fresh water vs salt water boat

Old 04-05-2009, 05:22 PM
Junior Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Michigan
Posts: 15
Default fresh water vs salt water boat

As there are many more prospective boats available in the salt water areas I am very interested in knowing what to expect regarding how much salt water effects outboard motors and the boats. I live in Michigan and in the market for a high quality 21 to 23' center console.

I have questions such as: What is the estimated life of the outboard? When the salt takes it's toll, what fails? Would a 2 stroke be more or less effected than a 4 stroke (I would like to lean tward a 4 stroke) What on the boat can be effected by the saltwater?

This has been a great site for info. I appreicate the input.
jflowers is offline  
Old 04-05-2009, 05:30 PM
Senior MemberCaptains Club Member
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Michigan
Posts: 669

It might be better to post on a more saltwater oriented part of the forum but I will tell you what I know.

I have had 4 boats that spent time in saltwater and the effects are pretty dramatic. You will find out (if you don't know) that "stainless" steel is really just a suggestion and that salt gets everywhere. How much does it matter ?? Hard to determine without a thorough check. Maintenance helps a lot and the further south the longer the season and the more exposure and more chance of hurricane issues.

The thing is, the "best" used boats are usually from salt water. Once you peruse the freshwater listings, you realize that it is hard to find a freshwater boat from some of the better manufacturers. New, yes but used is tough.

Good luck.....
JasperDog is offline  
Old 04-06-2009, 05:18 AM
Senior MemberCaptains Club Member
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Back for good in the Sailfish Capital
Posts: 1,870

Jflowers, I was a saltwater boater for 12 years before heading to the great white north and freshwater. Growing up in Florida, saltwater (and all of the extra maintenance associated with it) was a way of life.

Having said that, here are some of my brief observations regarding the salt vs. fresh debate.

Saltwater -

Worth note here is that all of my saltwater knowledge is from late 90's so product names, techniques, etc.. may have changed, gotten better, worse, etc..

I had a Boston Whaler 17' Montauk w/ 90hp Yamaha (kept on a boat lift above a saltwater canal)

You HAVE to stay on top of maintenance items. If you do not wear, tear, corrosion, rust, etc.. will be apparent after a short period of neglect. Products like woody wax, corrosion x, etc.. become household names and (if you are good about maintenance) are used after EVERY outing....especially the corrosion x.

Also, I reccomend flushing after EVERY outing as well. I cannot think of a worse thing to have sitting in the motors cooling system than saltwater. No doubt, the debate about flushing will rage on forever but those are my observations.

Trailers also need to be rinsed, bearings inspected, and corrosion x'd very often. In my opinion you cannot get away with anything other than an aluminum I-beam trailer in saltwater. (I've heard that galvanized have improved greatly but these are my experiences)

I had a maintenace itinerary outlining what needed to be done (not just your standard boat and motor) and at what intervals when I was in Florida. This to me was absolutley necessary. If these things are not kept up with, it will be very obvious, and once a boat goes down that lonely path it is nearly impossible to reverse these negative effects.


I now have a Contender 23 Open w/ 300 Yamaha.

Freshwater is a piece of cake to me. Because I am so anal due to my saltwater upbringing, it is VERY easy.

I only have to woody wax, corrosion x, etc.. once or twice per season and could probably get away with less.

The motor is run in freshwater so no need to flush..although I do about twice per season. Regular maintenance is performed by the dealer, other than that, I just keep an eye on everything. Really no need for anything else.

I also inspect the trailer periodically throughout the season and / or have my local dealer inspect it upon fall haul out.

All in all, it is funny to me that a bigger boat requires SO much less maintenance and preventative maint. compared to a smaller boat.

It is all a tradeoff...we have it easy but a shorter boating season here whereas in saltwater it requires much more work but they are lucky to have a longer season in the warmer climates.

BTW, I am selling my 23 Contender, it spent ~60 hours in saltwater but has been a Lake Erie boat ever since...
dadriva is offline  
Old 04-06-2009, 08:36 AM
MemberCaptains Club Member
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 57

I do all of my boating/fishing on Lake Ontario. I have never bought a boat anywhere else other than Florida simply because of the selection. I like centre consoles and walkarounds and you just don't get them up here in Canada! If you know boats then you can tell if someone takes care of there stuff. I buy boats on trailers but you still have to look out for boats that "sit" in the water for any period of time. Look for quick connect for fresh water flushing, High'n'Dry marinas are a good bet cause they usually flush after each use for the customers.

I currently own a Pursuit 2350 and I got a good deal on it so I expected some issue with the motor. I pulled the heads off and all of the water channels were packed full of shit. had them cleaned and new gaskets and have had no issues since. If the motor is not flushed it takes no more than a year to pooch a motor. Survey Survey Survey
edgewater1974 is offline  
Old 04-06-2009, 01:00 PM
Admirals ClubCaptains Club Member Admiral's Club Member
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 112


I have owned boats both in fresh and saltwater. As mentioned above salt does take its toll on parts, but with proper care and maint. a saltwater boat can and should be in good shape. The newer outboards are designed for saltwater use and all offer a device to flush the cooling system with fresh water at the end of every day. Boats themselves are probably more dependent on the quality of the manufactuer as far as ability to stand up to saltwater. In my experience the higher end manuf. utilize the highest grade stainless, aluminum, wiring and connections, etc. and hold up to the salt water environment well. Common sense on maintenance is all it takes.

