"Mid Size Power Boats": A Guide for Discreminating Buyers - by David Pascoe


Mainship 31

Mainship 31
Sometime we run across boats that are . . . . well, just plain exasperating.  Sometimes there are so many things wrong with a boat that a surveyor doesn't know where to begin . . . . or end. This is one of them.   We could have spent hours just taking notes on all the problems we found, so what we did was just pull out the old Nikkon and start shooting. This page is VERY graphics intensive and will take a while to load, so start reading while the pix are downloading.

A 1994 model originally sold in late 1994, this boat had only 164 hours on the hour meter (you only get one for two engines) and is less than three years old. Base dimensions are 31'3" x 11"10" x 2'10" without the integral pulpit. Advertised weight is 16,000 lbs. which seems a little on the heavy side for a 31 footer. Frankly, we doubt that this number is correct. Our survey model had had very little use -- there was no wear on the upholstery and the stove had never been used -- and were it not for the exterior weathering, it would be hard to tell that this was not a brand new boat. The engines are Marine Power 454 CID gas driving through Hurth vee drives, and it is equipped with an Onan 6.5 Kw gas generator and air conditioning.

We'll start with the fact that the fit and finish, both inside and out, is generally good. Everywhere we look without opening things up, things seem fairly well done. The galley cabinets and counters are fairly well done, although there are a lot of very sharp edges on the mica that can slice your fingers opened. As every mica worker should know, you are supposed to bevel the edges because mica edges are as sharp as broken glass.

It has a complete fiberglass interior headliner, which initially seems like a good thing until we noticed that the 'glass is so thin that the thing rattles while underway. You can see it shaking and deflecting every time the boat hits a wave. The main cabin is basically a galley and dinette opposite, which is about as good as anyone can do for an interior on a boat this size. Up forward is a full width double berth that you have to climb into head first as there is no side access. Then it has a guest stateroom with adequately sized upper and lower berth. The head compartment has a full glass liner, a feature that's great for showering and keeping the area clean. It would be nice

Mainship31-8.JPG (31595 bytes)

Notice here that there is fabric covered valences directly over the stove.

Mainship31-2.JPG (17743 bytes)
Head compartment has a full fiberglass liner.

The exterior design is fairly good as far as safety is concerned and its quite easy to get around on. There are adequate hand holds to get up to the foredeck with reasonable safety, and there is only slight rounding on the raised deck trunk corners that could lead one to slipping. The molded staircase up to the bridge is easily negotiated and the bridge layout is large with comfortable seating for five. The cockpit has molded in seating along the sides with storage lockers below which, because of their top-loading design, will fill up with water and thus make them unusable for anything that shouldn't get wet. And, we think, these seats generally interfere with free movement in the cockpit as you do not expect them to be there and tend to trip over them. You know how a kitchen design has to have a foot cove so you can stand close to the counters? Well, imagine if the kitchen actually had that foot cove reversed and sticking out, and that is what you have here with these seats. You want to walk right up to the gunwale but stumble over the seats. For docking operations, you have to stand up on them, thus making you susceptible to loosing your balance.

The cockpit has a huge engine hatch which, in our view is too large. But better too large than too small. It has those stupid air cylinders to hold it up, that last about a week and, of course, they were kaput. Even so, its nice that you get unfettered access to the engines. Now, we can say that the basic engine installation, materials and layout down there is pretty good. It could be better, but by and large you can get to most everything down there and there's plenty of space. So why did they put the fuel filters on the outboard sides of the engine down low in a place that you can't reach them? On the plus side, unlike so many other boats, at least the engine hatch has a very deep rain gutter to help keep water off the engines.

Also interesting was the transom door which has no lip at the bottom. We dropped a film canister on the deck and it rolled right out the door and into the drink. How thoughtful this design is.

Now the real trouble begins. Lets start with the fact that we found the paint all over both engines to be bubbling and blistering -- seriously bubbling and blistering all over, from the oil pans up to the risers. Plus they had blackish water spots all over them -- what typically looks like exhaust going into the cooling system causing the water to be contaminated with black soot. Then we noticed that three of four risers and manifolds had been repainted with silver paint over black. The cast iron manifold of one engine had very heavy rust scale on it, while the other three, which apparently were Barr Marine replacements did not. So why was the paint blistering all over the engines? Well, we can guess that these engines had been cleaned with muriatic acid, and when you put muriatic acid on cast iron it never stops reacting chemically. Muriatic acid DESTROYS cast iron. We learned that the hard way as kids cleaning our hot rod engines with the stuff.

By why would someone have done that? What it looks like we have here are a pair of engines with only 164 hours, less than three years old on which the manifolds and risers had been replaced already. To cap it off, the intake manifold on one engine was flooded with water -- green with antifreeze from the cooling system, so there was obviously a serious cooling system leak. And yes, these engines are closed system cooled so all this becomes very hard to explain.

