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Purchase a lightning struck Tomcat?
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JMacLeod



Joined: 26 Jun 2018
Posts: 33
City/Region: Altamonte Springs
State or Province: FL
PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:05 pm    Post subject: Purchase a lightning struck Tomcat? Reply with quote

So I've been looking at a 2006 Tomcat near me in Florida, 2015 rebuilt engines low (140) hours, all new electronics in 2015, asking $75k.
Boat looks a little rough, used for USCG aux, not the typical family C-Dory cruiser.
Based on my visual of the boat we came to a compromise offer of about $60k and I hired a mechanic to check the engines.

Both flywheels showed surface rust, and other metal components on both powerheads showed light corrosion which lead to the question of water intrusion.
Compression test on the starboard engine varied across cylinders by more than 10% (195-221), and more than the 14 psi max difference stated in the service manual (Thanks Bob).
I'm still waiting on an oil analysis result, but other noteworthy items included; corroded tilt trim units on both engines, water contamination and metal in port engine gear case, both starter solenoid connections discolored and appear to have been possibly overheated at some point.

A NAMS surveyor did a quick pre-survey walk around and noticed several latches and other metal showing more corrosion than usual for the age of the boat.

After some pointed disclosure questions, it's revealed the boat was hit by lighting and all electronics including motors were fried.
Insurance replaced all electronics including powerhead electronics.
I haven't seen any paperwork yet, so I don't know what else may or may not have been done.

When I told him, the surveyor explained that lightning has enough energy to alter materials on a sub-atomic level, destabilizing the structure of the metal making it more susceptible to corrosion. This explains the appearance of salt water intrusion even if the boat was never submerged. This also means that any metal that the lightning "rattled around in" and hasn't been replaced is now suspect. Other materials, like wood and fiberglass, can have hidden structural damage from trapped water molecules being explosively vaporized by the heat as the lightning passes through. In some worst case scenarios, this has caused hull/transom failure or "hinging" along those lines of weakness.

I was already planning to gut and update the entire cabin/galley/head/berth to the Admiral's pleasure, so I'm somewhat already prepared to the idea I may have to replace any other visible metal hardware/latches/screws/bolts showing premature corrosion.
One question that now comes to mind is what about other metal fasteners and components that aren't visible, especially structural ones?

So here we are, several hundred hours and dollars later, with more questions and unknowns than when we started.
Best case, after replacing/restoring everything necessary, the old girl lives a long and happy second life.
Worst case, she ends up a never-ending gremlin factory that fails us halfway to the Bahamas.

Before moving forward and dropping another $500-600 on a full survey I'd like to get a little feedback from the C-Dory owner community on your thoughts.
Lightning damage is unpredictable in nature so there will always be questions about this boat at resale time.
It looks like this particular boat has been sitting on the market unsold now for about a year.
Based on the issues and unknowns, what kind of fair market value does this boat still have, or would you avoid it at any price?
If you did buy it, what kind steps would you take to restore some peace of mind before going offshore?

We did look at a new Tomcat 255 base MSRP $155k, but thought it would be wiser to earn our chops on a used one first for a couple of years before deciding to make that commitment. Now we just need a little help deciding if this is the right one at the right price for us to invest our hearts and wallet, or to keep looking.

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DavidM



Joined: 24 Dec 2017
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City/Region: Punta Gorda
State or Province: FL
C-Dory Year: 2006
C-Dory Model: 22 Cruiser
PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 1:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

With a new Tomcat base MSRP of $155k, one can probably be purchased for about $135k base. Not sure what options are worth adding to that base for comparison. If the new electronics are post lightning then they may add to that base.

A twelve year old very nice C_Dory should sell for about half of new. This one has its problems, so the $60K you have agreed so far is in the ball park.

I don't quite buy the molecular change to metals bit- I am a retired chemical engineer BTW. Yes I can see how trapped water can explode inside fiberglass but that should be very, very obvious even with a casual survey.

So, I am a bit puzzled by the corroded fittings. I will bet they corroded due to use and neglect, not lightning. But nothing is likely to be structurally impacted. Maybe C-Dory built the early Tomcats with Zymac fittings- guaranteed to corrode over time.

Sounds like a project boat.

David
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Dreamer



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would walk away and save yourself the anxiety.
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thataway



Joined: 02 Nov 2003
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City/Region: Pensacola
State or Province: FL
C-Dory Year: 2007
C-Dory Model: 25 Cruiser
Vessel Name: thataway
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 3:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The fittings on my 2006 (I believe by hull numbers only one boat on the assembly line from the boat in question) had no zinc or pot mental fittings--all SS, or zinc plated "L" brackets in the hull to furniture. These will corrode just being in the salt air.

