What is a Marine Survey and why do I need one?


                I have found over the years that many of my clients do not really understand what a marine survey is or just what a marine surveyor does. Knowing what to expect from a good marine survey will help in selecting the right surveyor and aid in understanding the surveyor’s findings when the inspection is complete. Not all marine surveyors are the same and not all are as through as one would hope, so understanding what to expect will help when it comes to selecting the right surveyor.

                Just what is a “Marine Surveyor?” The term surveyor comes from old English meaning to inspect or ascertain the condition of something. The term was used to describe inspections done to ships and cargo for insurance companies when insuring vessels for voyages. The insurance companies needed to know that the vessels they were insuring were seaworthy and worth risking their money. Likewise, they wanted to know that the cargo was all accounted for and that what was claimed in the ships manifest, was indeed what was really on the ship. For this the insurance companies would hire an independent inspector to verify cargo and vessel condition prior to binding insurance. Knowing the risks also allowed the insurance companies to properly price the insurance.

                Modern marine surveyors still perform this same function for commercial shipping but now many will do a similar inspection for pleasure craft. Most surveyors will specialize in either commercial or pleasure craft as these two disciplines are fairly specialized. For this article I am going to focus on surveying pleasure craft and not get into commercial surveying as it is not my area of expertise.

                A general surveyor, often referred to as a “hull surveyor” will inspect the entire vessel along with its systems and equipment. The average boat owner may need the services of a surveyor for either a pre-purchase or insurance survey. For either of these they will need to hire a general or hull surveyor. There are times, however, when an owner or buyer may want someone with a bit more specialized expertise, as in the case of an engine or damage surveyor. Surveyors doing these types of surveys will have particular knowledge related to their specialty and will often just focus on those areas of specialty although some of these specialized surveyors will also do general surveys as well.


                A common misunderstanding is that surveyors are licensed or certified to do this type work. There is no license or certification required to become a marine surveyor in the United States. Most however, will belong to a professional organization that will help ensure they are well versed in their specialty and perform their work in a professional manner. This voluntary system works well for the most part but by itself does not ensure that all surveyors are fully competent. Membership in a professional organizations will, however, help weed out the fly by night, part time surveyors that may not act in a professional manner or have the proper education and expertise to be qualified. Most banks and insurance companies will only accept survey reports from a surveyor that is a member of one of the professional organizations.

                The two primary surveyor organizations are the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS,) and the National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS.) Both of these organizations require a certain level of competence, knowledge, and professionalism from their members. They also set standards for the content and information to be provided in a survey report ensuring some constancy. Candidates for membership first must work as an associate member for several years prior to becoming a full member. They also must pass a general knowledge test relating to their classification before becoming a full member. All this helps ensure their member are serious about what they are doing and have a basic level of competence.

                Additionally, to maintain membership these organizations require their members complete a set amount of continuing education within the marine industry. This will help ensure that the person you are hiring is knowledgeable and works to stay abreast of changes within the industry. These organizations also provide a resource should anyone ever have a problem with a surveyor they have hired. Complaints are taken seriously by the leaders of these groups and can have consequences for any members not performing in a professional or ethical manner. Members with more than a few complaints will be removed making it harder for them to earn a living as a marine surveyor. Most insurance companies and lending institutions will only accept reports from a surveyor who is a member in good standing of one of these organizations. This is another reason it is important to verify a surveyor’s memberships prior to hiring them.  

Types of Surveys and Surveyors

                There are several types of surveys the average boat owner is likely to encounter. The first and most common is a pre-purchase survey. As the name implies this is an inspection done prior to purchasing a boat. This is perhaps one of the most comprehensive of all inspections done on a pleasure boat. It should cover not only the hull, deck, and internal structure but also all the systems including electrical, plumbing, fuel, and engine systems. All systems and equipment should be powered up and tested for normal operation during a pre-purchase inspection.

