid marina fees and yacht club ones too, I bought a boat with a decent trailer. To avoid road permits and heavy hauling services this starts to set limits on the boats dimensions. Around here we haul out for winter every October. Boat and trailer weighs 6000lb and I rent a 3/4 ton 4x4 pickup for haulout/launch.

This size boat will be light, nimble and closer to dinghy sailing so that you'll get the "feel" of sailing and start developing boat handling skills without ramming the fuel dock with a 15-20,000lb full keel liveaboard.

Look for a boat with as much rigging brought back to the cockpit as possible. I'm single handed most of the time.

Make do with as little accommodation as possible, enough for a weekend on board. You can work out what your dream boat will look like while you cook on a decent camp stove in the cockpit and pull a beer from the cooler.

Oh yeah, soft decks... go look at a bunch of boats. Take a small hand awl with you. Find a boat with rot, there will be plenty. If the deck is like a trampoline in places you got rot. With the awl in your palm, plastic handle down, start tap tap tapping on the rot until you get to its "edge" listening for a change in the sound. Have fun at this, mess around until you have an ear for soft vs hard decks. Don't even pretend you're a rot expert or that you won't miss anything at this point. You will, that's guaranteed. Check anything bolted down by reefing on it. The stanchions holding the lifelines are meant to keep you on the boat, if the deck flexes obviously around them, not good. Can you wriggle any of the cleats, definately not good. Boats that are covered in little drill holes filled with gobs of hardened glue are a giveaway that there are "issues".

The mast will likely step on the deck in this size boat, lie on you belly and eyeball the area to see if it is depressed. Or pour some water from your drink bottle and see if it sits there or runs off the crown properly. If it sits there and slowly disappears, make a note! While on deck make a note of where the shrouds go to on the deck, the chain plates. Time to go below.

Find out where the chain plates enter the deck and what they are bolted to. Using the pointy end of the awl push gently into the surface. Likely plywood under fiberglass. If it sinks in readily, make a note. Or runaway. Look for water stains running down the inside, look everywhere carefully. Easier to figure out what's leaking and needs sealing up on the top sides this way. Make a note.

My bottom line was I wanted enough boat that I could sail gently immediately. I wasn't buying my dream boat, or even something approaching it. A mast that was punching itself into the cabin top or through the cabin floor wasn't worth fixing, to me. The boat I bought had three chain plates per side, one rotted attachment per side, I could live with that. They've been fixed, only because it wasn't major surgery.

So I have a boat I'm "happy enough" with for 2-3 years until I a) can sail better thus will want a stronger safer boat and b) want more boat for longer term stay aboard. I got lucky, but it took a year. Bonus was a relatively new inboard diesel, folding prop. Little things that told me the owner had taken reasonable care of the boat.

Soft decks.... just one of a dozen problems, not a showstopper. Structural defects that make sailing unsafe are showstoppers. Sails in fair condition don't stop you sailing provided you don't demand too much from them. The idea was not to sink money into trying to make a boat I wasn't going to keep longterm into something more than I need presently. Nor am I expecting to flip this boat and makes scads of money for the next one. I'm sailing, I'm happy. KISS.
Expert opinion and well worth more than I paid for it! Thank you, and everyone, for your valuable input. I will 'pay it forward' as I help others with their repairs and rebuilds.
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Old 08-11-2016, 06:17   #12
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Re: Soft Decks

If the decks are soft around the chain plates, you've got a 99% chance that the bulkheads are rotten at the chain plates too. Most of the production boats don't back-fill around the chainplate slots. That means you've got open wet rotten core, laying beside stainless steel bolted to unsealed plywood. Or no plywood left in between the fiberglass tabbing that the bolts go through.

If the tabbing is broken loose from the bulkheads, or bulkheads are just rotted out potting soil inside the tabs, then you've got a bit more of a project on your hands.

Doing a re-core isn't terrible if you don't mind itching... But bulkhead removal and grinding inside the boat is a bit less fun, in the "Boat Yoga" category.
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Old 08-11-2016, 06:42   #13
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Re: Soft Decks

Run! There are too many good boats for sale cheap to spend time repairing when you could be sailing.
This morning looking at boat adds I found the same boat as mine, the guy is nuts. Did a full refit of an early 70's 25' boat including stripping the hull and having it re-gelcoated. Asking 11 000$ when there are 4 more for sale between 3 and 5000$ asking! I really like my boat but there is no way I would pay 11 000$ for one in any condition.
Unless it is a boat you know you really want and plan on keeping it for a very long time you are better off looking for a better boat.
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Old 08-11-2016, 07:40   #14
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Re: Soft Decks

Walk away.

Two reasons; you can't really tell how extensive the damage is until you dig into it to start to repair it, and it's a bit of a potential red flag about how well the boat was maintained.

If it were ONE limited small section, and it was clear where water got in (eg. deck fitting) then that might be one thing, but you've been told that there are multiple areas that are soft. That's a really bad sign, and the repair effort could be extensive and expensive, even if you do it yourself.
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