In 2006, the Tom Cat with Trailer was $118,000. The Tom Cats are basically built as per order, and I doubt that one would get 10% off.--but you can always try. I know that Wefings took about a year to sell the last one they had, and I believe there had been some price reductions. The dealer has to "suffer" flooring costs, which can eat up profits when boats don't sell right away. When I bought the current 25, it was one of the best boats on the market, many desirable upgrades, low engine hours, and newer electronics. But I am still spending 3 months working on the boat, and spending another $10,000 to make it exactly what we want. So for a new boat, with taxes, good electronics, trailer etc--I would not be surprised to see a total cost in the $170,000 range.

Yes, the boat in question will be a project boat. The usually selling contract, is subject to sea trials and survey. The survey (just inspection) has already found significant issues. The engine survey, also has significant issues. The port gear case may just be an instance of a bad seal due to monofilament fishing line, or it may be a result of the lightning strike. There are those who could argue for new motors if there is significant damage--or even total out the boat if hull damage.

I have talked to John both on the phone and in person about the boat in question. My point about the engines, is that "rebuilt" to me means tearing down the block, doing micrometer readings on the wearing surfaces, honing or boring the cylinders, replacing bearings, journals, pistons, rings, either valve job or replacing valves, etc. It sounds as though on these engines (about 1000 hours) that the only items which has been replaced was the electronics (coil, ECM, wiring, including starter motors, and solenoids--but maybe not the starters?) I am not qualified to speak to the increased corrosion on the surface metals. I have a call in to a friend who is one of the top metallurgists in the US, and will ask him about the effect--(I suspect there can be considerable, including change of hardness of metals)

All of the wiring should have been replaced--every single wire. John thinks that some has been done--but lacking receipts it must be proven by the seller.

The boat is now known to have had a lightning strike, which in itself will devalue the boat further. I would be more worried about hull changes if there had been lightning traces down the hull, especially to thru hulls. Lacking that, I doubt that there is serious hull damage, but would want to look at the laminate very carefully.
The boat should be all foam cored, and should not be any damage to the core, if it was not wet. However, if there is significant hull damage, the surveyor should find evidence of it in the laminate, from either pin hole, to some actual resin failure due to the heat. This is far more likely around thru hulls, and on boats which are on the hard. Multi hull sailboats are almost twice as likely to be struck as monohulls. I doubt that is true of power boats.

The fuel tanks are also an unknown. If John is going to rebuild the interior, then they can be inspected. Unfortunately C Dory did not coat the tanks with any barrier coat.

Also we don't know if this boat had an epoxy barrier coat (I always put barrier coat on before putting on the first coat of a bottom paint on a new boat, to minimize water migration into the hull laminate.) If barrier had been applied, that would make me feel better about any potential hull damage. here is a good article on boat strikes by Beth Leonard in 2015, Boat US

Heck, this might be the ideal boat to take a sawzall and cut the entire hulls off just below the bridge deck and make the freeboard (tunnel height) 6" more, and have the best riding boat in its size!. Then the factory could splash a new mold, and all of the Tom Cats would be the boat they should be--even when in "cruising mode". Very Happy

At this point, I know that John is trying to find documentation of what was done to the engines and the extent of re-wiring etc. I would approach the broker and owner, and say that you are still interested, but because of the findings will only proceed forward if the price is reduced further. The going price of this age Tom Cat is in the mid 70's with normal wear and tear, less than 1000 hours on the engines. Boats which have been repowered or have significant upgrades/excellent cosmetics may sell for more.

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Thataway
Thataway (Ex Seaweed) 2007 25 C Dory May 2018
Thisaway 2006 22' CDory November 2011 to May 2018
Caracal 18 140 Suzuki 2007 to present
Thataway TomCat 255 150 Suzukis June 2006 thru August 2011
C Pelican; 1992, 22 Cruiser, 2002 thru 2006
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Wefings
Dealer


Joined: 29 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 5:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

FYI there is no published MSRP on C Dory products . 135k is likely not far from dealer cost .
Marc

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JMacLeod



Joined: 26 Jun 2018
Posts: 33
City/Region: Altamonte Springs
State or Province: FL
PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wefings wrote:
FYI there is no published MSRP on C Dory products . 135k is likely not far from dealer cost .
Marc

Thanks for the clarification, Marc.
The dealer may not have used the term "MSRP", but I certainly walked away with that impression.
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JMacLeod



Joined: 26 Jun 2018
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 10:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DavidM wrote:
With a new Tomcat base MSRP of $155k, one can probably be purchased for about $135k base. Not sure what options are worth adding to that base for comparison. If the new electronics are post lightning then they may add to that base.


