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.

A Few Words on Carbon Monoxide from Boat Exhausts

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless gas that is a combustion by-product of both gas and diesel engines. When inhaled by the human body it is dangerous because it interferes with the blood system and the brain. In small doses it may only result in temporary illness but in larger doses it can progress to brain damage with possible internal hemorrhaging and even death. The first symptom of CO poisoning is drowsiness and sometimes nausea, the later of which is most often associated with diesel produced CO.

CO by itself is odorless, but you can always be sure that it is present by the smell of engine exhaust. In fact this is the best way to detect CO but over a period of time people can become intolerant to the smell and cease noticing it. CO is heavier than air and will tend to collect in lower areas of the hull especially cabin spaces and sleeping quarters.

The most common method by which CO accumulates in cabin spaces is via leaking engine and generator exhaust systems. All exhaust systems need to be inspected frequently. Like on your car, they don’t last forever and require maintenance. All inboard engines both gas and diesel have water cooled exhaust systems. Any time the exhaust system shows evidence of a water leak, there is a serious potential for a CO leak therefore if it’s leaking water, it’s probably leaking CO.

Boats are also somewhat prone to what is known as the “station wagon effect”. When the vessel is moving under engine power a vacuum is created behind the boat, which can actually draw the fumes on board and into the cabin. This can occur at speeds as low as four or five knots. Even though this can’t always be prevented ensuring that all windows and hatches are open keeping the cabin well ventilated is the best insurance. Also sometimes a slight course change which can alter the wind direction can help as well.

The amount of CO produced by a diesel engine is less than half that of a gasoline engine but it is still dangerous.  With diesel you are also being subjected to poisonous sulfur dioxide which is considerably less deadly, but it has a tendency to make you feel sicker. In rough water, it can increase the effects of, and often cause sea sickness. Long term exposure to diesel exhaust can do the same thing as short term exposure to gas exhaust. In either case, the condition has to be eliminated.

The installation of CO alarms in cabins is a good idea and they do work but like anything else they need to be maintained and kept in good order to be effective. Most surveyors that I know recommend their installation as part of a survey report and in reality it is just good common sense. They have become pretty much commonplace in our homes so why not out boats. The largest problem with alarms is that they are very sensitive to contaminants and when they do become contaminated they usually sound and then are disconnected and rendered inoperative.

The good news is that by simply being alert to the potential of the risk you can reduce the odds of this happening to you to nearly zero.

 

Reprinted From “The Seaworthy Surveyor” Ontario Sailor Magazine

Original Article By David Sandford AMS®

2016 Marine Survey Season

Well, its been a busy 2016 surveying season so far here on the North Shore of Lake Ontario. We had virtually  no spring this year and went right from winter to launch season. Like I said its been very busy and I apologize for my lack of posts these past couple of months. As it usually does, business has dropped off a bit in July and this year is no different but its still going.

In between a myriad of survey inspections and reports I have actually managed to sail my own boat a bit and have that the opportunity to race on ACE a Mumm 36 up and down the north shore and across the lake. In our club’s Wednesday night series I’ve been on a board a C&C 38 so I’ve been busy. On Wednesday this week its aboard ACE again for another across the lake overnighter, the Freeman Cup and after that on Friday, Saturday and Sunday its can racing as part of the LYRA regatta hosted by The Whitby Yacht Club.

Mumm 36

ACE, Mumm 36 racer

In the picture above, standing on the side deck is Dirk Stydenga, sailmaker extraordinaire former owner of Performance Sails in Toronto and now hails from Halifax Nova Scotia.

Electroshock Drowning – Prevention

Electroshock Drowning, Prevention. A few days ago I received and enquiry on my Facebook page (thanks Brian) asking about the possibility of testing for stray electrical current leakage in the water at marinas. To that end I thought that I’d talk that very subject in this post.  To make a long story relatively short it is possible to test for this but to do so requires specialized equipment. You basically need a Digital Multi Meter which is very sensitive on the low side of AC amps scale and it needs to be equipped with precious metal test leads.

Unfortunately these test results are  only good at the time of the test. In other words you could be ok  today and not tomorrow Unless you are testing every day or so which is probably not going to happen.

In my opinion,  prevention is  much better and a more practical solution to the problem than trying to continually monitor for any stray current leakage. The good news is that it’s not difficult to do just that. There is a devise on the market which is easily retrofitted to just about any boat’s on board  shore power AC electrical system. It’s called an Electrical Leakage Circuit Interrupter or  ELCI . It’s simply a high capacity Ground Fault Interrupter (GFCI) which breaks the circuit if it senses stray current leakage to ground or in our case into the water. You all know what a GFCI is. It’s that AC plug installed in our kitchens and bathrooms in our home that have the little red and black push buttons in the center. If the red button pops you simply press the black button to reset the devise. If it continually trips then you obviously have a problem which needs to be corrected.

To understand how these devises function we need to go back to our basic electrical theory which states that on a properly functioning AC (alternating current) circuit there should be equal current flow on both the hot (black) and the neutral (white) wires. Any current leakage on the circuit, however small will cause an imbalance in this current flow and the ELCI will automatically open and break the circuit.

The main difference between the ELCI and the GFCI are the current levels at which they trip at. The GFCI trips at 5 milliamps which is really too low for to be any use to us and  the ELCI trips at 30 milliamps. Enough to serve our purposes but not enough to be harmful. (Remember .6 amps AC = heart failure). The reason  that GFCI’s are ineffective for this is that all boats plugged into shore power on any one dock are electrically connected through the shore power grounding circuits and properly functioning boats will usually leak small amounts of current into the water, even under normal conditions. In most cases these current levels are too small to be of any concern. The problem is that they are cumulative (they add up) and can increase to levels, that while are still not dangerous can cause nuisance tripping of the GFCI’s and be a real pain.  This is also why, in North America AC power services at the docks rarely have GFCI’s installed. I understand that in other parts of the world GFCI’s are sometimes utilized on docks.

Ok back to the ELCI. Installation is relatively simple. In many cases the main 2 pole circuit breaker at the AC main panel can simply be replaced with one that incorporates the ELCI into it. Otherwise they can be installed as a stand-alone in the main AC feed circuit between the vessel shore power receptacle  and the 2 pole main circuit breaker at the on board  AC panel. They also are not costly, average  about $2-300 USD. Additional  information on the ELCI can be found at www.bluesea.com

In addition to the installation of the ELCI it is recommended that the on AC and DC grounding circuits be connected aboard the boat. This is easily done right at the panel.

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