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Old 27-07-2013, 18:17   #1
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Tool Ratings for Doing a Personal Survey

This is a spin off from advice on another thread to do your own survey as an integral part of the boat buying process.

Many of the tools one might find in a surveyor's tool kit won't break the bank. But there are some bigger ticket items. So I was wondering how you would rate the importance of having them when doing your own survey. For now let's say you will eventually hire a marine surveyor to cross the Ts and dot the Is.

On a scale of 1-5 (5 being very important):
  1. Moisture meter
  2. Thermal imaging camera
  3. Waterproof snake camera
  4. Barcol tester
  5. Corrosion meter
  6. Quality binoculars
  7. Quality multimeter
If there are other pricey tools (around $100 or more) and I missed them, please feel free to add and rate them.

I realize one has to know how to use the tools or they are useless. So maybe something that would be great to have but useless to the average person might get a rating followed by an asterisk or two.
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Old 27-07-2013, 18:45   #2
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Re: Tool Ratings for Doing a Personal Survey

On a scale of 1 to 5 they are ALL without exception 100% worthless in terms of a survey report that determines if you should buy the boat or not. The real issue with buying a boat are bigger pictures that don't require these tools.

A survey is your chance to back off and go some place else. The numeric reading on any device is never bad enough that a trained eye could not see!

I never consider a survey as a point to renegotiate. You walk or you sign! It really is the only end game on a survey. Any boat that needs renegotiation is one you should never close on - always!
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Old 27-07-2013, 19:02   #3
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Re: Tool Ratings for Doing a Personal Survey

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On a scale of 1 to 5 they are ALL without exception 100% worthless in terms of a survey report that determines if you should buy the boat or not. The real issue with buying a boat are bigger pictures that don't require these tools.

A survey is your chance to back off and go some place else. The numeric reading on any device is never bad enough that a trained eye could not see!

I never consider a survey as a point to renegotiate. You walk or you sign! It really is the only end game on a survey. Any boat that needs renegotiation is one you should never close on - always!
The only thing I'd add is that it does give you a chance to knock the price down a bit. Invariably there's a list of "fix these now" items. Maybe blistering, maybe a bilge pump that doesn't work, etc. The two boats I've picked up I've managed to knock a few bucks off by deducting the cost of fixing those items from the final price.
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Old 27-07-2013, 19:15   #4
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Re: Tool Ratings for Doing a Personal Survey

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The only thing I'd add is that it does give you a chance to knock the price down a bit.
Any boat that needs the price knocked down is not worth buying. Never make an offer you are not prepared to walk away from if anything isn't right! Do the homework BEFORE you write the offer.
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Old 28-07-2013, 07:45   #5
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Re: Tool Ratings for Doing a Personal Survey

Not many of your items make my list. My list includes:

1. Plastic faced hammer
2. IR gun
3. Phototach
4. Simple voltmeter that can accurately read 12 V
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Old 28-07-2013, 08:16   #6
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Re: Tool Ratings for Doing a Personal Survey

The idea of having whatever tools one feels necessary is not to suggest being a total DIY shopper and ignore using professionals. But no one will care about the boat you want to buy more than you. So you do whatever you can to collect as much information as possible and throw that into the mix.

I can see the snake camera coming in handy. I know my head or even my point-and-shoot can't get into every nook and cranny. Finding something like a rotting bulkhead where the chainplate is attached would be a nice thing to know. More so if the surveyor misses it.

From what I've read, opinions on the moisture meter range from worthless to invaluable. Overall, there seems to be more pros than cons. And since I've been looking at one for my furniture building work, it just may be worth it for me.

The infrared gun? If you don't know normal readings, it could be a waste of money. Barcol and corrosion stuff I see as pro-only tools. Too costly for DIY.

I've never heard of a phototach before now. In what way would any kind of tachometer help in determining the health of an engine? At least from a DIYer perspective.
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Old 29-07-2013, 06:43   #7
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Re: Tool Ratings for Doing a Personal Survey

Binoculars and a multimeter are the only ones that I would buy, mainly because they are going to be useful long after you have bought the boat. I also happen to have a snake camera, though I got that for other purposes and I'm not sure I'd bring it with me when inspecting a boat.

One comment I would make is about the usual suggestion to tap the deck with a hammer. Some people get a bit anxious when you start whacking at their boat with a hammer (I know, you're not really "whacking" but that's what it looks like to them).