Then we found that the engine oil dipsticks, which are steel tubes, travel from the outboard side of the engines to the inboard side, going under the engine pans. Problem here is that these tubes are only two inches above the stuffing boxes. Of course, stuffing boxes never leak and rotating propeller shafts never throw water, so you don't have to worry that the dip stick tubes will rust out and cause you to loose all your engine oil. Stuff like that never happens. And never mind that the stamped steel oil pans will meet the same fate eventually.

How's the hull construction? Well, this is another one of those builders who does everything possible to close off the interior so that you can't see the hull. As well they should because what we found isn't so encouraging.  Let's start with glassed over plywood stringers and frames. There's nothing wrong with using plywood if you do it right, only they didn't. First, we found about 15 holes cut in them with hole saws, leaving the plywood exposed. The entire interior of the hull had been coated with some kind of heavy coating, possibly gelcoat, and they apparently thought that whatever it was would seal the exposed edges. Wrong. They missed a lot of spots, and even where it was coated, we found the plywood sucking up water, expanding and cracking. Up in the forward bilges we found limber holes cut in major frames that were starting to rot (see photos below).

Mainship31-5.JPG (22555 bytes)

This is just one of three places where we found water weeping in through the hull laminate. This weep hole is ont the bottom of the hull.

Mainship31-4.JPG (19513 bytes)

This is one of the main hull stringers with one of the many holes cut in it. The hole at the bottom has exposed plywood while the hole at top is coated with gel coat. Even so, the plywood is suckingup water, expanding and causing the plylwood to split apart.

Mainship31-3.JPG (18672 bytes)

Water tank sitting on plywood deck just a few inches above the bilge. The advanced state of corrosion is obvious. Under that, two limber holes cut in the plywood frame can been seen, with the plywood exposed and soaking up water.

Back aft in the engine compartment -- this is one place they find hard to cover up -- we found three places where water is weeping right through the hull laminate. You are probably wondering if you just read that right. Yes, we said water is leaking right through the hull. How could that happen? Easy. You see, they glassed what appears to be wood doubler blocks into the hull for things like the struts and sea cocks. Now, we all know by now that fiberglass is not impervious to water right? But apparently the builder does not, for in the vicinity of each of these glassed-in doubler blocks we found major weep holes (see photo above right). Then we have some bolt-on attachments on the transom below the waterline, where the bolts apparently were not caulked, and which were leaking.

While the boat has decent sea cocks, we couldn't help but notice that all the bonding wires are #14 and #16 gauge wire, which doesn't get much smaller. A little contact with sea water and it is history. Cool.

Mainship31-6.JPG (29389 bytes)

Red arrow points to steel dip stick tube directly over stuffing box.  Notice the paint blistering on the oil pan. This condition was found all over both engines.

Mainship31-7.JPG (11664 bytes)

Its hard to believe that anyone could be so foolish as to put circuit breakers on the transom, but there they are.

Mainship31-9.JPG (23157 bytes)

Here we have something attached to the transom below the waterline, apparently with no caulking so the bolts are leaking.

Moving on here, next we have an aluminum water tank set down between the stringers up forward between the stringers deep in the bilge. It is sitting on top of a plywood deck that gets wet; the photo below depicts the corrosion occurring to the bottom of the tank. Its only a question of time before it starts leaking. But that's only the water tank. The fuel tanks are located in the same place except that they are completely boxed in and we cant' see what is happening to them. Is this the kind of situation you'd want to face with 200 gallons of gasoline? Further, the fuel tank shut off valves are located in a small hole under the dinette seats so that is is almost impossible to get your hand on them to operate the valves. The ABYC H-24 standard requires that all parts of the fuel system be accessible for inspection and service, yet much of this one is hidden, plus the fuel tanks are completely hidden. Then we found that the fuel tank bonding wire is attached to the tank with a screw which, of course, was loose. The fuel tank bonding wire connects the metal fill plate with the fuel tank so that you don't get any static sparks to cause the gas fumes to explode in your face. Why use the right fastener when you can use the wrong one. Heck, its only a gasoline system were talking about here. Is there any reason a builder should take extra care?

Is it a good idea to put the main electric panel immediately inside the cabin door? Why not? There's no chance that some one will accidentally leave the door open for an unexpected rain squall, is there? Or how about the two 125 VAC circuit breakers mounted on the transom. Yep, mounted right smack on the transom on a little plastic plate screwed in place. The stupidity of this is truly mind-boggling. Is there some reason why a builder should take a little extra care with high voltage systems?

Next we move on up to the bridge where the helm console is hinged half-way down and folds over. The reason apparently being to give access to the wiring, yet all this rigamarole renders access to very little except to reveal that water is getting into a terminal block and numerous inline wire connectors so that eventually some of the systems there are going to fail. Then we have the bridge seat cushions  which are actually large  upholstered "L" shaped panels which are difficult to move. The upholstery, of course, is full of water and starting to rot. But the bridge has encloures, you say? No, soft enclosures more or less just strain the wind-driven rain water before it gets everything up there all wet.

