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Get Your Boat Surveyed

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A Second Pair of Eyes

A surveyor can uncover problems you don’t see before they turn serious. Should you have your boat surveyed every couple of years?

Most folks hire a marine surveyor only when buying a boat, or if their insurance company requires it. But that’s probably not often enough: Periodic surveys should be part of your maintenance program. A qualified surveyor can discover what’s wrong with a boat, what needs fixing now before it gets worse, and what can wait. A survey isn’t cheap, but if it’s the stitch in time that saves nine, it’s worth the cost.

SAMS surveyors inspect some wet laminate from a derelict boat during a training session.

SAMS surveyors inspect some wet laminate from a derelict boat during a training session.

What can a surveyor tell you about the boat you own now? Maybe your underwater gear is showing more corrosion than is healthy, and he’ll suggest calling an expert in galvanic issues. Or maybe the cracks around your bowrail stanchion bases are more than just gelcoat crazing, and might be letting water infiltrate the deck core; moisture-meter readings can uncover the truth. Could it be time to replace some hoses in the engine room, or get a mechanic to locate the source of the oil in the bilge—you know, the oil you’ve been cleaning up for the past couple of seasons, saying you’d get to it someday soon? We all have blind spots when it comes to our boats, especially when repair costs are involved, but the surveyor won’t. He or she will bring aboard a second pair of eyes unencumbered by rose-colored glasses.

A survey as part of a maintenance program is different from the pre-purchase survey you want when you’re buying a boat. Ted Crosby (, a surveyor in Plantation, Florida, spent 39 years as an insurance-company surveyor before hanging out his own shingle in 2010. “The pre-purchase survey is very detailed,” he says. “The surveyor looks for tiny spots of rust, snaps that don’t snap—the client wants the surveyor to find every single thing that’s wrong with the boat to use for price negotiation.” For maintenance purposes, you want a condition and valuation (C & V) survey, Crosby says, with more stress on condition. 

Unlike a pre-purchase survey, a C & V survey doesn’t address cosmetics and doesn’t include a sea trial. It takes much less time than a pre-purchase survey, and, depending on the surveyor, should cost less. Some insurers require a C & V survey every five years to maintain coverage, so coordinate your maintenance plan with your insurance schedule and let one survey serve two purposes. But whether you want the survey to meet underwriters’ requirements or just serve as a maintenance guideline, be sure to explain your needs to the surveyor, advises Crosby. “Don’t pay for what you don’t want,” he says. 

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This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.