The “Pre Purchase Survey” is a very comprehensive type of vessel evaluation, usually commissioned by the potential buyer in the course of a second-hand sale.
Inspecting, say, an 80-foot (25-metre) motorboat for one and a half to two days is an ordinary practice in the course of such a survey. This duration will change according to the size, age and type of the yacht and according to other considerations.
The surveyor examines the boat attentively and meticulously from top to bottom, from the stem head to the transom, from the masthead to the keel. The surveyor may examine the hull inch by inch and, if justified, may have some dismantling carried out and will take ample notes regarding the observations and the points that attract her/his attention. Copies of boat documents, maintenance records, log books will be made for future examination.
The surveyor measures moisture on fibreglass hulls and plate thickness on steel boats. She/he will test wooden boats for softening and rot and will check the fastenings and the caulking.
The surveyor’s knowledge cannot be gained from books or from “expert conversations”. This knowledge must be based on a good number of sea events, in-depth experience and a sequence of decision processes that can only be gained at sea. Further to that, the experienced surveyor performs the examination with a general knowledge of the characteristics and problems of thousands of boats and situations in mind.
Thus, an experienced surveyor may concentrate on telltales others would likely overlook. These signs may, at times, be very small and they may even appear as negligible. Indeed, at times the surveyor will dismiss such tell-tale signs after the initial examination. However, sometimes the initial sign may lead to another one and that, yet to a further one. At this stage the surveyor starts to reveal the true identity of the vessel.
In other words, the surveyor, instructed from the buyer’s side, cannot and will not look at a vessel from the perspective of the owner. The surveyor inspects a vessel from a perspective distilled from years of sea experience, uses a very critical eye and records all relevant findings. Neatly separately from all of that, the surveyor offers personal conclusions and recommendations to the instructor.
One of the main objectives of the surveyor is to determine whether or not the vessel has experienced an accident in her past. Should the surveyor come across a sign of an accident, she/he will try to assess the permanent effects of this accident and inform the instructor about them in an objective and balanced manner.
The surveyor examines the boat both on land and at sea and will witness a sea trial. During this sea trial all the systems on board are powered up and each one is inspected for its proper performance. The surveyor will record the performance of the vessel during the sea trial. Later, the surveyor will rate the vessel’s performance and may even compare her performance with that of similar vessels. This performance record will constitute a calibration point in time and can be used to assess the present condition of the vessel, or can be used as a baseline for future assessments.
Some of the inspection headers are:
- Hull inspection in detail and moisture/ plate thickness measurement.
- Sacrificial anodes are checked and electrolysis, corrosion indications are determined. Functioning of the cathodic protection of the boat is inspected.
- Evaluation of the engine(s) and gearbox(es). Measuring compression if justified. Oil analyses.
- Inspection of the propulsion train, stuffing boxes, mounts, brackets, propellers.
- Inspection of the electronic devices.
- On sailboats, every detail of the rigging and the keel connectors are checked.
- Inspection of safety devices and equipment for completeness, suitability and functionality.
- Understanding the past of the boat and verification of its record.
- Determination of signs of accidents/collisions.
- Inspection of service documents, interviews with service companies in order to determine the boat’s history of maintenance.
- List of imminent/near future maintenance/ repairs/ refits that will be needed.
- All of the serial numbers are determined. These are primary and hard to refute evidence, useful in the case of a theft and other criminal incidents.
A pre-purchase survey report, created by an experienced surveyor will be a most valuable document to go with the vessel.
However, what distinguishes the surveyor beyond competence and crystal clear reporting is sticking strictly to only what can be backed safely.
Above all goes, however, uncompromising loyalty of the surveyor to the instructor.
Cert. Marine Investigator