"Mid Size Power Boats": A Guide for Discreminating Buyers - by David Pascoe


Baha 260 Targa

Baha 260 Targa

By now you've probably noticed that this site talks a lot about entry level boats and the effects of low quality on your investment in a new boat. Since we don't do a lot of surveys on small boats, until recently we didn't have any particularly good graphic examples to show you.

Well, now we do. This is a three year old boat, originally costing around $26,000 new, and which is now worth almost nothing. After only three years. In fact, even back in the days of plywood boats, we have never seen a boat deteriorate so rapidly as this one has. This review is for all those of you who to write us, essentially saying that you can't afford to buy a better quality boat, so therefore wouldn't you be justified in purchasing one of those "affordables?"

This is our graphical and textural answer to those questions, a good example of what you get with an "affordable."To be fair, this boat had been repossessed by the lender, and it had been left uncovered, exposed to the weather for an unknown period of time. But there is nothing unusual about that; millions of boats get the same kind of treatment but don't suffer the amazing degree of degradation that this one has. Nor had this boat been abused, for there was hardly a scratch on it. It had 66 hours registered on the hour meter.

Let's start with the word "upholstery." We've used the analogy   before of the 1972 Cadillac convertible sitting outside with the top down for a year. You know what the car would look like under this condition, right?  So why expect it to be any different with an upholstered boat? Yet people do expect boats to be different than a car or their living room furniture, for reasons we find incomprehensible. You must keep the boat covered up, you say?  Get serious. Take a look around and see how many owners bother to take the time to put the covers on. Probably about 1 in 10. The rest sit outside uncovered.

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Notice that the cockpit does not have a full fiberglass liner. Only the center section is glass while the carpeted sections around the border are plywood.

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Aside from the fact that the upholstery turned black with mold (no, it doesn't wash off), the plywood to which all that nice upholstery is attached is completely wasted away.

But these are "fiberglass" boats, right?  Wrong. These are fiberglass shells with a lot of wood and other highly perishable materials in them. Plywood, carpet, vinyl, foam rubber, fabrics, injection molded plastics, steel, zinc alloy fittings -- all stuff that deteriorates rapidly. The entire interior from the helm on aft is made up of both vinyl and carpeting stapled onto plywood. Yeah, stapled.  The vinyl is foam rubber backed, and in case you haven't thought of it, foam rubber is same material used for synthetic sponges. Now figure what happens when you tack this stuff on to what has to one of the cheapest grade plwyoods we've ever seen. The same goes for carpeting: it absorbs water and stays wet for days on end before it drys out.

As the photos show, in less than three years time, the interior of this boat is completely falling apart. Under the seats and in the engine compartment we found mushrooms and toadstools growing everywhere. Plus some of those really cool orange and yellow fungi that look like good candidates for one of Sadam's biological laboratories.   The cheap grade vinyl on the upholstered engine hatch cover was literally falling to pieces. Never have we seen vinyl degrade as rapidly as this before. And the plywood base and framework for the hatch cover? It was rotted to the point where it was crumbling, as were the cockpit decorative side panels, rear seat framework and the paneling and partitioning in the engine compartment.

Plastics are an organic-based material and for that reason can be attacked and serious damaged or destroyed by fungi like mildew.  Better grade vinyls have both UV and fungicidal ingredients added to them to help them weather better. As can be seen from these pictures, the vinyls used on this boat have been destroyed by mildew. But there would be no help for it even if it weren't since it is foam rubber backed and attached to plywood that has no rot resistance at all. Foam rubber! Gotta wonder how much more this boat weights now than when it was new. Each seat cushion now weights about 50 lbs. Stand it on end and watch the water pour out.

