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Wanted: Cheap way to see underside of boat

Parallax

Member
Recently purchased a 1971 Charley Morgan 38. Hull number 75, which may be the last one that was made.

Bought it with a friend who knows more about sailboats than me. We've not yet hauled it out but we're having problems with the steering. We don't know if the lack of steering at slow speeds is just a feature of a modified full keel, particularly when there's a drop board which limits the depth of the rudder, or if there's something wrong with the system.

I'm looking for a cheap way to see the underside of the boat before we haul it out for the first time, as we will likely do in September. For now, I'd like to see if there's a buildup of barnacles on the hull, keel, prop or rudder. Would like to assess if it's moving correctly. I'm wondering if an endoscope like this would provide visibility.


Has anyone used one? Has anyone used an inexpensive underwater camera? The water in our marina is not super clear so it would be important to have a light source. Thanks.
 

terry_thatcher

Terence Thatcher
I have used something like this for looking in conduits and down the mast. It is too small, I believe, to show much of a broader view. Get a wetsuit and dive the boat. Or look into underwater GoPros. Also, do you have a wheel or tiller? If a wheel, check all the linkage to the rudder post. The original 38 were well regarded boats. It might not back up well, but it should surely steer well going forward.
 

Parallax

Member
It steers well in forward once there's a bit of speed. With the engine running, it's fine. Just when we're under sail, one losing steering when the boat slows. Steering in reverse under engine power is horrible. But the prop wash kicks the boat to the right which is adequate to help back out of our slip. Then I can go forward and turn.
The problem has been when racing. We just seem to have trouble maneuvering. We're as fast as pretty much any boat in our class. Not the modern racing boats of course but the cruiser/racers. We just get killed when tacking and losing control of our direction. Then we miss a marker and have to tack back the other way and, of course, at that point, we've lost any hope of any position other than last.
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
I've used those endoscopes quite a bit: for inspecting our fuel tank, tracing air ducts in our house, and other things. They work very well, but they are tricky to operate and require a little practice. Or they are frustrating because you loose orientation and can't really tell where you are going. If your water is really turbid/murky having an adjustable light is good because too much light can illuminate the particles and make it harder to see (like headlights in the fog). I agree with Terry that it might not be the best use case for that type of camera.

Do you know when the bottom was last cleaned? If it's been a year, I'm sure it's pretty cruddy.

It's not too horribly expensive to hire a diver to inspect/clean the bottom for you. In Portland and Bremerton it costs me $100 to $150. It's best to get someone with some experience so they don't get too aggressive and strip off all your bottom paint.

The other thing that killed us in races (especially in light winds) was not having a feathering/folding propeller. They are pretty expensive, but we went from dead last place to first place in our class after we got a Max Prop. We don't really care about racing that much, but it also translates into a big difference when cruising. Not having a folding/feathering prop is roughly like dragging a 5-gallon bucket behind the boat, in terms of drag. Especially noticeable when tacking in light winds.
 
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Parallax

Member
Thanks so much. That's really encouraging. I will look into the possibility of a folding/feathering prop when we pull the boat out. How much did it set you back? And did you have trouble steering before getting the Max Prop?

A diver is a possibility. Just wanted to see what we're up against first. Yesterday, I picked up a Yi Action Camera, which is a Chinese knockoff of the GoPro. This particular knockoff is well rated and, in fact, was said to be better than the GoPro that was already on the market when it was released in 2018. It's like new, only having been used once (to test it out and then it sat in a drawer). The guy got it as a Christmas gift and never had a use for it. The plastic is still on the camera and the waterproof case. Paid $60, which seemed a good investment. So we'll run it under the boat this weekend. Might need a waterproof flashlight, ideally with a variable setting.
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
How much did it set you back? And did you have trouble steering before getting the Max Prop?
It was $3k about 3 years ago. Probably more now.

Before the Max Prop, our turns in light winds were sluggish. Especially if there was current.

After the max prop our prop walk while in reverse totally went away. I used it as a tool, but oh well!
 

Parallax

Member
Where is the boat located? What is the water temperature?
We're in Bellingham, Washington. So toward the northern end of the Puget Sound. The water is cold. Would need at least a wet suit and preferably a dry suit, including protection for hands, feet and head. Even in the summer, falling overboard without appropriate protection would likely result in death from hypothermia within about 15 minutes.

Even though I'm a strong swimmer, I always wear a life vest when we're out sailing. Going overboard causes a kind of shock and the body takes a huge involuntary gasping inhale. If one is underwater, his lungs are now full of water. Recently a man died who went over the side of his boat. He was a good swimmer and was fished out right away but he couldn't be revived. A life jacket would have saved him.

