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Old 04-15-2014, 10:10 PM   #1
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Deck soft spots on 1974 Gulfstar

We have made an offer on a 1974 Gulfstar 43' MkII Sundeck Trawler. It has some soft spots on the deck of the flybridge, the sundeck and the foredeck. The seller allowed us to have someone come look at the boat and give an estimate for repairing them - $7,500.

Sooooo..... how serious are those soft spots? Specifically:

1. My understanding is the deck is soft because there is balsa wood under the fiberglass decking, and it has gotten wet due to a crack or other leak in the fiberglass, and that's what makes it soft. Is that correct?

2. Is there likely to be other damage other than the wood being soft? i.e., the water that got in there and made the wood soft - has it also likely gotten somewhere else and caused other damage? (We see NO indication of water damage on the interior of the boat, but that doesn't mean there isn't some that we just can't see.)

3. Will the survey be able to tell us if there IS other damage from that water?

4. What if we decide to simply not fix the soft spots? If the cracks or other leaks in the decking that allowed the water in originally are repaired, and no more water is coming in, can we simply live with the soft spots?

Thanks so much for any info!
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Old 04-15-2014, 10:38 PM   #2
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Greetings,
Mr. B. I don't know the Gulfstar line at all so I can't comment on #'s 1 or 2. A GOOD surveyor familiar with this make would be better to give advice.
#4 depends on how soft and how wet and what your tolerance level is. If it's really soft, a repair won't last long.
Now, may I ask if this $7500 adjustment applicable to a boat selling for $50K or one selling for $150K?
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Old 04-15-2014, 10:46 PM   #3
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RTF,

Good advice on a Gulfstar-familiar surveyor. I'll try to find one!

What do you mean a repair won't last long? If it's truly repaired, why won't it last as long as the deck remains impervious to water?

The asking price on the boat is $54,900. As you might imagine, we are using this $7,500 estimate to try to negotiate a much better price.
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Old 04-16-2014, 12:57 AM   #4
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My question, similar to yours, would be "Are all the soft spots and related damage found?" Sounds risky as you describe it, I know a few surveyors who say buyer beware after about 4 significant soft spots found.
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Old 04-16-2014, 01:44 AM   #5
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I would double the estimate because it will be worse than you think and shipyards have a way of inflating things.
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Old 04-16-2014, 02:00 AM   #6
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It appears you have water intrusion in every horizontal surface of the boat. Fixing the soft spots requires removing the top fiberglass, removing all rotted wood, replacing the wood and replacing and revealing the fiberglass. I don't think you can do it for $7500, but what do I know?

Make sure your surveyor looks for rot in the hull as well. Many boats of that era used wood core throughout. Finally, check the stringers for rot, too.
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Old 04-16-2014, 06:09 AM   #7
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Possibly the fly bridge floor was done with a balsa core , but not the rest of the boat , the Gulftubs have a good reputation.

If its just the cabin top the repair can go 3 ways,

#1 remove /repair the source of the leaks , stuff that was not rebedded on a regular 5 year cycle , and ignore the springy deck. Git Rot down the fastening holes may help.

#2 Spot repair , cut open the top layer of GRP , pull the soggy core and replace it with a modern foam, reglass.

Epoxy the foam on the bottom , regular GRP on top , cover wit glue down imitation teak or paint and noskid.

#3 remove the cabin top and replace it with a new section made of modern core material.. Probably NOT necessary unless the deck is sagging enough to scare you , not just feel springy.
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Old 04-16-2014, 07:37 AM   #8
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Greetings,
Mr. B. Short of pulling up the deck as suggested above, anything you put on the cracks that allowed the water in in the first place will degrade due to the deck still flexing (it's soft remember) and allow additional water ingress. REALLY hard to say without seeing the "problem" in person. As I mentioned, a GOOD surveyor will or should be able to tell you just what the problem and possible solutions and their cost will be. @ $55K for a 1974 model I suspect there will be other issues due to age alone.
If this is the one in Stuart (I just looked it up), she looks pretty good. Your call after a GOOD survey. One thing I vaguely recall when I was in the market is that Gulfstars of this era were prone to blisters. Might want to research this further. Another thing...Volvo engine parts are quite pricey IF available at all.
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Old 04-16-2014, 08:29 AM   #9
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If it were me, I would offer 45K, rebed all the deck fittings and forget the soft spots. Go boating & enjoy. The Gulfstar's are great boats and a "well maintained" 43ft kept in otherwise good condition is very unlikely to ever be worth less than 30K. If you sold it in 5 years for 30K your capital cost would only be 15K or 3K a year. That's pretty cheap for the ability to cruise around in a handsome 43ft boat for 5 years not to mention the family entertainment value.
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Old 04-16-2014, 09:21 AM   #10
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Good info, especially from Robster, FF and Capt. Kangeroo. RTF, yes, it's the one in Stuart, and yes, it seems to be a nice one. Except for these soft spots, it seems in very good condition. (Of course, the survey will tell for sure.) And it doesn't have Volvo engines, but rather, Perkins 6-354's (130 HP), and I just read some really good things about these engines here on TF last night.
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Old 04-16-2014, 09:42 AM   #11
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Soft spots