                The vessel is also normally taken for a water trial to test basic engine operation along with any equipment that can only be properly tested while underway. Items such as autopilots, trim tabs, and stabilizers all need to be checked while underway. With sailboats the sails are hoisted and sailing gear tested for proper operation as well. This is also an opportunity for the buyer to get a feel for the boat while underway. The boat is also normally taken out of the water for an inspection of the hull below the waterline.  Running gear, thru hulls, and other underwater equipment are also inspected while the vessel is hauled. Although this adds to the expense of the survey with additional yard fees, it is the only way to fully evaluate the hull and running gear. I t may be possible to do an in water inspection by diving but this is a poor substitute for being able to see the hull out of the water.

                Once the inspections are completed the surveyor will then complete a comprehensive report. This report will include a full description of the vessel along with its equipment. It will also cite the general condition along with any deficiencies found. Deficiencies are often broken down into 2 or more categories listing safety problems first followed be general maintenance problems. A fair market valuation will be assigned based on vessel condition and comparisons to what similar vessels have recently sold for. All this information will help a buyer to decide if a boat is worth purchasing. It also will give the buyer a list of problems and deficiencies that will need to be addressed. Should the buyer wish to proceed with buying the boat the survey report will be needed by mortgage and insurance companies to verify the vessel is as described.

                The next most common type of survey is an insurance survey sometimes referred to as a Condition and Valuation survey or C&V. An insurance or condition survey is most often conducted because an insurance carrier or finance company requires it of the owner to bind insurance or provide financing. These companies need to know the condition and value of any vessel they will covering. They also need to know the vessel is being properly maintained and is retaining its value in order to keep renewing the policy. Although not as comprehensive as a full pre-purchase survey, a good in inspection is required to fully evaluate the vessel condition for valuation as well as safety.

                Most owners are not happy about the additional expense of having to hire a surveyor just to renew their insurance. I can sympathize with this from the owner’s perspective but it could be a benefit as well assuming a decent survey is done. This is a good opportunity to find potential problems that an owner may not be aware of. I have often noted bad hoses or electrical problem that may well have resulted in major issues. A good surveyor can also give helpful suggestions for improving the value of the boat. I have heard of some cut rate insurance surveys that amount to nothing more than the surveyor walking past the boat on the dock. This might be cheap but the owner is not really getting their moneys worth.

                Many insurance companies will require a new survey be done every five years or so to make sure the vessel condition and value have been maintained. Should the owner want to change their insurance company or coverage, a new survey or updated survey will also likely be needed. There may also be times refinancing is required which will also require a new inspection and valuation. For anyone restoring a boat or having made major upgrades done, updating the survey report will be worth the expense. An updated survey report will help protect your investment in repairs and verify the additional equipment and value should there be a loss.

                The surveyor has to be careful they do a good inspection when doing a C&V inspection to be able to find the fair market value of the boat. They also need to make sure there are no defects that could make the boat a high risk to the insurance company or a danger to the owner. Before hiring a surveyor for an insurance inspection, it is best to find out just what is required from your insurance carrier. Not all insurance companies require an out of water inspection for coverage while others do. Most insurance companies do not require a full water trial to test engines and gear but is best to find out ahead of time. Not having to haul out or run a water trial will help keep the cost of the survey down as most surveyors charge a bit less because of this.

Specialized Surveys

                Other more specialized surveys will include engine and mechanical surveys, Rigging surveys for sailboats, Damage surveys often done after an accident or storm and electrical and galvanic corrosion surveys. Each of these would be done by a qualified person with specialized expertise in these disciplines.

                Engine or mechanical surveys are often done in conjunction with pre-purchase surveys. Engines are often an expensive part of any vessel so having a good inspection by a qualified mechanic with a strong background in the type and make of engine aboard can be important. A good engine survey will require a thorough inspection of the engine and mechanical equipment both at the dock and while underway. Main motors need to be run while under load to get a good evaluation of operation under different speeds. This is also important to be able to check the reduction gears and running gear. A good mechanical inspection will also include the generator and any other major mechanical equipment. Oil samples for analysis are also usually taken. Recommendations for maintenance and repairs will be made after a full evaluation.

