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A friend of mine has located a 1996 coastal cruiser boat well below its market value and he is very interested in buying it. When he told me the price and photos I said that this sounds a bit suspicious. The lowest price on this boat was 25K for a not so well maintained one but most prices are in the 30's and this boat was going for 15K.

I went to see this boat myself and it looked good except for some minor things that can be handled with a few hundred dollars but all in all it looked good except for the deck. That was a different story. It had spider cracks throughout. I know rule of thumb is that if you can't fit your finger nail thru it you don't have to worry about it but I was concerned as it seamed to have more than usual.

We have rain yesterday here in the Northeast so this was a perfect day to go and pay another visit on this boat.

Sure enough the boat was leaking thru it's window edging or from the hatch edges. Again, this can be fixed with not so much money.

The hull on this boat has a thin layer of fabric and cushion and when I felt it was soaked through. Both on port and starboard side towards the bow there was dampness. This confirmed to me that those spider cracks on the deck run deep and that is where the water is coming from.

I wanted to know whether this can be fixed or should he walk away from this one.

All opinions are welcome...
 

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I am going to guess that this is a fiberglass boat with gelcoat crazing.

If that is the case the leaks are more likely to be in the deck mounted hardware fasteners or the hull to deck joint.
 

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Leaky ports are not that unusual for an 18 year old boat. What would be a concern is if the deck or hull are cored, and if there is moisture in there. I suspect that the owner of this boat has lost interest, and she has been neglected.

To check if there is moisture in the deck, either get a good surveyor, or find a friend that owns and knows how to use a moisture meter, and check the deck and hull out. (I lent mine to a friend, but it seems that he did not have a clue. He did not get meaningful readings, and messed up the calibration. I don't lend it out to anyone any more).

Spider cracks can be cosmetic, and don't scare me.
 

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I'd probably run away from that one unless I was looking for a continuing project to keep me busy and poor. (I own one of those now, wouldn't do it again.) Deck core is most likely wet, and while that can be repaired it's a very expensive, ugly job.
Might be better to ask how much they'll pay you to haul it away.
 

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You can use a tap hammer (i.e. a $5 medical "reflex hammer" or a plastic hammer) or two stiff fingers or something else to just go tapping across the hull and deck, the same way you'd tap drywall to find the studs behind it. If the hull and deck make a uniform sound, or it drops to a "thud" in the suspicious areas, you can get a good idea if it is saturated or delaminating internally. If it is, remember the words of Monty Python and "RUN AWAY".

Especially if you have no experience in those matters. The repairs to a deck can more than double the price of that boat.
 
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