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Freedom 36 Balsa Cored Hull

14381 Views 8 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Rustyf
I have searched the archives of cored hulls on this site where there is a wealth of good information. On my short list of boats for the PNW is a used Freedom 36 which I believe has a balsa cored hull. There are those that say they would never buy a boat with a balsa cored hull (BCH) while others say that if the BCH was done right with for example all through points glassed in and the boat was well taken care of there should be not issues. Any thoughts on this.

Also can a good surveyor with a moisture meter and other techniques effectively rule out moisture in the hull?
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... the boat was well taken care of there should be not issues. Any thoughts on this.

Also can a good surveyor with a moisture meter and other techniques effectively rule out moisture in the hull?
I guess the naysayer on this subject is David Pascoe, you can see what he has to say at Boat Hulls - Cores and Structural Issues: Online Articles by David Pascoe, Marine Surveyor and he answers your specific survey question with his opinions in Cored Hull Bottoms
The major problems with cored hull is the penetrations required for thru-hull. Freedom yachts are not fully cored hulls, there is about 12" either side of the keel which is solid. Most factory thru-hulls are located within this zone. The problem is with aftermarket thru-hull that are drilled outside this area and are not sealed properly before fitting the thru-hull. If the boat is fitted with air-conditioning, check carefully or get a sureveyor that knows how to use a moisture meter.
Rusty...I believe those freedom hulls were made by Pearson which was a early and quality minded user of balsa coring. (Someone correct me if I am wrong about Pearson building these.) While poor construction techniques and materials CAN be a huge probem...CardiacPaul (a surveyor here) is a big fan of Pearson's construction and quality in such hulls.
Of course and through hulls or laminate breakdowns post factory may result in problems so it is particularly worthwhile to pay careful attention to the bottom and all through hull surroundings during survey.
The Freedoms have a good reputation and I have not heard of any generic hull issues.

I would not buy a hull cored below the waterline myself for cruising beyond the availability of well equipped repair facilities since if a problem does arise...repairs are difficult and expensive and may be need with any breech of the outer laminate. On the other hand...PNW cruising on a well cared for boat would not concern me at all.
Some of the Freedoms were built by TPI (what Cam is calling Pearson), and some were built by Freedom at their own plant. It depends on the year of the boat. The earlier boats were built at TPI, and the latter at Freedom. I can't remember when the move was made. Regardless, I am unaware of any systemic problem with any model. Freedoms were well-built boats, and the potential for problems with cored hulls were known when these boats were built, and they were built with minimizing the potential for such problems. I know personally the plant manager who built the large majority of the Freedoms (Paul Dennis), and he is a remarkable craftsman who takes quality very VERY seriously.

Pay particular attention to the below-the-waterline through hulls and areas around them. If the moisture meter spikes in those areas as compared with others, then there MIGHT be a problem. I stress "might" because moisture meters are notoriously troublesome in terms of getting accurate readings. They are most useful for comparing one area of the boat to another, not absolutes. If the surveyor tells you that the hull or deck is "wet" because his moisture meter hit a certain number, be skeptical. If he tells you he suspects an area is wet because it read higher than some other area on the hull, that's something I would consider more seriously. But even that is not necessarily a deal killer. It depends on how far the penetration goes. It is an eminently repairable situation frankly, assuming the moisture did not migrate too far (and Freedoms were cored in "patches" to limit the extent of water migration in the event water did get into the coring somewhere). Depending on the year of your boat, etc., it may very well be that Freedom pre-routed out the hull around all through hulls, so it shouldn't be an issue (this was done on most boats, but not on some of the earlier ones). I know about this pretty first hand, as we had hull number 2 of the Freedom 45, and we pulled our through hulls, had the coring routed out and backfilled with epoxy. It wasn't the cheapest repair ever done, but it was far from the most expensive either.

I think these are great boats, and it was with a heavy heart that we sold ours and moved on to something else. I'll tell you, there are days when I question the wisdom of our move, not because we don't like our new boat, because so far we love her, but just because I really loved that Freedom.

In terms of your question about surveyors, I sort of addressed this above already. The short of it is yes, surveyors can do a pretty good job of detecting hull moisture in cored hulls. Be sure the surveyor sounds the hull, and doesn't rely only on a moisture meter (I'm very skeptical of those things). Also, I would be sure to find a surveyor who has a lot of experience with cored hulls. Others will tell you that any surveyor will do because just about every boat has a cored deck, so all surveyors are used to looking for wet coring. There is some truth to this, but hulls are a little bit different, just by their nature, and there are few boats that have cored hulls, so in my opinion it's best to find a person with experience evaluating those.

If you have specific questions about the boat you are looking at, give some thought to contacting Paul Dennis. He now has his own small yard in Warren, Rhode Island, and he specializes in (surprise, surprise) Freedoms. His yard is called Warren River Boatworks. If you call him, tell him I referred you.

Hope this helps.
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Thanks for the clarification on the dual builders Dan.
Nobody mentioned benefits of cored hull, and there are quite a few.
Cored hulls are very stiff and well insulated. Everybody sailing on my boat mention how quiet she is. There is no squeaking and flexing typical for modern mass production boats. The boat feels very solid. There are no twisting loads from a rig too. Boat feels like old Cadillac, it is just soft rising and falling…

I have looked at many seedy old Freedoms while searching for my boat. I was hunting for bargain and I finally got a boat with extensive core problem on a cabin top. However I got my boat for 10 grand less than peers and all structural repair cost me $500 on materials and two weeks of my labor. Painting job is still pending.

While breaking into laminate, I amazed how solidly the boat was built. Even with rotted core it was solid. Other guys told me that outer skin was thicker than single skin of modern boats.

As r.furborough mentioned already, there is a possibility of thruhulls which are not sealed properly. It seem like they appear at some custom locations. Also I noticed on two old F32 that aft cabin's ports were not sealed properly with damaged core as a result. At same time, cabin's ports were done properly on same boats. So. I guess, when fiberglass job done while hull in a mold, it is done properly. There is a chance of lousy job by manufacturer at any additional fittings, with hull out of mold. I guess.

There are many additional info can be found on forums, dedicated to Freedom Yachts.

There is Yahoo group for Freedom owners
And relatively new forum • Index page

Proud and happy owner of 1980 Freedom 28 Cat Ketch
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Nobody mentioned benefits of cored hull, and there are quite a few.
You are very right about this in my opinion. I believe that cored hulls are superior in all respects, save one. And that "one" has to do with damage and cost to repair if moisture gets into the coring. I guess there is one other negative, which is cost. Cored hulls are much more expensive to produce.

But in terms of performance, they are lighter, stronger, better sound insulation, better temperature insulation, no condensation so less chance of mold, etc.

A guy at my yard said that cored hulls are the very best way to go, while at the same time being the most scary way to go. I thought that summed up the situation perfectly.
Thanks again everyone for turning my initial question into a first rate thread.
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