Soft spots are very common in 70's and 80's boats. They can be ignored if they don't effect the safety of the boat. Core samples with a hole saw can give you a better idea of what your in for. Boat yard rates can exceed your wildest expectations so the $7500 could be way short of the cost, or it may not. I just repaired some coring issues on a Hatteras 58. Balsa coring while it rots it migrates slower than plywood core. The damage may be isolated to a few inches around the water intrusions. The springy deck may be annoying but could go on being used for years without failure. If your handy and have had some experience working with glass, this is not rocket science. I believe the nonskid is sand and paint so repairs are simple. My dock neighbor has the same boat, basically a sailboat hull turned trawler , very efficient and seaworthy.
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Old 04-16-2014, 09:46 AM   #12
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I'm in the group of getting a really good surveyor on it followed by a really good yard to look at it. No way any of us can judge the severity of the issue from here on the interweb. Those soft spots are not going to do anything but get softer, and can potentially develop into an incredible time and/or money pit. Find out how deep that pit may be now, and what the implications are of not addressing it before you own the boat. It may not be a big deal, but why gamble?
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Old 04-16-2014, 09:48 AM   #13
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Greetings,
Mr. B. Of course, Perkins....Brain fart...

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Old 04-16-2014, 10:12 AM   #14
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+1 on Robster and others.
Horizontal surface rot is like cancer. It can spread and you may not realize it until opened up in surgery. (don't ask me how I know)

My inclination would be to do a mix of the advice.

1) If you and the wife like the boat and the mechanics are decent, buy it but ask your broker for comparisons. Make a clean deal with no responsibility for the seller I would attempt to drive the price down as best can be done. I am thinking more like $35 - 40
2) Set aside a repair reserve on your own.
2) Drive it and enjoy it for the first season while you learn about the fix
3) Next year find a yard that allows self repair and an independent fiberglass guy to work with.
4) Work with him. It is a messy, labour intensive job. You do the simple clean up and prep work. Let him supervise and do the glass.
5) Take responsibility for all the material. Give him the left overs plus a fair price for labour plus a bit more.
6) I think you will come out with a great boat with less than $5000 in glass work and very comfortable that it has been done well. all IMHO

Good luck
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Old 04-16-2014, 10:21 AM   #15
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I did extensive deck repair on my ex, a 1978 Mainsip with the extended flybridge.
I have a powerpoint I did that shows the basics of what it looks like. If you want to see that, send me a PM with your e mail address and I'll send it.
Then you can better judge if you are up to the work or not.
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Old 04-16-2014, 10:30 AM   #16
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That boat is Barbara's Joy and we seriously looked at her when she was in her home port of Northwest Creek Marina in New Bern, NC. We used that marina as a home port when were were cruising on the east coast. We know the owners. We also noticed the same soft spots that your surveyor noticed. Except for the decks, the boat looked like a great value but we were very apprehensive about the deck repair. Like other posters have stated, that kind of repair can quickly escalate way beyond your tolerance level. Keep us informed as to what you do.
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Old 04-16-2014, 10:35 AM   #17
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That's great advice. It puts you boating this season, gives you time to locate a yard/FG guy you trust, and you also get to make a list of the other "unexpecteds" that are inevitable in our older trawlers. Not to mention- when your friends come aboard you can offer "we are scheduled to get that fixed over the winter" if you choose.
Of course, my take has always been that good "friends" wouldn't say things like: How did that glass get cracked?/ What's that smell?/ Or, it looks like your windows have been leaking!
Just my take on it!