                Sailors may also want to consider a rigging survey. As with an engine survey, this can be done in conjunction with a pre-purchase survey. Some insurance companies may require a rigging inspection before binding insurance although this is not common. It is also prudent to have a full rigging inspection performed prior to a offshore passage or other long voyage. This could help spot trouble before it becomes an issue offshore or far from parts and repairs. A full rigging survey is usually completed by a qualified rigger who will inspect the standing and running rigging. A complete rigging survey requires checking the rig from the masthead to the deck. Rigging failures are most often a result of a single point failure leading to a catastrophic failure of the entire rig. A good inspection can spot small problems before they become big ones. Most owners never make it up a mast to do their own inspections and fewer still know how to spot hidden problems. Rigging inspections are of most benefit on boats that tend to have highly stressed rigs such as offshore cruising boats and racing boats.

                Unfortunately there may come a time some boat owners may find themselves in need of a damage survey. A damage survey may be needed after an accident, storm or weather damage, or due major equipment failure such as an unexpected engine failure. Most insurance companies will provide their own surveyor at their expense when investigating claims but there may be some cases where an owner would want someone working directly for them and looking out for their interests. Damage can come in many forms and types and making sure the repairs are completed properly is important for the safety and value of the boat. Collisions with other boats or docks, storm damage, hard groundings, and lightning are just few common types of damage that can occur. It is important to know that repairs are done correctly and that all damage has been properly repaired. Not all surveyors are qualified for this type of work. Any surveyor doing damage and repair inspections should have a strong background in vessel design and construction. If the damage is due to an engine failure it is important to find someone who has experience with the causes of engine failures not due to lack of maintenance.

                An owner may also want to hire a surveyor when doing major refits or repair work. Although most boat yards strive to do good work, knowing that repairs are done correctly can give a boat owner peace of mind. Often larger repairs or modifications can affect the structure and performance of the vessel. A qualified surveyor can review plans and the work as it proceeds to make sure the work is being done correctly and that corners are not being cut. They can also review billing to make sure everything is on the up and up. Knowing there is a surveyor checking the work and invoices can help keep a yard honest and avoid problems and disputes at the end of a job. Should there be problems the owner will have an expert on their side from the start. The surveyor can also update any previous survey report to update equipment and valuation as the work is completed. A surveyor’s report of major repairs is also helpful when selling the vessel.

                There are other times a surveyor can be useful as well. If planning on having a vessel transported by land or on a ship, a surveyor can document the vessel condition prior to the trip as well as help verify the vessel is properly loaded to prevent damage during transit. This can be invaluable should the vessel incur damage during transit, having photos and an independent witness will be helpful should there be any dispute if damages are incurred during transit. An owner may also want an inspection of their vessel prior to a water delivery or an offshore passage. Some delivery skippers even require a recent survey before taking an assignment. It also never hurts to have an independent eye look the vessel over prior setting off on a long passage. As with any other type of survey it is important to find someone qualified for this specialty.

Selecting a Surveyor

                Of course, any survey begins with finding and hiring the right surveyor for the task at hand. This may not be as easy as one would hope but there are some resources that can help. If you are buying a used boat from a broker the broker may offer you some suggestions. Most brokers will provide a list of 3 or 4 surveyors they are familiar with. I have heard it said you should never hire any of the surveyors on a brokers list but this is not always true. Reputable brokers will want an honest survey as this takes pressure off them and helps avoid problems after the sale. A good broker would rather lose a deal than have an unhappy customer down the road. Additionally a good surveyor will not waste time on unrealistic findings from a poor surveyor. Of course, not all brokers are reputable, so in the end, it is up to the buyer to find someone they are comfortable with and feel they can trust.

                As mentioned there is no license or certification for surveyors and anyone can call themselves a marine surveyor even if they do not have any background in marine construction. When looking for a surveyor first check if that surveyor belongs to at least one of the surveyor organizations. Additionally, they should belong to at least a couple of the larger marine safety organizations such as ABYC and NFPA.  Next check their background within the marine industry. Make sure they have a strong background in the type of boat or equipment you are needing surveyed. You do not want to hire someone who has 20 years as a first mate on a cruise ship to survey a small sailboat. Find a surveyor who has the types of experience that best fit the need.

