Here's the typical survey scenario in my experience:
Surveyor arrives, the boat is afloat and a general inspection of rigging, deck and interior is undertaken. At some point the boat is lifted .(Often a lower priced "half-lift" over the yard's lunch hour with the boat left in the slings)
The surveyor then inspects below-water issues, prop/shaft/strut, keel attachment, blisters etc. and sounds the hull for delam and problems. A pressure wash at this time can be useful, allowing a better look at everything. If things are looking promising this is a good time to change zincs too.
The boat is then refloated and the survey completed. All in all typically this should take 4-5 hours (for a typical 30-ish footer), plus the time required to generate the report.
An engine survey can and should take place in the water so that the engine and gear can be run and tested.
With the advent of digital photos, survey reports can be very specific and detailed. While content is key, these days you do receive a nice-looking report.
Do try to be present - a lot of questions will be answered and you will get personal impressions that may not be evident in the report itself.
Last edited by Faster; 01-26-2007 at 12:57 AM.