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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
For a long time I have been a proponent of boat owners, especially those in the buying process, owning moisture meters. It's been a few years but I finally got around to doing an article on DIY use of a moisture meter.

Moisture meters can be had for well under $200.00 and will pay for themselves ten fold over your boating life. In fact they are free usually after the first use.

Please don't buy the hype and scare tactics used by "surveyors" about how "difficult" using a moisture meter is. It is fairly straight forward and easy for how and why you would want to use one. By owning a meter you are NOT circumventing the need for a real survey but you can use one to "rule out" certain boats or to create a map of the moisture in your current boat and monitor it's worsening or stability or to effect repairs in moist areas.


I know sailors are an overly "cheap" lot of folks but moisture meters, like almost any tool used by a DIY, are FREE! Think about this:

You bring your wife to look at a boat and she and you fall in love. The boat looks good and it has been cosmetically maintained and has new sails and low engine hours. You make an offer subject to survey. On the day of survey you find serious deck core rot and delamination in some critical areas and decide NOT to move forward with the deal.

At the end of the day you still cut a check to the surveyor for $500.00+ dollars and have nothing ot show for it but an empty wallet!!!!:(:(

If you owned your own meter you would have saved $300.00+ dollars, a day of your time, plus had a meeter to show for it that you can use on the next "specimen" in your search!

Feel free to read the article. The basic understanding needed to rule out "basket cases" or "money pits" is easy stuff!

P.S. I have zero affiliation to Electrophysics but do find the CT-33 to be the current best value in a DIY moisture meter. I used to own a J.R. Overseas GRP-33 but after I dropped it off a boat onto a tar parking lot I replaced it with the very similar CT-33. The GRP-33 had paid for it's self about 30-40 times over by the time I stupidly dropped it by not zipping my pocket!

Understanding The Moisture Meter / Electrophysics CT-33 (LINK)
 

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Halek... Maine Sail,
Thank you for the great article. I just ordered a moisture meter now that you've educated us.
 

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Nice post, but.....

Hello,

Very nice post. And I think I will buy a meter for use on my own boat. I think it will be very handy to know when and where I need to take action.

Anyway, it's one thing to know (or think you know) there is some moisture in the deck (or hatch or ...), it's an entirely different thing to know if it's important, EXTREMELY important, or just something to be aware of. IMHO, that is what the surveyor is supposed to do.

As you wrote, using the meter is not just a simple matter of seeing 'Oh, the deck is wet in this sport, better pass on this boat.' because you may be passing up a perfectly good boat that just needs a simple repair. I know that I am not qualified to know what is simple and what is complicated. I want to pay a professional for that knowledge.

True, if you find a boat that looks good, and your meter shows wet everywhere, you will have saved the cost of the survey. BUT, in the hands of a novice, I think the meter is just as likely to cause someone to reject a boat that is probably pretty good.

I guess if you plan on buying a boat every 10 or so years, and don't want to learn a lot about boat buying, you are better off just hiring a surveyor. If you plan on buying lots of boats, or are interested in a make that is prone to core damage (certain C&C models) you might want to invest in a moisture meter, and to learn how to interpret the readings, and what to do with high reading values.

Thanks again,
Barry
 

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We had our boat surveyed with a moisture meter and the guy found "significant" moisture in the rudder. Interestingly, the rudder was solid fiberglass and it was impossible for it to be saturated. He then noted that bottom paint can give a moisture meter a false positive for moisture. Of course, he also said that the 25-year old cutless bearing was in good shape, too!!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
We had our boat surveyed with a moisture meter and the guy found "significant" moisture in the rudder. Interestingly, the rudder was solid fiberglass and it was impossible for it to be saturated. He then noted that bottom paint can give a moisture meter a false positive for moisture. Of course, he also said that the 25-year old cutless bearing was in good shape, too!!

How did you confirm the rudder was solid glass? If I'm not mistaken you sail a Westsail 28? I have seen the insides of a couple of Westsail rudders and they were both foam cored. Both had split from absorbing water and then freezing. The yard removed the skins and re-built these rudders.
 

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Now you tell me!