                Thankfully in this internet world it can be fairly easy to find a surveyor who fits your needs. Most surveyors will have a web site listing their background and experience. If a surveyor does not have a web site listing their background, experience, qualifications, and organizational memberships you may want to pass them by. Many surveyors will also provide a copy of a sample report along with other examples of their work on their websites. You may also want to check their Google ratings and any feedback they may have online. I have known many that have asked in boating groups or forums for recommendations.. This can be helpful particularly if those responding have firsthand experience with a surveyor. In today’s cyber world, word of mouth often comes from online groups and forums.

                After selecting a couple of likely candidates for the type of survey needed, it is time to talk to the candidates’ one on one. Make a couple of phone calls to get a feel for the person you will be working with. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their background in the marine industry and particularly with the type and brand of boat you are needing a survey for. Ask just what they do and lok at during their inspections. Make sure to check that they are accredited in their field and that their reports are accepted by banks and insurance companies. Find out how much time they spend doing the inspection, this will give you a feel for how through they are. Find out what is included in the final report and how long it will take to get the report after the inspection is done. Also check that the surveyors schedule will work with yours. Most good surveyors tend to be booked a week or two in advance, do not wait until the last minute to start the search. Finally be sure to ask about fees and what is included in those fees. Find out if there are additional fees for travel, water trials or anything else. I always say, “trust your gut feeling” this applies as well when hiring a surveyor. This is why it is important to talk to more than one surveyor prior to hiring anyone.

                Once a surveyor is selected it is time to start scheduling and getting prepared for the survey. Pre-purchase surveys tend to be the most complex to set up as more people are often involved. If a broker is being used either by the seller of buyer it is usually best to let them arrange for all the scheduling. Setting up a pre-purchase survey can be a bit like herding cats when it comes to making sure everyone’s schedules work. Brokers are used to this process and it is part of what they do. They can coordinate with owners, surveyors including hull, engine and rigging surveyor as well as with the boat yards for haul outs.

                Make sure arraignments have been made for all the services needed, including scheduling as well as payments and work orders needing to be signed. Most boat yards and surveyors will expect payment the time of the survey or haul out. Many will also require work orders be signed in advance of doing any work. If planning on attending the survey this is not usually a problem but if you are not going to be there the day of survey you may need to complete these forms and payments ahead of time. Some yards and surveyors may also require a deposit to hold a time slot open for the inspection, some may also charge a fee for cancelations. Not all boat yards or surveyors will take credit cards or checks either. Some will only except cash or may offer a discount for cash so it pays to check ahead. Some yards and surveyors may also require a deposit. It is best to have all these details worked out ahead of time.

                For the specialized surveys such as damage, rigging, and engines surveys done alone scheduling is not as much of an issue and less preplanning needs to be done unless these all occur at the same time as the purchase survey. That said it may be required to provide some information in advance. Engine surveyors are likely to want engine model and serial numbers. With damage surveys photos and a detailed description of the damage and how it occurred is helpful. No matter the type of survey being done, the more information a surveyor ahead of time, the better prepared they will be on the day of inspection.

Survey Limitations.

                 Any survey is an inspection of a vessel or equipment at a single place in time and is limited in its scoop due to time restraints and physical limitations. It is not and cannot be a warranty of the future condition or performance of a boat and its gear. Cost is also plays a part, as a truly full inspection would require days with disassembly of a good part of the boat or gear. No owner is going to allow a surveyor to start drilling holes or removing parts of the boat to gain full access. Likewise someone hiring a surveyor is not going to want to cover the costs of days spent on the boat taking things apart and putting them back together. A compromise will have to be made to allow the best inspection possible at a fair cost without doing harm to the vessel being inspected.

                On larger boats due to time limitations it is often not possible to fully operate all gear and equipment. A fuel gauge becomes a good example of this. It would simply not be practical to fill the tank and then run all the fuel out to fully test the full operation of the gauge. Most equipment is just tested for basic operation. With some expensive high end boats specialists are hired to focus on only certain equipment such as electronics. For the average survey the cost would simply be too high to have a group of specialists fully test everything.