In the center console arena Florida has a large market for retail, so you can generally find a better price down there. Just make sure you do an inspection and have a survey done. You can usually tell visually which boats have been taken care of and those that have not.

BTW..I do have a 2007 Contender 23T for sale that goes south each winter. Below is the link to a recent ad.

Good luck with your search.

Jt344 is offline  
Old 04-06-2009, 05:58 PM
Senior MemberCaptains Club Member
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: West Va/Fl/PA
Posts: 6,671

purchased my Steigercraft in NY had been in salt however was dry stacked and only had 58 hrs on 5.7 Volve I/O w composite drive-- have used last 2 years in Lake Eire have over 250 hrs-- some one must have trake care of watering down etc because the engine looked like new--- replaced gimbal bearing and boot to start my own maint. schedule---Also purchase a a pro line with outboard-- motor ran but needed work-- sold for 1K and repowered---
Eyehooker is offline  
Old 04-06-2009, 07:36 PM
Junior Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Michigan
Posts: 15

thanks for the info. This site is great!!!
jflowers is offline  
Old 04-13-2009, 05:02 PM
Admirals ClubCaptains Club Member Admiral's Club Member
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Monroe, MI
Posts: 486

My current boat spent the first year of its life in salt water. As other has said you must be sure that the upkeep has been done and get a survey. I had my survey done after I had approx 50 pictures of the boat mailed to me. The things I looked at (based on the guidance given from South Shore Marine) were the bilge, the front bilge, the motor brackets, and the console area. From those pics you could tell how the up keep was, and then I sent the survey guy in.

Once I picked up the boat I dropped it off at South Shore and let them completely desalt it. They gave it a chemical bath, buffed, polished, and waxed just about everything on the boat.

As a result I got a great deal (I think so at least) on a boat that to this day people dont think it has seen anything other then fresh water.

Reel Naughty is offline  
Old 04-17-2009, 03:12 PM
Admirals ClubCaptains Club MemberPLEDGER Admiral's Club Member
THT sponsor
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: (snowbird in training) Lake Erie Un-salted water and shark free!
Posts: 6,666

Mine was a salt water boat as well. It spent its life on a trailer and the previous owner was pretty meticulous about the maintenance. The boat was freshly re-powered, with just a few hours on the engine. I disassembled and scrubbed about as much as I could when got it home. This will be the 5th season with it, and so far the only issue I've had is a raw water wash down pump diaphragm failure. Keep an eye out for the right boat, and you should be all right.
Classic25 is online now  
Old 04-17-2009, 09:17 PM
Junior Member
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 1
Default Concerning fresh vs Salt Water boats/motors

Originally Posted by jflowers View Post
As there are many more prospective boats available in the salt water areas I am very interested in knowing what to expect regarding how much salt water effects outboard motors and the boats. I live in Michigan and in the market for a high quality 21 to 23' center console.

I have questions such as: What is the estimated life of the outboard? When the salt takes it's toll, what fails? Would a 2 stroke be more or less effected than a 4 stroke (I would like to lean tward a 4 stroke) What on the boat can be effected by the saltwater?

This has been a great site for info. I appreicate the input.
I had an 18 foot Fiberform boat in Alaska for about 4 years. Had a 1979 150 Merc. on the transom all being used in Salt water. I bought it new. I then trailored it to Northern Michigan and used in on several inland lakes there for many years. The fresh water mechanics in the yard where I stored it were surprised to know it had been in salt water in the past. I had kept it on a trailor and flushed the engine each time. I believe that all motors are manufactured to operate on both salt and fresh water. The problem you'll have to work through is that virtually all used boats and/or motors usually only have 40 hours on them. Obviously, that's not true but that's what most people describe when advertising. Good luck.
Mariner356 is offline  
Old 05-31-2009, 05:02 AM
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 43

have had 2 experiences with southern boats even though i live in michigan. first one was a disaster and a learning experience. my current boat ('04 GW 222 center console "fisherman" model) i bought from north carolina spring '07 in the pamlico sound area. boat was hoist /shed kept on a fresh water tributary (bath river) to the pamlico river. guy never fished it and it was pristine and really wasn't a saltwater boat - saw some periodic expossure to brackish water but then was always run in fresh water back to the hoist. my point is to look in some of those areas vs florida for example where they have top name cc's and may have less exposure to 24/7 salt environment. Georgia, texas, missouri at times also have fresh water cc boats for sale.
GWC3 is offline  
Old 07-08-2009, 07:09 PM
Senior Member
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 1,719

I currently spend 6mos in Mich, 6 mos in the Fl keys. You have plenty of good advice above. I tow my 23 Proline express back and forth.
Cannot overstate that painted trailers will not make it. Even for a short period of time. The tubing will fill with saltwater and it is doomed. As are drum brakes. Imagine all the springs, etc in a closed drum. Not good. I have had both galvanized and alum trailers. Need one or the other.
Happy fishing.
crothers is offline  
Old 07-09-2009, 05:03 PM
Junior Member
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 1
Default Saltwater

