As you narrow down the list of potential boats you want to buy, it’s very important to have a competent marine surveyor ready to go. Getting a boat surveyed is not cheap but well worth the money both for making sure you don’t end up with a problematic boat and as a prerequisite to getting boat insurance. For a proper survey, you will have to arrange for the boat to be taken out of the water and kept out for a short period of time prior to commencing the survey. This is done to ensure that the surveyor gets accurate moisture readings from the haul.
Why get your boat surveyed? There are boat conditions that aren’t seen by the naked eye, with some of them having the potential to impact your boat catastrophically. An example of that would be rotten stringers or large areas of delimitation to the haul. One of my biggest concerns when I purchased my boat was the haul. I figured everything else can be fixed but if you end up with a bad haul you are looking at huge bucks to repair.
At the conclusion of the survey you will receive a prepared document from the surveyor chronicling the results of the exam. When reading the report keep in mind that surveyors are helping you make a decision to invest a large amount of money. There is liability on them if their advise is not accurate. As such you will find that they write a bit like lawyers. Moving forward, here is a list of the top things to look for in the report;
Look for moisture retentions, delimitation, osmosis blistering, cracks or fractures and rotten stringers. The surveyor will sound the haul using a mullet or will use a moisture meter. Any water in the haul is concerning in my opinion, but some is to be expected, especial around fittings. if you are purchasing an older boat, expect some water. Consult with the surveyor for their opinion on the over all condition of the haul.
Vessel Decks and superstructure
Look for moisture in the foredeck, catwalks and gunwale. Look for large areas of water retention or delimitation. Remember that older boats may have more water retention then new ones. The opinion of the surveyor is important to determine the general condition of the decks.
This is an expensive item costing 2500 to 3000 dollars for a 26 foot boat (to give you an idea). This is also the cover that will allow you to hang out on your boat even if its raining. You want it to look good and keep the water out.
The report will include a slew of other findings and recommendations. Some may require immediate action while other are less time sensitive. I used this recommendation list as a professionally prepared to do list. I tackled the projects as the years went on.
Should you hire a marine Mechanic?
Although marine surveyors may point out major mechanical problems if they happen to come across them, you cannot expect the surveyor to do an in-depth mechanical review of the boat. If you are interested in a more in-depth review, you can hire a marine mechanic to take a look. Remember that the boat at this point is not yours and mechanics may not be comfortable working on it. Be reasonable with what you ask for. The mechanic I hired was not comfortable doing a pressure test on the engine even though I had gotten permission from the current owner. He essentially checked the oil and looked around the engine compartment for major red flags which he didn’t find. His usefulness to be honest was limited.
Another effective way to assess the mechanical shape of the boat is by tracing the previous ownership of the boat. Before you buy try and get an ownership history. Make attempts to speak with two of the previous owners. This will give you a really good idea of whether or not the boat has been taken care of. A sea trial may also give clues to the general mechanical condition of the boat.
Get a sea trial survey done! This is where the operation of the boat will be tested on the water by a professional. Everything from engine smoothness to the toilet operation will be tested. This will reveal a lot. Make sure you go along for the sea trial and ask as may questions of the surveyor as you’d like.
Its normal to be excited when purchasing a boat. Try your best to take emotions out of the buying equation. There are many boats out there for sale and sometime it pays off to take your time selecting one. The goal here is to make sure you don’t inherit someone else’s problem. Take the advise of the marine surveyors as they will give you an unbiased opinion about the over all condition of the boat. Remember that no boat is perfect, but you should look for one that is in good shape. make an educated decision on what your comfort level is when it comes to the overall condition of the boat. If you decide to buy, make sure to negotiate the cost of major findings with the current owner to mitigate the cost of repair. Don’t let the cost of the survey force you into a sale, if the indication your getting is that the boat is in bad shape walk away from the sale and don’t look back.