Surveying Fiberglass Boats During the Winter Months

Surveying fiberglass boats during the winter months poses some difficult issues. When the ambient temperatures are below freezing any moisture contained in fiberglass structures, such as boat hulls and decks freezes as well. During the freezing process crystallization of the substance occurs adding small air pockets which make electronic moisture detection virtually impossible. Also because the substance is frozen it becomes very hard rendering percussive sounding tests useless as well. It is for these reasons that I do not recommend surveying of fiberglass boats when the ambient temperatures are below freezing. Any surveyor who claims that their inspections are valid under these circumstances is in my opinion simply not being truthful and should be seriously questioned.

Prepare Your Boat for a Survey Inspection

In preparing for a marine survey inspection be sure that your boat is clean and in shipshape condition. All cabinets, lockers and storage areas should be clean and cleared of all  gear. Consider the general appearance of the vessel. It is important to give the surveyor the impression that you are proud of your vessel and have taken good care of it.

    Have all paperwork and relevant documentation ready to present to the surveyor. This includes all ship’s registration papers and owner’s manuals for the vessel and all included equipment. Also be prepared to present to the surveyor any maintenance records which describe previous repairs and servicing with the dates in which these were performed. This can assist in inspiring a buyer’s confidence

     The vessel will have to be hauled for bottom inspection so be sure to pre-arrange this with your marina or yacht club.

    All gear and equipment included with the vessel should be made available to the surveyor for inspection and inventory. Any items not included should be removed.

    Written authorization will be required if the surveyor is required to dismantle the vessel in any way for access to components or systems.

Boat Buying Part 5

More on my thoughts on boat buying. In our sample scenario we have already performed a personal inspection on that potential next boat. We have decided that it meets our needs and we are ready to move forward.

The next step in the process will be to discuss price and make a formal offer to purchase. If a broker is involved they will lead you through these next steps but if this is private sale you are pretty much on your own. In that vein there are a number of items that should be considered. I`ll list a few here.

1-Make the offer conditional on survey. You are going to have the vessel surveyed, right? I’ve talked about this before and each year I get involved in a number of deals where a boat was purchased without survey and after the sale the first thing that occurs is that the insurance company requests that the boat be surveyed. During the survey if a major issue is uncovered it is in most cases the buyer that is on the hook for an expensive repair.

2- Make the offer conditional on financing. If this is going to be a factor get it in black and white as part of the offer.

3-Make sure that storage, launch and transport fees are spelled out as to who pays for what.

4-The boat may need to be hauled and the bottom washed for the survey so make sure that is covered as well.

Now we get to the point where to offer has been accepted and now it time for the survey and the next step is to find and hire a competent surveyor. This may prove to be more difficult that you might think. Here’s why.

In most countries marine surveying is an unregulated profession and as a result marine surveyors come in all shapes, sizes and in varying degrees of knowledge and expertise. So how do you find a good one? Here are a few tips.

1-Look for surveyor with recognised credentials or accreditations. There are many supposed certifications out there but in my opinion (and the opinion of many insurance companies) there are only two. The Society of Accredited marine Surveyors ® (SAMS®) and The National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS Global). Also look for a surveyor that is a member of, or better yet standards certified by the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC). This important because the ABYC have re-searched and written almost all of the marine construction and safety standards currently in use today. Boat manufacturers, Transport Canada and the United States Coast Guard listen to these people and any surveyor worth his or her salt needs to be current on all of this. ABYC affiliation is the only way.

2-Ask to see a sample of their work. Examine it and decide if it will provide all of the information that you will require.

3-Compare pricing. Surveyors of quality and integrity will show similar pricing. Any significantly lower or higher should be held in question. Cheaper is not always better.

4-Last but not least consult your insurance company about the surveyor that you plan to hire. If they won’t accept the surveyor’s work there’s not much point now is there?

I can’t stress enough how important this aspect of the process is. I come across survey reports every year that are an absolute joke. Chances are that by now this endeavour is getting expensive and this is not the time to cheap out on a surveyor with inferior skills and expertise.

Here’s a point to keep in mind if this all takes place during the winter months.

When ambient temperatures are below freezing any moisture contained in fiberglass structures, such as boat hulls and decks freezes as well. During the freezing process crystallization of the substance will occur. This adds small air pockets which make electronic moisture detection virtually impossible. Also because the substance is frozen it becomes very hard rendering percussive sounding tests useless as well. It is for these reasons that I do not recommend the surveying of fiberglass boats when the ambient temperatures are below freezing.

Next time we’ll take a look at the survey report and what it should include.

Boat Buying Part 4

Lets continue our discussion of your first inspection of that potential new boat. We have already discussed a few items to look at on the deck how to spot potential problem areas. Next we are going to discuss going below and a few things to look at there.

As you go below and get your first glimpse of the cabin look around but also be aware of any noticeable odors. Mold and mildew may be apparent and smell is probably your first, best indicator. If present the source will need to be located and your surveyor may be able to assist. Remember this can be a serious health hazard and should be addressed. Dirty wet bilges are the most likely cause.

While we’re on the subject of odors also make note of anything that may be identified as possible black water / holding tank smells. These can be really pungent and can indicate leaks and possible deterioration of hoses.

Inspect the interior woodwork and joinery for visual condition and finish. Black spots on the surfaces usually indicate moisture intrusion and if left unaddressed it can lead to deterioration of the substrate material and sometimes expensive structural repairs. A good place to look for water marks is below all the ports, skylights and windows. Fresh water stains are usually easy to spot. Walk the wooden sole panels and note any soft spots. Open and close all doors, hatches and drawers. Note the function and fit. On a side note if your inspection takes place in the colder months wooden components have a tendency to swell somewhat and this can affect functionality as well so be sure to take this into consideration on your inspection.

Note the smell and condition of upholstery. Are there stains that a thorough cleaning may not address.

Take a look at all installed fixtures, such as toilets, facets and sinks. Note any staining and since these components also deal with water, mold and mildew may be apparent here as well.

Inspect the electrical panels both AC and DC. Do they look fairly original or are there any apparent add ons or accessories. This could be an indicator of potential bad wiring practices that may need to be corrected or replaced. Your surveyor will be able to assist in identifying these.

Open the engine compartment and give it a good visual inspection. Look for external fluid leaks on any of the components. Lines, hoses and cables should be neat and secure. Is the area in clean order or does it look like it has been neglected. This can be a good overall indicator of how the vessel has been maintained. Inspect the batteries. They should be clean, secure and all wiring should be neat and tidy.

As I have said before, as you go through your initial inspection make notes and take pictures. Load them up on your computer and look them all over again later away from the boat. On most of my vessel surveys I probably take 50-60 pictures and may only use 12 or so in the actual report but the rest are available to me for reference if I need them. You should do the same. Now your initial inspection is complete. And at this point you have to make a decision to make. Is this the boat for me or do we need to move on and see others. If you decide that you wish to proceed the next step will be to make an offer and negotiate the price with the broker. Always make the offer conditional on survey that way if your surveyor uncovers anything that may be considered a deal breaker you still have an out.

Next time we`ll talk about finding a competent surveyor, the survey report and process.

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