                A surveyor’s test equipment is also limited in that it should not damage what is being tested. A surveyor’s test instruments may indicate a potential problem but without some form of destructive testing such as boring holes or removing fixed equipment a problem cannot be fully evaluated. Once again, most owners are not willing to let a surveyor pull out a drill and start boring test holes in their boat. In the end it is cost verses expectation. A truly through inspection of any boat it would require more time and expense than most buyers or owners are will to pay for. Like most things in life a balance of cost and thoroughness has to be maintained. Buyers and owners must keep this in mind when hiring a surveyor.


                Knowing the limitations there are some things you should expect from a good survey. Any full or hull survey will include a complete structural inspection of the hull, deck, along with the internal structural components. Once again due to limited access not all areas of the hull and structure can be fully inspected. If often depends on the boat but a good surveyor will do their best to access as much of the structure as possible. With fiberglass boats the surveyor should check for delamination in the hull and deck as well as accessible internal structures. Laminates should be checked with a moisture meter to verify they are within normal ranges. High moisture levels can indicate potential problems. Acoustic soundings are also made on both fiberglass and wood boats. This is a fancy way of referring to the light tapping a surveyor does. This tapping can often reveal hidden problems or soft spots that will need further investigation. For metal boats ultrasonic testing would be done to verify plate thickness and wastage. The hull should be checked with the vessel out of the water for better access. No inspection would be complete without checking the bottom for blistering or other issues as well. Wood and metal boats require specialized knowledge and equipment. A surveyor well versed in these materials should be hired when looking into these vessels.

                Along with the hull and structure the surveyor will inspect the vessels systems including electrical, plumbing, and engine along with its systems. A good surveyor will be well versed in the standards in place for these systems as well. A good hull surveyor will also check the engine or engines while running as well as off. Most hull surveyors will not go so far as to do compression checks or other tests involving taking things apart but they will check for fluid leaks operating temperatures and other performance factors. They will check that the engines run up to proper RPM and do not smoke or overheat while doing so. Most will check the engines while running at different RPMs. They will also check for water, fuel, or exhaust leaks during operation. They will also check the transmission, noting any difficulty in shifting or unusual noises or vibrations during operation. This is also a good time for the surveyor to check the operation of the steering systems as well.

                For motors with high hours on them or should anything not appear right during the water trial a mechanic should be used to further check the motors. This is sometimes done in conjunction with the hull survey or may be done after should anything be found not right with the motors during the hull survey. Most hull surveyors do will not do compression checks or be able to download ECM data from the engines although a few will. It is best to check when hiring a surveyor what mechanical checks they can and will do.  For motors with low hours and good service records hiring an engine surveyor may not be needed but can offer some piece of mind. With outboard motors and gasoline inboards it can be a good idea to have a compression check done. For motors with high hours you may also want a bleed down test. A bleed down is where the mechanic introduces compressed air into a cylinder and times how long it takes for the pressure to bleed down. It is also a good to have oil samples taken for analysis. This can give an indication of any contaminates such as fuel, water, and coolant that is in the oil. It will also show if there are any excessive wear metals that could point to future issues. Most hull surveyors can take oil samples but many charge extra for this service.

                The running gear including the propellers, shafts, struts and stuffing boxes should all be checked for problems or wear as well. For Inboard/outboard drive the drive units and transom plates should be inspected for wear. For outboards the transom mounts and the transom itself are inspected and problems noted. Once again, all good reasons to have the boat out of the water for a close inspection. The steering systems should also be checked and any excessive play, stiffness and general condition. Rudders, bearings and seals need to be checked. Hydraulic systems are checked for leaks while mechanical systems are checked for wear.

                With sailboats the propulsion system will also include the mast, sails and rigging. No inspection would be complete without at minimum, a visual on-deck inspection of the standing and running rigging. Not many surveyors will do a full aloft rigging and mast inspection so for larger boats with older rigging, it may be wise to hire a rigger to go aloft for a closer inspection. If the rigging is newer (Being less than 10 years old.) this may not be needed. If problems are found at the deck level it would be wise to assume there are problems aloft as well. Winches and other sailing gear should be checked for general operation and condition. Usually during the water trial, the basic sails are raised and lowered and some sailing may be done to evaluate the fit and trim of the sails. This allows the surveyor to inspect the sails while making sure all the sail handling equipment works as it should. Due to time limitations the bagged sails are not usually set but will be inspected in the bags or if possible opened up and laid out on the dock or ground for a closer inspection. If there is a large sail inventory or for expensive racing sails it may be best to take the sails to a sail maker for full evaluation Surveyors should also pay attention to mast supports, partners and mast steps or bases checking for signs of problems.

