Frequently Asked Questions about Marine Surveys

Marine Survey FAQ
Do I need a marine survey? What is a marine survey on a boat? What does a marine survey include? How long is a boat survey Good For? What does a boat surveyor check?

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Marine Surveys But Were Afraid to Ask

You want to know everything that is wrong before you make the purchase. If there are issues with the boat you want to know what they are and how much would it cost to fix. So you can make the decision of whether to proceed with the purchase, walk away or negotiate the price. A well written and thorough survey report will help you to buy the boat you want at the right price.

That could be true. But did you know that 12% of all boat damage is a result of a lack of proper maintenance? Do you know how to look ‘under the covers’ so to speak and know if the boat has been properly maintained? The surveyor you hire to inspect the boat has the knowledge and expertise to know what is proper and what is not.

It is never too early to start looking for a qualified marine surveyor. It is important to find a surveyor with the appropriate background, qualifications, and accreditation such as the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC).

It is also important to find a surveyor who you are comfortable working with. The more comfortable you are with your marine surveyor, the more you will get out of the survey. Unfortunately, most people wait until the very end of the process to start a relationship with their surveyor.

Of all the people involved in the purchase process, your marine surveyor is the person working for you, providing objective information about your boat.

We work strictly for you, our client. Many brokers provide a list in order to help their buyers for finding a surveyor. When we survey a boat, it is without prejudice or bias. The reported condition and the findings are always factual and supported by proper evidence. As the client you have engaged our services to develop information and that information will be shared only with you. Unless there is an imminent safety issue that could result in damage or injury to people or property.

Yes, by all means. We will need someone who is familiar with the vessel present to open any locks and grant permission to board. If you are a prospective buyer, it’s helpful to be able to point out the areas of concern. It is also a perfect opportunity for you to familiarize yourself with your potential future boat.

We evaluate all the major systems including the structure, mechanical systems, electrical systems, fuel systems, and water systems. The inspection is limited by access to all the parts but we make every effort to determine the condition and operation of all the systems and components.

Marine surveys typically include the structure, machinery, and equipment (navigational, safety, radio, etc.) and general condition of a vessel and/or cargo. It also includes judging materials on board and their condition.

The right marine surveyor can give you more than just the minimum requirements necessary to satisfy the marine insurance underwriters and marine financing companies.

The survey report you will receive from Blue Matter Marine Consulting will be detailed and include digital images and/or other supporting evidence. We use standards set by the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC). Also the requirements of the marine insurance underwriters and marine financiers.

The findings in our reports are divided into three categories to show the most important issues with a boat while still being able to provide a list of smaller issues that may be important to the owner/buyer.

Major Deficiencies: Urgent issues to address, requiring immediate attention for reasons of safety, urgent maintenance or to avoid violation of regulations.

Minor Deficiencies: Not urgent yet but could become urgent if not addressed. Issues that are related to long-term maintenance and good nautical standards and to preserve the long-term value of the vessel. These recommendations could be carried out at the next refit or dry-docking.

Recommendations: These are generally normal upkeep items that should be addressed as you can. Examples include:Water leaks through ports or hatches, Anodes in need of replacement, Loose or worn engine belts, hoses, and engine mounts, Cosmetic issues, Winches in need of service

The report is finished off with conclusions such as the condition of the vessel as well as a valuation on the fair market value and in cases of newer vessels, the estimated replacement cost of the vessel.

The survey is limited to easily accessible areas of the vessel and time constraints. Inaccessible areas behind screwed panels, tacked carpet, locked areas, or any other like areas are not generally inspected.

We always recommend getting both in and out of the water surveys if possible. It allows the surveyor to inspect the condition of your vessel’s hull. If you are looking for an insurance or periodical survey, your annual haul-out is a perfect time to kill two birds with one stone and get a survey at the same time as regular maintenance.

A survey can take a few hours to a full day depending on the size and complexity of the boat and its systems. It is wise to schedule an entire day for the survey, even for smaller boats. The time involved is mainly a factor of the condition of the boat rather than size or age. If you’ll be running the boat, the sea trial usually lasts 30-60 minutes.

During a Pre-purchase Condition & Valuation- or Insurance Survey the vessel is being inspected from head to toe, from top to bottom, from forward to aft and inside & out. All the findings will then be reported in the survey report.

– Exterior hull – Topsides & wetted surface
– Interior hull & structural sections (Bulkheads, stringers, etc.)
– Main deck, superstructure, upper Deck & Flybridge
– Navigation & communication equipment
– Safety & fire fighting equipment
– Anchoring & mooring equipment
– Other equipment such as tender, outboard engines, water toys, etc.
– DC- & AC electrical system
– Bilge pumping system
– Fresh-, salt-, black- & grey water system
– Fuel system, engine space, main engine(s) & gears
– The steering system, props & shafts/Saildrives/Sterndrives/Surface Drives
– Stabilizer system, thrusters & trim tabs
– Fuel-, hydraulic-, air-conditioning system
– Spars, standing rig, running rig & sail wardrobe (unless it’s a specific sail & rig survey, the rig is inspected from deck level only)
– Cooking Gas System
– Entertainment System
– Interior and Cosmetics

A marine survey is a detailed inspection of your boat in order to determine its condition and seaworthiness. A condition and value evaluation is part of a marine survey and helps the insurance company identify any issues that could lead to an imminent claim.