The water in the marina is so murky, I wouldn't want to go in even if I had the right equipment. This was once an industrial area. God only knows what lurks in the mud. And the water is full of algae and God knows what else.
 

Parallax

Member
It was $3k about 3 years ago. Probably more now.

Before the Max Prop, our turns in light winds were sluggish. Especially if there was current.

After the max prop our prop walk while in reverse totally went away. I used it as a tool, but oh well!
Wow, $3,000's a lot, particularly since we paid $10k for the boat. I don't think we're going that route; not unless we can find a pre-owned option. Like you, we really don't care if we win races. Would just like to be able to steer better. Is it just a feature of a boat like ours, with a modified full keel, that it steers poorly?

Overall, I love the stability. When we're out on the sound and the waves are rough, it cuts through really nicely. Perhaps turning deficiencies at low speed are the price one pays. When all's said and done, I'd not want a fin keel.
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
I’ve never been on a Charley Morgan 38 and they are a different design than our 384. Our boat steers as expected though. I haven’t heard complaints about Charley Morgan steering, and something is probably wrong.

Do you have any idea when the bottom was cleaned?

My first guess is you might have a lot of growth down there
 

Parallax

Member
I’ve never been on a Charley Morgan 38 and they are a different design than our 384. Our boat steers as expected though. I haven’t heard complaints about Charley Morgan steering, and something is probably wrong.

Do you have any idea when the bottom was cleaned?

My first guess is you might have a lot of growth down there
Yes, that's one reason I got the camera. Will find out this weekend. I think it's been several years but the last owner said that he hired a diver each summer to go down and clean the bottom. Perhaps that wasn't adequate.
Since we have a solid fiberglass hull, I don't imagine we'll have to worry about blisters but, if it looks questionable, I'll suggest we haul it out right away. Even though we're approaching the three weeks of summer weather we're generally allocated by the weather gods.
 
Welcome, and as you're about to experience, buying the boat is the cheap part. Free boats are the most expensive indeed.

I would hazard a guess the trouble is simply growth on the bottom. Of course check all the steering.
Growth on the bottom of Sonata after just three months causes sluggishness and manuverability issues. And that doens't include barnicles.
I have a diver clean every 3 months, every month would be better but we don't get much time actually sailing these days.
This is in San Francisco Bay.
You have a great boat!
Mitchell
 

Parallax

Member
Welcome, and as you're about to experience, buying the boat is the cheap part. Free boats are the most expensive indeed.

I would hazard a guess the trouble is simply growth on the bottom. Of course check all the steering.
Growth on the bottom of Sonata after just three months causes sluggishness and manuverability issues. And that doens't include barnicles.
I have a diver clean every 3 months, every month would be better but we don't get much time actually sailing these days.
This is in San Francisco Bay.
You have a great boat!
Mitchell
Thank you, Michael. Is bringing in a diver, if they know what they're doing, as good as hauling it out and scraping the hull?

We need to repaint soon.
 
A competant diver should be able to clean and give you a thourough report on the bottom's condition. Brian, our diver is really good about it, each dive I get a brief report. He changes the prop shaft zinc when needed as well. Price is usually $115 to about $125 if he changes zinc.
I supply the Zincs because I need to mill down the thickness.
Ours is due for bottom paint now too. This fall perhaps. It has been just over 3 years and is ablative paint. Just fyi Each area varies a lot.
Mitchell
 

Parallax

Member
A competant diver should be able to clean and give you a thourough report on the bottom's condition. Brian, our diver is really good about it, each dive I get a brief report. He changes the prop shaft zinc when needed as well. Price is usually $115 to about $125 if he changes zinc.
I supply the Zincs because I need to mill down the thickness.
Ours is due for bottom paint now too. This fall perhaps. It has been just over 3 years and is ablative paint. Just fyi Each area varies a lot.
Mitchell
Thanks so much, Mitchell.
 

Parallax

Member
It was $3k about 3 years ago. Probably more now.

Before the Max Prop, our turns in light winds were sluggish. Especially if there was current.

After the max prop our prop walk while in reverse totally went away. I used it as a tool, but oh well!
Mark,

Since my friend and I bought the entire boat for $10k, I don't see us investing $3k or more on a new prop. Admittedly we got a great deal. The last owner did a ton of work to bring the cabin and the internal structure up to par. It needs some repairs to the deck, which is leaking water into the cabin, the windlass needs to be hooked up (and maybe repaired), the temperature sending unit on the diesel engine needs to be replaced, the bottom needs to be cleaned and painted. The whole exterior needs paint. It would good to acquire a depth finder. The drop board has a wobble and the pully needs to be reset. We could use a larger Genoa (our biggest is 130). The main sail is fine but by no means new. Additional issues will crop up, since boats are maintenance conveyor belts. But overall, we're very happy. We got a lot of boat for not a lot and she's fit to sail as is.

