FROM THE BoatU.S. INSURANCE FILES BY BOB ADRIANCE
BUYING A USED BOAT?
Your marine surveyor is the person with expertise whom you hire to protect your best interests
and check everything to make sure a boat is sound. Here’s how to find the best one
LIKE A LOT OF FIRST-TIME BUYERS, it’s fair to say that the 42-year-old restaurant executive was head-over-heels in love with the boat — in this case, a 28-foot sportfishing boat — and couldn’t wait to finish the paperwork and take title. But first — and this really irked him — the local bank was saying he had
to have it surveyed. The man reluctantly called the broker, who gave him a
shortlist of names. After a little price shopping over the phone, the executive
had his surveyor and was only one short step away from owning the boat.
The survey inspection went well; at least it went quickly. The boat was hauled out of the
water and the surveyor spent a couple of hours poking around the boat, occasionally pausing
to scribble a few comments in a notebook. Two days after the inspection, the survey arrived
with a few minor recommendations. The surveyor also placed a value on the boat that was
acceptable to the bank, and in short order the executive had his boat.
It would be nice to say that the restaurant executive and his new boat lived happily
ever after, but it wasn’t to be. Over the following weeks and months, problems arose with a
rusted engine mount, a worn cutlass bearing, and the grim discovery of rot in two bulkheads.
Every one of the boat’s seacocks was “frozen” open, and a badly leaking hose almost sank
the boat. Finally, a helpful engine mechanic who was doing some repair work, noticed the
boat’s water heater mounted in the engine
compartment wasn’t ignition-protected and
strongly recommended that it be replaced.
The end result was that two years and several
more repairs later, the sportfisher went up
for sale. It was an expensive lesson on the
value of a good marine survey.
Finding A Good Surveyor
Finding a competent surveyor may be the
final step in a boat purchase, but it could
easily be the most important, and should
never be taken lightly. Anyone can call
himself a marine surveyor; there are no
licenses or exams required. One longstanding joke among surveyors is that all it takes
to become a “professional” is a business
card, a cell phone, and somebody to believe
you. Being a competent marine surveyor, on
the other hand, requires a good deal more.
First it takes expertise, a lot of expertise.
The American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC)
publishes 68 standards totaling over 650
pages that cover everything from a boat’s
deck hardware to fuel and electrical systems.
Being a competent marine surveyor requires
a comfortable working knowledge of them
all. In addition to ABYC standards, a surveyor must know National Fire Protection
Association (NFPA) standards and the Coast
Guard’s safety requirements, and be familiar
with various construction standards (ABS
and Lloyds). Needless to say, a good marine
surveyor must have a mind for technical
These standards are continually being
revised and a surveyor has to keep abreast of
the changes, which means reading technical
books and attending education seminars.
The latter involves paying for airfare, hotels,
and meals. Good surveyors also invest in
expensive moisture meters and multimeters.
In a few cases, they may purchase specialty