Scheduled trip - part 3 - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 08-21-2007
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Scheduled trip - part 3

OK So let's deal with surveys.

Given the extent of the trip I was about to do and the short time that I had to prepare, also the fact that I was buying a boat sight unseen on the internet (scary business, by the way), I figured that the boat needed to be properly surveyed.

I commissioned three different surveyors, one to do the boat itself, one to do the mechanincs (engine, transmission etc.) and one to do the rig.

I received three reports, all of them with disclaimers way longer than the reports themselves and all of them with only minor defects listed. This in a way was good because my insurers required only those things described in the reports to be fixed. If the reports ahad been complete and properly done, I would have had a whole lot more work to do. Flipside, I would've had a safer boat.

Let's look at the things that were missed.

The rig report was good. No real issues but the rig is, after all, in a sound condition. The only thing that was missed was the fact that the stack pack lazy jack lines were frayed and as hard as heck and resultantly never made the total voyage. Also one of the stiffeners in the stack pack envelope was missing. I'm not too critical of this because I'm not sure that the stack pack is really part of the rig. He also reported that the line for the first reef was missing but this was told to him by the seller. What he never reported was that the second reef line was ragged and also had to be replaced and that the main halyard was frayed were it passes over the sheaves at the top of the mast. I checked the sheaves and they were at least OK.

The hull report:
- said specifically that there were no water leaks and the surveyor even said that on the day of the survey, it was raining in San Diego, apparently this is unusual. In reality we had water leaks into every single orifice the boat has. Every hatch, portlight, stantion, even the boot around the base of the mast and the base of the steering binacle leaked. I guess the surveyor could have at least put a hose over the decks before making this assertion.

- completely missed the fact that the stuffing box on the rudder shaft was stripped and could not be tightened. This was quite a serious omission because this was not just a drip, this was a liberal squirt of water with every nuance of movement on the rudder. He also missed the fact the locking nuts on the cable ends of the steering cables were loose and in fact they failed on the voyage and had to be reassembled. This is how we came to discover the leak. This all in spite of him saying that he inspected the quadrant and found it to be sound.

- While talking about the rudder, there is also enough play on the lower pintle bearings to cause the rudder to loudly "clonk" with every sideways movement and, yes, the boat was hauled out for the survey.

- completely missed the fact that the cockpit manual bilge pump was not working. When I stripped it to find out why, the pump cavities were packed full of foreign objects like bottle caps, cable ties, bits of wire,the list goes on. there is no strum box on the pick-up pipe. Given the combination of this and the leaking stuffing box, quite a dangerous combo.
- completely missed the front head skin fitting that was solidly blocked with barnacles. The head could not be flushed and the seacock could not be closed.

OK so he got a few things wrong that ended up causing us considerable issues on the voyage. What about the mechanical inspection? He missed:

- the main mounting bolt through the 110v alternator was halfway out even though the protruding bolt and the nut and washer were in plain view on the engine bay floor.
- The exhaust elbow (glass fibre) was cracked 3/4 of the way around and in fact broke in half after a couple hours of running. This was also a major contributor to excessive water in the bilge. Thank goodness for a Rule 500gph electric pump but then again, given all our problems with our electrics these things were of importance.

So, in short, never trust a surveyor report totally. EWspecially when they e-mail you a disclaimer that has to be signed for and returned before the report becomes available to you. These surveys cost me a total of something like US$600.

Interesting stuff?
Andre
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Old 08-21-2007
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I've been present a three boat surveys so far and I have to tell you I wasn't that impressed with any of the surveyors. In one of them we pointed out every major defect that was found _after_ he was done inspecting that area and declared it good. This included a rudder that needed rebuilding....

On the other hand I totally lucked out on my rigging surveyor (but it was on a strong recommendation from a friend who owns a similar boat). I suspect that finding a good surveyor is roughly as hard and as golden as finding a good doctor or dentist.
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Old 08-21-2007
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Andre-

In the area of surveys, you generally get what you pay for. Six-hundred for three surveys sounds like you went with the low-ball bidder on each... considering what a decent surveyor charges... and that may be part of the problem.
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Old 08-21-2007
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I agree on the price... for our 40' boat in the Annapolis area we paid around $700 for a survey, and that didn't include a rigging or engine survey. The surveyor did find the majority of issues with the boat. He spent a bunch of time pulling apart the interior cabinetry so he could access the inner hull to look for water intrusion and at the mountings for the chainplates (a source of issues on older Passport's). All in all, we were fairly pleased, but you get what you pay for.
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Old 08-21-2007
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Hi,

I have had two boats surveyed by two different surveys. Maybe I got lucky, but both surveyors were great. They both WANTED me to participate in the survey. This was good because I wanted to learn as much as possible.

I owned the first boat for 3 seasons and I didn't find anything the surveyor missed. I purchased the second boat last November and to be honest, I haven't corrected 1/2 the things the surveyor found because I feel they are OK for now (although I plan on corrected them over the winter when the boat is hauled).

I paid $500 for the first survey (28') boat and $650 or so for the second boat (35'). The first surveyor told me he would not inspect the rig above deck level. The second surveyor did go up the rig and inspected everything. He even installed a new windex for me. While neither surveyor performed an engine survey, they both did what I felt was a thorough test of the engine, including engine temperature, motor mounts, accessories (alternator mount and power, refridgeration, etc.), rudder and shaft (the rudder on the first boat was wet. the surveyor told me how to drill a small hole in the bottom of the rudder to let it dry out, then fill before launching), etc.

