equipment such as hardness testers and
ultrasonic thickness gauges. Becoming a
competent surveyor involves making a considerable financial commitment.
Surveyors aren’t licensed, so the industry is in the position of having to police
itself. There are two major surveying organizations, which, among other things, have
programs to certify or accredit their members: the National Association of Marine
Checking for moisture in the keel.
Surveyors (NAMS) and the Society of
Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS). A
NAMS surveyor must have at least five years
experience working as a full-time marine
surveyor and pass an exam in order to use
the initials NAMS-CMS (NAMS Certified
Marine Surveyor) after his or her name. A
SAMS surveyor who’s worked five years as a
full- or part-time surveyor and has passed an
exam can use the AMS (Accredited Marine
Surveyor) credentials. Both organizations
have apprentice members who have not yet
earned their certification.
What’s Covered On A Survey?
Even among the best surveyors, there is
no consensus on what is or isn’t covered on a pre-purchase survey. NAMS and
SAMS both publish voluntary survey report
guidelines for their members. (NAMS publishes “Recommended Guidelines for Yacht
Condition and Valuation Surveys” and SAMS
publishes “Recommended Survey Report
Content.”) BoatU.S. did a poll of SAMS and
NAMS members who survey recreational
boats that found many of their inspections
are consistently the same. A comfortable
majority of surveyors said they always sound
the boat (using a plastic hammer to detect
voids and delamination), reference the ABYC
standards, and test electronics to see if
There were also some significant variations. For example, only a slight majority of
surveyors always use a moisture meter and
slightly less than half said they always take
the boat on a sea trial (assuming a sea trial is
possible). There are even bigger differences
with engine inspections. A few surveyors
are former mechanics and are qualified to
do a complete inspection while others have
very little hands-on experience. Most have at
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