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Old 04-16-2014, 10:51 AM   #18
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Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by bobsyiruncle View Post
+1 on Robster and others.
Horizontal surface rot is like cancer. It can spread and you may not realize it until opened up in surgery. (don't ask me how I know)

My inclination would be to do a mix of the advice.

1) If you and the wife like the boat and the mechanics are decent, buy it but ask your broker for comparisons. Make a clean deal with no responsibility for the seller I would attempt to drive the price down as best can be done. I am thinking more like $35 - 40
2) Set aside a repair reserve on your own.
2) Drive it and enjoy it for the first season while you learn about the fix
3) Next year find a yard that allows self repair and an independent fiberglass guy to work with.
4) Work with him. It is a messy, labour intensive job. You do the simple clean up and prep work. Let him supervise and do the glass.
5) Take responsibility for all the material. Give him the left overs plus a fair price for labour plus a bit more.
6) I think you will come out with a great boat with less than $5000 in glass work and very comfortable that it has been done well. all IMHO

Good luck
This is pretty much exactly what we were thinking of doing! Of course, only after seeing what all the old pros on TF had to say about the issue. Thanks!
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Old 04-16-2014, 11:12 AM   #19
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Question

Quote:
Originally Posted by Barpilot View Post
That boat is Barbara's Joy (YEP). Except for the decks, the boat looked like a great value (THAT'S WHAT WE'RE THINKING), but we were very apprehensive about the deck repair. Like other posters have stated, that kind of repair can quickly escalate way beyond your tolerance level.
Other than one post, no one has said what "collateral damage" might exist beyond the soft spots. (That post said to be sure to check the hull - but this boat is solid fiberglass, no core - and the stringers, which makes sense.)

Here is my VERY simplistic view of what's going on. Please correct it, to help me better understand, so we can make a better decision.

1. The hull and main "shell" of the cabin, including the ceiling / roof (which is also the floor of the sundeck, flybridge and foredeck) are made of solid fiberglass.

2. On the "walking surfaces", they put a wooden core, then cover it with more fiberglass or some other hard decking material, and seal it to keep water out of the core. (I'm not sure why they do this - is it to make the walking surfaces more comfortable to walk on? To make them stiffer and / or stronger? Don't suppose it really matters.)

3. Over time, cracks develop in the top covering material, and water gets into the core, and rots it. That water will also keep going down, wherever it finds a pathway, and has the potential to damage other stuff along the pathway, and wherever it finally collects, because it can't go down any more.

4. So, the $64,000 question is "What might those pathways and collecting points be?". If there are no pathways, because the core sits on top of a solid piece of fiberglass (the main structure of the cabin roof / ceiling) that has NOT cracked, then it seems the damage would be limited to the wood coring. Or, if the pathways are simply hollow areas in the main fiberglass "structure" of the cabin that lead to the bilge, with nothing running through them (like wiring, plumbing, etc.), it seems that no more damage would occur, as the water would end up in the bilge and be pumped out.

OTOH, if those pathways lead to areas that could be damaged by water, it would seem that a thorough survey by a competent surveyor, familiar with this kind of boat, would identify the damaged areas.

SO: Am I making this too simple? I sure as heck don't know how boats like this are constructed, and especially not this particular make / model / year of boat. But if the general premise is correct (1 - 4 above), then I don't think I need to be "afraid" of these soft spots, but I definitely need to get a survey from someone who knows these boats, and who can look closely at all the potential damage areas.

Thoughts?
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Old 04-16-2014, 11:21 AM   #20
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OK, I owned a 1073 36' Gulfstar for 8 years, which now lives with John Nall (a regular on the forum). It had/has a few soft deck spots when I bought it. A PO did extensive deck repairs and covered it with treadmaster, which is a good solution.

I had a spot in the side deck where the was a crack that oozed water. It bugged me so I cut out a section of the top skin that was the full width of the side deck and about 4 feet long. I dug out the wet balsa core.

The thing I found is that the layup, at least on my old boat, of the bottom skin is so thick, about 1 1/2", that the deck is essentially solid glass. In my opinion, the core really didn't serve much purpose.

I laid plywood back in the now gaping repair with epoxy, reglassed the top skin on and replaced the deck covering.

Honestly, I wouldn't do it again if there are no leaks or anything. I stood on the bottom skin alone and jumped up and down. No flexing.

Also, Gulfstars have solid glass hulls and solid glass cabin sides. No worries about rot there, unless the water is actually getting inside the cabin and rotting the interior cabin walls.
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