                In today’s modern world even small boats will often have fairly complicated electrical systems requiring careful inspections. Simple electrical systems can pose significant safety hazards and should be checked carefully. Vessels with more complicated systems using both AC and DC power need even more attention. Any general hull surveyor should be well versed in understanding these systems along with the safety standards applied to them. With modern electronics and creature comforts such as air conditioning and refrigeration and complex navigation systems a boats electrical systems can get complicated fast. It is often the after-market installations that can be the most problematic as these may not always have been installed by qualified technicians. A good surveyor will be able to spot and note problems and potential safety hazards before they become a serious issue.

                Along with electrical systems, plumbing systems, will require a good inspection as well. Even small boats will often have some basic plumbing with, at least, a bilge pump and some waste plumbing. Larger boats can have surprisingly complex plumbing systems comprising of fresh, grey, black, and raw water systems. Let’s not forget fuels systems, some with multiple tanks and valves. All these separate systems use pumps, hoses, fittings, thru hulls and tanks. These systems all have components and connections that will require close inspection for potential problems. Particular attention should be paid to thru hulls and seacock along with the fittings and hoses attached to them. As these underwater fittings and hoses could potentially allow water into the boat they need to be checked closely. Fresh water and drain systems should also be checked for proper operation. Waste systems need to be checked not only for operation but that they comply with Federal and state laws for overboard discharge. Fuels systems and tanks also need to meet basic safety standards.

                A good survey will also check the boats safety equipment making sure that at least equipment required by the USCG is aboard and in working condition. . This would include life vests, fire extinguishers, visual distress, and other equipment required by law for the particular type and class of vessel. Along with required equipment they will also check optional gear such as life rafts, EPRB’s, and CO monitors. Although not always required, this additional equipment needs to be checked and serviced on a regular basis as well if it is to function in an emergency. This optional equipment often gets overlooked in the boats routine maintenance. The surveyor will let the owner know what equipment is due for service or replacement. They may also make recommendations for additional safety gear depending on how the boat is planned to be used.  

                A pre-purchase or insurance survey will also provide a valuation of the boat based on current market value. In order to place a value on any boat the surveyor must know the overall condition and equipment list. They will use this information to compare what other boats of the same model and year are selling for or have sold for. If the boat is not a common one they will compare similar boats. Many factors are considered but, in the end, it comes down to an educated guess using as much information as possible. Like they say a boat is worth what any damn fool will pay for it. Unlike cars where a Blue book value can easily be looked up, boat values can vary wildly based on many factors beyond just age and engine hours. Not all owners may agree with the value the surveyor sets but a good surveyor will do the research and comparisons to set a fair value. Values can change based on economic conditions as well. During periods of economic recession’s boat values tend to drop, likewise they may rebound during strong economic conditions. The value the surveyor sets is the value most banks and insurance companies will use as this is considered an independent and fair valuation. This is often referred to as the “Agreed Value” as all parties agree to use this value.

When do you need to hire a Surveyor?

                Knowing when to hire a surveyor is confusing for some. For the most part, anytime someone is thinking about purchasing a used boat a survey should be considered. Boats smaller than 20 feet, a full survey may not be necessary, however an engine survey may be worth considering.  As the engine is often the most expensive part of a smaller boat it might be best to check it first. Any vessel larger than 25 feet or so a full survey should be considered. Experienced boaters my feel they know how to spot problems and may feel they do not need a survey. Experience helps but an outside opinion from someone who is not emotionally or financially attached to the boat may have a unbiased opinion of the boats true condition. Some buyers skip the survey to save costs only to have to have a survey to obtain insurance. Before buying any boat, it is wise to find out if your insurance company requires a survey and if so what they may need in the survey.

