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Boulter 07-08-2012 07:28

Why is Freshwater Better ?

Some owners of boats I have looked at make a big deal of the boat only being in fresh water. I am trying to pin down what exactly is the value of this.

One boat in particular has 35 year old rigging and 35 year old wiring, and a 35 year old engine. It all looked pretty good cosmetically, but I think the bad of 35 years old (fatigue issues maybe?) trumps any value in fresh water, doesn't it? Surely in general, a salt water boat with 10 year old systems is not at a disadvantage to a fresh water boat with 35 year old systems?

Maybe there are issues with the hulls, latent blisters perhaps?

Is my take on this reasonable, or am I missing something?



rtbates 07-08-2012 07:41

Re: Why is freshwater better?
NO SALT,... something about rust and corrosion

jeremiason 07-08-2012 07:47

Re: Why is freshwater better?
The techy's here will do a better job than me explaining the scientific reason, but the bottom line is a salt water environment on a vessel is very harsh...

Things rust, corrode and rot much faster than if exposed to fresh water environment. This can be mitigated by regularly washing the boat, polishing the stainless and flushing the saltwater intakes and engines. Also regular inspections of the mechanical devices on board.

On the other hand someone selling a boat for a premium, just becasue it was fresh water only, should also have good maintenance records and possibly a survey showing he took care of the vessel and not rely solely on floating in fresh water as a financial bonus.

Sailmonkey 07-08-2012 07:50

Re: Why is freshwater better?
Another biggie for a freshwater boat is that it's typically out of the water for the greater part of the year.

Stumble 07-08-2012 10:21

Re: Why is freshwater better?
The advantage of a fresh water boat is that, well it hasn't been exposed to salt, specifically the chloride in salt water. This means that all the stainless bits from bolts to rigging, haven't been subject to a type of corrosion called pitting corrosion. It is these pits that expand to cause crevice corrosion.

So a fresh water boat's fitting should all be in much, much better shape after 30 years, than a salt water boat would be after 10.

Most rigging is actually well below the knee in the fatigue curve of stainless, which means that there is effectively no fatigue limit (unless you have aluminium rigging). Basically steel, including stainless doesn't wear out from fatigue if the loads are low enough, so while fresh/salt doesn't matter here, the fact that the steel isn't corroding does.

Beersmith 07-08-2012 10:24

Re: Why is freshwater better?
be careful when looking at freshwater boats in very warm waters. there is a theory (which my boat could definitely support) that warm fresh water will cause blistering much more quickly and severely than salt.

FSMike 07-08-2012 10:26

Re: Why is freshwater better?

Originally Posted by jeremiason (Post 1007321)

Things ---- rot much faster than if exposed to fresh water environment.

Actually, if you want to produce dry rot in a hurry you need fresh water and stale air.

tbodine88 07-08-2012 14:28

Re: Why is freshwater better?
Salt air is bad too. Chain link fences here in central texas can last for decades, but one along the coast, needs replacing pretty quick.

rgscpat 07-08-2012 14:32

Re: Why is freshwater better?
When I was a child spending a lot of time on the Texas coast, there was a lot of stuff that my family didn't even try to maintain, because we'd be replacing it well before what would otherwise have been its normal life span.

sailorboy1 07-08-2012 14:49

Re: Why is freshwater better?
I don't think it matters whether it is a fresh water or a saly water boat. All that matters is the boats condition as compared to it's price!!!!

I wouldn't pay any premium for a fresh water boat, period!

Now if I were considering 2 exact good condition boats at the same price and 1 one was fresh and one was salt, I probably would do the fresh water one if that was the only choice to made.

Boulter 08-08-2012 05:49

Re: Why is freshwater better?

Originally Posted by Don Lucas (Post 1007572)
I don't think it matters whether it is a fresh water or a saly water boat. All that matters is the boats condition as compared to it's price!!!!

Hi Don:

This is getting at things.

Consider some boats:

The first is freshwater only, 35 year old rigging, engine (albeit, low hours), gate valves (yikes!) and wiring, with not much more than a VHF for electronics, and wheel autopilot. $50K ask.

The second a salt water version of number 1, but no autopilot, age of rigging and other systems unknown $37.5K ask.

The third is salt water, windlass, fleming 501 wind vane, inner removable stay and sail, wheel pilot, insulated backstay for SSB, big long list of all the work he has done in the last half decade. About $47K ask.

4 and 5 are fresh water $50K and up, middling equipment.

Without knowing anything else but the above from written descriptions, I am inclined to think number 3 is the best candidate, salt be damned. The guy is working on his boat, unlike number 1 who is sailing around on 35 year old gate valves between him and the bottom.


sailorboy1 08-08-2012 09:30

Re: Why is freshwater better?
35 year old rigging is just a negative, doesn't matter if it is fresh water or not.

Far as which is the better value depends on whether that extra gear is something you want, and if so what condition it's in. You could be paying for old gear that is only going to last a couple of years, in other words you paid more for crap! But generaly it is less expensive to buy a boat fit out the way you want it than it is to outfit it later (if the stuff still has enough life in it). But don't buy a boat just because of the toys on it!

Cheechako 08-08-2012 09:56

Re: Why is freshwater better?
Many things in and around the engine will be very rusty in a salt environment if not maintained meticulously. Prop shafts that sit alot in salt water without use often have deep corrosion on the shaft inside the cutlass bearing. (if stainless) There is no way for a surveyor to see this so they always miss it. If the boat has tanks in the bilge.... salt water will likely have those tanks nearly at the failure point. Salt air effects the rigging to some extent. Fittings on deck corrode from salt spray. All of this adds up to alot of work. If an older boat and is cooled by "sea water", then a fresh water boat would have a much better condition of the engine....

Steve W 08-08-2012 10:38

Re: Why is freshwater better?
FWIW, my 1986 Newport has been on the St. Johns river in the Jacksonville area all its life, except for trips to the Bahamas and Keys. The wiring is not tinned and there is no corrosion at any terminal, no rust on the engine, coupling or shaft, no rust streaks anywhere with the exception of a few stantion bolts that have a bit of light surface rust on them. No rust on keelbolt nuts and thread that I can see. The Newport is a very average production boat of that era, nothing special about it and uses pretty much the same hardware, winches, etc., that Catalina used. The running lights have no corrosion in them and I have never replaced them, though I do open them up yearly to clean the lenses. I have to attribute the lack of corrosion to being in freshwater and I sure like not having to deal with rust and corrosion issues. It get washed maybe once a month, if lucky.

Bash 08-08-2012 11:03

Re: Why is freshwater better?

Originally Posted by Boulter (Post 1007307)

Some owners of boats I have looked at make a big deal of the boat only being in fresh water.

The best boats to buy are not only restricted to fresh water, but they've only been driven on Sundays by devout senior citizens who never get their anchors muddy.

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