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Old 08-10-2010, 14:39   #1
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Surveyor Inspections

I wanted to ask what kind of things a Surveyor looks at when inspecting boats. What do they look at and how closely do they go over the boat. I have read about them doing sail and engine tests but what else is there?

Is it... look over a few things, see something long enough that it works/functional or do they go with a fine comb and get down and dirty into the inner workings?

I'm sure paying for a survey on some boats could end up saving more $$ in the long run. I've been trying to think of what kind of questions I would ask when looking around and curious to the surveyors involvement.

I also found a thread "Worst Thing a Previous Owner Did to Your Boat?" and came up with a bit better idea of what to look at myself.
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Old 08-10-2010, 15:43   #2
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Originally Posted by Dan_78 View Post
look over a few things, see something long enough that it works/functional
That's been my experience.

I dove head first into sailing/cruising/livingaboard/boat ownership knowing very little when I bought my boat two years ago, so I hired a surveyor. I don't regret it considering that I was unsure that I would know of everything to look for in buying a boat. But given what I know now (I'm the type that obsessively researches things I'm interested in, and since have learned quite a bit) I doubt I will ever hire one again.

I paid $500 (or 6?) and my surveyor did find one major problem. A 2.5'x4' depression in the hull, I still bought the boat, at the surveys found value (75% asking). But what was most disappointing was that my surveyor (nor the owner of the yard for that matter) could recommended a fix or estimate cost. They both just kind of scratched there heads. (I've since found multiple possible fixes and estimated there costs)

My survey was also a "value and condition survey", and it focused pretty strictly on those things... the condition of systems and the estimated value of them. We did give the boat a "sea trial", by motoring over to the service yard to haul out and at my request the surveyor reluctantly raised the sails on the way back.

There was no moisture meter, no looking under the sole, no rigging inspection (which I was fine with as I'm a rigger in another field, but still), the electrical check involved turning a light on and the check of (pressure) plumbing involved turning the sink on for a second. Let me put it this way, I do not remember any tool being used other than a small hammer doing a lot of tapping.

Oh, also the compression posts base (fiberglass) has ... compressed about an inch and needs to be repaired, which I (or the surveyor) did not notice until after I bought the boat.

It was not ALL bad; he did point out a few things that I did not notice, know about or had not thought about... unsatisfactory is just my overall experience with the deal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan_78 View Post
I've been trying to think of what kind of questions I would ask when looking around
There are lots of things to look for common with all boats, I'm sure others can help with this. More things specific to sailboats, and even more things specific to individual makes and models. It would help to know what boats you are looking at.

If it would help, PM me with your email and I'll send you a copy of my survey report.



Good luck shopping, have fun... and take your time.
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Old 08-10-2010, 15:52   #3
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Originally Posted by RQF4 View Post
There are lots of things to look for common with all boats, I'm sure others can help with this. More things specific to sailboats, and even more things specific to individual makes and models. It would help to know what boats you are looking at.
I've mainly been doing my searches for 30' - 35', mid to late 1980's, within my price range. I've seen some nice Catalinas, Hunters, Pearsons, Endeavors, C&C's and more.. Since the military has me in Germany (and deployed right now) I can't buy just yet but I'm at least doing my research right now and seeing what kind of layouts I like and conditions of what is available.
I'll send PM
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Old 08-10-2010, 15:57   #4
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It's what a surveyor doesen't "see"...

For mine the main value of a good surveyor is what they don't see.

As a yacht buyer you're seeing a fine smart vessel with lots of nice goodies and bits and pieces. Just what you need to make your life complete.