                Even if the boat being purchased is a project boat, a survey should be considered to at least know what you are getting into and help avoid serious issues that could cost more than expected. Some project boats have structural issues and may not be worth fixing. A good survey will also help with developing a project list to get the work stated.

                Most buyers of new boats never consider a survey but it could save time and frustration to have a surveyor look over that new purchase. Although most new boats are well built, problems can and do occur. Builders for the most part want to deliver a problem free product but defects do occasionally get past the quality inspectors. Finding these problems before taking final delivery can save precious time on the water. Most new boats are assembled to an extent by the dealer. Installing outboards, arches, and even flybridge are often done by a dealer. The buyer needs to know all this work has been done correctly to avoid future problems and warranty claims.  Although most new boat do come with a warranty who wants to waste time bringing a boat back to the dealer for warranty work.

                Most insurance companies will require a survey when first obtaining insurance and some require a new survey every five years or so depending on the age and value of the boat. Insurance carriers may also require a new survey when any major changes to the policy are made such as when the boat is moved to a new location or a value adjust is required due to upgrades. Normally, an insurance survey is not quite as detailed as a pre-purchase survey but before hiring anyone to do an insurance survey it helps to know just what your insurance carrier expects from the survey. Some will require the boat be hauled for an out of water inspection while others may only require a simple in water survey. For some types of boats it may be required that trial runs and engine tests be performed. Before conducting an insurance survey it is best to know what will be expected from your carrier. Almost all insurance companies require the surveyor be a member of SAMS or NAMS, so check the surveyor memberships before hiring anyone. Banks will also require a survey when financing or refinancing a boat. Like insurance companies, banks need to know the boats condition and value before releasing a loan.

                Damage, either from an accident or from storms may be another reason to hire a qualified surveyor. Often your insurance carrier will hire a surveyor or adjuster but there may be times you will want someone to protect your interests as well as those of the insurance company. A surveyor working directly with you can help make sure all damage is covered and all the repairs are done in a good workmanship way. A damage survey with a record of the repairs can also be helpful when selling to boat at a later date. These records will show the boat was properly repaired. Sometimes an insurance company will deny a claim. An independent survey may not always change their mind but it is the best place to start should there be a dispute. When hiring a damage surveyor make sure they have a strong background in repair work.  

                Rigging surveys are often done when buying a larger used sailboat. Some insurance companies will require this be part of the pre-purchase or insurance survey. Many sailors will want a thorough inspection of their rigging prior to an offshore passage. Most rigging surveys are done by an experienced rigger rather than a hull surveyor.

Survey Day

                Knowing what to expect the day of the survey can help in planning. Every surveyor is a bit different will and do things a bit differently so it is best to see how they like to work. Planning ahead and getting the boat ready prior to the survey will save time and allows the survey to go smoothly. Once again a pre-purchase survey will be the most complex and require the most planning. If you are buying a boat through a broker it is best to let them do most of the coordinating and planning. They are used to dealing with all the players and will know how to best schedule everything.

                It is best if the boat can be prepared prior to survey date. Equipment and gear not being sold with the boat should be removed. Any equipment that is being sold with the boat should be aboard for the survey. Telling the surveyor you have sails, a trailer, or other gear in storage across town is not helpful and could reduce the value of the boat. A surveyor can only report on what they see firsthand and most will charge extra if they have to drive to another location to physically inspect additional gear.     If tides or bridges are an issue the boat should be relocated to where it can be moved as needed. The seller should go through the boat a couple of days in advance to power up and test equipment and engines ahead of time. It never ceases to surprise me when I arrive for a survey and batteries are dead or engines will not run. For the seller this usually means a lost sale and for the buyer often it means wasted money. The buyer should ask at least 2 days in advance, if all of these things have been done.

                Most hull surveyors will start first thing in the morning to allow time for everything that needs to be done. Most hull and engine surveyors will want to spend some time in the engine compartment prior to starting the engines and getting them hot. Most surveyors prefer to have a cold start of the motors to check for starting issues or excessive smoke on cold start. If an engine surveyor is used make sure they can work with the hull surveyors schedule and vice versa.