Hi David, thanks for the response.
I was told flat out by the C-Dory dealer that the base $155k is non-negotiable, but that they can "work with me" on electronics/accessories/add-ons/etc., so this was already going to be the topic of another thread.
But since you brought it up, if anyone would care to share the details of their own recent C-Dory dealer purchase with me by PM, I'd appreciate having some clue what "work with me" means before walking into the dealer's again.

DavidM wrote:
I don't quite buy the molecular change to metals bit- I am a retired chemical engineer BTW. Yes I can see how trapped water can explode inside fiberglass but that should be very, very obvious even with a casual survey.


I understand completely.
Mom retired from Florida Power & Light, and in younger days I spent 14 years in S FL as a communications line tech with quite a bit of experience and training in lightning damage.
Later on, the wife and I owned and sold/retired from a chemical supply company, so I'm familiar to working with chemists and have a healthy respect for their knowledge.
This was unheard of to me and I'm still skeptical as well.

However, the NAMS surveyor had over 20+ yrs experience here working with insurance companies and lightning damage, and I didn't have any legitimate reason to doubt him, so I kept an open mind.
After doing a little "trust but verify" research I found some basis for it published in Smithsonian about a 2015 discovery that "Lightning Strikes Can Change Rocks’ Atomic Structure"
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/lightning-strikes-deform-rocks-atomic-level-180956285/#fuT3Uqj9z34bVKhG.99
while this doesn't fully answer the question at hand, it does lend enough credence to the surveyor's theory that it can't be ruled out entirely.

As for any possible internal structural or fiberglass damage, I have no visible reason to suspect anything yet, and no visual clues or even any idea what path the lightning may have taken.
There's a good probability the hull is as solid as any other 2006 Tomcat on the water.
I was only made aware of the possibility of that type of hidden damage after reading about it in a book on "Lightning and Boats".
http://holidayharbourmarina.com/Lightning_and_Boats.PDF
Hopefully a full survey would turn up any serious issues with the hull if we go forward.

thataway wrote:
At this point, I know that John is trying to find documentation of what was done to the engines and the extent of re-wiring etc. I would approach the broker and owner, and say that you are still interested, but because of the findings will only proceed forward if the price is reduced further. The going price of this age Tom Cat is in the mid 70's with normal wear and tear, less than 1000 hours on the engines. Boats which have been repowered or have significant upgrades/excellent cosmetics may sell for more.


As Bob knows, we are still very interested in this Tomcat even knowing that it may now require more work and money than originally planned.
We've renovated a few houses so we were well aware that our anticipated budget could easily double once the "walls" are opened, so to speak.

Part one of the equation is trying to determine the possible scope of the work/expense, versus what this boat is worth for us.

Part two of the equation is knowing that I'll probably be trading up or listing it here in a few years, I need to be realistic about what kind of a resale/trade-in value this will have when the time comes.

My personal experience in boats is close to zero, so I'm relying heavily on the advice of paid surveyors and the experience of actual boat owners like yourselves on the forums.
At the end of the day, I want to be sure I did my due diligence.
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thataway



Joined: 02 Nov 2003
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City/Region: Pensacola
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C-Dory Year: 2007
C-Dory Model: 25 Cruiser
Vessel Name: thataway
Photos: Thataway
PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2018 11:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I talked with my metallurgist friend. If the steel was directly hit--melted or carbonized on the surface, then there will be marked structural change. But he felt that interior hardware, into wood or fiberglass, which was plated or SS would not be significantly altered to cause corrosion. The same held true for the outboards. Unless it showed signs of a direct strike--and burn, or melting, that there might be some mild change in grain structure of the steel, and there might be some minimal hardening changes. But he does not think that as much corrosion as you described would definitely be from a lightening strike--absent the evidence of melting, such as you might see on a mast, rigging or chainplate. The engines, cables and wiring would be paths of the lightning to the water.

I wonder what happened to the people in the boat? I have been hit 3x by very small side lobes of lightning, with no residual effects--just a spark and a tingle. if the boat was underway, and the lightning came in via the VHF radio antenna, there might be some evidence around its base, even if replaced.

This also brings up, did the boat take on water? With a very brief or even partial sinking; You might not find water marks if it were raised quickly...Could account for corrosion, and engine issues--plus replacing the wiring.
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JMacLeod



Joined: 26 Jun 2018
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City/Region: Altamonte Springs
State or Province: FL
PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2018 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The original suspicion of water intrusion lead to the seller disclosing the lightning damage, and firmly stating that the boat was neither submerged nor partially submerged.

Thanks for checking with your friend.
That makes perfect sense.
A close strike with stray passing voltage is not going to have the same effects as the narrow path to ground which might be measured in millimeters or microns.