The bridge is nicely laid out except for one small complaint. You can't sit down and steer the boat because the wheel is too far forward to reach it without sitting on the very edge of the seat. And if you stand up, for a tall guy the wheel is so low that he has to bend over in order to steer. But its okay if you're 5-8.

Aluminum hardware. Why in God's name is everyone using aluminum hardware instead of stainless these days? This boat has aluminum railings, radar arch and numerous hand holds, all of which are corroding, discoloring and starting to look just awful. And once is starts corroding, there is nothing you can do to restore it. Add to this the black anodized window frames which are also starting to corrode. There's no doubt about it: by the time this boat is five years old, it is going to look really clapped out. And we'll add to that a white rubber rub rail which is all chewed up on one side because it is so soft, and is also starting to discolor and look like hell. And corroding aluminum port hole bezels with plastic screens which are disintegrating. And a residential grade aluminum sliding cabin door, complete with steel parts that are rusting, plus a rickety sliding screen already jumping the tracks and about ready for the trash. You know the kind, you've seen this junk in motel rooms and maybe at home. Great stuff for a boat in saltwater.

Does it matter that when you bang on the house sides with your fist, the whole thing shakes and rattles? What's that going to do with the sealing of the window frames?  Could that have anything to do with the fact that we found all those nice fabrics around and below the windows to be all wet, three days after the last rain? Oddly, it has one aluminum window frame in the middle of the window opening on each side, with two plexiglass panels just screwed in place for the other two windows.

The two air conditioners are located under the dinette seat and under the master berth. The one under the dinette was making a terrible racket and sounded like the compressor was failing. And we just love the idea of sleeping on top of these little beauties. Lull you to sleep, apparently. Minor detail that they forgot to put hose clamps on the salon A/C sea water hose connection to through hull fitting just a few inches above the water line. At least they got the air ducts up high where they do some good. The last two boats we looked at had the ducts down on the cabin sole so that they could only cool your hot feet.

Here's another good idea: Mount a top stove on the galley counter top, then cover the window valence panels, located only 14" above the stove with highly flammable fabric (see photo in top frame). Then hide all the fire extinguishers away where no one can find them.

Well, folks, we think we've said enough about this one. As you can see from the photos, it all looks nice and fancy when you don't look too closely. We'd remind you that it's not until a boat is a couple of years old that you really get to see whether its made of the right stuff. Or the right stuff used in the right way. This boat has some good features, but the flaws more than outweigh them. You'd think that when you spend considerably more than a hundred thousand dollars for a small boat, you'd get a little better quality and engineering for your money. Apparently not. But, then, we have long complained that far too many boats of this type are designed by the interior designer types, and built by companies for whom boat building is just a business.

Rating: star.jpg (4935 bytes)
TOP
David Pascoe Power Boat Books

Buyers' Guide to Outboard Boats Surveying Fiberglass Power Boats (2E)

David Pascoe - Biography

David Pascoe is a second generation marine surveyor in his family who began his surveying career at age 16 as an apprentice in 1965 as the era of wooden boats was drawing to a close.

Certified by the National Association of Marine Surveyors in 1972, he has conducted over 5,000 pre purchase surveys in addition to having conducted hundreds of boating accident investigations, including fires, sinkings, hull failures and machinery failure analysis.

Over forty years of knowledge and experience are brought to bear in following books. David Pascoe is the author of:

In addition to readers in the United States, boaters and boat industry professionals worldwide from over 70 countries have purchased David Pascoe's books, since introduction of his first book in 2001.

In 2012, David Pascoe has retired from marine surveying business at age 65.

Biography - Long version

Articles at
docksidereports.com

 

 

David Pascoe's
Power Boat Books

Mid Size Power Boats Mid Size Power Boats
A Guide for Discriminating Buyers
Focuses exclusively cruiser class generally 30-55 feet
With discussions on the pros and cons of each type: Expresses, trawlers, motor yachts, multi purpose types, sportfishermen and sedan cruisers.
Buyers' Guide to Outboard Boats
Selecting and Evaluating New and Used Boats
Dedicated for offshore outboard boats
A hard and realistic look at the marine market place and delves into issues of boat quality and durability that most other marine writers are unwilling to touch.
Surveying Fiberglass Powewr Boats
Surveying Fiberglass Power Boats
2nd Edition
The Art of Pre-Purchase Survey The very first of its kind, this book provides the essentials that every novice needs to know, as well as a wealth of esoteric details.
Marine Investigations
Pleasure crafts investigations to court testimony The first and only book of its kind on the subject of investigating pleasure craft casualties and other issues.
Readers
Worldwide
Over 70 countries
Countries List
Links to Each Chapter Contents with Excerpt at:
David Pascoe Power Boat Books davidpascoe.com

 

HOME > BOAT REVIEWS>