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Would I be biting off more than I can chew?


DShK

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Hi again, looking for some more advise from the kind and knowledgeable people on this forum.

 

In my quest to find a boat, I've realised that my desire to have a boat I can work on, but has more character than just a caravan on the water - isn't an easy task (especially when taking into account budget, other requirements etc). So I am considering that I may have to do more work on a boat than I originally intended. This doesn't worry me too much, I built a campervan from a boxer van, I really like having a project I can throw myself into.

 

The first boat I went to see on my search was a ~100 year old iron hulled BCN day boat. I loved a lot about it. But when I went to see it in person it was clear the interior was quite tired, old and dirty. And the electrics made me grimace. Needed ripping out entirely I think. Heating system was a bit sub-par (gas water heater, stove with 1 backboiler radiator, and that's it). I'd want more hatches/windows retrofitted as it was a tad dark (I have read recommendations of Kedian engineering). However I think, in hindsight, it's doable with the mindset that it's a project. The big plus being that this boat is affordable without a personal loan, so means I don't have to immediately load up on debt, and use as needed to fit it out. I'm not looking to flip this boat and I understand that it can be costly work to do and I won't see a profit if I come to sell. The boat recently was taken off the market, and then back on. I would ask the broker if this was the fault of the boat (bad survey?).

 

Now the questions. The boat is 6/6/6 iron with a steel stern. I have read that iron can be a bit trickier to weld. I have also read speculation that steel could act as an anode here, and corrode quicker. But I've also read of people have steel base plates on iron boats. Is it much of a concern? 

 

The boat also requires a shoe plate welding on as the chine has worn away. No problem, the yard selling it can likely do it and have given an estimated cost for this work. However, the survey looks to me (see below) to show areas of serious thining? 3.1mm is (fully comp) uninsurable is it not? This was an insurance survey so I would have thought they would mention this? What it said was:

 

"The table reveals there has been some minor diminution of plate thickness. Some pits were noted where areas of blacking was cleaned off. The bottom plate does not appear to have been blacked in the recent past. No evidence of any blacking was found. Some shallow pit corrosion was noted. Pit depths were measured the deepest being 1.0mm, but the majority were in the range 0.3mm to 0.9mm. There is some thinning of the base around the area of the swims"

 

And

 

"Advise. Weld a 100mm wide shoe plate around the base at swim position, this will repair the thin areas and provide a new chine."

Obviously I would get my own survey if I went ahead, but am I reading this wrong? Seems more than minor diminution of thickness to me? Basically, with the cost of renovating the interior, I don't want to buy a boat that is very quickly going to need (more) hull work (although I understand it may well in the future - keeping something historic afloat seems more worthwhile, and thus less painful, than something not though) The survey states "Conclusions. Inspection of the hull indicates it was in good condition. When any minor defects are rectified and other more minor deficiencies are dealt with it represents a well-appointed narrowboat with many years of life ahead of her" But those of you that have read my "tale of two surveys" thread will know I'm not going to put a huge amount of faith into this.

 

"The propeller shaft was corroded and may not be manufactured from marine grade (austenitic) stainless steel. There was some minor play in the outboard bearing." - is this potentially costly to sort out in the future?

 

She has a Ruston and Hornsby 2VSH - very hard to find much info on this engine. Speaking to the owner of the yard, she owned one as well and had a specialist she used. I'm brushing up on diesel engines generally and I'd be excited about this engine but unsure if it's one of those that needs manual oiling very frequently. As a single hander, I can't be manually oiling every 30 minutes! Anyone know about this engine?

 

Has anyone installed/seen installed hatches into the cloth/plank style cabins? The front area of this boat is like this and would be keen to get more light in.

 

Overall, is this unrealistic for a new boater? I am under no impression this won't be hard and costly work. I need to hear from people with more experience if there are things I've perhaps not considered.

 

Thanks for your time!

msedge_eHhdtFyvio.png

Edited by DShK
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It does amuse me when surveyors state with utter certainty the thickness in various places.

