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Old 05-21-2019, 07:28 PM   #1
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Fiberglass hull diesel saturation: consequences?

Greetings,

I'm considering a 1978 Fiberglass hull boat (42' Uniflite). About 10 years ago a fuel tank failed and dumped lots of diesel into the bilge where it sat for many years. The diesel was recently (a few months ago) pumped out, but just about everything in the bilge is still stained, saturated and smells of diesel.

The surveyor took one look at it and said "fiberglass and core saturated, the hull is worthless and not recoverable".

I did a web search on this situation and didn't find much.

I'm looking for input from those with experience with this situation. Will long term diesel saturation degrade hull the structure? How about the stringer core (not sure if foam or wood)? Will the diesel smell in the boat eventually dissipate?

The surveyor seemed quite convinced, but I just expected to find some corroborating evidence online.

Thanks for your input. I've learned so much by silently following many of the discussions.


Regards, Kurt
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Old 05-21-2019, 08:26 PM   #2
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You probably will not find much online as to this situation since this situation does not happen often. Diesel does spill into bilges fairly often but reasonable people work to clean it up immediately if not sooner. I suspect the smell will remain no matter what you do. Personally I would not take the boat if they gave it to me because I think it will be a money pit and IF you are not able to get the smell out it will be essentially worthless. Maybe someone knows better than me, good luck.
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Old 05-21-2019, 08:41 PM   #3
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By just your description and the fact that uniflite’s are solid glass hulls and my assumption that boat will sell for $35,000 I don’t think core contamination is an issue.

I love uniflite 42’s. Strong, practical and comfortable boat. Unfortunately I rarely seen one that has been well maintained. Most of them are now cheap and require more money in upgrades x2 than they are worth. Have the tanks been repaired? Replacing the out board tanks on a uniflite 42 requires removal of the engines.

So I don’t think the hull is junk but that doesn’t mean I think you should buy the boat.
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Old 05-21-2019, 08:59 PM   #4
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I donít think Uniflites were cored hulls but the stringers and bulkheads will be saturated with the diesel if it sat in there for 10 years. Besides most Uniflites have blister problems. I looked at a 42 that was blistered everywhere there was fiberglass all the way up the hull, decks and flybridge due to the fire retardant resin they used. If you do all the work yourself maybe it could be economical but it may take replacing the core in the stringers and some bulkheads. I know my wife will not stay on a boat that has diesel stink...
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Old 05-21-2019, 09:50 PM   #5
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Uniflites are not cored hulls. There was definitely a blister problem on some years, you can’t miss noticing a blister boat. We could argue over weather diesel was able to penetrate the glass and get to the stringers but it’s a wasted argument as we both agree that it’s highly unlikely this boat is worth investing in.

How deep was the diesel, what are the engines, what dose it matter we already know this boat was ignored for 10 years and is likely a money pit.

Is the boat an Aft cabin or a Sedan. If it’s a Sedan it might make a cheap day fishing boat, fish stink, diesel stink, what’s the difference.
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Old 05-21-2019, 10:33 PM   #6
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The 42 I looked at was a really nice boat, except for the literally thousands of blisters everywhere. The broker told me they werenít structural but I told him that I would have to walk down the dock and look at it every time I got on the boat... no thanks.
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Old 05-22-2019, 07:06 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by KurtColvin View Post
I'm considering a 1978 Fiberglass hull boat (42' Uniflite). About 10 years ago a fuel tank failed and dumped lots of diesel into the bilge where it sat for many years.
Stop considering it. No amount of money you'd dump into this would ever have a chance of returning value. Even if it was given to you for free.

