The Marine Survey
During a survey, we will use many different tools: a phenolic hammer, a moisture meter, digital volt and ammeters, a camera, and other devices. The most important tools, though, are a flashlight, our senses, and an extensive knowledge of ABYC, Coast Guard and NFPA relevant marine standards and laws.
Our findings will be based on what we see, feel, hear, and sometimes even smell. Your boat will tell its story, and we’ll report back to you.
After finishing the survey, we’ll give you a verbal rundown of our most significant observations. Within four workdays, we follow up with a well-organized and detailed written report, spelling out our findings, providing valuable recommendations, and supporting everything with photos.
Where applicable, you also get an in-depth valuation and replacement value of the vessel.
...but first, why do a Marine survey?
Other than the obvious fact that your lender and insurance company insists, the survey is relatively cheap protection against possibly buying a lemon.
Let’s be clear; all boats have issues! I’ve seen brand new vessels straight out of build with multi-page punch-lists covering minor cosmetic problems to those downright dangerous. Now, imagine how that list can grow on a used boat.
Sometimes more than one owner had a few years to skimp on maintenance. A few years to add equipment, often without completely decommissioning the old, hit a dock or two, get hit by a wayward boat or even run aground, and many other “events.”
Consider the harsh environment in which boats live; the many complex systems on the average cruising boat. When you add to that the cost and complexity of proper maintenance, it should be evident that at least a few systems are bound to have problems, some even severe, and many often hidden.
So, before you write that check, our purpose is to find as many as possible of these defects. Not just to save you money but to identify problems before they can hound you as costly or potential safety issues later.
The details about our Surveys and Services
The pre-purchase survey is typically the most comprehensive survey we perform. It is a detailed examination of the boat and her systems, usually done in three parts; an in-water inspection, an out-of-the-water inspection (haul out), and a limited test run of the vessel.
We look for cosmetic, structural, functional, and maintenance issues with the hull, deck and deck fittings, the deck level spars, standing and running rigging (if a sailboat), the propulsion system, fuel system, steering system, electrical system, water, and sanitation systems, electronics, and navigation systems, safety systems and equipment, vessel documentation and any other systems present.
We look at the wetted systems and underwater machinery when on the hard.
Lastly, during the limited test run, we look at how all the boat’s systems perform while underway, with specific attention to the propulsion and steerage systems.
As part of the survey, we also determine the vessel’s Fair Market Value (FMV) and provide a replacement value using comparable sold and listed boats and figures from BUC Value Pro, NADA Guides.com or Soldboats.com.
A limited Condition and Valuation Survey – also known as an Insurance Survey – is usually done at the behest of an insurance company.
It can also serve as a vessel valuation for estate and divorce settlements and donation of vessels to charities.
For insurance companies, the survey is used to determine whether the vessel represents an acceptable underwriting risk, or for extending existing coverage on older boats not surveyed for some time.
The insurance companies are typically concerned with structural integrity and other issues that might compromise the vessel or crew’s safety. Therefore the C&V survey is essentially an abbreviated pre-purchase survey.
The survey covers all the same systems as a pre-purchase survey. It is as detailed and thorough, abbreviated only in as much as the insurance companies do not require limited test runs and often not out-of-water inspections.
(Check with your insurance what their requirements are, though).
We also provide the vessel’s FMV and replacement value as part of the final report.
Selling a boat can equally be as emotional an experience as buying one. Letting go of “your baby” is not easy, so when you decide to sell, a boat in as near perfect condition as possible will undoubtedly help alleviate the stress. You don’t need a hidden problem ruining your sale.
Problems you’re unaware of and thus not considered in your asking price will surely afford a prospective buyer negotiation power when their surveyor discovers it, or worst, cause them even to walk away.
To know your boat’s condition and fair market value before you list allows you to either remedy defects or price them into your asking price.
A C&V survey of your boat before listing provides you the insight to best present your pride and joy at the right price and in the best light.
Another benefit an owner can get from a condition survey is when planning a refit. Replacing older systems in boats can be frighteningly expensive. Knowing the condition of every system beforehand allows the owner to make informed decisions on where to spend his refit budget.
The electrical system is arguably the most complex system on the boat. Still, there’s no dispute that it is the most often modified by owners, in the process, unfortunately, often neglecting proper ABYC industry safety standards.
Even newer boats suffer from glaring examples of electrical wiring failing to comply with standards. Typical examples are circuit protection, with fusing either not installed correctly or wholly omitted.
Recent updates to dock power supply rules have made things even more challenging. By introducing RCDs (Residual Current Devices) in dock power outlets, low-level AC leakage current is suddenly evident in many more boats. Of course, this is not just a nuisance, it is also dangerous.
On the DC side, the thing that kills boats, DC leakage, is often only evident when it’s too late. Stray current corrosion (also known as electrolytic corrosion) can destroy your underwater machinery in days.
Our Electrical System survey aims to establish the condition of your boat’s electrical system compared to ABYC industry standards. We will identify non-compliance in the system accessible to us. You will get a report that documents and spells out the issues and offers specific solutions to remedy said issues.
We also offer design and installation reviews for major electrical modifications. For example, when exchanging Flooded Lead Acid batteries with Lithium (LiFePO4) or adding solar.
We offer engine and transmission oil analysis through an independent lab. We take the sample, send it off to the lab, and report the result back to you.
Regular oil testing keeps your diesel and gas engines running smoothly and catch problems before they become disasters.
We often hear the argument, “the previous owner probably just changed the oil; I won’t learn anything from testing now.”
To some extent, that is true, but we only take samples after the engine has run for some time. Residual oil left in the engine will mix with the new oil, still showing indications of the engine’s condition. Anyway, the main reason to analyze a sample during the survey is to establish the baseline for your maintenance records.
If you do buy the boat, religiously test oil at 100 to 200-hour intervals (for diesel) or 50 to 100-hours (for gasoline). This is cheap insurance against potentially expensive mishaps.
Before you fly out to come and see the potential new boat or fork out money for a haul-out and survey, let us do a Surveyor’s perspective “look-see” walk-through of the boat.
The walk-through is a short boat tour with a critical eye on the boat and her systems. We’ll let you know if anything looks fundamentally off compared to the listing, potentially saving you a trip or even the price of a haul-out and survey.
If you proceed and we survey the boat, the cost of the walk-through will go towards the survey.
We also offer tailored services ranging from familiarizing you with your new boat and her systems to full design and installation reviews of new or modified systems.
Additionally, we are available to act as the owner’s agent during a major refit or repair.