Monday 22 December 2014

Sailboat/Yacht Marine Survey - To Survey Or Not To Survey?

Buying your dream sailboat can be a stressful business. There are so many factors that come into it so that finding the right boat for your particular requirements can take months, if not longer, of looking at many craft in all sorts of condition from excellent all the way down the scale to a recipe for disaster. 
The fit out and condition are paramount and what you initially view in a brokers image collection and the reality can be worlds apart.......all boats look good in the photos!
It is a very good idea to have a detailed list of what you want in your boat and work your way through it when going to inspect a boat you are interested in. 
Marine surveyor testing hull soundness
A second step that will help to take some stress out of the search is to call for a marine survey once you have had an initial look over the boat and you like it enough to call for an expert opinion. 
I was lucky when I purchased my yacht in that she had been used for day sailing for one summer only and then housed in a air conditioned shed for the following three years without going back into the water. So, by the time I got to see her for the first time, she was still in mint condition. My good friend Mark Clarke of Clarke Marine Surveyors had provided me a comprehensive list of things to look for, so I felt confident working my way through that.
Checking standing rigging
 I spent an hour or two going over her in the shed and and then made an offer on the spot which was accepted. She was then shipped to the UK where I spent the next six months fitting her out for cruising. My luck held and she performed wonderfully well over the next four years, sailing many thousands of sea miles and half way round the globe.
As mentioned, because of the special circumstances, I was extremely lucky, but would definitely not recommend anyone taking the same path. In 2013, over 955,000 boats changed hands on the pre-owned boat market. That meant for nearly a million boat buyers, hiring an accredited marine surveyor to inspect their potential dreamboat was often the first step after finding it. 
Boat Owners Association of The United States has seven tips on how to get the most from a marine survey: 

1. The only good survey is a current one: Relying on an old survey is a bad idea. The marine environment isn’t nice to boats and sometimes a 'little' maintenance issue can quickly turn into more serious problem. If you need to have the boat insured, you will usually need a survey less than six months old – after that, it begins to smell like dead fish. 

2. Don’t miss your own survey: Just like your wedding, you need to be there. Attending and asking questions will reap reams of information about the boat you’re buying, and most surveyors are happy to talk about what they are finding and what needs to be done to fix things. 
3. Experience trumps price: Don’t select a surveyor on price alone. It’s important to find one that has experience on your type of boat that can tell you what you need to know. Surveyors who are members of the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS) or the National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS) are wise choices as these professional organizations have certification processes and provide educational training. 
Checking propellor, cutlass bearing
4. It’s not pass or fail: A survey is only a guide to determine if the boat is acceptable to the buyer. An insurance company may also use it to provide a list of corrective actions needed to provide coverage. 

5. Surprise, surprise: Boats are a series of complex systems and even brand new boats sometimes have recommendations from a surveyor. The difference is that with new boats, corrective actions are often taken care of through the builder’s warranty. 

6. Use the survey to negotiate: Surveys include an approximate fair-market value for use by lenders and insurance companies. If the numbers warrant it, there is also nothing wrong with using this value in an attempt to negotiate a better deal with the seller. 

7. A survey gives you a great punch list: A survey can guide planning for upgrades, repairs and help you prioritize. 

At the outset the cost of having a survey may seem high, but when you consider that it is very small as a percentage of the cost of your dream boat, or possibly the much higher price you may pay for expensive repairs not highlighted prior to sale, then a survey by a registered marine surveyor is a very good investment.

Marine survey list courtesy BOA of the US 

You can read much more about cruising and the cruising lifestyle at sea in my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website 

Wishing all of our readers a Very Merry Christmas, the happiest of New Years and safe sailing with fair winds in calm seas.