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Greetings,

So many times you see for sale Ads and are advertised as "never sailed in salt water" or "always sailed in fresh water"

So when buying your first boat and will most likely always sail in fresh water, what are the negatives about a vessel that has spent most of the boats life sailing in salt water? And what would be the obvious signs that the vessel has sailed in salt water?

Thanks,
 

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Old soul
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So when buying your first boat and will most likely always sail in fresh water, what are the negatives about a vessel that has spent most of the boats life sailing in salt water? And what would be the obvious signs that the vessel has sailed in salt water?
Corrosion, and likely more usage. Signs will likely be found in the electrical systems. Junctions, sockets, wire leads ... any place where moisture can get to. Metals will likely show levels of oxidation. Bronze takes on a that green patina. On the positive side, salt water is better for teak decks.

Fresh water boats here in North America will most likely be found in the Great Lakes. The vast majority of these boats will be used about four or five months per year, so their age in years may not reflect the amount of usage. On the flip side, winters can be harsh so you should check to make sure the boat has been properly stored and winterized over the years.

In general, being a "fresh water" boat is a plus, but that's only one of many factors.
 

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Sea Sprite 23 #110 (20)
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Like Mike says.. lack of use in Fresh water.. saltwater is only a real plus when dealing with wooden boats as the salt keeps the wood in better physical shape (but is still hell on varnish and paint)

If you find a really clean or pristine Salt water boat.. you can rest assured it is owned by a meticulous person who took topnotch care of it
 

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Primarily, As Mike says, the difference is simply the corrosive nature of salt water and chloride laden air in the environment that attacks metals through the electro-chemical process. The water itself becomes an electrolyte and it's also corrosive to engine parts, welds and crevices etc. It's a constant battle to inhibit this process, using anodes, coatings, materials etc. Anaerobic corrosion can occur where stainless steel, for instance, gets wet in places starved for oxygen in Chainplates, Wire rigging etc.
Marine growth also helps create an environment for degradation.

How well an owner fared against this constant battle should show up on close inspection.
 

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When looking at such boats its very prudent to research the history of 'blister occurrence' for the specific boat type and mufacturer, especially if moving such a boat from salt to fresh water. Such boats will typically be those from the 70s through early 90s that have had significant historical blister problems in both fresh and especially salt water.
What happens to these boats is that because the fiberglass from that period is especially vulnerable to water permeation (both from inside the hull as well as outside) is that microscopic salts are now inside the laminate structure and by the process of osmosis will continue to migrate/permeate water and water vapor into the hull structure. Wet hulls then begin to 'hydrolyze' - the equivalent of rusting in plastics / polymers where the long chain molecules are broken into smaller chain molecules by the action of water - hydrolysis. The process of water uptake is faster and more aggressive for a such boat that is moved from salt to fresh water.

History of blister formation is the key here, especially for those 'notorious' for blistering and which are usually equally notorious for having a history of failed 'bottom jobs'.
For boats made after about the mid 1990s this problem has been significantly reduced by choosing better resins, and following better and continuous laminate lay-up practices, and of course the application of barrier coatings.

Brand specific Owners Groups on the internet are a good place to find that 'history'. Also, do be somewhat beware of boats from that era that have DIY 'bottom jobs'.
 

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Broad Reachin'
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As previously mentioned, corrosion is likely more of a concern with a salt water boat.

Another place where corrosion can be a concern is in the engine itself. Make sure you know the difference between a raw-water cooled system and a fresh water cooled system and which is on the particularly engines you're looking at.

Raw water cooled engines use the sea water pumped in to the boat to cool the engine directly, with no heat exchanger. So, if you're in salt water, the salt water is fed through the engine block. That can be bad news because of corrosion.

Fresh water cooled systems use a heat exchanger. No salt water gets into the engine itself, rather only in the heat exchanger and exhaust. Most newer/modern engines use the enclosed fresh water cooling system with a heat exchanger and coolant, but there are still many raw water cooled sailboats on the market.
 

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Standing rigging will generally last MUCH longer in fresh water, but you still need to check it carefully. There are fresh water boats out there with 20 year old rigging - and that is pushing it too far.
 

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Sea Sprite 23 #110 (20)
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My sea Sprite came off of lake Champlain. I do not want to hazard a guess as to how old her standing rigging is.. but I am betting it might be older than some members of Sailnet
 

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bell ringer
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When buying an older boat the the only thing worth considering is the condition the boat is in at the time you look at it, period.
 
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