On the other hand, no one has ever objected to me tapping anywhere and everywhere with one of these...
Amazon.com: ProMark Pair of Very Hard Phenolic Mallets (White): Musical Instruments
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Old 29-07-2013, 07:15   #8
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Re: Tool Ratings for Doing a Personal Survey

Quote:
Originally Posted by Julie Mor View Post
This is a spin off from advice on another thread to do your own survey as an integral part of the boat buying process.
I would say that non of them are essential but a couple would be very handy.

Binoculars (will use later onboard)
Multimeter (will likely use later onboard - but that mostly about fault finding).....albeit not every Vendor will be keen to let someone "poke around" in the wiring, especially if they do not understand electrickery much themselves. For me most of the electrical checking is about switching stuff on (not all surveyors bother with everything), having a visual look at the fusebox (and behind where possible) and to understand how the batteries are connected (and see how it is done).
Waterproof snake camera I have never used one!, but could be very handy especially if a boat has a hull liner.

Not sure what purpose you have in mind, but I would not let anyone use a barcol tester on anything! Any destructive testing is for wooden boats only, not plastic.

The moisture meter is a conundrum - personally I would not bother if getting own survey later on the basis that I don't know how to understand the results! But certainly a visual inspection of the hull (for Osmosis bubbling) could be done by you before the Surveyor starts getting stuck in........... of course if you will have a use for a moisture meter later, then no harm in giving it a go - I would just be cautious about any results (good or bad).

In regard to the decks, I would settle on tapping (with knuckles - ouch after a while!) and feel (from feet / walking), mostly that a comparative thing along decks and also against experience on other boats! (they are not all like trampolines on deck!)..........

I have never bought a cored deck boat , and no plans to (a bit of fixing (aka bodging!) experience of wet core on other people's boats is enough for me.....but I am in the older boat club )....but unless a thermal imager was going to serve another purpose I would leave that to the Surveyor. Me no expert on checking out cored decks, but I would suggest you become at least a halfway expert! (at least to know the pros and cons of various non-destructive investigative techniques that the Surveyor could use) - before buying wet decks!

Because you can only do destructive testing and disassembly after purchase, prior to that you only have indicators to deal with and that a matter of judgement. and you have to accept that sometimes the indicators do not reveal enough and you are left taking a punt..........

.....not sure if I mention it in another thread, but worthwhile looking at a boat or 2 in far worse condition than you would ever buy so you get more of a reveal on problems. and a wander around a DIY boat yard would be of interest, from chatting to folks and peering at broken dreams........
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Old 29-07-2013, 07:21   #9
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Re: Tool Ratings for Doing a Personal Survey

There are many ways to go wrong with a thermal imaging camera. This should only be used in a survey by someone that understands heat transfer and the implications thereof wrt to hulls and decks.

For example, there are conditions during the diurnal cycle where a thermal image would show that everything is OK when half the core is soaked. Additionally, differences in coating and sky conditions could indicate serious issues when there are none.
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Old 29-07-2013, 08:17   #10
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Re: Tool Ratings for Doing a Personal Survey

Assuming you'll also eventually have a paid survey done... none of those items ring my chimes.

I would however take along a big, honkin' flashlight.

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Old 29-07-2013, 08:32   #11
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Re: Tool Ratings for Doing a Personal Survey

To the hammer (or knuckles )...

In my work I have often cut in an outlet in a finished wall. I never bought a stud finder because I became proficient with the tap method before they started making stud finders.

I know one surveyor who poo-poos the moisture meter saying he can find with a tap hammer anything a moisture meter can. He's become proficient with the tap method.

I've seen many homeowners who own stud finders and swear by them. I've run into a few boat owners who own moisture meters and swear by them.

So I guess where I am with this particular part of testing is, the less experienced you are with simple, tried-and-true methods, the more you may want to consider more modern technology. But no matter what tool you use, you still have to know how to interpret the feedback.
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Old 30-07-2013, 19:42   #12
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Re: Tool Ratings for Doing a Personal Survey

I read and contributed to your other post. If you have these tools and know how to use them, they can be invaluable. I don't own a moisture meter but have access to a snake camera, it can be a great tool for the reasons you mentioned. I was able to scope out the chain plate anchors in my H34 using one and it set my mind at ease as they were in good shape. The bright flash light is a good one, the multimeter in your hands as an electrician is invaluable and a small hammer that doesn't mark could be good. Definitely a camera, take pictures of everything and look at them later. A pair of mechanics gloves, some places on boat can be a little grubby. Good luck in your quest.
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Old 30-07-2013, 20:23   #13
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Re: Tool Ratings for Doing a Personal Survey

Quote:
Originally Posted by Julie Mor View Post
This is a spin off from advice on another thread to do your own survey as an integral part of the boat buying process.

