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Old 07-22-2014, 11:36 AM   #1
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How Bad are Older Salt Water Boats?

We are in the early stages of trawler searching and I thought I'd reach out for some advice/knowledge/discussion on issues with older salt water boats, in a general sense.

I was speaking with a former marine surveyor whose opinion I highly regard who suggested that I should never purchase a saltwater boat, especially from the southern US due to storms and such. Now, my financial situation differs significantly from his and as much as I'd like to find a fresh-water only boat, I'm not sure I'll be able to in my price range.

I'm in the market (well, I will be once I sell my current sailboat) for an under $50k trawler, well under is preferred, and have found a few boats of interest along the east coast (MD, FL). But, as these are salties and usually from the late 70's to 80's, I'm wondering about the extent of issues that may be the result of salt water exposure.

I guess my question can be boiled down to: is it reasonable to eliminate salt water boats from my list of potential boats?

Some of his rationale for the no-salt includes poor resale value and higher maintenance and repair. Obviously, the corrosive nature of salt will impact a boat's condition but I'd like to wrap my head around just how much.

Comments, thoughts and suggestions are most welcome.
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Old 07-22-2014, 11:57 AM   #2
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Simple answer, in my opinion, is it is not reasonable to exclude salt water boats. More complicated would be do you always intend to use the boat on the Ottawa River and the Great Lakes? Having had a boat on the Great Lakes, the US South East and the Caribbean I have found the cold in storage in the North, and the heat in storage in the Caribbean accounted for more damage than the salt water.

Salt water has its effect that is sure, but if you are buying an older boat the one thing you want is to make sure that it has been well maintained. Well maintained should take care of the damage from salt water.

Totally personal comment. You should plan on someday going to Quebec City if not further east on the Saint Lawrence, also south along the Hudson to NYC. In that case you will have taken the boat to salt water.
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Old 07-22-2014, 11:57 AM   #3
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There is no general rule. There are great boats and horrid boats, fresh and salt. The Great Lakes boats are typically a little pricier, given fresh water and heated storage half the year.

As for price, initial cost of ownership is but a small part of the equation.
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Old 07-22-2014, 12:09 PM   #4
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Simple answer, in my opinion, is it is not reasonable to exclude salt water boats...

...You should plan on someday going to Quebec City if not further east on the Saint Lawrence, also south along the Hudson to NYC.
That's along the lines of what I was thinking. I think the pool of potential boats would also shrink considerably, making the searching much more difficult.

As to the use, yes travel is part of the plan - as often, as long, and as far as we can. It's more about time, we're a family with young kids so work and kid stuff take up alot of time.
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Old 07-22-2014, 12:16 PM   #5
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There is no general rule. There are great boats and horrid boats, fresh and salt. The Great Lakes boats are typically a little pricier, given fresh water and heated storage half the year.

As for price, initial cost of ownership is but a small part of the equation.

Good points. I am also working on calculating the operation costs of a larger boat. Right now, marina fees, insurance, fuel and maintenance are fairly small costs. Larger and older makes for more $ and more complex logistics. But if it can keep us on the water longer and get us there more often, I'll find a way to make it work.

I love the sailboat, but the Admiral is less inclined to heeling and not a fan of small spaces. I think the transition from sail to trawler is somewhat natural. The kids could use more deck space...and the parents separate cabins
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Old 07-22-2014, 12:54 PM   #6
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Not to forget I'm sure, but do remember the hurricanes on the Gulf coast. Some of those damaged boats went north and now are in fresh water. Whatever you choose, find a fabulous surveyor to have at the boat to ensure everything is on the up and up. (A decent surveyor should be able to find hurricane damage, especially when it is not repaired properly.)

Does the sun damage boat further south? Undoubtedly. Does the freezing weather north damage boats too? Yes. Salt is bad for boats and so too is ice.

Whatever you chose won't be perfect. The trick is to find what will satisfy you in the near-term that can be made better down the waterways....

I wish you and your better half all the best.
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Old 07-22-2014, 12:55 PM   #7
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Greetings,
Mr. t. By all means look at saltwater boats. As mentioned, a salt water environment is much tougher than a fresh water one but a good survey/surveyor should point out any salt water induced trauma. Same as real estate. Condition, condition, condition. Current and last vessels came from and were in salt water a good part of their lives and still floating. One can expect to pay some sort of premium for a fw boat so why use those extra $$ to pay for something not all that important.
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Old 07-22-2014, 01:01 PM   #8
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Not to forget I'm sure, but do remember the hurricanes on the Gulf coast. Some of those damaged boats went north and now are in fresh water. Whatever you choose, find a fabulous surveyor to have at the boat to ensure everything is on the up and up. (A decent surveyor should be able to find hurricane damage, especially when it is not repaired properly.)

Does the sun damage boat further south? Undoubtedly. Does the freezing weather north damage boats too? Yes. Salt is bad for boats and so too is ice.

Whatever you chose won't be perfect. The trick is to find what will satisfy you in the near-term that can be made better down the waterways....

I wish you and your better half all the best.
I did read about hurricane boats somewhere and to look out for them. Very sage advice to hire a surveyor and that's something I will most certainly do when the time comes.

I'm sure we'll find something that will be the next step for us - I can't wait to get there, but want to enjoy the adventure along the way.
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Old 07-22-2014, 01:03 PM   #9
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Greetings,
Forgot to mention, osmosis (blisters) is more prevalent in fresh water as well.
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Old 07-22-2014, 01:09 PM   #10
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Greetings,
Forgot to mention, osmosis (blisters) is more prevalent in fresh water as well.