Now, about plywoods. We've done some of our own testing of plywood by placing test samples in various environments to see how they hold up over time. We've tested every type from the supposed best to some of the worst, including some of that horrible stuff found in discount stores that is so cheap that it just looks bad. In fact, we've got pieces of this stuff half-burried in a mulch pile, stuck in the ground, laying in water,  hanging from trees and laying under the eaves of the roof where water pours down on it all the time. We've even got crapola stuff from Home Depot that's 5 years old that hasn't done what this gargage has done. We never have we seen anything rot like the stuff in this boat.

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Never mind  that the engine hatch cover has completely self-destructed, its the fact that there are no gutters and it pours water on top of the engine that really gets our attention.

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This view shows the rotting stringers with incomplete figerglassing and the nails sticking out (red arrow). Also notice the rot on the plywood deck and the boxed plywood structure above.<

The cockpit deck is partly fiberglass and partly carpet over plywood, yet oddly enough it was the fiberglass section of the deck in the center of the cockpit which was found to be completely unsupported and sagging badly. The same goes for the fore deck which, when we walked on it, would sag as much as two inches. Looking on the underside of this large expanse of deck, we found no frames whatever.  Frames? Who needs frames in a deck? So what if the deck is so weak that the hatch frame breaks loose and pours so much water into the cabin that it was a literal greenhouse inside with mushrooms growing out of the sides of the seats or berths. One doesn't have to go to the store for mushrooms; they grow on your boat. The water stains on all those delicate fabrics inside were really cool, sort of like custom tie-dye or something. It wan't intended but if you like the pshychidelic look . . . . this one's got it. Maybe those are magic mushrooms! Tim O'Leary would love it!

How about the hull construction? Well, about the only places where the interior was visible, in the engine compartment, it was observed that the wood stringers have a single layer of roving over them which was incomplete in several locations, leaving the wood stringers exposed to the water running off the plywood deck. And, you guessed it: the stringers are rotting. Even more incredible, we found NAILS sticking out of the sides of the stringers. Not the head end of the nail but the pointy end. Neat. So these structural components were just knocked together with nails, and they couldn't even do as good a job as a rough carpenter. Got to have 2" of nail sticking out the sides. Well, at least the nails are galvanized.

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In this shot you can partake of the engine hatch cover in closed position collapsing into the engine compartment, and marvel at the artistry of the customized upholstery by Jackson Pollack. Or are they the nifty smears of Jasper Johns?

The hull and deck molding is not particularly good, but this may be due to "hot-curing," which is a common tactic for turning high production boats out of molds as quickly as possible.  It involves adding more catalyst to the resin so it cures fast.  The only problem is, being a thermoplastic, the cure can really get hot, and when this happens the laminate suffers from heat distortion, among other things. There was evidence of this all over the hull. In fact, we found several instances of buckled laminate on the interior of the hull.

Going back to the engine hatch cover, we were particularly amused that it didn't have any gutter around the hatch opening. This allows water to run into the engine compartment, onto the engine and all other sensitive electrical components. The alternator and power steering pumps were rusted and frozen up.  Even the batteries were shorted out because they are located right under the drip pattern of the hatch seam. Not in covered boxes like they should be. And how about a carpeted engine compartment? Cool again, but how you gonna clean that stuff? Plus we like the fact that they bolted stuff to the transom, like the pad eyes, with the nuts and washers OVER the carpet that is glued to the transom. Is this a boat or a Winnebago?

Next we have an aluminum fuel tank sitting on a plywood deck deep in the bilge. What's wrong with that is that the wet plywood cause accelerated corrosion to the bottom of the tank. So will the fact that we found that the tank was set onto a stainless steel screw that could be seen sticking out the bottom. We've seen this burn holes in the bottom of more than one fuel tank just by the tank sitting on top of screw heads.

As usual, the boat has push-button circuit breakers on the helm, along with rocker switches exposed to water and is sure to lead to a electrical problems. Then there was the dime-store sized bilge pump -- about 4" high and 2" in diameter, discharging water through an outlet only about 6" above the water line with no riser loop. Dock the boat in a place where small waves are lapping against the hull side and this one's going to go down. And it has a 7.4 litre V-8 engine for which the starter motor cables are attached to the battery with wing nuts. Ah, well. It keeps the battery sellers happy.

