Blue View - 10 Reasons to Get a Marine Survey

Whether you are shopping for a boat, you're a new owner, or have had your boat for decades, there are several times when it is required or prudent to get a marine survey of your pride and joy. Here is a list of ten reasons you might want to consider having an expert go through the boat you own or are considering buying.

  1. Pre-Purchase Survey. This is probably the most common type of marine survey. We had been looking for months, trying to find just the right boat, and it was love at first sight when we walked aboard that Liberty 458 in Kemah, Texas. We negotiated with the owner and signed a contract, pending the outcome of a marine survey. We were complete novices at the time, but even now I wouldn't consider buying a boat without a pre-purchase survey. The surveyor spent 12 hours going through every nook and cranny, both in the water and hauled out, then took the boat out on a sea trial to check the sails, rigging and engine. While the boat, soon to be known as Nine of Cups, turned out to be a well maintained, seaworthy vessel, he did find a number of problems and issues we were totally unaware of, like two leaking water tanks. Not only did we have the piece of mind knowing there wasn't a corroded seacock waiting to burst and sink our new boat, we were able to renegotiate the price of the boat based on the cost of repairing some of the bigger problems – more than offsetting the cost of the survey.

  2. Insurance Survey. If the boat hasn't been surveyed in a few years or you are switching insurance carriers, the insurer may require a condition and valuation survey to make sure the vessel is sound and the insurance is in line with the valuation. The surveyor will check the condition of the boat and its systems, and provide documentation and photos. He will also determine the value of the boat based on other similar boats.

  3. Damage Survey. If the boat has been damaged, the insurance company will usually arrange for a damage survey. If Cups were hit by lightning or had a fire - perish the thought - a qualified surveyor would go through the boat evaluating the extent of the damage and the cost of repairing it.

  4. Post-Damage Survey. If the repairs were significant, often the insurer will require a post-damage survey before re-insuring the boat. Likewise, if I had just paid for a major refit, I might insist on having a surveyor evaluate the work to ensure it was done correctly.

  5. Pre-Purchase Opinion. When we were hunting for our new boat, we found listings for interesting boats in just about every coastal area in the U.S. We also soon discovered that the condition of these boats varied widely, despite what the photos and descriptions led us to believe. Having an unbiased opinion of the general condition of the boat before we went to the trouble and expense of traveling half way across the country saved us a lot of money and time. Often a local broker was willing to give us an honest opinion about a boat we were interested in at no charge. Other times, we paid a local surveyor a nominal fee to provide us an opinion based on a quick walk-through.

  6. Qualification Survey. If you are planning to join an offshore rally or race, it is often necessary to have a qualification survey done to ensure that your boat is up to snuff. Depending on the event, this might be nothing more than a quick check of the condition of the boat and safety equipment, or it might involve an entire day checking the existence and condition of everything from your rigging to your storm sails to your back-up communications systems.

  7. International Compliance. When we visited a foreign port, we were occasionally required to have a survey done to ensure we met local requirements. Foreign flagged yachts are often exempt from the requirements for local vessels – but not always. For example, when we were in New Zealand, some marinas required us to have a certificate of electrical compliance before we were allowed to connect to shore power. To obtain this certificate, we were required to have our electrical system inspected and tested by a qualified surveyor to make sure we met the country's standards.

  8. Sea Trial. As part of a pre-purchase survey or if some major work was done to the rigging, sails or propulsion system, or, you might want a sea trial done. A qualified surveyor will take the vessel out and check the rig tuning, condition of the sails, engine performance, shaft alignment, and a number of other things that can't be fully evaluated at the dock.

  9. Underwater Hull Survey. Sometimes it isn't practical or possible to have the boat hauled, and an underwater survey may be a viable alternative. A diver can inspect the hull condition, prop, rudder, anodes and keel, and provide photos as needed.

  10. Appraisal. An appraisal is often required to establish a boat's value for financing or insurance purposes, or prior to putting it on the market. An appraisal survey is less thorough than a condition and valuation survey.

Finding a qualified surveyor can be as difficult as finding a good plumber or car mechanic. In next week's Blue View, I'll talk about some things to consider when searching for the right marine surveyor.