Aluminum Hull - Advice Needed

Discussion in 'Boatbuilding' started by We're Here, Jul 8, 2009.

  1. We're Here
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    We're Here Junior Member

    After finding nothing specific to my question, I'm hoping to tap into the forum's enormous resources for help.

    I'm considering a 25-year old sportfishing boat built of aluminum plate by a small builder now gone. I hope to inspect the boat next week for the first time but I have reason to believe that the basis for an enormous refit done three or four years ago was the result of a fire.

    I have seen a copy of a survey done before the refit was completed and there is no mention of a fire or any issues that could be attributed to a fire. I also realize that aluminum is fully capable of being destroyed (or possibly just compromised) in a conflagration.

    Given the circumstances, a boat that has possibilities for me but one that could have some fire-related issues, what would my next logical step be (run for the offering and don't look back, bring in another surveyor, or ...)?

    One other issue that came as a surprise to me. The broker just informed me that in order to allow a surveyor to inspect the boat, I have to make a 10% escrow payment before he'll be allowed aboard. Is this typical of the process? I realize that in this economy (and this late into the boat-selling season) that this policy probably doesn't amount to much but I'd like to get a feel as to whether this is generally an industry-standard or something else.

    Thanks for bearing with this lengthy post. WH
     
  2. marshmat
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    marshmat Senior Member

    Hi WH,

    It sounds to me like you need an expert opinion. (ie, not me.) You need your own surveyor, one who reports to you alone. He/she should be someone who is experienced with aluminum construction- someone who knows how to tell a good weld from a compromised one, and how to identify the subtle indications of heat damage. (As well as being able to find all the usual trouble spots relating to seacocks, engines, wiring, etc.)

    A surveyor who mainly deals with fibreglass and/or wood hulls may do a great job reviewing the systems, but to catch any hidden fire damage, you need someone who knows aluminum. If you're seriously considering it, and can't find an aluminum boat specialist, consider getting a professional in a related field- maybe a non-destructive testing guy, or a master welder, or a metallurgist, as well as the normal yacht surveyor.

    Now, I've never heard of a broker demanding an escrow payment before the client can survey the boat. But I'm a bit out of the loop on such issues- maybe this is common practice in some areas (but it still rings wrong, to me). Surely, some other folks have talked to more brokers/dealers than I have, and would know what's normal....
     
  3. mydauphin
    Joined: Apr 2007
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    mydauphin Senior Member

    Marshmat advice is good. I will go further. You need to have someone check the thickness and type of metal. There were many many AL built from the wrong aluminum, or wired incorrectly or wrong paint etc... AL are not very forgiving to idiots doing to them the wrong thing. Like running copper pipes or bronze thru hulls. Who made the boat, start there. Then check bilges, fairing if any, Welds for signs of corrosion. Was it a Striker?

    I love aluminum boats, but you have read and study a lot to understand them. I will send you more info later.
     
  4. Ad Hoc
    Joined: Oct 2008
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    Ad Hoc Naval Architect

    ..in addition to that above, if you are requested to provide a down payment of 10% just to inspect, walk away.
     
  5. Guest62110524

    Guest62110524 Previous Member

    it s normal to ask for 10% if you want to make offer on the boat, this is then an offer SUBJECT to survey
    However if they will not let you look at the boat the way you want, walk away
    You could say to the broker, I just want a friend to look, or something of this nature
    I have learnt, to my great cost, not believe anything you hear from a broker, unless of coarse you know him personally
    When you do choose a surveyer , make sure he KNOWS aluminium, preferable to get a builder with considerable knowledge in construction of such craft
    Being a sportfisher, it is probably quite fast?
    Construction comes into play a lot as does the ENTRY on faster boats
    you can contact me , I am happy to advise, no cost:))
     
  6. We're Here
    Joined: Aug 2007
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    We're Here Junior Member

    Let me respond in order to those who kindly lent a hand:

    MM ... The older report was done by a well-respected, area surveyor but I don't know if he had any aluminum expertise. A refundable, escrow deposit struck me as odd too as I doubt that anyone would consign a survey if they weren't moderately interested.

    MD ... It isn't a Striker. It was built by a nearly unknown New England shop with considerable marine (but not necessarily boatbuilding) experience. I have reason to believe that there are no welding and/on material issues but that'll be confirmed independently before I reach for the checkbook. I too have long admired aluminum boats.

    AH ... I'm prepared to treat the broker like a gentleman or like a car / aluminum siding salesman - his choice. In the end, it's the seller, not the broker who makes the "real" rules.