If you take care of your salty, it will last way longer.
All you have to do in regular maintyenence.. Flush the motor with fresh water, corrosion block everything and wax it all.
Stainless won't stain UNLESS you neglect it.
petesmarine is offline  
Old 07-09-2009, 06:40 PM
Senior Member
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Iowa
Posts: 9,624

Originally Posted by petesmarine View Post
If you take care of your salty, it will last way longer.
All you have to do in regular maintyenence.. Flush the motor with fresh water, corrosion block everything and wax it all.
Stainless won't stain UNLESS you neglect it.
Um there is no difference between a saltwater and freshwater boat. What are you refering too

Only the maintainence is different in removing all of the salt from the motor and your boat as well. Of course there are more models to choose from in the saltwater world but other than that no difference
davidkuhlmann is offline  
Old 07-14-2009, 05:20 PM
Senior Member
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: USA in Aquafreska
Posts: 2,991

He may be referring to the difference in construction. Some of the "cheaper" boats utilize aluminum, pot metal, plastic thru-hulls and such not to mention questionable build. Automotive terminal ends on harness, no bonding of hull penetrations are common.

May have been better to ask the differences between a price boat and a good boat.
Mr. Ross is offline  
Old 07-27-2009, 03:59 PM
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Cleveland
Posts: 50

Always get a survey! I have recently purchased the boat I wanted and looked for a 2002 Scout Abaco 282 from Richmond Virginia and shipped it up to Cleveland. It was kept in the salt water. The boat had 290 hours on the Yamaha 200 HPDIs with stainless steel props. Here is a little list of thing I got done to the boat.
1 Sand and prep port and starboard outboard skegs for paint.
Paint skegs to restore original condition.
2 Complete cleaning of interior, galley, head, etc., vacuum & dust. Polish
all metal, one-step all smooth gel coat with a cleaner glaze & polish.
3 Replace all stud snaps & reseal.
4 Exterior wash w/ HD. chemicals to remove stains & oxidation. Complete
Exterior reconditioning - 3 step buffing of hull, topsides, deck, cockpit, etc.
Clean & condition vinyl, polish metal, clean misc. gear, 210 polish on
enclosure, clean / polish glass inside & out.
5 Replace lower zinc for each outboard motor
6 raw water pump impeller on both engines
7 bottom paint
Then I went to work. I went thought all the switches and breakers and cleaned all the connections and replaced some. The outriggers where seized so I had to dissemble them and clean them up. Salt was found on all the fasteners so they were removed and cleaned or replaced. More was done but not due to salt and some of the things I did do I might have done to a fresh water boat to
The boat was a repo so some was neglect but the price was great I am still ahead 35,000 on market value and the boat is like new. She runs great no troubles yet as she runs across the water at 50 MPH by GPS. I knew from the survey what to expect. So you have to decide how much more time and money you want to put in to a salt water boat. I think she was worth it.

LakeErieFishing is offline  
Old 07-29-2009, 01:20 PM
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 1,817

I think what David meant was all manufacturers must make sure they build their boats as if they will be used in salt water; whether or not they ever actually see salt water for obvious reasons.
erie skipper is offline  
Old 07-31-2009, 04:24 AM
Senior MemberCaptains Club Member
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: FL USA
Posts: 1,736

Distance and time are your main problems when shopping for a Florida boat from the north. Salt water is no big deal if the owner keeps up regular maintenance.

I used to fish fresh water (Lake Michigan) before I moved to Florida 14 years ago. I am anal when it comes to maintenance. I flush after each trip, wash frequently, and I do most of my own motor maintanance (oil change, plugs, filters, and water pump). I keep receipts from the purchase of these items and a note saying they were changed out. You should ask to see the motor maintenance records. You won't know if they flushed the motors regularly, but if they were good with the annual service, they probably did a good job flushing.

In addition to a survey, you will want a certified mechanic to inspect te motors. Their software will pick up any codes (like overheating) and will give a good RPM history. Outboards last as long down there as they do up north as long as they are maintained properly.

You are going to spend a bit more time and maybe a bit more money shopping long distance. Before you start laying out $$$ for surveyors and mechanics recruit a long distance buddy to take a look at prospective purchases. You can eyeball a boat and make a judgment about the owners commitment to maintenance.

One more thing, we use our boats more down here, so we have more hours per year than you do up north. Don't be put off by motors with higher engine hours than you are used to seeing at home. When I lived up north, word on the dock was that a motor with 200 hours was getting old and worn. It would not be unusual to put 200 hours on in a year here. I put on about 125 a year and I don't think I use the boat enough. The best thing you can do for your motor is run it. Stay away from a 4 year old boat with low hours if they only have 70 hours on the boat (driveway queen). Most Florida boaters know nothing about "winterizing" the motor because we don't have a winter season and we don't plan on not using the boat for long periods.

Happy hunting!
MrPat is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are Off

Thread Tools
Search this Thread