Barring anything directly in the path of the strike (or submerging), any other advanced corrosion is probably just cosmetic from neglect and sitting out in the SFL elements for over a year now.
I would eventually be replacing and sealing anything that had cosmetic corrosion or making rust streaks anyway, so this isn't an unexpected expense on my part.

This type of information tips the risk/reward needle a little closer to my comfort zone.
Now I need to decide what to do about the engines, and what's their fair worth.
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thataway



Joined: 02 Nov 2003
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C-Dory Year: 2007
C-Dory Model: 25 Cruiser
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Photos: Thataway
PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2018 1:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

double post
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JMacLeod



Joined: 26 Jun 2018
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2018 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

thataway wrote:
I wonder what happened to the people in the boat? I have been hit 3x by very small side lobes of lightning, with no residual effects--just a spark and a tingle. if the boat was underway, and the lightning came in via the VHF radio antenna, there might be some evidence around its base, even if replaced.

I wonder too.
It's been a struggle just to get general info on the boat, let alone about the incident.

I did come across a few photos posted in Feb '16 on the USCG aux FB site that showed the tomcat being towed.
No description on the pics, so no idea if the tomcat is being towed after the incident or for another reason.
Previous owner made a comment on one pic that the old boat served them well and will be missed in Jul '17, so it was obviously decommissioned a bit prior to that.

No mention on their site of the incident or injuries, and no mention in local news stories from 2015-16, so I'd assume no one was seriously injured.



tow_collage700px by JMacLeod, on Flickr
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thataway



Joined: 02 Nov 2003
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C-Dory Year: 2007
C-Dory Model: 25 Cruiser
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Photos: Thataway
PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2018 1:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A couple of comments on the photos: No damage to the VHF antenna. If the strike had occurred then, I would expect the antenna to be damaged.

The boat looks low in the water in all of the photos, to me lower than a C Dory 255 should look.

Where are the infamous docking lights, which had wiring hanging out? Are they just not visible in the photo, because they are recessed or flush to the hull?

Clear sky, looks like an urban environment.

I had wondered about the "Mast" behind the Radar arch...for all of the CG flags and Pennants.
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JMacLeod



Joined: 26 Jun 2018
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City/Region: Altamonte Springs
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2018 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good point about riding low.
That's something only a tomcat owner might notice.

Unfortunately I didn't take any detailed photos of the antennae when I met with the mechanic.
I'll be more thorough next time I'm there.

If nothing else, at least I already have a mascot/logo in mind for her, although my nieces and nephews might not get it...
Mr. Green


Nine Lives by JMacLeod, on Flickr
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Sea Wolf



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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2018 3:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not to confuse the issue, but in considering what to pay for such a project boat, besides the price itself and the anticipated refurbishing costs, how much extra on the refurbishing costs would be prudent to add in to be safe on unanticipated cost overruns? An extra 30, 40, 50 % or? Boat projects seem to have their own way of inflating beyond expectations.

Then you'll have to consider the cost of your own labor and the probable decreased resale value of a rescued/refurbished/restored boat.

It seems to me that this project has a lot of unknown variables and the risks involved make it necessary to get the scales tipped considerably in your favor to make the risk/reward worth it.

I can see you're trying to pin down all the unknowns as much as possible and doing a through investigation. Add in many thanks to all your C-Brat advisors, too.

Not everyone would have the fortitude to embark on such an endeavor. Laughing

Keep us posted, this is a fascinating story!

P.S. : Love the new logo!

Wishing you well. Good luck!

Joe. Teeth Thumbs Up

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"Most of my money I spent on boats and women. The rest I squandered'. " -Annonymous
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thataway



Joined: 02 Nov 2003
Posts: 16033
City/Region: Pensacola
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C-Dory Year: 2007
C-Dory Model: 25 Cruiser
Vessel Name: thataway
Photos: Thataway
PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2018 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A comment on electronics. There is not a lot of margin on the price of electronics in any case. You can get the best "deals" thru some of the on line dealers, like BOE, International Marine (Boynton Beach), At times the "factory outlet" and GPS store can do a little better. Stay away from West Marine, unless you know it is a really great special, and you have validated the prices. Many times those are close outs on a discontinued model. Occasionally I have seen some smoking deals--maybe improperly priced or a high inventory item at West.

Probably the "working with you" will be charging less on installation...Not sure what 3 Rivers is for shop labor, but $125 to $150 an hour is not unusual in Florida. I prefer to do my own electronics installation--then you know exactly what was done--and can properly seal any core which is exposed, and label the circuits.

In any case, comparative shop when it comes to electronics.
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