    WH ... Twin diesels with a combined total of 650 hp. About 22 / 25 (cruise / WOT). I am somewhat taken aback over the number of marine surveyor "associations"! Let's see, why would that be ....? Oh well, finding a qualified surveyor with aluminum knowledge in the Philadelphia area may be the greatest short-term challenge that I face!
     
  7. Guest62110524

    Guest62110524 Previous Member

    Um, thats lots boogey
    Entry is very important, the aft deadrise can be quite flat to aid get up and plane
    but the entry needs be deep vee, not spoonshape, or the boat will pound and you will not achieve good speed in head seas plus your wife will refuse to come on the picnic
    If it was a big expensive boat, you could fly me over!! But then again your beer is not very drinkable
    Good luck
    you can only email me through my website, as I forgot the email address I joined with!!
     
  8. Ad Hoc
    Joined: Oct 2008
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    Ad Hoc Naval Architect

    we're here

    "...Oh well, finding a qualified surveyor with aluminum knowledge in the Philadelphia area may be the greatest short-term challenge that I face.."

    Ask DNV or LR lastly ask ABS (they are not as experinced in ally as the others), they can tell you if they have anyone local.
     
  9. apex1

    apex1 Guest

    It should not be too difficult to find a surveyor for just the ally structure. Almost all classification societies (I think all) make survey at industrial plants too. So go for Ad HocĀ“s advice.
    A deposit prior to a survey is UNcommon and I would smell a rat. If it comes to testruns the things change. Usual are, proof of fund, deposit, or a short term charter rate refundable on purchase.

    Regards
    Richard
     
  10. We're Here
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    We're Here Junior Member

    AH ... Are DNV and LR members of this forum (if so, I'd love to hear from them)? I am visiting the boat for the first time next week and will post my impressions. One thing that strikes me as odd is the fact that the deck of this welded alloy boat is cored f/g. I guess that my thinking is confined to the "envelope" because I just can't come up with a plausible reason why.
     
  11. apex1

    apex1 Guest

    DNV = Det Norske Veritas
    LR = Lloyds Register of Shipping
    both are classification societies and not members of any website.

    And a wild guess why a aluminium boat has a GRP deck is: the original Al structure was destroyed by fire (as you mentioned) and replaced by plastic crap.
     
  12. We're Here
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    We're Here Junior Member

    Richard, I was hoping to rule this possibility out but alas ...

    I am very much looking forward to sticking my head below deck and seeing how this works! I have reason to believe that this was a very well made boat but if an aluminum deck was lost to a fire, I'd venture a guess that the portions of the hull (sides and bottom) adjacent to the fire were saved due to the heat sink effect of the ocean and the fact that aluminum is an exceedingly efficient conductor of heat/cold.

    Thanks for the classification society lesson!
     
  13. wardd
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    wardd Senior Member

    My 2 cents worth, aluminum when heated beyond a certain point develops a discolored mottled affect that is hard to polish out completely.

    any sign of that indicates excessive heat
     
  14. mydauphin
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    mydauphin Senior Member

    Aluminum boats, like most boats are designed as a system. If the deck is missing and was replaced with a Fiberglass deck then the whole boat is compromised. An Aluminum boat more than most boats is designed to be light and strong, you just can't remove stuff or move it around without altering structure severely.
     

  15. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    I'm not willing to jump to the assumption that the deck is compromising the boat. I can see a cored deck as a less costly, similarly light weight alternative to aluminum and wouldn't dismiss it out of hand, frankly suggesting such is at least irresponsible, if not amateurish.

    The bottom line is two fold. The first is to get the broker on the same page. You don't need an escrow account, though they do like to see a person is capable of purchasing the vessel. This is understandable, other wise you'd have tours of every mega yacht in town to double wide renters. A simple credit check is usually sufficient. If this isn't going to go as well as the broker expects (you would know), you'll have to offer some other form of satisfaction in regard to being able to afford the yacht, like a bank statement.

    Second is, get the yacht surveyed. In both Philadelphia and your area there are several noted and very qualified surveyors of alloy vessels. Call your insurance company, they'll have a list in your area that they trust.

    Remember the broker is looking for a sale and what ever fees he can muster out of it. Don't buy into it, he's hungry as church mouse about now, so you're in the driver's seat in this respect. He'll take just about anything, but they'll try things like "It's our company policy" or "It's customarily done thusly", etc. You can't blame a fellow for trying, but remember who's money it is, who's interest you need to keep and ultimately who's going to be responsible for the purchase. They'll get their points, but they don't have to and they know it.
     
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