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Old 12-06-2009
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Slight mildew: Value opportunity or deal-killer?

It's been several weeks since I last posted on our "Boat Quest 2009." Since then we have found a broker who has helped up identify what make and model boat we want, and is helping us identify our options of which boat we might actually want to buy. But there are a few questions that I wanted to pose to a broader community.

Yesterday we saw a boat the would be perfect, except the owner has neglected it for the last couple of years. It has languished on the market (almost 500 days - maybe more if he listed it with someone else first) because it is overpriced, and some things are starting to happen to really diminish its value. It's a shame for him because I suspect that no matter whether I buy it or someone else does, I suspect it will ultimately sell for less than if he had priced it right to begin with. Neglected boats always go down in value, and this boat is no exception.

As time allows I will post questions on a few of the problems that I saw. The first problem is mildew. We've seen a lot of boats with severe mildew - you get a blast of that sour odor as soon as you climb aboard. We've seen boats with mold covering all the interior brightwork, ceiling liners, everything. We've seen boats that my wife refused to even enter the cabin because the odor was so bad. This boat is not that bad - but it could be on the verge of being that bad if this owner continues to neglect it.

We got permission to board her yesterday, but brokers and owner were not available, so we were looking at it on our own. The port settee cushion was removed to make room for a charger cord and we could see water stains on the board under the cushion:



The cushion itself was moved to the starboard side of the boat, and upon close inspection (difficult because of low light conditions), we could see mildew forming:





It is so sad that this is happening to this boat. It was a very rainy day (good for detecting leaks) and I could immediately see the source of the water. There is a "rain-drain" type porthole above the cushion, and water was streaming in even though it was closed. I opened it and found a large amount of organic matter coating the gasket seal. I wiped the gasket and window with a rag and re-closed it, and the water stopped draining in. Here's a picture of the open port:




I suspect from what the broker told me that the owner has not been on this boat for over a year. Had he simply visited periodically, he would have seen this and easily fixed it before potentially destroying his interior. There was a similar problem with the aft cabin as well.

So here are my questions:
  • Can this cushion be rescued, or are we looking at costly replacement?
  • Is this mildew problem correctable, and thus a potential value opportunity in price negotiations, or is it a deal-breaker?

I should mention that my wife is extremely sensitive to mold (even though she is not allergic), and any fix that falls short of complete removal from the cushions will likely result in us needing to buy new cushions - for both settees and potentially for the aft cabin. Obviously this would be extremely costly, and would require hard bargaining for price concessions or become a deal killer.

FYI, the boat is only 12 years old and could be a really nice boat for us if we can address this issue - and a couple others that I will write about when I have time.

Last edited by TakeFive; 12-07-2009 at 09:19 AM.
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Old 12-06-2009
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That extent of mildew on cushions could show up in a 'dry' boat that has been kept unventilated and closed up for several months of damp weather. Add a steady source of moisture into the mix and things just get worse.

What you show here would not (to me) constitute a deal breaker - not sure what size/price range you're into, but I'd expect a motivated seller to be amenable to negotiating the difference in price for cushions if you feel they are beyond salvage. (again, depending... but new cushions should be do-able for $3-4K max for most boats in the mid size range.) Of course you don't seem to be dealing with a highly motivated seller at the moment.. but perhaps a serious offer would help kick some of that in.

But all in all, if you're confident the open port was the source of much of the moisture, then this boat may well be worth pursuing - using the cushion issue as a bargaining chip.
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Last edited by Faster; 12-06-2009 at 06:35 PM.
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Old 12-06-2009
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Thanks for your comments. I would also appreciate any advice from people about how to get mold/mildew out of upholstry. Bleach always works, but not an option for this colored, velour fabric. I did some google searching and saw some comments on vinegar and other things. Can anyone with experience with this suggest anything? Or should we just go to a professional cleaning service? Any suggestions of good upholstry cleaners for someone in the Philly area (or Norfolk area, since that's where the boat is right now)?

Last edited by TakeFive; 12-06-2009 at 10:28 PM.
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Old 12-07-2009
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From my experience as a house painter when I was in college, bleach bleaches mold on surfaces but doesn't kill it, ammonia kills it. I haven't tried either on cushions.
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Old 12-07-2009
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from my experience, you may be able to kill the mold (ammonia, vinegar, or commercial products), but you won't get rid of the stain -- particularly on that type of fabric. You will also need to see if the the mold has transfered to the foam underneath. As mentioned, you can kill it on the foam - and use Fabreze to counteract the smell, but a stain will remain even though the foam is covered -- or in this case ultimately recovered. Mold can easily be killed and cleaned on hard surfaces.

Good luck!
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