Boat Buying Part 2

Last time we began a discussion on boat buying and how search out and locate that first or next boat. This time we’re going to continue and also look at some ideas on preparing your boat for sale.

Ok so now let’s assume that you’ve selected a model that meets your needs and found a candidate worth viewing. Let’s also assume that it’s listed with a broker and you have an appointment set up. It’s also mid-season and the boat is in the water and docked. While it’s not always possible, viewing a boat this way is usually a good thing. This way you get to see the finished product so to speak, boat with the mast up, canvas installed and power available. We’ll talk about bottom and rig inspections later. At this point you shouldn’t be worried about offers or surveys. You’re just at the looking stage for now.

Walking down the dock you get your first glimpse and this is where you experience the boat’s “curb appeal” and first impressions are formed. In many instances this can either make or break the sale. Remember that sellers.     At this point I’m going to go off on a tangent for a bit and talk to any potential sellers about preparing your boat to sell. I’m continually amazed at the condition of many boats that I board for pre-purchase inspections and the condition that they’ve been left in. I’ve seen dirty clothes left in lockers, bilges black with mildew, dirty dishes left aboard, and other things that I have literally tried to forget.        In real estate houses are staged prior to viewing and in the used car business cars are detailed in preparation for sale. This can make all the difference in the world to a potential buyer so why not do the same with your boat. I’m not saying that you have to give the boat a complete overhaul but simply remove any on board clutter that’s not needed, oil the wood, clean the bilges etc. On the exterior clean and polish the gel coat, clean the anti-skid, remove the black streaks on the hull. What this does is give the buyer (and the surveyor) the impression that the boat has been well care for and shows what we call “pride of ownership”. Yes it takes some time and effort but it will definitely pay off. In real estate they often take about a house’s “curb appeal” and trust me it’s no different with your boat. I head a saying years ago that goes like this. “You only have one chance to make a first impression”, so why not take full advantage. Whether it’s that first walk down the dock or in the boat yard that first impression can go a long way towards inspiring a potential buyer’s confidence.

I mentioned earlier about cleaning the bilges. I know that this is not a really nice job but here’s where you can get a lot of bang for your buck so to speak. Dirty bilges can produce bad odors especially if the boat has been closed up for a few days in warn weather and since our sense of smell is one of our strongest senses it’s the first thing that people notice when going below. Again it’s all about first impressions.

Most general purpose household cleaners, a rag, scrub brush or Scotchbrite and a little effort will easily do the job. Gloves are highly recommended. Rinse with clean water and pump it all out with the bilge pump or suck it up with a water vac. If you’re concerned about the watery mess that a garden hose can make down below, here’s a tip. Get one of those plastic sprayers generally used for garden pesticides (the ones with the hand pump) and use it to rinse out the bilges. They make great low pressure sprayers and will work anytime pressurized water is not available.

Back to that first viewing. I always recommend that you bring along a pen and note pad as well as a digital or cell phone camera. Take pictures of everything and I mean everything. Make notes of any issues and questions that you deem important. Let the broker or sales agent go over the boat with you. After this I always suggest that you ask the broker to let you examine the boat on your own for a while. Again take pictures and make notes. This way after you leave the boat you can load up the pictures on your PC or tablet and re-visit the boat after you emotions have settled down a bit. Notes and questions can be discussed with the broker or surveyor if you like the boat and get to that point in the process.

Next time we’ll discuss some of the specifics of that first inspection.

Reprinted From “The Seaworthy Surveyor” Ontario Sailor Magazine

Original Article By David Sandford AMS®

Boat Buying, A Few Thoughts on That Next Boat Purchase Part1

As a Marine Surveyor, for me this has been a busy season. Lots of boat buying going on. It’s been pretty much a buyers market these past few years. It’s not so hot if you’re selling but if you’re in a position to buy the timing couldn’t be better. For the next few posts I’m going to go over the process of purchasing that first or next boat.

In my position as a surveyor, and being in the middle of the whole process I have usually have a front row seat to all this so I thought it might be prudent to review some of the common mistakes buyers make and discuss ways of avoiding them.

The first common mistake is that people make is that they get in a hurry, their emotions take over and this usually winds up costing them money. My advise here is to go slow, think things through and solicit professional assistance if necessary.

The next mistake commonly made is to purchase a vessel without having it surveyed. Believe it or not this happens more often than you might think. After the deal is closed the next step for the purchaser is to obtain insurance. On application one of the first comments made by the insurance company is “send us your survey.” The buyer is then sent scrambling to get the vessel surveyed and hopefully nothing major is uncovered. If it is then it’s up to the buyer to either try and re-negotiate with the seller or cover the repair cost themselves. I have to admit this happens more often on private sales as brokers usually press to have vessels surveyed as part of the process. I get involved in these deals every season and it’s tough to see people waste their hard earned money but its reality. Make the offer to purchase “conditional on survey” and allow enough time in closing for this to take place.

