Boat Buying Part 6 The Marine Survey

Boat on Lift for SurveyIn our continuing discussion on used boat buying I’ll assume that you’ve found that next potential boat, you’ve negotiated with the broker or seller and have contracted the services of a marine surveyor. Now the next step is the actual survey itself.

If the boat is on the hard things are somewhat simplified meaning that a haul out does not need to be scheduled and that the boat has likely been out of the water for some time, meaning that all below waterline areas have had time to dry out. This will make the taking of moisture readings much easier for the surveyor.

If the boat in at the dock then a haul out needs to be scheduled and co-ordinated with the surveyor. If it’s in a busy season, the yard will probably not want the lift tied up so an hour or so is all that you may get. This means that if the boat’s bottom has multiple layers of bottom paint the moisture readings will no doubt be in the elevated ranges. This can sometimes be a bit misleading but any competent surveyor should be able to easily get a read on the condition of the hull as it dries out. If there’s a breeze this should happen fairly quickly.Dirty Transom

If the bottom has any amount of bottom growth (which it probably has) then it will need to be pressure washed. It needs to be clean for the inspection. All yards do this routinely as part of the fall haul out process so it should not be an issue. There will be an extra charge however. Bear in mind that that only the below waterline areas and equipment, hull topsides and transom require an out of water inspection and the remainder is easily performed in the water so an hour or so on the lift should suffice.

The next question is should the mast be up or down. Of course down is always better but not always possible. Surveyors such as myself will not usually climb masts so a “from the deck inspection” is in many cases the best that can be accomplished. Binoculars can help but are not really a substitute for a thorough inspection that is possible with the mast de-stepped and on a rack.

Next up are the decks, cabin superstructure and cockpit. Again dry surfaces are the key so any standing water (from recent rain) needs to be removed and the surface dried.          Inside the cabin should be cleared of all non-essential gear. This makes access for easier to lockers which is essential for inspection of the hull interior structure and components. All on-board systems should get power up tests so battery and shore power should be made available.

Any included but not installed equipment such as tenders, outboard motors etc. should be made available for inspection.

Sails are another item that may prove difficult to inspect. I myself usually require that the owner open and re-flake the sails themselves as I will not spread sails out in wet or dirty environments due to possible damage. Bear in mind that in many cases even this will only show that the sails are in one piece and a sea trial on a windy day is usually necessary for a proper evaluation.

Engine evaluations can also sometimes be an issue. Some surveyors can handle this aspect of the process themselves but many will refer you to an experienced service technician. Inspections can be difficult if the boat is in the hard because in order to run the engine for any length of time cooling water will need to be supplied to the engine or damage can occur. This is another aspect of the process that is more easily performed in the water in conjunction with a sea trial.

As for the aforementioned sea trial this is part of the survey and vessel evaluation process that is often overlooked. Remember that a considerable amount of your hard earned cash is on the line here and this is not the place to skimp. In many cases systems and components can only be evaluated while under actual operating conditions. I recommend that if at all possible a proper sea trial be included in the overall evaluation process.

As you can see proper a vessel evaluation and survey can be a complex process and with all the scheduling involved it can take some time. I get calls each year from buyers that have an accepted offer and need the survey completed “by the end of the week”. This can make things very difficult and sometimes impossible. Most surveyors have a turnaround time of 2-4 days for report completion alone. I always recommend to allow for at least 2 weeks to complete a proper evaluation. Remember it’s your money so be patient.

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®