Kidding on that. Great information. We bought a 77 Morgan a year ago and did so w/o a moisture meter. Now that I've read this I can't believe the surveyor didn't use one. I think he was good and used a mallet for sounding but the meter is obviously superior. I am curious about the picture that showed a high reading near a waste water cover. Would the closenes affect the reading? Thanks again though!
 

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That probably means the deck fill was installed without removing the core or potting the fastener holes properly...so that water is entering the deck at that location.
Kidding on that. Great information. We bought a 77 Morgan a year ago and did so w/o a moisture meter. Now that I've read this I can't believe the surveyor didn't use one. I think he was good and used a mallet for sounding but the meter is obviously superior. I am curious about the picture that showed a high reading near a waste water cover. Would the closenes affect the reading? Thanks again though!
 

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Any surveyor that needs a moisture metter to find "wet, rotten" core is not worth his salt whether it be in the hull or deck Percussive soundings of a couple of thousand boats has proven more accurate for me.

The comment about certain bottom paints affecting the meter readings is correct. Moisture meters do not measure moisture !
The GRP33 is a capacitance meter that measures the capacitance (measured in farads) of the substrate with the theory being that a higher moisture content will have higher capacitance. As they measure capacitance rather than moisture many things will affect their readings such as conuctors or metal tanks in contact with the area being measured, certain gelcoats containing titanium dioxide, copper oxide, carbon and several other compounds with high capacitance (the same reason some bottom paints cause high readings.

These meters are a guide only ,they will show the casual user that some areas have higher capacitance than others..... but what does that mean and is it worth the $200.00 for the meter.
These meters can be of some use to the casual user but to stick one on a surface and say "thats wet" is only about ten percent of what you need to know.

I keep an eye on this forum but rarely post so I don't think I can show a link but I do have an article on my website entitled "Moisture Meter Myths" that goes into some detail on the strengths and weakness's of these meters.
If you put "Port Credit Marine Surveys" into one word and then add dot com that should get you there.

"Dirt People Scare Me"
 

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How did you confirm the rudder was solid glass? If I'm not mistaken you sail a Westsail 28? I have seen the insides of a couple of Westsail rudders and they were both foam cored. Both had split from absorbing water and then freezing. The yard removed the skins and re-built these rudders.
Actually we have a Liberty 28 Cutter that is very similar shape-wise to a Westsail 28 but without all of the associated problems. The Liberty boys figured out the problems Westsail had with soggy rudders, wet decks, etc. and fixed the issues (I think that's called "back-engineering"), anyways the boat specs say that the rudder is solid. My main comment is concerning surveyors who, rightly or wrongly, I have near universal disdain. Just my opinion and I could be wrong.;)
 

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Boatpoker-

Just would mention that as a marine industry professional, you need to read the full disclosure post.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Boatpoker-

Just would mention that as a marine industry professional, you need to read the full disclosure post.
He made good points right up to the scare tactics and the 10% of what you need to know comment.

These meters can be of some use to the casual user but to stick one on a surface and say "thats wet" is only about ten percent of what you need to know.
Surveyors like to protect their trade, when they don't actually need to in most instances, due to the vast majority of insurance companies requiring NAMS or SAMS accredited surveyors for insurance coverage. In doing so they often try to portray the moisture meter as a mysterious unreliable beast, which in certain instances it can be, but they usually take the scare tactics over the line.

I wonder how much boatpoker would continue to charge a client after the third or fourth failed survey due to something as simple as wet decks? Would he be willing to come out and just do hull and deck first at a reduced rate?

Having done many deck repairs/re-cores I can assure you that the meter is usually fairly close and very close when combined with spot soundings. When it's pegged you'll likely have "compost" as he refers to balsa as. I've yet to drill into a "pegged" reading and find dry balsa.

Like he said the meter is only part of it and this is why I suggested a full survey, in my original post, and to only use these meters to monitor your own boat or to rule out basket cases when shopping.

Of course boat poker would like to get his hands on your money for each and every boat, fail or pass, when you can easily rule in/out many without a surveyor. Once you've found a candidate boat BRING IN A SURVEYOR!

P.S. Electrophysics, the makers of the GRP-33 & the CT-33, seem to think my article is fairly thorough and concise and have chosen to direct link to it from their web site..
 

