Out of Sight, Out of Mind
A full rig survey was carried out on this vessel, a Nauticat 33, to inspect the integrity of the rig prior to a delivery to the Greek islands from the English east coast. This was lucky as two separate load bearing stainless steel tangs had sheared on one side and full failure was not far off. If you cant un-step the mast for a close up inspection, have a yacht surveyor inspect the rig while stepped. I hold IRATA rope access qualifications and can do this safely. Next to this is my vessel, a classic cruiser racer by Van de Stadt that I've fully restored.
As a surveyor, it is my responsibility to my client to point out all hazards that affect the safety of the vessel, and those aboard. I report damaged rigging, corroded gas lines, weak rudders, large crazed windows and so on, and black mold is no different.
Symptoms from exposure include eye irritation, fever, rashes, chronic fatigue and chronic headaches. In serious cases nausea, vomiting, asthma and respiratory complications are possible. Having some of these symptoms while aboard a vessel on a long passage is potentially disastrous (delivery crew, be aware).
My advice is wear a professional respiratory mask when entering confined spaces that are likely to contain black mold (such as an old boat!). If you are a boat owner, try to circulate the air, and air out the vessel as often as possible. The most effective, cheapest and most environmentally friendly way to kill black mold is with white vinegar.
KISS, standing for 'Keep It Simple, Stupid'.
Onboard tech such as multiple large detailed chartplotters, AIS, autopilot and radar will undoubtedly make you feel safe, and there is certainly a place for these items aboard, but there is no substitute for strong, simple and well maintained kit.
This photo of a heavily corroded anchor to chain link was on a sailing yacht of approximately 12 tons, a yacht which was full of modern navigational tech, all of which will be of little use once that link fails when holding the vessel off a lee shore in a blow.
Every Crack is a Clue
This is the portside cap shroud chainplate knee on a 34' cruiser racer sailing yacht. By and large the vessel was in fine condition, with all new standing and running rigging, spars, a well maintained engine and a clean interior. However, out of sight in the portside saloon locker was this small but apparent and ominous crack.
Testing the area, it was clear that the crack was shallow, and no delamination, movement or excessive moisture ingress was present. However the crack is unmistakable, it's a result of tension stresses. The top of the knee, where it tends to be the largest, strongest part of the structure being pulled rig-wards by the chainplates, while the lower end of the knee is well bedded and tapered into the hull (the hull offering stiffness and resistance to tension stresses in this direction) the distortion and elongation of the structure is inevitable, and its weak spot will be somewhere between the strongest, or least flexible, elements. Interestingly there is a slightly harsher turn / bend where the crack is as to the rest of the curvature of the knee.
It was presumed that the vessel took a very hard knock, such as a breaking wave beam on or 'landing' beam to in a trough (in both cases on the starboard side), both of which can buckle a yacht. I then learnt that the previous owner crossed the Atlantic twice on the vessel. 'Yeah, that would do it', I thought.
Surveyors often come across random dodgy DIY on vessels which do more harm than good. The picture below shows a 10mm hole in a backstay chainplate. This hole is most likely the aft end securing point of a jackline. You can see the slight distortion to the thin strip of metal next to the hole, revealing its weakness and inappropriateness as an anchor point. Furthermore, the chainplate's cross sectional area is now reduced by 20-25%, and its strength reduced by at least the same degree, or more so if the load on the chainplate unevenly pulls on the weak side of the plate. Now the surveyor, has the task of finding all the other dodgy DIY ideas executed aboard.
Poor Access means Poorly Maintained
There are vessels highly regarded for their strength and quality of build, and yet many of these vessels lack a means of access to inspect and maintain their vital, structural parts. The picture above shows 1 of 2 heavily corroded keel bolts which are barely accessible in the forward end of the engine bay beneath a fuel tank. To reach the other keel bolts the saloon table must be removed before the tight floorboards are lifted. This is a time consuming process that a surveyor will not entertain unless specifically there for this purpose, such as a keel survey.
On this vessel there was also no access to inspect the chainplates, yet alarm bells were ringing, as the deck around the rigging attachment points had moisture meter readings 'off scale' showing extensive moisture ingress. At this point there are concerns that the plywood knees may be rotting and at risk of failure. And the mild steel compression post, hidden behind an outer polished tube façade and near impossible to remove, are also well known to rust at their heel in bilge water.
It makes no sense that these fittings and structures are hidden. For me, inspection is 9/10ths of the law when it comes to vessel maintenance. How can a surveyor reliably say in your insurance renewal report, that these critical load areas are in good condition if they cannot be inspected?
One non-destructive inspection option is to use a snake camera. I use one that connects via Bluetooth to a smart phone. These are fiddley but can be helpful, however, if a problem is found, proper access is still required to resolve it.
There is a reason why boatyards are full of old tired boats and half finished projects, it's because boats are costly and time consuming.
While buyers of small simple boats enjoy the water soon after purchase, buyers of larger boats might not get to sea within a couple years after what they thought was a 6 month project. And in some cases, referencing the picture above, some never even make it as far as the slipway.
The larger the vessel the more sanding, painting and antifouling you'll have to do, or pay some one to do, as well as more skin fittings to service, plumbing to replace, windows to seal, a larger rig to maintain and replace, and so on, not to mention the extra costs of storage, moorings and, may I add, surveys(!).
Larger boats cost exponentially more money, and I am a strong believer of buying well within your budget, as well as within your time constraints. Boats are expensive and time consuming and projects will almost always take you twice as long as you first thought, but they are also very enjoyable and fulfilling. If you purchase one that's too large or too complicated, the enjoyment quickly ebbs while you are deluged by the cost and the seemingly never ending maintenance, again, quite literally referenced by the photo above.
There are many affordable, simple and very capable vessels out there for all types of use. If you are considering taking on a project but not sure what exactly, feel free to give me a call.