 

I'll post up a photo of the cut edge of a section of corroded riveted iron baseplate removed from one of my boats later, and I'll challenge anyone to give an opinion as to whether the thickness can be stated with any accuracy!

 

 

 

 

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Lets just say : "you have to be a certain type of person with very deep pockets to take on a 100 year old Iron narrowboat"

 

If you intend cutting it up and installing new windows etc etc, then it loses all of its originality.

 

If you want to buy-cheap and spend in dribs and drabs then there are many, many 'modern' narrow boats lying around in marinas and yards that are failed projects when the owner has suddenly had an epiphany moment and decided to walk away.

 

As your first boat, I'd suggest that you really want it to be 'as right as possible' you will have enough to learn and maintain without trying to rebuild a 'scrapper'.

Edited by Alan de Enfield
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Use your head not your heart. A bit of work and constant work to maintain in the future. I would rather have a boat that I could get out and enjoy and not be consistently maintaining and worrying about it becoming a money pit. Why you want a Historic boat? To maintain and work on as a hobby? Why just get a new boat and get out and enjoy the canals.

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It's an old boat that needs some work. Only you can decide whether you are willing to spend the time and money to improve it. But it will take more time and money than you think. And I assume you are not in a position to hand it over to a professional and say "Just sort it".

 

Those thickness readings show that there is the basis of a sound boat there, but there are some problems. But a coarse grid of readings won't necessarily pick up the worst areas. What you really need is an experienced surveyor to go round it with a hammer and knock six bells out of it. That will find the thin areas, the places where the plate is laminated and full of inclusions, and might well put a hole or two right through. Understandably vendors are not generally too keen on such an approach, so it's more useful after you have decided to do significant hull works, in order to determine the extent of those works.

 

Any iron boat will by now have areas of steel where it has been repaired or altered over the years. I wouldn't worry about that.

 

There's a few 2VSHs in narrowboats. Nice sounding slow running engines.

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9 minutes ago, David Mack said:

What you really need is an experienced surveyor to go round it with a hammer and knock six bells out of it.

 

 

Funny you should say that. Mine had exactly this done and an A1 written survey report issued by a 'famous name' surveyor with decades of experience with iron boats. Shortly later, it sank.

 

 

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I'd be more concerned about treading in more than I can chew.

Unless you're tightly managing such a project I'd fear it could easily ramble on way past your expected/hoped targets and budgets.

 

I'd certainly start with a thorough and up to date survey.  Many new owners have ended up ripping back out recently fitted kitchen units and floors when weeks later they've suddenly realised that something is awry that they'd not anticipated.

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54 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

Lets just say : "you have to be a certain type of person with very deep pockets to take on a 100 year old Iron narrowboat"

 

If you intend cutting it up and installing new windows etc etc, then it loses all of its originality.

 

If you want to buy-cheap and spend in dribs and drabs then there are many, many 'modern' narrow boats lying around in marinas and yards that are failed projects when the owner has suddenly had an epiphany moment and decided to walk away.

 

As your first boat, I'd suggest that you really want it to be 'as right as possible' you will have enough to learn and maintain without trying to rebuild a 'scrapper'.

 

It was a day boat, so the cabin is not 100 year olds, just the hull forward of the stern. So no real "originality" to be lost there. I don't want a failed project boat, I want a characteful boat that I fall in love with - a boat, not a floating caravan. Basically I'm willing to do work to make that happen. But not specifically looking for a project.

Would you consider this a "scrapper" then? Is it the hull or the interior work that concern you? As it stands, I think the interior is liveable. Just upgradeable. I would be in a marina for a good while either way, to start at least, so that makes things easier.

 

50 minutes ago, PD1964 said:

Use your head not your heart. A bit of work and constant work to maintain in the future. I would rather have a boat that I could get out and enjoy and not be consistently maintaining and worrying about it becoming a money pit. Why you want a Historic boat? To maintain and work on as a hobby? Why just get a new boat and get out and enjoy the canals.