                If a water trial is to be run the owner or someone else will need to be available to run the boat. Most surveyors will not do this as they cannot check systems and operate the boat at the same time. Timing of this is often done in coordination with the haul out yard and an engine surveyor if one is used. It is best to conduct trials and collect data after the boat has had an out of water inspection. This is to ensure the bottom is clean and the running gear is in good order. Often an engine surveyor will want to be aboard for the trials as well.

                Once the haul out and water trial are complete the remained of the survey can be completed back at the dock. The remaining equipment and gear can be tested and for sailboats a rigging inspection can be done.  Oil samples may be taken at this point while the engines are still warm for running. Once the full survey is complete the surveyor will usually take some time to review over the findings with the buyer. The buyer may or may not want the seller and his broker present for this review. As a surveyor I tend to find things go better with fewer people present. Owners and their brokers may want to argue about the findings or try to indicate they are small problems. This can make it hard for the surveyor to offer their unbiased opinions.

                With insurance surveys the owner will need to find the insurance company requirements for a survey. You may need to specifically ask if they need an out of water inspection, rigging inspection, or water trials run. If the owner is shopping insurance it would be best to do a full out of water inspection so that there will be no problems. Once again try to make sure all the equipment is operating properly. Inspect all the vessels safety equipment as well and make sure all the required equipment is aboard and certifications are up to date. The fewer deficiencies the surveyor needs to put in the report the better. That said do not ask the surveyor to omit findings, this is unethical and a report with not findings could alert the insurance company to possible problems as no boat is perfect and they know this.

                When getting an engine survey try to get model and serial numbers for engines, generators, and transmissions ahead of time. If oil samples are to prove useful the oil should have at least ten to 20 hours of normal use. If a seller changes the oil days before the survey it could be a warning sign. Make sure the engine surveyor will have and easy access to the engines from all sides possible. If planning on staying close to the engine surveyor while he is doing running inspections it would be good to bring hearing protection for yourself. An engine survey is a good time to learn about the motors so it would be good to watch during this process.

                The rigging survey may be one of the easiest as the owner often does not even need to be present although like any survey being there to observe and ask questions is not a bad idea. Let the rigging know the age of the rigging if known and tell them about how the boat has been used and where. Also let them know how you plan to use the boat in the future. All this will help when it comes to evaluating the lifespan of the rigging.

                Should you need a damage survey it is helpful to provide a description of the damage and how it occurred? Damage claims can sometime lead to litigation so the more detail about date’s places and times as well as persons present the better. If the boat has to be moved try to get some photos of it prior to being moved away from the location where the damage occurred. Provide as much of this as possible to the surveyor as their report is a legal document and could prove useful. The surveyor can also review the repair estimates to make sure they cover all of the damage and are priced fairly. Also make sure the surveyor has full access to the boat. If the owner will not be present a letter of authorization should be provided. Contact any boat yards or storage facilities to let them know your surveyor will be looking at the boat. Looting can be an issue with damaged boats so you would not want any confusion.

                Of course when it comes to planning a survey all of the above is subject to change based on the schedules of everyone involved along with the boat yards schedules for hauling. Try to allow at least one or two weeks prior to the survey to start scheduling. Check closing dates on purchase agreements, these can often be extended if need be. It pays to ask lots of questions before the survey. The more professional everyone involved is the smoother survey day will go. Do not hire surveyors on price alone as in the end it could cost you. Take the time to find someone you will feel comfortable working with and the process will not be as painful as it sometimes sounds. A good survey can pay for itself in savings over the long run.

Honda Generator recall

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Many boaters use and love these little generators. If you are one of those please take the time to check out this recall and see if your unit is in need of repairs. From the Government web site:

Recall Details


This recall involves Honda EU2200i, EU2200i Companion and EB2200i portable generators. The recalled portable generators were sold with a red or Camo cover. The names “HONDA” and the generator model name are printed on the control panel. The serial number is located on a lower corner of one of the side panels of the generator. The following model numbers and serial number ranges are being recalled:

Please go to the recall web site and see if your unit is in the recall:

Consumer Recall