I'm glad it turned out OK for you in the long run.


Barry
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Old 08-21-2007
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Andre,

This is GREAT stuff!! Please keep the write-ups of your experiences coming.

I have been sailing boats through the club that I belong to in the hope of gaining additional experience with the maintenance and repair issues related to "cruiser/racer" boats. I now consider myself a potential boat buyer, and am shopping around. I am looking at 20 year old 34-36' boats that were made in New England. I could pay for the boat that I want now, but wnat to have full-time employment (or a winning lottery ticket )so that I can afford all the ancillary, and unexpected costs. I would also be very reliant on the surveyor to help me understand, and prioritize, the things on the boat that need attention.

When I have a boat surveyed:
  • I will insist on being there.
  • I will run all the halyards, and lines myself.
  • The sheaves I will have to trust the buyer and surveyor, as I doubt that I will pull the mast.
  • I will also insist on either myself, or the admiral being onboard as the boat is pressure washed, or I will turn a hose on the boat after the pressure wash.
  • I will test the rudder, and stuffing bearings by either rapidly turning the wheel from one direction to the other, or (if the boat is on the hard) shaking the rudder. Am I correct in assuming than less than 1/2cm (1/8 inch) of play is acceptable? I have also looked at boats where I have seen that the prop shaft has had about the same amount of side to side play (cutlas bearing). Again I assume that this is OK...
  • I will test every pump (manual and electric bilge, holding tank discharge) works.

I believe that the engine survey issues that you discovered (missing mounting bolt, and cracked exhaust elbow) are unacceptable, (The cracked exhaust could have resulted in CO posioning, or sinking of the boat. Either way you could be dead.) and I would have issued a written complaint to the company that did the engine survey, and asked for a refund. If their response is unacceptable, I would follow this up with a complaint to http://www.marinesurvey.org/ and http://www.nams-cms.org/

Please keep these reports comming!

Ed
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Old 08-21-2007
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Very interesting.... Keep em coming.

I agree with those that said "you get what you pay for" and I also like to add that in many cases being there makes a big difference. Unfortunatly people tend not to do their best if their not being watched or supervised.
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Old 08-21-2007
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Andre,
Now, in this post, you mention things that I think you might have caught on that two week shake-down cruise. Obviously you made it in spite of that and might not have caught them all.

I missed it-how many of you were there on board for the voyage?
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Old 08-22-2007
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Sailaway,

Yes, you're probably right, a two week shake-down would have exposed these issues. I guess the answer lies somewhere between having to get going and having to find everything that's wrong. I suppose we were lucky that the things that emerged after being at sea for some time were all within our capability and were fixed at sea (exception being the rudder gland packing). A lot of the elements mentioned in my original post were found by me and repaired before leaving San Diego.

As far as the cost of the survey reflecting the result, in the first instance, being in NZ we had to rely on the brokers that brokered the sale to recommend surveyors and we didn't really have a feel for what this should have cost. The surveyors they chose were local to their office.

The other side of the argument is that a hamburger without meat is not really a hamburger at any price. Similarly, a survey that misses essential safety issues (things that I would have deemed standard items to be checked) is not really a survey and low price does not change that. If a vendor is prepared to do a survey and charge a lower price, that is his commercial decision and doesn't set him free from ensuring the safety of people going to sea in the vessel.

Oh, and there were three of us on board San Diego to Rarotonga and four from there to NZ.

Cheers
Andre
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Old 08-22-2007
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Omatako-

Given the magnitude of the upcoming voyage after your purchase—from the USA to NZ, I would have expected that you hired your own, competent surveyors and asked for recommendations on competent surveyors in the area the boat was located in. Using surveyors chosen by the broker was IMHO rather foolish, and could have cost you the boat and your life...

A low-cost surveyor is often that for a reason—often he will be less experienced, less thorough, and less competent than a good surveyor, who is charging market prices. A good surveyor can charge market prices, or a slight premium, because he will often save the boatowner at least that much in the price or in repairs with his survey. A low-cost surveyor's lack of thoroughness may be a good reason for a less-ethical, sales-driven, boat broker to choose him, since a less thorough survey will generally affect fewer sales negatively—can't negotiate about a problem if the surveyor doesn't tell you about it, can you???

Given that you've been a member here for almost four years, I can't see why you didn't ask how much a survey in that geographic area should cost. Even a rough ballpark number would have told you that three surveys—rigging, engine and boat—for less than the price of a competent survey might be questionable in quality.

While you can blame the surveyors and say that they didn't really do a survey...
the truth is that the ultimate responsibility for the shoddy survey lies with you, the prospective boat buyer, and given your particular situation... where you were taking the boat on a lengthy and demanding trans-Pacific passage shortly after purchasing it... any problems not caught ultimately lie with you. In the age of the internet, where there are resources like sailnet, not asking for at least rough costs on a survey, much less not asking for names of competent surveyors in that area, is unwise at best.

I am not saying this to attack you, but to point out that you had a choice in what surveyor you used. You could have chosen to get someone other than the broker chosen surveyors, but did not.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

If you're new to the Sailnet Forums... please read this
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Still—DON'T READ THAT POST AGAIN.

Last edited by sailingdog; 08-22-2007 at 07:05 PM.
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