The next step in the boat buying process is to find a competent marine surveyor and arrange for the inspection of your potential purchase. This can be quite a chore in itself as surveyors come in all shapes, sizes and degrees of expertise. I could spend all day on this subject but I’ll try and stick to the most important points. Compile a list of the surveyors in your area. Your broker can usually supply you with this or simply look in the classifieds of local marine publications such as this one. Shop and compare pricing. Surveyors of quality and integrity will usually show similar pricing structures. Be wary of any quotes that are substantially higher or lower. With surveyors you usually get what you pay for. Ask top see a sample of their work. No reputable surveyor should have any problem with this request. As you read various survey reports you’ll soon become aware of the differences. Some will be three to four page inventory lists and some will be comprehensive twenty five page documentaries commenting on everything from the tasteful salon décor to the choice of hull color. A good survey report is usually somewhere in between. If the broker or marina states that they have their own “in house surveyor” be very cautious. There is the potential for a huge conflict of interest with this one. Ask if the surveyor carries liability insurance. Any surveyor should and if they don’t move on. Many marinas and yacht clubs will not allow un-insured surveyors to work on the grounds so this needs to be carefully considered. Finally be sure to contact your insurance company and verify if the surveyor you have selected will be accepted by the company. I often get called to re-survey boats that have just been surveyed and the insurance company would not accept the surveyor’s report.

This brings to the next mistake that is commonly made. The buyer does not to allow enough time have the vessel, hauled, surveyed, the report completed and the deal closed. This can vary depending upon the season but a time span of ten days to two weeks is not unreasonable. A boat purchase is usually an emotional experience and everyone’s in a hurry (the broker included) but remember, a considerable amount of money is being spent so try not to get carried away and let the process unfold as it should. You wouldn’t buy a house and expect the deal to close in three days. A boat purchase is no different. The process takes time. Marinas are busy and haul outs can be difficult to schedule. Surveyors are busy and since they have to co-ordinate their schedules around haul out times this can also be difficult. Once the survey inspection is completed it will usually take a couple of days for the surveyor to complete the written report.

Read the survey report carefully and question the surveyor on any issues that you deem important. Review the surveyor’s findings and recommendations with the broker or seller and ensure that you’re satisfied with the terms and conditions of the deal before closing.

Doing it this way can help you avoid many of the pitfalls and traps boat buyers can fall into as they try to rush the process and potentially save a few bucks in the process.

Moisture Meter Facts and Myths

Moisture Meter Facts and Myths

Moisture meterOur continuing discussions on various aspects of the marine survey and some of the logistics involved in getting it done provides us with a perfect lead in for this a discussion on moisture meters. It’s been a while since we discussed these little guys and since moisture readings can be one of the more confusing of the items noted on a survey report let’s see if we can dispel some of the myths bandied about surrounding these infernal little devises. I say infernal with a bit of humor thrown in because in all reality as a surveyor I have to admit that I have come to rely on the data that they present, but only when in the hands of an experienced operator.

First of all let’s take a look at where the moisture meter originated and how it happened to wind up in the hands of marine surveyors and fiberglass repair professionals.          The moisture meter was originally developed by the lumber industry to assist in the scaling and grading of wood. Early versions were all of the analogue type and each had 2 sharp pins extending from the end of the meter’s housing which the operator pressed into the wood and the reading was displayed by the needle on the meter. About 20 or so years ago the meters lost the sensor pins which were replaced by a sensor pad on the body of the meter which was simply  held against the subject matter and the display produced a reading. This improvement allowed the meter to be used on various materials such as drywall, stucco and yes fiberglass. It wasn’t long before any marine surveyor serious about their craft had one of these guys in their tool kit. By the way the pin type meters are still in use by the lumber industry. Since no formal training or instruction was provided on how to interpret the information produced by the meter (remember they were mainly for use on lumber) many different approaches to the meters usage and data interpretation surfaced and became commonplace. Luckily since then most experienced surveyors have become proficient in their use but there remain many myths and confusions that still surround the use of these devises.

The first comment that I would like to make is that incorrect usage of the moisture meter has probably been responsible for more unnecessary repair and bottom jobs to fiberglass boats that all other diagnostic methods combined.

Secondly the moisture meter does not actually measure the moisture content of the substance. In actuality it measures the electrical conductivity of the material in question.

The theory is that since water is a conductor of electricity, the more moisture contained in a substance the higher the reading will be. This reading is then displayed on the meter, usually as a percentage.

