Sailboat Survey Checklist
A comprehensive marine survey of a sailboat typically will include inspection, evaluation, and possibly testing of the following:
- The boat's deck, topsides, cockpit, superstructure, and rigging. All parts of the boat that are reasonably accessible will be inspected.
Marine surveyors will check the boat thoroughly for signs of leaks, which will be noted in the survey report
- Deck and deck core: Inspection includes visual examination for moisture penetration and delamination
- Deck fittings such as cleats and chainplates: Will be inspected for soundness, water-tightness, and miscellaneous damage and wear. When water or moisture gets into the deck core, delamination can result.
- Hatches, lockers, and lazarettes: Will be inspected for fit and operation, signs of damage, excess caulking that could indicate prior repairs, stress cracks, and wear and tear. Ideally, all lockers and lazarettes will be empty, or can be emptied, so that the surveyor can get a good look at the entire interior.
- Rails, lifelines, pulpit, stanchions, cleats, fairleads, winches
- Helm station
- Mast and rigging
- Mast, boom, and poles
- Rigging wire will be inspected for broken strands and chafing.
- Turnbuckles and other connections will be examined
- Eye terminals will be checked for corrosion, cracks, and shape
- Mast should be straight, even, and sound, without corrosion or damage
- Mast pulleys, welds, winches, and other moving parts will be examined
- Spreaders and fittings will be examined for corrosion, wear, or chafing
- Dodger, bimini, and other canvas attachments
- Halyards, reefing, sheeting, leads, cleats and jam cleats, traveler, vang
- The boat's interior
- Sole (cabin floor) will be inspected for damage and signs of leaks
- Layout and finish
- Stove, oven, refrigeration
- Propane storage and system
- Sink and faucet
- Sleeping accommodations, furnishings, doors, drawers, latches, interior storage areas
- Engine and engine room
- Engine beds and mounts
- Fuel, oil, coolant fluids, exhaust
- Drive train
- Bilge and bilge pumps
Most surveyors will check to make sure thru-hull fittings are of bronze, not PVC, and that thru-hull valves are ball valves, not gate valves. Additionally, many surveyors will make note if hoses attached to thru-hulls do not have two hose clamps, and if any hoses are kinked or bent.
- Thru-hulls and thru-hull fittings, including valves, clamps, and hoses
- Fuel system, including tank and mounts, fuel lines, filter, and shutoff
- Holding tanks and water tanks, including mounts, hoses, and shore connections
- Hull, keel, bottom, propeller, skeg,. All components of the survey below the waterline require haulout of the boat. The surveyor will also look for signs of grounding or impact damage, stress cracks, repairs, or distortions.
- Keel: Damage or signs of repair on the bottom or leading part of the keel are common in boats sailed in shallow water. An experienced surveyor will be able to evaluate the severity of the damage.
- Swing keels: The surveyor will want to get under the boat with a flashlight to look up into the keel housing.
- Hull: The hull inspection includes examination for blisters or signs of potential blistering in the fiberglass. Minor blistering usually isn't something to worry about, as most boats will develop some blistering over the years, but serious blistering can be problematic and can be costly to repair.
- Thru-hulls, grills, sea valves: All thru-hull openings will be inspected for a variety of possible problems resulting from damage or normal degradation and wear.
- Propeller, shaft, and supporting struts: The prop should be sound, the shaft straight and true, and supports strong and sturdy without excess looseness.
- Rudder: The surveyor will be looking for easy, smooth rudder motion, and also checking for looseness or wear in the hinges and for signs of water seepage into the rudder itself.
- Wheel and linkages
- Structural integrity
- Anchors and ground tackle
- Design features and aftermarket structural modifications
- Cosmetic condition and finish.
- Overall maintenance
- Electrical equipment (both AC and DC), power supply, and circuits
- Installation: Is the equipment installed in compliance with safety requirements and sound practices?
- Operation: Does all electrical equipment function properly?
- Seacocks: Are all seacocks operational, with free movement when opening or closing
- Head: Toilet, sink, faucet, shower, drain, pump
- Taps: Do all interior and exterior taps, faucets, and sprayers operate properly, and is there any leakage?
- Hoses, screens, strainers: Are hoses cracked or brittle? What is the condition of screens and strainers? What is the condition of all hose clamps and supports?
- Is there any moisture or any water puddles or stains anywhere that may be a result of any leakage or failure in the plumbing system?
- Safety equipment: The presence and condition of:
- PFDs (personal floation devices)
- Fixed and portable fire extinguishers
- Visual distress signals
- Sound-producing devices (audible signals)
- Navigation lights
- Engine exhaust blowers and engine room ventilation
- Oil discharge and garbage disposal placards
- Any auxiliary safety equipment, such as smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and first aid kits
- Ship's papers, documentation (if documented), vessel registration, and hull numbers
- Compliance with Coast Guard requirements, recommendations of the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC), and recommendations of the National Fire Protection Association.
Not Normally Included In A Marine Survey
The construction techniques and materials used in construction of yachts make it impossible for surveyors to examine every part of the boat. Wire and plumbing runs are hidden from view; bulkheads and other structural components block access to various areas; and in general the surveyor is simply unable to see or otherwise evaluate various elements of the boat. The professional marine surveyor should make clear what parts of the boat and its systems he was unable to inspect.
Additionally, weather conditions, mechanical breakdowns, boatyard delays, or other factors may prevent the surveyor from completing all of the factors that would normally be surveyed. These items should also be noted by the surveyor in his report. Most surveyors will not make a return trip to survey such items, unless special arrangements are made.
Marine surveys typically will not include the following, unless special arrangements have been made with the surveyor and/or the owner:
- Inspection of rigging, mast and equipment mounted above deck level (e.g., top of mast, radar dish mounted on top of mast)
- Inspections that would require disassembling parts of the boat, electronic equipment, or machinery.
- Full mechanical testing and analysis: The surveyor will visually inspect the engine for wear, loose wires or clamps, etc., and will have the engine run to watch and listen to it — but the marine surveyor is not a marine mechanic. If you want a complete mechanical inspection, you should make arrangements with a marine mechanic.
- Drilling holes, removing paneling, paint or gelcoat, or other destructive actions.
- Removal of carpeting, headliner, cabinetry, liners, or other parts.
- Opening or removing holding tanks, water tanks, or gas tanks, or pressure tests of tanks, lines and plumbing.
- The surveyor typically will not perform any calibrations, adjustments, or repairs.
Boats do not "pass" or "fail" a marine survey. Rather, the surveyor provides a detailed report of the boat's condition, its systems, and any defects found, and provides recommendations for repairs and an evaluation of the boat's fair market value, based on the surveyer's expert opinion. The buyer who commissioned the boat survey then decides if he wishes to proceed with the purchase, cancel the purchase, or re-open negotiations with the seller for price concessions or repairs based on the survey report. The surveyor also does not make insurance or financing decisions; the insurance companies and lending institutions make their own independent decisions about boat loans and boat insurance, based in part on the survey report. The lender or insurance company may refuse to insure or finance the boat, or they may require that certain repairs or replacements be performed before they will issue the boat insurance or boat loan.