Boat Buying Part 5

More on my thoughts on boat buying. In our sample scenario we have already performed a personal inspection on that potential next boat. We have decided that it meets our needs and we are ready to move forward.

The next step in the process will be to discuss price and make a formal offer to purchase. If a broker is involved they will lead you through these next steps but if this is private sale you are pretty much on your own. In that vein there are a number of items that should be considered. I`ll list a few here.

1-Make the offer conditional on survey. You are going to have the vessel surveyed, right? I’ve talked about this before and each year I get involved in a number of deals where a boat was purchased without survey and after the sale the first thing that occurs is that the insurance company requests that the boat be surveyed. During the survey if a major issue is uncovered it is in most cases the buyer that is on the hook for an expensive repair.

2- Make the offer conditional on financing. If this is going to be a factor get it in black and white as part of the offer.

3-Make sure that storage, launch and transport fees are spelled out as to who pays for what.

4-The boat may need to be hauled and the bottom washed for the survey so make sure that is covered as well.

Now we get to the point where to offer has been accepted and now it time for the survey and the next step is to find and hire a competent surveyor. This may prove to be more difficult that you might think. Here’s why.

In most countries marine surveying is an unregulated profession and as a result marine surveyors come in all shapes, sizes and in varying degrees of knowledge and expertise. So how do you find a good one? Here are a few tips.

1-Look for surveyor with recognised credentials or accreditations. There are many supposed certifications out there but in my opinion (and the opinion of many insurance companies) there are only two. The Society of Accredited marine Surveyors ® (SAMS®) and The National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS Global). Also look for a surveyor that is a member of, or better yet standards certified by the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC). This important because the ABYC have re-searched and written almost all of the marine construction and safety standards currently in use today. Boat manufacturers, Transport Canada and the United States Coast Guard listen to these people and any surveyor worth his or her salt needs to be current on all of this. ABYC affiliation is the only way.

2-Ask to see a sample of their work. Examine it and decide if it will provide all of the information that you will require.

3-Compare pricing. Surveyors of quality and integrity will show similar pricing. Any significantly lower or higher should be held in question. Cheaper is not always better.

4-Last but not least consult your insurance company about the surveyor that you plan to hire. If they won’t accept the surveyor’s work there’s not much point now is there?

I can’t stress enough how important this aspect of the process is. I come across survey reports every year that are an absolute joke. Chances are that by now this endeavour is getting expensive and this is not the time to cheap out on a surveyor with inferior skills and expertise.

Here’s a point to keep in mind if this all takes place during the winter months.

When ambient temperatures are below freezing any moisture contained in fiberglass structures, such as boat hulls and decks freezes as well. During the freezing process crystallization of the substance will occur. This adds small air pockets which make electronic moisture detection virtually impossible. Also because the substance is frozen it becomes very hard rendering percussive sounding tests useless as well. It is for these reasons that I do not recommend the surveying of fiberglass boats when the ambient temperatures are below freezing.

Next time we’ll take a look at the survey report and what it should include.

Boat Buying Part 4

Lets continue our discussion of your first inspection of that potential new boat. We have already discussed a few items to look at on the deck how to spot potential problem areas. Next we are going to discuss going below and a few things to look at there.

As you go below and get your first glimpse of the cabin look around but also be aware of any noticeable odors. Mold and mildew may be apparent and smell is probably your first, best indicator. If present the source will need to be located and your surveyor may be able to assist. Remember this can be a serious health hazard and should be addressed. Dirty wet bilges are the most likely cause.

While we’re on the subject of odors also make note of anything that may be identified as possible black water / holding tank smells. These can be really pungent and can indicate leaks and possible deterioration of hoses.

Inspect the interior woodwork and joinery for visual condition and finish. Black spots on the surfaces usually indicate moisture intrusion and if left unaddressed it can lead to deterioration of the substrate material and sometimes expensive structural repairs. A good place to look for water marks is below all the ports, skylights and windows. Fresh water stains are usually easy to spot. Walk the wooden sole panels and note any soft spots. Open and close all doors, hatches and drawers. Note the function and fit. On a side note if your inspection takes place in the colder months wooden components have a tendency to swell somewhat and this can affect functionality as well so be sure to take this into consideration on your inspection.

Note the smell and condition of upholstery. Are there stains that a thorough cleaning may not address.

Take a look at all installed fixtures, such as toilets, facets and sinks. Note any staining and since these components also deal with water, mold and mildew may be apparent here as well.

Inspect the electrical panels both AC and DC. Do they look fairly original or are there any apparent add ons or accessories. This could be an indicator of potential bad wiring practices that may need to be corrected or replaced. Your surveyor will be able to assist in identifying these.

Open the engine compartment and give it a good visual inspection. Look for external fluid leaks on any of the components. Lines, hoses and cables should be neat and secure. Is the area in clean order or does it look like it has been neglected. This can be a good overall indicator of how the vessel has been maintained. Inspect the batteries. They should be clean, secure and all wiring should be neat and tidy.

As I have said before, as you go through your initial inspection make notes and take pictures. Load them up on your computer and look them all over again later away from the boat. On most of my vessel surveys I probably take 50-60 pictures and may only use 12 or so in the actual report but the rest are available to me for reference if I need them. You should do the same. Now your initial inspection is complete. And at this point you have to make a decision to make. Is this the boat for me or do we need to move on and see others. If you decide that you wish to proceed the next step will be to make an offer and negotiate the price with the broker. Always make the offer conditional on survey that way if your surveyor uncovers anything that may be considered a deal breaker you still have an out.