 

Are all boat not potential money pits though? I've read enough on here about people's new boats corroding to close to sinking in a matter of a handful of years, that it basically seems luck of the draw? At least with a historic boat it seems like the venture is worthwhile to keep afloat? As mentioned above, the bog standard boats don't excite me anywhere near as much. Min-engine boats that tick the boxes I need to tick are few and far between.

 

31 minutes ago, David Mack said:

It's an old boat that needs some work. Only you can decide whether you are willing to spend the time and money to improve it. But it will take more time and money than you think. And I assume you are not in a position to hand it over to a professional and say "Just sort it".

 

Those thickness readings show that there is the basis of a sound boat there, but there are some problems. But a coarse grid of readings won't necessarily pick up the worst areas. What you really need is an experienced surveyor to go round it with a hammer and knock six bells out of it. That will find the thin areas, the places where the plate is laminated and full of inclusions, and might well put a hole or two right through. Understandably vendors are not generally too keen on such an approach, so it's more useful after you have decided to do significant hull works, in order to determine the extent of those works.

 

Any iron boat will by now have areas of steel where it has been repaired or altered over the years. I wouldn't worry about that.

 

There's a few 2VSHs in narrowboats. Nice sounding slow running engines.

 

What I read here is that this surveyor may not be experienced enough with riveted iron/have not gone to town on, it so the work needed may in reality be much more extensive?

 

20 minutes ago, MtB said:

 

 

Funny you should say that. Mine had exactly this done and an A1 written survey report issued by a 'famous name' surveyor with decades of experience with iron boats. Shortly later, it sank.

 

 

 

This whole boat thing seems like russian roulette however you look at it...

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, zenataomm said:

I'd be more concerned about treading in more than I can chew.

Unless you're tightly managing such a project I'd fear it could easily ramble on way past your expected/hoped targets and budgets.

 

I'd certainly start with a thorough and up to date survey.  Many new owners have ended up ripping back out recently fitted kitchen units and floors when weeks later they've suddenly realised that something is awry that they'd not anticipated.

A valid concern. I think for something like this I'd make a priority list and tackle them one at a time.

 

 

For context 

 

 

PureRef_VEVtKHURGS.jpg

Edited by DShK
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5 minutes ago, DShK said:

I would be in a marina for a good while either way, to start at least, so that makes things easier.

 

 

In which case, before purchase check that your intended marina allow you to do 'work' on your boat - many will restrict what you are allowed to do, things like grinding, cutting , welding are usually banned - sanding of paint work and painting may be relegated to certain areas of the marina to avoid contamination of other boats.

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Sounds similar in many ways to the dilemma I had when I bought mine.

A BCN hull now approaching 150 yrs with a dated interior. 
 I bought it because like you I could pay for it out right.

And fix some things over time.
Still got the dated interior, I like it.

 

Having some replating replaced as I type and there’s been no problem so far (touch wood) with welding new steel to old iron.

Sitting on fire watch today 😃

 

I’ll never make a profit from it, but that ain’t the point.

I got a boat I very much like and have had 10 really good years out of it.

When this work is complete the boat will out live me and perhaps it’ll be someone else’s home in the future.

 

Had I thought the boat was going to need some major alterations to make it liveable I would never have bought it. 

Only you can decide 👍


 

 

To be clear: when I say alterations, I mean alterations you’re proposing to make should you buy your boat,

I’m not referring to the work I’m having done now, I knew that’d come at sometime or other.

Edited by Goliath
To be clear
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12 minutes ago, DShK said:

I want a characteful boat that I fall in love with - a boat, not a floating caravan

👍

12 minutes ago, DShK said:

At least with a historic boat it seems like the venture is worthwhile to keep afloat?

👍

 

 

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22 minutes ago, DShK said:

This whole boat thing seems like russian roulette however you look at it...

 

It is, but who cares?