This brings me to my next comment. Moisture readings should NEVER, NEVER be interpreted as, or reported as a percentage. My answer is always “as a percentage of what?” Here’s why. All fiberglass resins all have some level of moisture in their core makeup, some more and some less. Unless the surveyor was present on the day that the boat’s hull was popped out of the mold and if he was able to take moisture readings at that time, put the information on file for 15 years or so or until the next time the hull’s moisture levels were measured there is no way that percentages have any bearing on the resulting information. I still come across survey reports that report moisture levels as a percentage.  Add to that the fact that a boat hull’s make up is actually a combination of resins, gel coat (which is actually a thickened, pigmented resin) spun glass re-enforcement (of various configurations) and possibly a core material (balsawood, closed cell foam or plywood). Then add a few coats of anti-fouling paint and we have enough to seriously confuse any self-respecting moisture meter. This where the experience factor of the operator comes into play. The moisture meter is in reality a very simple devise to use. You place the sensor pad on the substance in question and read the display. That’s the easy part. Trying to understand and interpret what the meter is telling us is where the difficulty sets in.

The next question that arises is how deep into the substance can the meter actually read? Moisture meter manufacturers make claims and I don’t want to say that they are false but it appears that any meters depth of accuracy, again will depend largely on the substance being measured.

Does anybody notice a pattern developing here? The point that I’m trying to make is that there are usually more variables in the use of a moisture meter than there are absolutes and interpretation of the readings is the real key. I have taken moisture readings on hundreds of boats over the years have to admit that I still do not have it all figured out but I have learned enough over the years to know when to question the readings and investigate further by other methods. I see moisture meters being offered for sale to boat owners at retail outlets and when I’m questioned as to whether they are a good investment for any boat owner my answer is usually no. In most cases what happens is that inexperienced meter operators are easily confused by any or all of the issues listed here and they wind up calling someone such as myself to re-examine and make recommendations.

Taking moisture readings in ambient air temperatures below freezing is also a bad idea and since I have mentioned this previously many times in this column I won’t go into it here.

One thing that the moisture meter does do very well is to prove the positive, this is if a substance is dry the meter will show it easily. Its when the readings are elevated that the confusion sets in.

So I think that you can see that while the moisture meter is in reality, is a simple devise to use there’s a lot more to it and accurate interpretation of the data is the real key.
Reprinted From “The Seaworthy Surveyor” Ontario Sailor Magazine

Original Article By David Sandford AMS® 

Marine Survey Inspections and Reports

We haven’t discussed marine surveys in a while so here goes. It’s late winter here in Canada and as we head into spring we ramp up into the busy season for us marine surveyors. I thought that a few posts on the processes of the marine survey inspection might be in order.

A Marine Survey is an objective report on the condition and value of a particular vessel paying close attention to the structure, installed systems, sails, rigging and motive power components. Survey reports are subject to the condition and accessibility of the vessel at the time of the survey. This is an important statement because the state of the vessel, as presented can affect the depth in which the surveyor can go to test and evaluate the vessel and its installed systems. For example a hull inspection cannot be performed without the vessel being hauled from the water. Electrical systems cannot be tested without charged batteries on board or available shore power.

When performing inspections test methods used by surveyors are usually of a non-destructive nature. What this means is that the vessel in question will not be disassembled by the surveyor for access to systems or components. If minor disassembly is required such as the removal of an electrical distribution panel the owner may be asked to sign a release absolving the surveyor of any issues that may occur as a result of his or her actions.

Hulls and decks are inspected visually for condition and structural soundness. In the case of fiberglass or wood construction moisture levels are verified and measured by percussive sounding and electronic detection.

Electrical and electronic systems are tested by powering up only when authorized, and providing power is available. If not visual inspections of all accessible wiring, fixtures and equipment are performed.

Plumbing systems are inspected for leaks and wear evaluations are based on visual inspections and reported life of the components.

Mechanical systems, engines gearboxes etc. are inspected for leaks, static functionality and overall general condition. If possible the engine may be started and certain dynamic run up tests will be performed.

Interior joinery is inspected for appearance, condition and structural soundness.

If the mast is stepped at the time of the inspection, rigging and spars are inspected from the deck only. For a thorough inspection arrangements should be made to de-step the mast. Sails should also be made available for a full inspection as well.

A pre purchase situation starts with all of the above and may also include a full engine and drive evaluation. Engine compression and oil pressure may be checked. On gasoline engines spark pugs may examined for telltale signs of problems such as oil consumption and internal component degradation.

At this point a sea trial will facilitate a running inspection of all spars, rigging, sails and loaded run up and tests of the all motive power components.

Survey reports should be subjective, concise, detailed and include pictures that not only indicate problem areas but also give a good general description of the vessel being surveyed. The report should deal with appearance and cosmetic issues only when they affect either vessel value or safety related issues. Current safety standards and regulations should be quoted where applicable. Although many vessels were manufactured before current standards were put into place and compliance may or may not required by law it is always good safety practice to ensure that any vessel is maintained as close to current standards as possible. Insurance providers may require compliance with certain current standards as well.

Reprinted From “The Seaworthy Surveyor” Ontario Sailor Magazine

Original Article By David Sandford AMS®

 

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