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Do Your Due Diligence

Get Your Boat Surveyed — By Mike Smith

Choosing the right surveyor for your particular needs takes more than just reading his acronyms, says surveyor Joe Lobley
( of Waldoboro, Maine. Lobley served 10 years as engineer and captain aboard commercial fishing boats and yachts before joining SAMS as a Surveyor Associate. After five years, he met the requirements and passed the exams for full SAMS accreditation; today Lobley is president of SAMS.

Is the laminate wet?

Is the laminate wet? SAMS continuing education classes drill down to the truth.

“We tell our [SAMS] surveyors, ‘Let the person who owns the boat hire you; don’t hire yourself,’” says Lobley. He advises a boat owner to be clear about what he wants from the survey, and to ask questions about the surveyor’s qualifications and areas of particular expertise. Don’t let the surveyor qualify himself by telling you how great he is. Take the time to check him out—do your due diligence. And ask about the details, like how long will it take to get the written survey report? “It should be ready within a week,” says Lobley.

Finally, know what the surveyor won’t do. Surveyors don’t take things apart. Most are not mechanics, and won’t run compression checks on the engines or pull oil samples for analysis—hire a certified mechanic for that. (You can take an oil sample yourself; many testing labs offer kits. Google it.) Surveyors don’t do repairs either, but should be able to estimate repair costs. If a surveyor works for a boatyard, be sure your insurance company will accept his survey; many, including Boat-US, will not, for conflict-of-interest reasons.

If a surveyor can find even half of your boat’s minor issues before they fester into real wallet-busters—or worse, become dangerous—he has earned his fee. What’s more, if you follow the surveyor on his, or her, voyage through your boat, you’ll probably learn plenty about how to keep things shipshape in the future. Make periodic surveys a part of your maintenance plan, and when you find a good surveyor, make friends with him—you’ll want to hire him again when you buy another boat.

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