Next time we`ll talk about finding a competent surveyor, the survey report and process.

A Few Words on Carbon Monoxide from Boat Exhausts

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless gas that is a combustion by-product of both gas and diesel engines. When inhaled by the human body it is dangerous because it interferes with the blood system and the brain. In small doses it may only result in temporary illness but in larger doses it can progress to brain damage with possible internal hemorrhaging and even death. The first symptom of CO poisoning is drowsiness and sometimes nausea, the later of which is most often associated with diesel produced CO.

CO by itself is odorless, but you can always be sure that it is present by the smell of engine exhaust. In fact this is the best way to detect CO but over a period of time people can become intolerant to the smell and cease noticing it. CO is heavier than air and will tend to collect in lower areas of the hull especially cabin spaces and sleeping quarters.

The most common method by which CO accumulates in cabin spaces is via leaking engine and generator exhaust systems. All exhaust systems need to be inspected frequently. Like on your car, they don’t last forever and require maintenance. All inboard engines both gas and diesel have water cooled exhaust systems. Any time the exhaust system shows evidence of a water leak, there is a serious potential for a CO leak therefore if it’s leaking water, it’s probably leaking CO.

Boats are also somewhat prone to what is known as the “station wagon effect”. When the vessel is moving under engine power a vacuum is created behind the boat, which can actually draw the fumes on board and into the cabin. This can occur at speeds as low as four or five knots. Even though this can’t always be prevented ensuring that all windows and hatches are open keeping the cabin well ventilated is the best insurance. Also sometimes a slight course change which can alter the wind direction can help as well.

The amount of CO produced by a diesel engine is less than half that of a gasoline engine but it is still dangerous.  With diesel you are also being subjected to poisonous sulfur dioxide which is considerably less deadly, but it has a tendency to make you feel sicker. In rough water, it can increase the effects of, and often cause sea sickness. Long term exposure to diesel exhaust can do the same thing as short term exposure to gas exhaust. In either case, the condition has to be eliminated.

The installation of CO alarms in cabins is a good idea and they do work but like anything else they need to be maintained and kept in good order to be effective. Most surveyors that I know recommend their installation as part of a survey report and in reality it is just good common sense. They have become pretty much commonplace in our homes so why not out boats. The largest problem with alarms is that they are very sensitive to contaminants and when they do become contaminated they usually sound and then are disconnected and rendered inoperative.

The good news is that by simply being alert to the potential of the risk you can reduce the odds of this happening to you to nearly zero.

 

Reprinted From “The Seaworthy Surveyor” Ontario Sailor Magazine

Original Article By David Sandford AMS®

Electroshock Drowning – Prevention

Electroshock Drowning, Prevention. A few days ago I received and enquiry on my Facebook page (thanks Brian) asking about the possibility of testing for stray electrical current leakage in the water at marinas. To that end I thought that I’d talk that very subject in this post.  To make a long story relatively short it is possible to test for this but to do so requires specialized equipment. You basically need a Digital Multi Meter which is very sensitive on the low side of AC amps scale and it needs to be equipped with precious metal test leads.

Unfortunately these test results are  only good at the time of the test. In other words you could be ok  today and not tomorrow Unless you are testing every day or so which is probably not going to happen.

In my opinion,  prevention is  much better and a more practical solution to the problem than trying to continually monitor for any stray current leakage. The good news is that it’s not difficult to do just that. There is a devise on the market which is easily retrofitted to just about any boat’s on board  shore power AC electrical system. It’s called an Electrical Leakage Circuit Interrupter or  ELCI . It’s simply a high capacity Ground Fault Interrupter (GFCI) which breaks the circuit if it senses stray current leakage to ground or in our case into the water. You all know what a GFCI is. It’s that AC plug installed in our kitchens and bathrooms in our home that have the little red and black push buttons in the center. If the red button pops you simply press the black button to reset the devise. If it continually trips then you obviously have a problem which needs to be corrected.

To understand how these devises function we need to go back to our basic electrical theory which states that on a properly functioning AC (alternating current) circuit there should be equal current flow on both the hot (black) and the neutral (white) wires. Any current leakage on the circuit, however small will cause an imbalance in this current flow and the ELCI will automatically open and break the circuit.

The main difference between the ELCI and the GFCI are the current levels at which they trip at. The GFCI trips at 5 milliamps which is really too low for to be any use to us and  the ELCI trips at 30 milliamps. Enough to serve our purposes but not enough to be harmful. (Remember .6 amps AC = heart failure). The reason  that GFCI’s are ineffective for this is that all boats plugged into shore power on any one dock are electrically connected through the shore power grounding circuits and properly functioning boats will usually leak small amounts of current into the water, even under normal conditions. In most cases these current levels are too small to be of any concern. The problem is that they are cumulative (they add up) and can increase to levels, that while are still not dangerous can cause nuisance tripping of the GFCI’s and be a real pain.  This is also why, in North America AC power services at the docks rarely have GFCI’s installed. I understand that in other parts of the world GFCI’s are sometimes utilized on docks.

Ok back to the ELCI. Installation is relatively simple. In many cases the main 2 pole circuit breaker at the AC main panel can simply be replaced with one that incorporates the ELCI into it. Otherwise they can be installed as a stand-alone in the main AC feed circuit between the vessel shore power receptacle  and the 2 pole main circuit breaker at the on board  AC panel. They also are not costly, average  about $2-300 USD. Additional  information on the ELCI can be found at www.bluesea.com

In addition to the installation of the ELCI it is recommended that the on AC and DC grounding circuits be connected aboard the boat. This is easily done right at the panel.

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