The surveyor, possibly, sees a broken down old wreck that might just be seaworthy if some key areas are attended to.
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Old 08-10-2010, 16:19   #5
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My surveyor told me that my cabin top is fiberglass. It's painted wood. They do a good job and it's *way* better than doing it yourself or with a friend, but it's nothing compared to you spending a year sailing and living onboard and knowing it inside and out. The bigger and the more complicated the boat, it's just not possible to know it that well in a few hours.
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Old 08-10-2010, 16:59   #6
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Most surveys include only the accessible portions of a boat and do a good job of finding issues with which you should be aware to make an informed purchase decision. Don't, however, expect to find everything that may be wrong even in the most thorough of surveys. Surveyors have E&O insurance because they know they will make errors and commit omissions; otherwise, they wouldn't pay the insurance premium. If they know they will make mistakes, count on it.
In the end, it's your own due diligence that is the only thing on which you can depend.
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Old 08-10-2010, 17:03   #7
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Originally Posted by RQF4 View Post
I'm the type that obsessively researches things I'm interested in
I'm the same way in that I like knowing details about certain things, especially when a large amount of && is involved.
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Old 08-10-2010, 17:26   #8
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You can ask the surveyor what he checks, how he checks it, and ask him to give extra attention to areas you're concerned about. Many accredited surveyors will send a blank sample for your review. You should ask for references and see if you can get a look at customers surveys.

I'd encourage you to find an owners association and see if they have any specific points that need a closer look. Some members will provide copies of their surveys as samples as well. If the owners association indicate there's a problem with years XX to YY in the area of ???, then you should have the surveyor look at that in more detail.

Some surveyors will not go into detail on the engine or transmission. In that case you might want to find a mechanic to look those items over in detail. I have three surveys done (by three different surveyors): general, engine/transmission/charging system, and rigging/sails. I pay extra for oil analysis of the engine and transmission.

Here are a few samples from a quick Google search:

http://www.marinesurveycentralflorid...y%20Report.pdf

http://www.pcmarinesurveys.com/SAMPL...20GASOLINE.pdf

Insurance Survey Appraisal Inspection Pre Purchase Marine Surveys
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Old 08-10-2010, 19:32   #9
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There are surveyor of all types.....

Don't just go by the number of lrtters after their name............

Some give you nothing more than a glorified inventory

Others use the moisture meters, video scopes etc and verify what operates what doesn't.

Most, I have found, do not delve deeply onto the engine(s)
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Old 09-10-2010, 04:47   #10
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Video of survey

The Catamaran Company has a video of a survey being done. Catamaran Video Search
It's pretty extensive, even hoisting himself up the mast. I want that guy to do mine. Good luck. BOB
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Old 09-10-2010, 06:41   #11
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There are bad surveyors, good surveyors and great surveyors. The best way to find a good one is to ask a sailor. Keep in mind, no surveyor will ever catch absolutely everything. Ask for references and by golly you need to be there during the survey. You are paying for the service so its fair for you to ask as many questions as you need to to make a decision.

We had 2 surveyors we were interviewing tell us that they prefer for the purchaser to NOT be present for the survey. Thank you very much, but no.
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Old 09-10-2010, 07:46   #12
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On my boat the only thing the surveyor found was BS items that there the insurance company wanted "corrected". Completely missed the couple of items that I found later that were about the sink the boat.

But I feel the best way to select a surveyor is to askfor copies of past surveys. This way you see what they check etc. and seems to be the areas they focus on. I since gotten so copies of surveys on boats I've been interested in and they vary widely in quality.
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Old 09-10-2010, 07:55   #13
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On my boat the only thing the surveyor found was BS items that there the insurance company wanted "corrected". Completely missed the couple of items that I found later that were about the sink the boat.

But I feel the best way to select a surveyor is to askfor copies of past surveys. This way you see what they check etc. and seems to be the areas they focus on. I since gotten so copies of surveys on boats I've been interested in and they vary widely in quality.
AMEN! When we were interviewing surveyors, having copies of prior inspections was the single most useful bit of information to help us find a surveyor. You can absolutely see which surveyors are just checking items off a list and which ones actually put some time and thought into their inspections. I can not tell you how many surveys we saw with just boxes ticked- no notes or comments at all.
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Old 11-10-2010, 21:47   #14
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As a surveyor I very much enjoyed this thread, and would like to share a few things from a surveyor's perspective.

One point made often, which I have thought about quite a bit, is reading reports for other boats. I am one of the surveyors who looks at e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, but it isn't possible to determine this from one of my reports, i.e., I do not report cotter pins unless there is a problem. So how would you know from reading a report the surveyor looked at all of them, and not just two and figured if two are ok then they are all probably ok?? No question, there is a lot to be learned about a surveyor from reading their reports (the "check boxes" reports make that clear!), but without also being able to compare the report to the boat surveyed you can not know the true quality of the survey.