Many of the tools one might find in a surveyor's tool kit won't break the bank. But there are some bigger ticket items. So I was wondering how you would rate the importance of having them when doing your own survey. For now let's say you will eventually hire a marine surveyor to cross the Ts and dot the Is.

On a scale of 1-5 (5 being very important):
  1. Moisture meter
Must have. Many uses, from detecting osmosis below the waterline to detecting wet core and bulkheads. To those who say dont buy because you cant understand the readings, how will you learn if you never start? It's not rocket science, and I've posted much info on their proper use here. Cant do a survey worth the name without one IMHO. Get a model made for inspecting GRP boats (GRP-33 from JR Overseas).



  1. Thermal imaging camera


Excellent tool. Also not rocket science, easy to use. However, really good models still can cost 20k or more. Definitely pro only, especially since a number of companies exist who will come and image your hull for a reasonable fee.



  1. Waterproof snake camera
Good tool and cheap. Must have, if only for tank inspection. Once you have one you'll use it a lot.



  1. Barcol tester
Simple, easy to use tool, quite affordable. Definitely pro only. A Barcol Impressor reads hardness in a number of scales, from Barcol scale to Durometer. In boatbuilding, it is often used when building tooling or large production runs of parts to ensure that gelcoat has been properly catalyzed and cured. A boat with low Barcol readings would exhibit serious cosmetic problems long before being put on the market. This is a tool used by builders to ensure their product quality. It does do destructive testing, and requires a gelcoat repair to cover the impression. Totally unnecessary for any but the most extremely exacting survey.





  1. Corrosion meter
Definitely a good idea.





  1. Quality binoculars


I prefer a monocular with 30x or better zoom. Cheap and effective, many other uses too. Also much smaller, fits in a pocket or in a tool bag pocket easy.





  1. Quality multimeter


Absolutely required.






If there are other pricey tools (around $100 or more) and I missed them, please feel free to add and rate them.

I realize one has to know how to use the tools or they are useless. So maybe something that would be great to have but useless to the average person might get a rating followed by an asterisk or two.

Others will add more tools, I am sure. Couldn't agree more with the hammer. Mine is called "The Money Hammer", as it makes me money. That hollow delam sound sounds like "cha-ching" to us!
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Old 07-08-2013, 14:30   #14
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Re: Tool Ratings for Doing a Personal Survey

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Originally Posted by Pblais View Post
I never consider a survey as a point to renegotiate. You walk or you sign! It really is the only end game on a survey. Any boat that needs renegotiation is one you should never close on - always!
I'm not expert, but this is my point of view. A survey should at least give you an idea of how much it will cost to get the boat up to an acceptable condition. Renegotiating is what you'd need to offset these costs. Your black and white view would prove inefficient if your first survey isn't good. You'd be spending a lot of time and money on surveys if your buying process is less granular. I almost think this is your preference because it's easier on your decision making process, and less about what should be done.

I'm not saying that the best strategy is to buy the first boat you see. I'm saying that statistically, you would be paying more money than you should with no added benefit except possibly the time you're saving not having your boat fixed/upgraded, and the peace of mind by making simple yes/no decisions.

Quote:
Any boat that needs the price knocked down is not worth buying. Never make an offer you are not prepared to walk away from if anything isn't right! Do the homework BEFORE you write the offer.
There's a difference between not being able to walk away, and optimizing your purchase.
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Old 07-08-2013, 15:22   #15
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Re: Tool Ratings for Doing a Personal Survey

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pblais View Post
I never consider a survey as a point to renegotiate. You walk or you sign! It really is the only end game on a survey. Any boat that needs renegotiation is one you should never close on - always!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pblais View Post
Any boat that needs the price knocked down is not worth buying. Never make an offer you are not prepared to walk away from if anything isn't right! Do the homework BEFORE you write the offer.
I could not disagree more with both of these statements. They are dogmatic and short-sighted.

It's pretty simple; a given boat has a market value based on it's type/model, age, condition, and equipment, and when an offer is made it is based on the boat as presented. A survey will very often turn up issues that require attention, and as a result are grounds for renegotiating the price. The fact that there are is a delta between the boat as presented in the listing and the boat's actual condition does not mean you should "run away", that's just silly.

I negotiated $20k off the purchase price of my current boat based on the results of a visual inspection and survey. It was a way of aligning the boat's value to that of the market. None of the items that surfaced indicated neglect on the part of the previous owner or additional hidden problems. Some of them were systems that simply did not work after a winter on the hard. Some of them concerned outdated safety equipment that could not be reasonably rectified, etc.
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