A few months ago I solicited copies of your sailboat surveys. Between the ones you guys sent me and the ones I had in my collections I came up with 14 samples.
I read them all this past week.
As I was reading them I started to doubt the premise of what I was doing. The premise was that by comparing a selection of surveys from several different surveyors I could come up with some useful data.
It occurred to me as I as I was bulldozing my way through this volume of rather dry reading that these documents were significantly different from reading a play or poetry for example. If a play is well written and the story is engaging it is a good play.
A survey however does not stand on its own. Its job is to reflect the condition of a boat. With my new found sensitivity to survey prose I'm pretty sure I could write a survey for any boat sight unseen that would read very well.
It would of course not be useful as it would not reflect on the reality of the boats condition.
In selecting a surgeon if I had to choose between an arrogant SOB who was gifted in his practice and a really nice guy who was a little clumsy with a knife it is pretty obvious who I would pick.
With surveyors too there is no guarantee that the guy with the best computer and English skills also has the best surveying skills. In fact some of the best surveyors may be old enough that the computer is hard for them.
With the above caveats out of the way maybe in some small way I can contribute to the body of knowledge.
I was a little surprised at how similar all the surveys were. There were two exceptions. One local older fellow wrote paragraphs for everything. No lists just paragraphs but all the same information was still their.
Another guy produced a survey that was about twice a long as the others with a lot of pictures.
Every survey had the following sections:
Demographics of Boat, Principles and purpose of survey.
Description of each section of the boat
Some surveys were very explicit about what they could not our would not comment on. Things like the top of the rig, engine, electrical etc. Other surveys hinted at things they couldn't comment on but were not very explicit.
A couple of guys use a thermal scanner which seemed like a nice touch.
Some of the guys put their recommendations in a list at the end others in the body. I preferred the list at the end.
Some had some boiler plate that described what the numbers meant and what was acceptable. Something like your cholesterol numbers from the lab with marginal notes as to what is the normal range.
Most rank their recommendations into, safety, later and cosmetic categories.
So the big questions are:
- How do you select a surveyor?
- How do you prepare so the surveyor does the best job he is capable of?
- What should you do during the survey?
- How do you read the survey?
Select a surveyor:
My recommendation is to select the surveyor by recommendation. Visit the yard and ask around and find someone who has a good reputation.
With the owners and brokers permission get as much cleaned up and opened up as possible. If the surveyor can't see it will just end up in the report as "Not tested" you didn't get your moneys worth.
During the survey:
Again with the owners, brokers and now surveyors permission stay out of the way but you may be able gain access to locations so the surveyor can do his job faster.
Make time while on site to ask questions about stuff you saw that puzzle you.
If at all possible go over the survey with the surveyor in person as there may be things he will be will to say that he is not willing to write down.
Out of 14 surveys their was no mention about several things that are just as important as the items that are typically discussed.
You may be comparing two boats. From your point of view you want to know which is the best boat for the money. The survey will not tell you that.
The reason is that the primarily reports on what is there and not on what you would like to be there. For example lets say you are looking at two almost identical boats. One has a broken stereo system and 25,000 dollars worth of brand new canvas. The other one has a working stereo but no canvas.
The survey for the first boat will mention the canvas and the broken radio.
The survey for the second boat will mention the radio but will NOT say their is no dodger and Bimini. This is not like an Amazon side by side comparison of a computer.
The lesson if you a selling a boat with something broken is to take it off the boat if possible. The fact that it is missing may not be reported.
Never once did any survey say anything about the quality of the boat. If a deck cleat is loose it will be mentioned if it is too small it will probably not be mentioned.
If their is no room for a good anchor and rode it will not be mentioned in a survey, that is a boat review.
It is up to you to determine if a boat is the right model for the use you have in mind. That is not the surveyors job.
If you want someone to do that for you call Perry and pay his consulting fee.
There are no repair numbers. You will have to take the list of repairs and have the yard quote it if you can't do it yourself.
Be aware that what the surveyor can not see and therefore can not comment on exceeds what he can see.
- The keel bolts if there is water in the bilge.
- Wiring that is hidden behind furniture
- Bonding between bulkhead and hull behind furniture
- Real moisture content
- Leaks when really working in weather
- Top of the rig.
- Features of all of the electronics
- Details of the engine
- Hoses as they go through bulkheads
- Chain plates just below the decks.
Hopefully the above will help beginners calibrate what they can reasonably expect from a survey.
I'm hoping that the experienced sailnetters will add their knowledge to this thread.