Thanks RT - I agree, condition is key and I'm more aware now that salt water life isn't necessarily the worst thing in the world. Besides, boats were indeed built to be used there.

As to the fresh water cost premium, I'm begining to think that it may be overstated.
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Old 07-22-2014, 01:26 PM   #11
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No, it is not. The same boat in fresh water will be in much better condition. My 1977 34' Marine Trader has been mistaken for a much younger boat because it has always been in fresh water.

Another thing - expensive, well made boats fare better in salt water than their less expensive counterparts. If you want to go cheap, go fresh!
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Old 07-22-2014, 01:38 PM   #12
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Slight hijack here.

If someone took a salty and moved it to fresh water, gave it a scrub up and bottom paint, could you really tell the difference anyway?
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Old 07-22-2014, 01:46 PM   #13
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No, it is not. The same boat in fresh water will be in much better condition. My 1977 34' Marine Trader has been mistaken for a much younger boat because it has always been in fresh water.

Another thing - expensive, well made boats fare better in salt water than their less expensive counterparts. If you want to go cheap, go fresh!
Thanks Al - do you think that it would just take extra maintenance for the salt water boat to be kept at the same level, or is it simply impossible?

I guess that the same can be said about fresh water in regards to expensive boats.
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Old 07-22-2014, 02:07 PM   #14
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It's been my experience that pretty much all Hurricane damaged boats, and sinkers from the Coasts are taken inland and "reborn" as "freshwater boats" solely because people don't think to ask so far away from the coasts. After my experience with a "surveyor" in Tennessee last week, I now see why so many people move them inland to sell, because apparently the surveyors don't look too hard! I've had people who do this for a living say "not only there, but as far north as Ontario" as has been confirmed by GOOD surveyors up there. SO, just because you see them IN freshwater now, doesn't mean they weren't in (in as in under!) salt before.
Here's the deal: TRY to buy a boat from an owner who wasn't counting every penny in his ownership, but kept the boat in tip top condition out of pride of ownership, with no expectations of recouping any money because he knew boats are a investment in a LIFE STYLE and nothing else. Don't go bottom fishing, and be surprised when you only catch catfish and eels. Fish up on the surface where the quality fish live. Which means don't go trolling through the boatyards that store garbage hunting for boats, but go to the Yacht Clubs and tony addresses where the nice boats live. These owners will likely give you a plum (if they like you, and think you'll keep loving their boats) for the price others will give you a turd.
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Old 07-22-2014, 02:24 PM   #15
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We are in the early stages of trawler searching and I thought I'd reach out for some advice/knowledge/discussion on issues with older salt water boats, in a general sense.............
What is a "salt water boat"?
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Old 07-22-2014, 02:26 PM   #16
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Here's the deal: TRY to buy a boat from an owner who wasn't counting every penny in his ownership, but kept the boat in tip top condition out of pride of ownership, with no expectations of recouping any money because he knew boats are a investment in a LIFE STYLE and nothing else. Don't go bottom fishing, and be surprised when you only catch catfish and eels. Fish up on the surface where the quality fish live. Which means don't go trolling through the boatyards that store garbage hunting for boats, but go to the Yacht Clubs and tony addresses where the nice boats live. These owners will likely give you a plum (if they like you, and think you'll keep loving their boats) for the price others will give you a turd.
Interesting point - I have limited searching to ads online, it never really occured to me to actually go to yards and such. Perhaps I can give that a try. I'm not sure how open people would be to visitors, but you never know.

I'd love to find that owner, and continue to care for his boat. I believe in that legacy. Ultimately, I'd like to repay that favor to someone when/if I'll be able to do so in the future.
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Old 07-22-2014, 02:32 PM   #17
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What is a "salt water boat"?
Well, to me it's a boat that has spent all or most of its life in salt water, as opposed to fresh water.

I guess it could be better quantified/evaluated in the actual time in salt water and perhaps make a general guideline as to when a boat is considered to be a salt water boat.

Perhaps I am using incorrect terminology?
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Old 07-22-2014, 02:43 PM   #18
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"I was speaking with a former marine surveyor whose opinion I highly regard who suggested that I should never purchase a saltwater boat, especially from the southern US due to storms and such."

Stop talking to that guy. Because if that is his idea of good advice, I'd be highly suspect of anything other opinions he may hold on buying a boat.
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Old 07-22-2014, 02:53 PM   #19
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"I was speaking with a former marine surveyor whose opinion I highly regard who suggested that I should never purchase a saltwater boat, especially from the southern US due to storms and such."

Stop talking to that guy. Because if that is his idea of good advice, I'd be highly suspect of anything other opinions he may hold on buying a boat.

lol, I can't - I'm related to him. I was a little surprised when he mentioned that because I'm pretty sure he's purchased salt water boats in the past and there weren't any crazy issues.

I think he is trying to look out for my best interests and perhaps this advice may do that. The comment was also related to importing a boat from the US coast and he suggested finding a local one instead. While it may be logistically easier to make a transaction locally, it narrows the number of boats down considerably. Besides, there aren't that many trawlers in our area...I'd be one of the trendsetters!
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Old 07-22-2014, 03:00 PM   #20
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lol, I can't - I'm related to him.
Well then just use one ear.
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