Professional Marine Sailboat Surveyors

Leaking chainplate on a sailboat

A marine surveyor will provide a full report of his findings, including such problems as this leaking chainplate.

Anyone considering hiring a marine surveyor should be aware that there is no regulation or licensing of marine surveys. Virtually anyone can hang out a shingle and advertise their services as a marine surveyor. You should make sure that any surveyor you are considering engaging is an accredited member of the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS) or the National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS).

Surveyors of yachts and small craft provide inspections and assessments of the condition, value, construction, damage, and required repairs of sailboats and powerboats up to about 300 feet in length. Other surveyors specialize in large commercial passenger or cargo vessels.

When you need to hire a boat surveyor for the purchase of a sailboat, it is particularly important that your surveyor have the specialized knowledge and experience needed for surveying sailboats. Many surveyors have extensive experience surveying powerboats, but know little or nothing about the special rigging and gear used on sailboats. Nearly every part of the sailboat can be considered part of its propulsion system: the keel, the height — and strength — of the mast, the hull, the tensile strength of the halyards, stays, and boomvang, the balance of the helm, the vessel's tacking and pointing capabilities.

A boat surveyor needs to understand sailboats, their special equipment, and how they operate in order to provide you with the best possible survey of the sailboat you are considering purchasing. Your marine surveyor should have specific experience surveying the type and general size of the sailboat you wish to purchase.

Selecting a marine surveyor is an important decision that should be based on his training, credentials, and experience, his reputation and recommendations from previous buyers who have used his services, and accreditation from a nationally recognized marine survey accrediting organization. Accreditation alone does not guarantee the quality of the survey, any more than a medical or legal license guarantees the skills and expertise of a doctor or lawyer — but reputable, quality marine surveyors will generally hold at least one nationally recognized accreditation. Don't forget, you can ask your yacht brokerage and boating friends for recommendations.

When you speak with a surveyor about retaining his services, don't be hesitant to question him about his experience in surveying the type of boat you are considering, how he performs the survey, how much time he spends on the survey and on the report, and how he arrives at his conclusions and recommendations. Most surveyors will be willing to provide you with a sample survey report, with identifying information removed; you should examine this report carefully to see if reflects a thoughtful, unhurried survey and if it addresses all of the key areas listed in the marine survey checklist.

Your primary concern should not be the surveyor's fee, but the quality of the survey. Saving a few dollars by hiring an inexperienced or careless surveyor could end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars, or even your life.