We could go on and on with our critique of this boat, but by now you should get the picture. Boats are vessels that operate in one of the most hostile environments in the world. To be able to withstand the environment, they need to be built with high quality and costly materials. Moreover, boats are not automobiles, yet when boat builders emulate the auto industry, this is what happens. Unfortunately, an ignorant and gullible public, badly lacking in knowledge of all things marine, all too often ends up purchasing products like this.

Irony of ironies:  Sitting right next to this boat was a 27 year old Bertram 25 (its the one with the tower seen in the top photo) looking for all the world like a new boat compared to this thing. And that Bertram 25 is not a particularly well-built boat.

So who do we blame?  Do we blame builders who take advantage of the public's ignorance by foisting products like this on them? Or should we point the finger at people who buy products about which they have no knowledge?  Many say that we should have some government agency to protect them from this sort of thing. To which we answer, sure, just like they protect us from bubble cars with wedge-shaped front ends that run under the back ends of trucks and cut the driver's heads off. And then they want to raise the insurance rates for sport utility vehicles because bubble cars are unsafe.

People who like to fly airplanes wouldn't dream of flying without a thorough knowledge of their aircraft, and it should be no different for boaters. No, the best protection a boater can get is not to buy something he knows nothing about. In both instances, when something goes wrong with the craft, you can't just get out and walk home. Even less so for your children. Think about that when you consider buying a bargain boat.

Good quality boats are expensive, so that if you can't afford a quality boat, perhaps you shouldn't buy one. Or, if you must, be prepared for the consequences . . . . 26 G's down the drain in less than three years. With stuff like this, your credit rating can really take a beating.

Rating: Zero. But this is not as bad as it gets. We've seen even worse.
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David Pascoe Power Boat Books

Buyers' Guide to Outboard Boats Surveying Fiberglass Power Boats (2E)

David Pascoe - Biography

David Pascoe is a second generation marine surveyor in his family who began his surveying career at age 16 as an apprentice in 1965 as the era of wooden boats was drawing to a close.

Certified by the National Association of Marine Surveyors in 1972, he has conducted over 5,000 pre purchase surveys in addition to having conducted hundreds of boating accident investigations, including fires, sinkings, hull failures and machinery failure analysis.

Over forty years of knowledge and experience are brought to bear in following books. David Pascoe is the author of:

In addition to readers in the United States, boaters and boat industry professionals worldwide from over 70 countries have purchased David Pascoe's books, since introduction of his first book in 2001.

In 2012, David Pascoe has retired from marine surveying business at age 65.

Biography - Long version

Articles at
docksidereports.com

 

David Pascoe's
Power Boat Books

Mid Size Power Boats Mid Size Power Boats
A Guide for Discriminating Buyers
Focuses exclusively cruiser class generally 30-55 feet
With discussions on the pros and cons of each type: Expresses, trawlers, motor yachts, multi purpose types, sportfishermen and sedan cruisers.
Buyers' Guide to Outboard Boats
Selecting and Evaluating New and Used Boats
Dedicated for offshore outboard boats
A hard and realistic look at the marine market place and delves into issues of boat quality and durability that most other marine writers are unwilling to touch.
Surveying Fiberglass Powewr Boats
Surveying Fiberglass Power Boats
2nd Edition
The Art of Pre-Purchase Survey The very first of its kind, this book provides the essentials that every novice needs to know, as well as a wealth of esoteric details.
Marine Investigations
Pleasure crafts investigations to court testimony The first and only book of its kind on the subject of investigating pleasure craft casualties and other issues.
Readers
Worldwide
Over 70 countries
Countries List
Links to Each Chapter Contents with Excerpt at:
David Pascoe Power Boat Books davidpascoe.com

 

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