If the surveyor does not want you present at the survey then find another surveyor who does. Period. Bear in mind though that a boat has a LOT of parts and we are trying to inspect ALL of them, usually in one day. The best thing you can do during a survey is make sure we have access to the boat! Not only do we not have the time to remove cover plates or remove gear from lockers, things can break when being taken apart, or or or, opening up the can of legal liability worms. During the survey make notes of your questions, and at the end of the survey we will go over significant findings with you and answer your questions.

Engines, rigging ... a surveyor with training in these areas is going to be more thorough in these areas. Most of us inspect the rigging from the deck level only, surveyors who used to work as riggers will often do an inspection aloft. Same for former engine mechanics. Ask the surveyor about any specialized education or training. Usually though, plan on additional rigging and engine surveys.

IMO, moisture meters are a must - be sure they have one. I mark the deck with tape and put pictures in the report. Here is a "wet" area:

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Looking at the picture one might think it could be from leaking window bolts or leaking jib sheet track bolts. Finding out WHY is not our job! We can only tell you "here the deck core reads wet on the moisture meter". Finding the reason for the "wet" reading is not part of a survey - a survey report is a report of our findings, not why it might be that way.

The surveyor who did not look in the bilges ... that is the most interesting place on a boat!!! The only reason I can think a surveyor would not look there is because he could not, maybe bad knees or, well, I need to be careful not to offend some of my colleagues, so I'll just say that at not much over 100 pounds I have very few access issues, and I'll leave it at that.

Sea trials - some surveyors include them as part of their fee. Not all boats are in the water ready to go so it is more practical to offer a sea trial as a separate option. For safety reasons and a desire to return to shore in a timely manner, I won't go out for a sea trial until after I have surveyed the boat.

As far as the letters after our names - surveying is a completely unregulated industry. The homeless guys living in the park in front of my marina can go get a business license, say they are a surveyor, and presto, they are a surveyor. When you hire a surveyor from SAMS or NAMS you are hiring a true, experienced surveyor. This is not a guarantee that they are good, but if you have a problem with them or the quality of their survey, at least you have recourse through the association - PLEASE report your problem to the regional director or association headquarters.

One of many parts of being able to retain our membership in SAMS is fulfilling the requirement for a minimum number of hours of continuing education every year. We also must follow SAMS report format (that is why so many of the reports you see are similar). Are there excellent independent surveyors in the world? Absolutely, my best friend is one of them. Member ABYC is just that. And so on.

So how to pick a good surveyor? I would say word of mouth is your best bet - although make sure the references come from boat-savvy people! Definitely ask the surveyor about their continuing education classes and seminars. What publications and books do they like to read? Do they participate in any forums? Personally, I think you can learn a lot more about my knowledge of boats and their systems from reading my Cruiser's Forum posts than reading one of my surveys. Ask them if they have a boat! Is it a power boat or a sail boat? How much time do they spend with the boat? Do they do their own boat work?

Surveys are expensive for the buyer and time-consuming for the surveyor. It is (usually) not financially practical to survey several boats you may be interested in purchasing, but good surveyor can find a lot in an hour on a boat. For an hourly rate I would be more than happy to meet with a buyer on the boat for an hour or two and go over the obvious findings. If the buyer wants to proceed with a survey then half the interview fee is credited to the survey. I do not know anybody else who does this, but if you don't ask you will never know. An added benefit is that if you don't like the surveyor you can look for another one.

So for Dan 78, a good surveyor will try to inspect everything on the boat, and a well-written pre-purchase survey is a helpful and important document for several reasons. It helps you make a decision on the boat by enabling a comparison of the price versus the amount of work the boat requires to meet your needs/desires. It is a bargaining tool for you with the seller. And after that, it is usually accepted by an insurance company to insure the boat. But most important of all (IMO) if the purchase goes through, it is a wonderful basis for your to-do list.
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Old 11-10-2010, 22:27   #15
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As an aside......a good surveyor can steer you to a decent boat....

I know this from experience.
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