Not unless you already own a boat yard and can treat it like a spare time project. The costs to correct the situation have the potential to endlessly spiral out of control. Yard costs alone to keep it somewhere to have the work done are probably going to be more than the boat's worth in short order.
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Old 05-22-2019, 08:11 AM   #8
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Had a ‘72 Morgan 27 sailboat with a Neutonic 4 gas engine. It had leaked enough oil over the years that the boat smelled of oil. I removed the engine for work and while it was out replaced the rotten engine beds. The oil had penetrated over 1/8” into the hull ‘glass. I ground the ‘glass down to clean before reglassing and tabbing in the new engine beds.
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Old 05-22-2019, 09:00 AM   #9
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I think the smell will remain forever, and for that reason alone I would pass. Or at least I wouldnít want the risk of it smelling forever.
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Old 05-22-2019, 09:35 AM   #10
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Would not consider it for any price. Would not even step foot on it. The stink is forever.
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Old 05-22-2019, 11:58 AM   #11
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"The stink is forever."

I agree but the larger sized Ozone machines do an amazing job .

One might work to save the boat.
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Old 05-22-2019, 12:03 PM   #12
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"The stink is forever."

I agree but the larger sized Ozone machines do an amazing job .

One might work to save the boat.
Won't do it. Even if they temporarily seem to remove the smell, it will return. They only get the surface. To permanently be rid of the odor, all the fiberglass, all the wood that it reached would have to be replaced.
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Old 05-22-2019, 01:51 PM   #13
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Won't do it. Even if they temporarily seem to remove the smell, it will return. They only get the surface. To permanently be rid of the odor, all the fiberglass, all the wood that it reached would have to be replaced.



I agree. This is an extreme case, but I think there are a LOT of boats that by any objective measure are worth zero, and really more of a liability. The cost to fix them out weighs their highest possible value, sometime by 2x or more. They are basically hot-potatoes with the current owner left holding the bag. In this case, even the boat were free, you would be stuck with it if you couldn't get the smell out. And they it's not just maybe a liability, you've proven that it's a liability, and now it's yours.
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Old 05-22-2019, 03:13 PM   #14
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The surveyor took one look at it and said "fiberglass and core saturated, the hull is worthless and not recoverable".
Why would you pay a surveyor and then ignore his clear advice?
If you buy it and lose the gamble, then what.

(and how much is it going to cost to replace all 3 fuel tanks?)
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Old 05-22-2019, 03:45 PM   #15
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Aren't there diesel fuel tanks made out of fiberglass?

If the fuel got on any wood piece for that long the wood has to be replaced to remove the diesel. The diesel fuel would wick into the wood and may be wick out over a very long time after the source was removed.
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Old 05-22-2019, 05:35 PM   #16
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I'd run in the other direction! There are many good boats out there waiting for some love and TLC. This one doesn't sound like one of 'em!
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Old 05-22-2019, 07:04 PM   #17
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I'd run in the other direction! There are many good boats out there waiting for some love and TLC. This one doesn't sound like one of 'em!
Wifey B: Why oh why do we (the community of we's) try so hard to talk ourselves into something so wrong.

We fall in love with something we imagine and picture so unlike it really is.

Dreamers need realists they'll listen to beside them.

Reminder in spite of all the naming conventions, the boat isn't a woman or man and no chance of finding true love that conquers all.
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Old 05-22-2019, 08:59 PM   #18
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It’s really easy to look at an old Uniflite 42 and think, “wow, this boat has a great reputation, all it needs is some carpet and a paint job and I can buy it really cheap. Every one says dd671’s are built proof, this has to be a good deal”. They never think about the fact that the boat is 40 years old and every component had a design life of 25 years. Then they start to discover that you can’t find replacement parts. From door latches to windows, alternators to cutless bearings, every thing is worn out and a fortune to replace. It’s like playing Russian roulette, can you get 4 years out of it and sell it or is it all going to implode on your watch.
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Old 05-22-2019, 09:18 PM   #19
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I'm not as pessimistic as most here on the diesel issue, and not all old boats are automatically bad. But it sounds like this boat has just had 10+ years of neglect, and is likely worthless. Do the motors run?
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Old 05-22-2019, 09:31 PM   #20
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Wifey B:

Reminder in spite of all the naming conventions, the boat isn't a woman or man and no chance of finding true love that conquers all.
Sounds like you haven't found the right boat yet. No worries...you're still young.
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