 

I have spent several times over the purchase price of mine getting stuff done and probably added barely a penny to the value. But for financial predictability in a boat, like wimmins, the best way is not to get one. 

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38 minutes ago, DShK said:

For context and extra info, it's the narrowboat "Xebec" https://narrowboats.apolloduck.co.uk/boat/narrow-boats-tugs-for-sale/690652

That's helpful. The broker is a forum member, so may be reading all these comments!😱

 

The interior has its own style, which I quite like (apart from the beige upholstery), but these things are very much a matter of personal taste though. And I don't see anything that would require major work in the short term.

 

The heating looks fine to me. The stove will heat the living/kitchen area and the radiator the bedroom.Looks like gravity circulation so it just works without intervention.

 

It's a tug style boat with portholes. Either you like the look or you don't. It's partly a tradeoff between privacy and light/view out. It has some small roof lights but you could add a bigger glazed pigeon box to increase the light internally. Painting some of the dark woodwork a light colour might also help.

 

I don't really go for black triangular conversions. They are supposed to replicate a clothed up carrying boat, but matt black painted flat steel doesn't cut it as a canvas substitute to my eye (and being a BCN day boat, this one would probably never have been clothed up in its carrying days anyway). I would be minded to fit an actual canvas sheet over the top, spaced off the steel by an inch or so to allow ventilation and minimise corrosion of the steel and rot of the canvas. For better illumination inside add windows to the front bulkhead - like the cratch windows on the adjacent boat.

 

That leaves the hull condition. The boat was motorised and converted almost 30 years ago, so it's not surprising that some repair of the steelwork is necessary. Plating of worn areas on the chine of older boats is common, and will not be particularly expensive, nor disruptive. Individual deep pits can be welded up, providing there are not too many of them. None of this sounds to be desperately urgent, so if you can wait until the yard can fit you in that might work out fine.

You might like to consider having the hull and baseplate grit blasted and epoxy coated, but not necessarily immediately. It will cost more than bitumen blacking, but filling the remaining pits on the bottom with epoxy should significantly slow the rate of deterioration of these potentially vulnerable areas, even if it does inevitably get scraped off in some of the high places.

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I like it too, one thing about putting up the link, whilst its helpful for advice its also helpful to other buyers.  Plenty of buyers around at the moment and also looking on here, if you think you really want this one,  and if it were me I'd edit your post to just a few pictures to show but not the link exactly to it. You have just three hours to edit I think. 

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8 minutes ago, MtB said:


I’d change the name!

 

Don’t mind the name.

Just googled it too to see what it meant.

 

The thing is if you change the name you gotta come up with another and that’s really difficult.

 


 

 

 

 

I certainly prefer the seats in it.

in fact I much prefer this boat to the Barry Hawkins one

Edited by Goliath
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To me, that is not a project boat. It's a lot of boat for the money but that's because of the age and style of the hull.

 

What it needs is an internal spruce up and the owner's efforts put into the maintaining the hull. It's unlikely anyone other than a professional boatbuilder will improve it and that isn't going to happen because that hull will always put a ceiling on the value.

 

Mostly it just needs someone to take it boating.

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12 minutes ago, Captain Pegg said:

To me, that is not a project boat.

 

Agreed, now we have seen it, the boat it is a 'doer-upper' not a project - assuming the hull survey doesn't come back with a poor report, it looks a good foundation for a nice boat.

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Its a dilemma. Many modern boats have all the character of a bowl of jelly. Some are quite magnificent but they are the terribly dear ones. Don't worry about Iron and steel too much, its doable by a proper welder. As for plating you can buy (for example) a 40 yr old Harboro' boat quite cheaply then spend a lot of money welding plate on it, at the end of that exercise its still a 40 yr old Harboro. Do the same with a nice old boat and you have, in my opinion, a worthwhile improvement to a proper boat. I think that it is really important, at the end of a tough day working on a boat - and there will be plenty -  to be able to sit down with a beer and admire the work and the boat and feel inspired. That is very hard to do with a boat that looks the same as all the other boats for miles in every direction. If you are driven by that sort of ambition I'm afraid you are doomed to follow your heart like some of us on here whose boats are hed together with thousands of dodgy rivets. Good luck!

