Frequently Asked Questions About Marine Surveys
- Who pays for the survey?
- In a typical sailboat purchase, the buyer of the boat pays for the survey.
- Who does the surveyor actually work for? Who is the survey report provided to?
- The marine surveyor "works for" the individual or business entity hiring him. That individual or business entity which commissioned the marine survey will receive the surveyor's report. Marine surveyors typically will not provide the survey to or share survey results with anyone other than the individual who hired him, unless instructed to do so by that person.
- Are marine surveyors licensed?
- No, there is no governmental body or agency that licenses marine surveyors. However, surveyors can receive accreditation from the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS) or the National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS). Both SAMS and NAMS require at least 5 years of experience and administer exams that must be passed for the surveyor to be accredited. Both organizations also require continuing education to maintain surveyor accreditation. Boat US, as well as other boat insurance companies and boat loan lenders, maintain lists of yacht surveyors whose surveys they accept for purposes of financing a boat or insuring a boat.
- How long does a marine survey usually take?
- The survey itself generally can be completed in a few hours to a full day. The surveyor may need several days after the physical survey to complete his written report. The larger the boat and the more systems it has, the longer the survey and report will take. Your surveyor can give you a more precise estimate of his schedule and time frame.
- Should the buyer be present during the survey?
- While a survey can be performed without the buyer being present, it can be helpful for the buyer to be there during the survey itself. The surveyor may be able to point out certain items and explain their meaning more easily while on the boat itself. Surveyors may also make comments or observations that aren't significant enough to include in the final report, but which may add to the buyer's understanding of the boat's condition. The buyer also has an opportunity to ask the surveyor questions and ask for clarification of the surveyor's comments.
- Who else should be present for the survey?
- The owner of the boat, an authorized representative, or a licensed captain should be present to operate the boat and its systems. The surveyor must be able to focus his attention on inspecting and evaluating, not on operating unfamiliar equipment. The owner or his representative should stay out of the survey process except to operate the boat and its equipment as needed.
- Who should not be present for the survey?
- Generally, a marine survey will proceed most smoothly if there are no children or pets present. Additionally, friends and relatives who will not have an ownership interest in the boat will often be more of a distraction.
- Should the boat be in the water or out of the water for the survey?
- Ideally, most surveyors would prefer to have an opportunity to evaluate the boat while it is operating in the water, particularly to evaluate the functioning of the engine and the running rigging of a sailboat, as well as to inspect the boat out of the water. The in-water part of the survey can often be done during the sea trial, but some boat surveyors prefer that the sea trial be conducted separately from the survey. Most marine surveyors consider a survey incomplete if they are unable to evaluate the boat both in and out of the water.
- Who pays for the marina's haulout fee?
- The buyer of the boat (the person who is commissioning the survey) is responsible for all costs associated with the survey, including the haulout fee.
- What should be done to make sure the boat is ready for surveying?
- If the boat has been winterized, or is in storage at a marina or at the broker's yard, the seller or the broker should re-commission the boat as would be done at the beginning of the boating season. Gear stowed elsewhere should be returned to the boat. Batteries should be charged. Water and fuel tanks should be filled. The engine and generator should be started and tested. In general, the boat should be made ready for taking out on the water as if for a day sail. These preparations are not the surveyor's responsibility, and should be completed prior to his arrival at the boat.
- How are the rigging and sails surveyed?
- All surveyors visually inspect the rigging from deck level. Since most of the moving parts and the most corrosive effects of salt water occur at this level, the most serious problems are likely to be observable during this inspection. Some surveyors are willing to go aloft to inspect the top of the mast and the upper part of the rigging more closely. Most surveyors who are willing to go aloft will charge an additional fee for the service, and require advance notice that the buyer wishes the extra service. Be sure you discuss the details with your surveyor prior to engaging his services, to ensure that his services coincide with your expectations of what will be inspected and how. The mast can be unstepped to allow for a more complete and thorough inspection without the surveyor going aloft, but this is rarely done.
Sails will be inspected to whatever extent is reasonable based on the sail's location and status — bagged jib sails can be removed from the bag, for example, and if an in-water survey is conducted, the surveyor can inspect a mainsail and a roller-furled jib when they are set out for sailing. For racing or cruising sailboats with many different expensive sails, the sails can be inspected separately in a sail loft.
- Can a sailboat be purchased without a marine survey?
- If the buyer doesn't plan to finance or insure the boat, the decision to engage a marine surveyor is entirely up to the buyer. A survey is generally required when financing the boat's purchase, or to insure the boat. A survey is strongly recommended for older boats and boats with multiple complex systems, such as plumbing, electrical systems, generators, and other systems. The newer the boat, and the smaller and less complex it is, the less a survey is needed.
- Is a marine survey needed for the purchase of a new sailboat?
- Buyers who commission the construction of a custom boat often retain a professional marine surveyor to monitor the construction process and provide professional insight into the quality of the construction procedures and their compliance with recommended and required guidelines and regulations. Less commonly, buyers may hire a surveyor to perform a survey prior to closing on the boat purchase — but since any defects in the boat will generally be covered under the new boat warranty, and there's no possibility of damage from previous usage, buyers are far less concerned with surveying a new sailboat and generally forego the expense. Some sailboat owners who buy a new sailboat like to use their new sailboat for a season, then have it professionally surveyed before the warranty expires.