What Does A Survey Cover?
My job as a surveyor is to portray accurately the condition of the vessel, as far as practical, to you the potential buyer so that you can first of all make an educated decision on purchasing the vessel but also to inform you of repairs, maintenance, upgrades or other issues that will affect your ownership of the vessel in the years ahead.
A Pre-Purchase survey (on a fiberglass vessel - see end of this section for comments on wooden hulls and other materials) generally involves the following:
The hull is inspected for distortions or unfairness. It is inspected for any visible evidence of grounding or other damage or repair. The fiberglass laminate is percussion sounded - this may reveal delamination or problems in the laminates well possible laminate blisters. Visual inspection for osmotic blisters and moisture meter testing of surface if conditions are favorable.
Interior structural elements of the hull are visually inspected (where possible without removal of fixed cabinetry) for soundness and security. This includes bulkheads, stringers and tabbing. The hull to deck joint is inspected (again, where visible) for soundness and security.
All through hull fittings are examined for corrosion and operability. Depth and speed transducers, drain plugs, ground plates, trim tabs etc are all inspected. Propellers, shafts, struts and cutless bearings are all inspected for visual condition. All through hull hoses and connections inspected and operation of all seacocks commented on.
Steering gear components are inspected for visual condition and installation and are operated. Rudders are inspected for condition, sailboat rudders (usually cored fiberglass) are percussion sounded and moisture metered if possible. Rudder supports and bearings inspected for structural soundness and condition.
The deck is inspected generally by using a percussion hammer to find possible deck core delamination. Moisture meter readings are also used where appropriate and if conditions permit to help discover if there is any water intrusion into the deck core.
Deck hardware inspected for condition and mounting security. This includes mooring gear, bow and grab rails, deck fittings, windows and portholes, hatches etc. Anchoring gear is inspected for condition and suitablity. Canvas enclosures and dodgers inspected for condition. Cockpit equipment inspected. Helm equipment inspected. Electronics are operated where possible.
The cosmetic exterior of the vessel (gelcoat, trim, woodwork, upholstory, etc) is inspected and commented on.
The interior of the vessel (cabinetry, upholstory, trim, carpeting, fixtures etc) is inspected and commented on for condition, cosmetics, mold, mildew, water damage etc.
All systems are turned on and operated where possible and their observed operation commented on. Systems operated and operation commented on usually would include: navigation lights, horns, navigation electronics, spotlights, windlass, fresh water system, washdown system, toilet system, cabin air conditioning system, galley stove(s), fans, lights, vents, bilge pumps, entertainment systems etc.
Electrical system is visually inspected for proper installation and operation of all breakers and switches. Battery voltage at rest and with charge appliances on is usually checked.
Engine (including generator) installation, mounts and beds inspected for proper installation and observed condition. The engine with its hoses and electrical and control connections is visually inspected for observed condition. Fuel system visually inspected for proper installation and observed condition commented on. Engine cooling and exhaust system visually inspected for proper installation and observed condition commented on. Bilge ventilation system inspected and commented on. Transmission and shaft connection visually inspected and commented on.
Generally, engine inspection is limited to exterior visual inspection and comments on observed performance where operated. Internal engine inspection is not generally done however, compression testing on some gasoline engines may be done at additional cost. Compression testing on outboard engines is usually done and is usually included in the base survey fee. Oil analysis can be done however, unless the number of hours on the oil in the engine is known the analysis report is generally meaningless and generally a series of reports over a time period is needed to evaluate a potential trend.
A seatrial may be conducted as part of the survey. This usually involves the following: The engines are brought up to temperature and then run up through their power range to full rpm. Rpm is noted against speed, rpm is usually observed on the vesselís instruments only. Temperature and voltage on the vesselís instruments are also noted and compared against volt meter readings taken at the battery and temperature gun readings taken on the engine block. Temperature gun readings may be taken on other parts of the engine cooling system to help assess the operational condition of the cooling and exhaust system.
The engine is visually observed while operating to assess any movement or problems with the mounts and beds, to observe any potential leaks in engine systems, to listen for any unusual or improper noises or vibrations. Transmission is shifted into all positions and performance observed. Propeller shaft is observed under load to comment on potential shaft vibration (alignment or bearing problems) and stuffing box performance.
Generators are loaded to observe their performance and sizing to the vesselís loads.
On sailing vessels the mast and rigging are inspected. If the mast is stepped inspection is limited to observations from the deck. The mast is inspected for damage, corrosion, dents, straightness etc. The mast base and step in particular are inspected for corrosion particularly if it is stepped on the keel (if the mast is stepped this may be limited). The mast step is inspected for soundness and security, if it is deck stepped the deck support structure is inspected for condition. Standing rigging swages are visually inpsected for cracking etc. All rigging connections and fittings are visually inspected. Running rigging is inspected. If the mast is down, the mast head is inspected as is the spreader fittings. Winches and sail handling gear are inspected for general condition.
Bagged sails can only be spread out for inspection if there is a clean and dry area to do that in (often not availible) and inspected for wear, chafe or damage. Sails on roller furling units or on main booms cannot be safely unfurled at dock side or with the vessel hauled but may be unfurled with the vessel on a mooring or underway on a seatrial if conditions permit. Sail set performance cannot be judged unless the vessel is under sail in suitable wind conditions.
The ballast keel is inspected for fairness and tightness to the hull. The keel bolts are visually inspected only where the heads are visible in the bilge (not physically possible elsewhere without removal of the keel). Hull support structure for the keel is inspected for cracking, movement, or damage where access is possible.
Wooden vessels are more involved than fiberglass, however, the general process is the same. Every accessible structural component of a wood hull is visually inspected and percussion sounded for soundness where appropriate. Fastenings may be pulled but only with the ownerís permission. Since wooden boats generally have a much greater range of condition and problems than fiberglass boats I do a more involved initial walk-through before starting the actual survey. This often discovers big problems that may prompt the buyer to back out of the survey before we commit to it. Contact me directly for comments and advice if you are considering a wooden vessel.