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6 hours ago, Alan de Enfield said:

 

 

In which case, before purchase check that your intended marina allow you to do 'work' on your boat - many will restrict what you are allowed to do, things like grinding, cutting , welding are usually banned - sanding of paint work and painting may be relegated to certain areas of the marina to avoid contamination of other boats.

This is a fair point. I don't need to be anywhere in particular, just a well priced marina with electricity and a decent mobile signal. I will make sure to check what's allowed. I know they can be funny about whats left on the exterior of your boat too!

 

6 hours ago, Goliath said:

Sounds similar in many ways to the dilemma I had when I bought mine.

A BCN hull now approaching 150 yrs with a dated interior. 
 I bought it because like you I could pay for it out right.

And fix some things over time.
Still got the dated interior, I like it.

 

Having some replating replaced as I type and there’s been no problem so far (touch wood) with welding new steel to old iron.

Sitting on fire watch today 😃

 

I’ll never make a profit from it, but that ain’t the point.

I got a boat I very much like and have had 10 really good years out of it.

When this work is complete the boat will out live me and perhaps it’ll be someone else’s home in the future.

 

Had I thought the boat was going to need some major alterations to make it liveable I would never have bought it. 

Only you can decide 👍


 

 

To be clear: when I say alterations, I mean alterations you’re proposing to make should you buy your boat,

I’m not referring to the work I’m having done now, I knew that’d come at sometime or other.

 

Great to hear of your experience!

 

6 hours ago, MtB said:

 

It is, but who cares?

 

I have spent several times over the purchase price of mine getting stuff done and probably added barely a penny to the value. But for financial predictability in a boat, like wimmins, the best way is not to get one. 

 

That's sort of my point, I feel the unpredictabilty is more justified with a boat like this. I'd feel way worse spending a lot of money repair a bog standard hull that I'd spent way too much buying in the first place.

 

5 hours ago, David Mack said:

That's helpful. The broker is a forum member, so may be reading all these comments!😱

 

The interior has its own style, which I quite like (apart from the beige upholstery), but these things are very much a matter of personal taste though. And I don't see anything that would require major work in the short term.

 

The heating looks fine to me. The stove will heat the living/kitchen area and the radiator the bedroom.Looks like gravity circulation so it just works without intervention.

 

It's a tug style boat with portholes. Either you like the look or you don't. It's partly a tradeoff between privacy and light/view out. It has some small roof lights but you could add a bigger glazed pigeon box to increase the light internally. Painting some of the dark woodwork a light colour might also help.

 

I don't really go for black triangular conversions. They are supposed to replicate a clothed up carrying boat, but matt black painted flat steel doesn't cut it as a canvas substitute to my eye (and being a BCN day boat, this one would probably never have been clothed up in its carrying days anyway). I would be minded to fit an actual canvas sheet over the top, spaced off the steel by an inch or so to allow ventilation and minimise corrosion of the steel and rot of the canvas. For better illumination inside add windows to the front bulkhead - like the cratch windows on the adjacent boat.

 

That leaves the hull condition. The boat was motorised and converted almost 30 years ago, so it's not surprising that some repair of the steelwork is necessary. Plating of worn areas on the chine of older boats is common, and will not be particularly expensive, nor disruptive. Individual deep pits can be welded up, providing there are not too many of them. None of this sounds to be desperately urgent, so if you can wait until the yard can fit you in that might work out fine.

You might like to consider having the hull and baseplate grit blasted and epoxy coated, but not necessarily immediately. It will cost more than bitumen blacking, but filling the remaining pits on the bottom with epoxy should significantly slow the rate of deterioration of these potentially vulnerable areas, even if it does inevitably get scraped off in some of the high places.