I called the local boat wrecking yard, which I believe may be the last of its kind on the west coast, to see if they could help us find another option on a folding prop. The owner said the Max Prop is an expensive option and he does not have one but he might be able to find us a two-blade folding prop if we can provide the shaft size.

A few questions. What makes the Max Prop so expensive? Second, is there any reason to not consider a two blade prop? I believe the current one has three blades. Third, how does one identify the shaft size?
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
The Max Prop seems to be very well made, and it is *feathering*, not folding. On the 38x versions of Morgan 38s we have a fairly small aperture (the opening where the propeller is located), and the folding propellers wouldn’t fit, from what I could tell. Your Charlie Morgan M38 might be different.

Yeah, many things on boats are crazy expensive. In many cases, there are special things about the construction that make them survive much longer in a salty/marine/vibrating environment. For example, the specially coated stranded wires used in the electric systems. Others times, it’s just a rip off - like some of the propane gear we’ve purchased that looked 20 years old after 1 year at sea. Even though it was quite expensive because it was “marine”.

I think the Max Prop is one of the former: very well built and designed for a hardcore marine environment. It has anodes which really work and are easy to change underwater.

It sounds like your boat’s bottom hasn’t been cleaned for at least a year, and I would get it cleaned and test it before you try to re-design the rudder. I think I saw on another thread that you are considering a re-design.

You were asking about shaft size - ours (on a 384) is 1-1/4”. You can measure them with a caliper. Propeller design is kind of a black art and a super experienced person I trust recommended a 3-blade. I was too caught up with other things to spend any brain power figuring out why.

Good luck with your boat work! I hope you find it enjoyable. :)
 

Parallax

Member
The Max Prop seems to be very well made, and it is *feathering*, not folding. On the 38x versions of Morgan 38s we have a fairly small aperture (the opening where the propeller is located), and the folding propellers wouldn’t fit, from what I could tell. Your Charlie Morgan M38 might be different.

Yeah, many things on boats are crazy expensive. In many cases, there are special things about the construction that make them survive much longer in a salty/marine/vibrating environment. For example, the specially coated stranded wires used in the electric systems. Others times, it’s just a rip off - like some of the propane gear we’ve purchased that looked 20 years old after 1 year at sea. Even though it was quite expensive because it was “marine”.

I think the Max Prop is one of the former: very well built and designed for a hardcore marine environment. It has anodes which really work and are easy to change underwater.

It sounds like your boat’s bottom hasn’t been cleaned for at least a year, and I would get it cleaned and test it before you try to re-design the rudder. I think I saw on another thread that you are considering a re-design.

You were asking about shaft size - ours (on a 384) is 1-1/4”. You can measure them with a caliper. Propeller design is kind of a black art and a super experienced person I trust recommended a 3-blade. I was too caught up with other things to spend any brain power figuring out why.

Good luck with your boat work! I hope you find it enjoyable. :)
Thanks so much. The good news is I am enjoying that aspect, which is good because it's taking up way more time than sailing so far. I'm sure thet Max prop is a great piece of gear. I'm equally certain we're not going to spend $3,000 or more on one. The local boat boneyard has one but it's from a powerboat so it's probably too large for our aperture, which is as you describe (right on top of the rudder). Also, it's got some blades that would need to be replaced and I'm not sure whether replacements can be found (or how much they would cost or whether the internal gears are damaged). I don't see us going with something that complex unless we luck out and find a used one in great condition at a great price.

I've now got an underwater camera but the water was too merky yesterday to see anything. If we don't get any rain for a few days, it will get a lot clearer and I'll try again. If it looks at all ready, I'll have a diver come in and clean it. Otherwise, it can wait until we haul out. I've also heard of a kind of brush that can be used to clean the bottom. Was told it's about $100 but I don't know how effective it would be. Perhaps it would help us stay clean after the next pressure wash cleaning.
 

Warren Holybee

Active Member
$100? 3m scotch bright pads work if you clean often. If you go to long, a putty knife is used.

You will need to get a diving suit and dive on it. I don't think any brush will work from the dock. There are too many angles and curves involved.
 

Parallax

Member
$100? 3m scotch bright pads work if you clean often. If you go to long, a putty knife is used.

You will need to get a diving suit and dive on it. I don't think any brush will work from the dock. There are too many angles and curves involved.
Really would need a diving suit. A dry suit. Plus I'm not sure I'd want to get into that water. Doesn't look pleasant. Our harbor used to be an industrial site. Supposedly the worst toxins have been cleaned but I don't trust it.
 
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