Marine News from the Great Lakes

Take An Expert Along When Boat Buying

Published: Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Many boaters are beginning to make the boat show circuit. The purchase of a new boat can be a trying experience. Matching up desired power, size, and design can be a tedious undertaking when selecting a new or used boat, and the endeavor can be very time consuming.

Most purchasers of used boats know a survey or value condition report is needed, and usually required by insurance companies and financial institutions. These reports provide an expert’s opinion of the condition and value of your prospective purchase and often point out problems that may have gone unnoticed. Having a professional examine the boat can save the buyer from making a poor purchase.

It is not unusual to find hidden flaws in used boats but, surprisingly, it is also not unheard of in new boats. New crafts can leave manufacturer’s plants with obvious defects and, because they are brand new, these defects may go unnoticed resulting in very costly repairs...

Poor Craftsmanship During Construction

An owner had purchased his boat new about ten years prior. He was very fussy about keeping his vessel clean and carefully maintained. He would rinse the bilges and clean the decks after each fishing trip, which was his main use of the craft.

One day, he finds his boat was taking on water and went to his marina to ask for assistance. They checked his shaft log packing and adjusted the packing nuts to stop the extensive leaking. This is normal maintenance service and it only took a short time to adjust both stuffing boxes on the twin-engine boat. However, a few weeks later, the owner called quite upset and said the starboard shaft was leaking excessively, causing his bilge pump to cycle frequently.

When the mechanic boarded his boat, the automatic pump was running continuously and the shaft log was leaking a steady stream of water. The captain explained he had only had the boat underway twice since the adjustment to the packing nuts and that only one was leaking badly.

Adjusting the packing nut pressure to stop leaking is common service on many inboard vessels. However, to have one leaking severely after only a short running period called for further investigation. When the mechanic separated the coupling, he found the engine was way out of alignment.

The mechanic explained that, to correct the problem, the engine would have to be moved and re-realigned with the shaft. As he began to loosen the two engine mounts and associated adjustment bolts, he noted holes drilled into the stringers that were left unsealed. A closer look revealed that the manufacturer had drilled the holes for the engine mounts in the wrong place, and had re-drilled a second set of holes. Before installation of the engine, the first set of holes should have been plugged. These excess holes, left open, had allowed water to leak into the wood core of the stringers and dry rot around the engine mount bolts. This poor craftsmanship in the construction resulted in the need to use longer lag bolts to re-align the engine mounts and the entire engine re-alignment only served as a temporary repair. It would not be long before a very extensive reconstruction of the engine bed stringers would be required to ensure the craft’s seaworthiness.

The problem should have been detected before the boat ever left the factory. Unfortunately, after ten years of time, the repairs would likely be at the owner’s expense.

This boat owner’s experience was unusual, but does point out the need for careful examination of a new vessel by an expert before purchase. Take a professional surveyor along to completely check an intended purchase of a new or used boat. After all, if the boat outlives the warranty before a factory mistake is found, it will be the buyer’s responsibility to repair and, as noted above, the mistake may be a very costly one.

This article first appeared in the Winter Issue (Jan/Feb) 2018 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.

tags: Boating 101, Service & Repair

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