 

The interior looks better in the photos - the kitchen area etc is definitely quite rough in person. But it's not unliveable at all no! Just I wouldn't want to live with it like that forever. As for the heating - I guess my concern was 1) if a backboiler radiator gives off good heat (iirc you just don't want too many radiators?) and 2) general best practise is to have two modes of heating? Along these lines, I hear that gas boilers can result in cold showers on a boat (in cold weather). I believe the engine is water cooled, so in theory it's possible to install a calorifier.

 

Yes, I was thinking it'd look much better with proper canvas. A front window sounds like a good idea, but not sure how it'd work with the hatch (needs to remain really, need that second fire escape). To start at least I could just add some perspex to the open hatch when raining. Adding some portholes to the side as well. I'd need to figoure out a system with that though as I do think I'd need solar on the front in some form.

 

The hull work was quoted at £5k, which isn't nothing but also not terrible. The broker/surveyor agreed - it's not work that has to be done this second but does need to be adressed. Grit blasting/2pack does seem sensible. My concern is still with those 3mm readings? Will this "shoe" address that or am I misunderstanding?

 

Thanks for the input, very helpful.

 

5 hours ago, Chagall said:

I like it too, one thing about putting up the link, whilst its helpful for advice its also helpful to other buyers.  Plenty of buyers around at the moment and also looking on here, if you think you really want this one,  and if it were me I'd edit your post to just a few pictures to show but not the link exactly to it. You have just three hours to edit I think. 

 

Thanks, I did just that. I did think this originally. Although it is currently in the sidebar on the duck (assume that its not just me that sees that, not sure how their ads work).

 

3 hours ago, Captain Pegg said:

To me, that is not a project boat. It's a lot of boat for the money but that's because of the age and style of the hull.

 

What it needs is an internal spruce up and the owner's efforts put into the maintaining the hull. It's unlikely anyone other than a professional boatbuilder will improve it and that isn't going to happen because that hull will always put a ceiling on the value.

 

Mostly it just needs someone to take it boating.

 

Yeah, that was my feeling. Useable but needs updating. Electrics would be the first job. Interesting about the value - what puts a cap on it? Just because it is a bit of a hanful in several respects?

 

2 hours ago, Alan de Enfield said:

 

Agreed, now we have seen it, the boat it is a 'doer-upper' not a project - assuming the hull survey doesn't come back with a poor report, it looks a good foundation for a nice boat.

 

That's good to hear. I guess I feel a bit uneasy still about the previous report - what's up with those 3mm readings? Confused if that's related to the chine or why that hasn't been talked about. The last insurance survey I looked at was much more optimistic than an older survey done for the same boat.

 

2 hours ago, Bee said:

Its a dilemma. Many modern boats have all the character of a bowl of jelly. Some are quite magnificent but they are the terribly dear ones. Don't worry about Iron and steel too much, its doable by a proper welder. As for plating you can buy (for example) a 40 yr old Harboro' boat quite cheaply then spend a lot of money welding plate on it, at the end of that exercise its still a 40 yr old Harboro. Do the same with a nice old boat and you have, in my opinion, a worthwhile improvement to a proper boat. I think that it is really important, at the end of a tough day working on a boat - and there will be plenty -  to be able to sit down with a beer and admire the work and the boat and feel inspired. That is very hard to do with a boat that looks the same as all the other boats for miles in every direction. If you are driven by that sort of ambition I'm afraid you are doomed to follow your heart like some of us on here whose boats are hed together with thousands of dodgy rivets. Good luck!

You get my feeling!

 

 

 

I feel confident I can tackle the interior, over time. It's I just don't want to buy a boat that shows signs of being a huge problem with the hull very quickly. I know nothing is certain. But I still feel like I'm trying to understand those thickness readings!

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9 minutes ago, DShK said:

But I still feel like I'm trying to understand those thickness readings!

 

Me too. 3mm seems unusually thick for a boat of that age. The surveyor probably missed all the spots where it is 0.1mm. 

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