Environmental conditions can define the quality of a marine survey. The quality of the survey can only be as good as the conditions under which it is conducted. Your marine surveyor can be faced with a few challenging factors, including a lot of people on board, limited time the vessel is available, poor weather, or a host of other negative circumstances. The surveyor has to conduct his work in an orderly fashion, meaning that there is a certain order of events that has to take place.

The surveyor can’t work in an engine room where the engines have been run and the temperature is
50 degrees. It’s already hot enough without adding engine heat to the mix. Therefore, the surveyor will need at least 2 hours with the vessel before the engines are run and the vessel is moved from the dock.

Hull surveys can be successfully performed in conjunction with an engine survey. We often run into problems where no power or inadequate shore power is available to test systems. In some cases, the best we can do is to test A/C systems on generator power.

We find a surprisingly high amount of vessels that are not ready for a survey. It should be in the interest of the owner/seller to present his or her yacht in the best possible way. The preparation to make a boat ready for a marine survey does not take too much time and is crucial for a successful outcome of the survey and the subsequent report. It just does not look good when it says “Vessel was found cluttered” or “The bilges were littered with debris” etc.

Here are some suggestions we send to the boat owners prior to conducting our surveys:

Vessel owner, captain or engineer in attendance.
The vessel connected to shore power with battery chargers on.
Do not run engines and generators prior to the survey. Engine space should be cool.
Air-conditioning turned on OR windows & hatches open. Deck awnings in place.
All interior and exterior lights turned on.
Clean and un-clutter the vessel, including bathrooms.

Vessel documentation:
Crew certificates.
Builder’s certificate.
Owner’s manual.
Insurance documents.
Receipts for recent repairs and upgrades.

Vessel’s systems:
Make sure everything works OR is marked “not operational”.
Make sure the batteries are charged.
Check fuel, machinery oil- & coolant levels, fan belts etc
Do not run any machinery just before the survey.

Safety equipment:
Easy to find. No treasure hunt.
Deck equipment uncovered.
Stored equipment laid out in one place.
All fire extinguishers lined up.

Sail wardrobe:
Sail inventory showing brand, material & year.
Working sails raised during sea trial.
Stored sails inspected on deck or dockside.

Tender & outboard:
Inflated & fueled up.
Stored for easy deployment, NOT inside the vessel.

Do’s & Don’ts
Do install the speed log transducer before the sea trial.
Don’t start engines and generators just before the survey.
Do try to keep the vessel interior cool, including the engine space.
Don’t bring children and other non-essential personnel along.
Do bring a good supply of drinking water.

We understand that the process of buying a boat or yacht is complicated, and do our best to be flexible to accommodate the needs of our clients. However, it is important to understand that when we commit to a date and time for a survey, we are turning down other requests for that specific date and time. When scheduling a survey please make sure that:

The boatyard can schedule your haul-out.
The owner or the owner’s representative, agent (broker) is available to allow access to the vessel
A qualified person is available to operate the vessel for a sea trial.
The vessel is fueled up and in operational condition
Shore power is available

Commonly if a yacht broker or dealer is involved, he or she will assist you in making the arrangements. If it is a private sale, the buyer or seller typically make arrangements.

You will typically receive a full written report within 2-4 days. We will be able to give you a post-survey briefing and possibly a walk-through, it is highly recommended that you wait until you review the survey report.

On the sea trial, a surveyor not only has the opportunity to evaluate the engine and overall performance but also to test the steering, controls, shafting, engine mounts, and exhaust systems as well. When a sailboat is being surveyed, the overall sailing systems are also tested.

Another major benefit of a sea trial is that you get a perfect opportunity to feel how the boat performs. This is a great opportunity to confirm the boat you’re purchasing is right for you.

It is very beneficial to conduct a sea trial in open-water. Short runs in a canal usually won’t be sufficient. This is one of the logistical questions that need to be answered when making arrangements for the survey.

We recommend open water trial runs whenever possible. However, when sea conditions are rough, you have to defer to the seller’s discretion because of the risks that are raised if you insist on going out in rough water.

Our clients usually ask, “Do you survey the engines too?” This answer is yes and no. We will evaluate and comment on the operation and condition of the external parts of the engines and transmissions. However, when it comes to some diesel-powered vessels the engines can be more complex and will require a manufacturer’s certified technician. Most surveyors do not perform diesel engine surveys. In most cases, we are not certified technicians. It is highly recommended that an independent diesel surveyor be engaged for full diesel surveys.

It depends on the insurance company, the value of your boat and its age. At Blue Matter, we recommend having a marine survey done every 3 years.

In many cases, Marine Surveys are non-destructive in nature.  As a result, hidden flaws and latent defects which can not be discovered without dismantling the boat or disassembly of equipment.  Locked doors, hatches or panels that are screwed down will not be surveyed unless opened by the owner or his representative.  It is in the owner’s or the buyer’s best interest (dependent upon the type of survey) to have these panels opened up prior to arrival of the surveyor to allow for proper inspection. If any removal, disassembly or destructive testing is to be performed, written authorization from the vessel’s owner must be procured in advance.

The same can be said regarding excess gear and equipment that blocks access or reduces visibility.  Having to look over, under, around the piles of personal items or unnecessary equipment makes the surveyor’s job even more difficult.  All items that are not necessary for the safe operation of the vessel or will not be conveyed with the sale (if Pre-Purchase) should be removed from the vessel prior to the survey.

Rigging surveys on sailboats is performed from the deck level only.  No attempt will be made to go aloft.  Personal property or equipment should be removed to facilitate access for the survey.

In addition, the surveyor can only report on the boat’s condition as it existed at the time of the survey.  No warranty of condition or performance is provided.