A good marine survey is a thorough examination of a vessel's condition, producing a written document that accurately outlines the faults found and makes informed suggestions for repairs and upgrades. A good surveyor should have extensive knowledge of the many factors that can cause failure of structures and equipment, and should be aware of the pluses and minuses of various methods of repair. He or she should have a good working knowledge of boat design and function. This aids in correctly interpreting observed characteristics, stress points, and the limitations upon appropriate use of the boat that may be inherent in the design. In the past, surveyors dwelt primarily upon the fundamentals, such as the condition of the hull, deck structures, and rigging. Increasingly nowadays surveyors are being asked to also evaluate engines, electrical systems, electronics, and safety equipment, and the various codes and government requirements attached to each. Few, if any, surveyors are expert in all these areas. A good surveyor should be willing to specify the limitations of his or her survey before you hire them. This allows you to be sure of getting the type of information you require. We strongly suggest that any survey which is intended to determine the value, investment quality, and desirability of a boat for a given purpose should have as its primary focus the condition and integrity of the hull and decks, including those instances where the boat to be surveyed is new, or fiberglass.
It is highly desirable not to accept a new vessel from the builder without having it surveyed first. Unfortunately it is not safe to assume that a new boat was properly designed, built, or equipped. Beware of the builder who does not want you to have this done. The builder should be pleased to have the boat surveyed, as it provides the owner with an independent assurance of quality, at the time of delivery.
Surveying skills are the backbone of successful repair, maintenance, and brokerage work. Without such skills, problems may be overlooked, misunderstood, or given too much or too little emphasis. To attempt to work on boats without possessing surveying skills, or hiring them, is like working as a doctor without being able to diagnose health problems.
Central to the concept of formal surveying is the principle of objectivity. Surveyors are supposed to be independent, and free of conflict of interest. We obviously cannot perform formal surveys when such objectivity can reasonably be assumed to be impaired. For example we cannot survey a boat for which we are the brokers or co-brokers. We do make our extensive experience with marine surveying available to all our customers, and we will perform formal surveys wherever conflict of interest is not a concern of the customer.
Beware of the incompetent surveyor. Surveying is a profession that anyone can legally practice with no training or certification whatsoever. Nor does membership in any particular group ensure competence. Go only by reputation and trusted referrals. Oddly enough, some of the worst surveying is that which is done for insurance companies to determine the insurability of a boat. We have seen many instances where these types of surveys consisted of a count of required safety devices, an overall glance at the appearance of the boat, and little else. Thus many boats get insurance at good rates, regardless of their strength, condition, or suitability for their intended use. A real survey, consisting properly of a list of faults, can doom the owner to high premiums or a lack of insurance, unless the insurance broker knows boats, whether this is appropriate or not. Many older wooden boats are difficult to insure with some companies simply because of their age, and regardless of their condition unless you have an agent experienced in the marine field. It all contributes to an unfair situation in which we all pay for the ineptitude of some surveyors and the companies who hire them. To mitigate these concerns you should choose an insurance agent who actually makes boats a major part of their life.
The reader is invited to contact us for a quotation on a survey, or for advice on selecting a surveyor.