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As I said in my Boat Inspection Trip Tips thread... The use of the trip and the use a moisture meter are only to determine if the boat is worthy of spending the money to survey.... They aren't designed to replace a professional survey...just help people figure out which are lemons and which are worth looking at further. If the advice Maine Sail and I gave prevents one unnecessary survey for everyone looking to buy a boat, that's some serious boat bucks saved. :)
 

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No scare tactics intended and yes the meters are pretty accurate in finding wet balsa but I have never found wet balsa with a meter that I did not already find with my brass hammer. My major concern with the inexperienced use of meters is when they are used on non-cored substrates and often touted as "osmosis" predictors ..... another myth.

My personal business practices are to provide as much information to a buyer pre-survey to help prevent him paying for multiple surveys. I never accept a survey without advising my clients to first read all the tips on my web site which include much information on this and many other boat buying tips.

Sailing Dog, I appreciate your comment about disclosure but as I have nothing to gain from this I did'nt think it necessary as these posts all seem to be from the US and I am in Canada. If this contravenes the rules of this forum please accept my apologies.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
No scare tactics intended and yes the meters are pretty accurate in finding wet balsa but I have never found wet balsa with a meter that I did not already find with my brass hammer.
Me too! Why do you choose brass over phenolic oher than better sound returns? I have seen surveyors do a number on a painted deck with a metal sounding hammer..? I generally use metal bellow the waterline and phenolic on finish painted surfaces


My major concern with the inexperienced use of meters is when they are used on non-cored substrates and often touted as "osmosis" predictors ..... another myth.
Again I agree 100% but this post was not about ruling out boat due to bellow waterline blisters and was more directed at, bulkhead moisture and deck moisture.

My personal business practices are to provide as much information to a buyer pre-survey to help prevent him paying for multiple surveys. I never accept a survey without advising my clients to first read all the tips on my web site which include much information on this and many other boat buying tips.
I understand your position but reading your site still does not prevent a potential buyer from paying for a survey on a boat that fails due to deck moisture of which sever moisture can be easily identified and ruled out by a potential buyer either via soundings or a meter but preferably both. I don't feel it is necessary for a boater to lay out $600.00 +/- to find out a boat is saturated when with a little common sense and about three hours of reading and some practice will get them to a competency to discern a lemon from a potential good deal..

As dog said this post is intended only to rule out certain boats and to move others to the survey level.
 

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These meters are a guide only ,they will show the casual user that some areas have higher capacitance than others..... but what does that mean and is it worth the $200.00 for the meter.
These meters can be of some use to the casual user but to stick one on a surface and say "thats wet" is only about ten percent of what you need to know.
I believe that BoatPoker left a grammatical error in the above. The question is wether a meter is worth $200. In my mind, I believe that they are.

Initially, based on readings that I had done at other sites (surveyor sites as I recall), I was skeptical about the value of a moisture meter (comparison's to a doorstop were made). When Maine Sail (formerly Halekai) suggested that I purchase one, I didn't think that I had the knowledge, or experience, to benefit from one. However, shortly after Halekai suggested the purchase of a meter, when looking at a boat, the broker showed up with a meter, and showed me how to use it. Quoting the broker; "Anything over 20% is an area of concern." I quickly decided that it would be a very useful addition to my boating gear. You can read all about my experience here - What do YOU look for.. (the meter is suggested in post #23.)

My primary area of concern for the make and model of boat that I am interested in, has been about moisture in the deck. IMHO the meter is an extremely useful tool for checking this. To date, I have used my meter on 4 boats that I was interested in, and (fortunately/unfortunately) discounted all of them for moisture or other reasons.

The link to BoatPoker's article is here. I found it interesting, and it points out some of the limitations of a moisture meter. It is a useful read.

Regarding BP's question; "what does that mean and is it worth the $200.00 for the meter?" I suggest that when first looking at a boat, more information is better than less. If you find that moisture is a common issue with a particular make and model boat, I suggest reading BP's article and understanding the limitations of the meter, and then buying a meter.

- Ed
 

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Just to point out... if the use of a $200 meter saves you from doing one $300 survey... it has paid for itself in fact.

The fact that you can also use a moisture meter diagnostically to see if you've got problems on your existing boat and can use said meter to help track down and fix those problems, preventing possible future problems and problems with selling the boat at some point in the future is a bonus.
 

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