Dec 3, 2020

Marine Safety SurveysBy John Gullick

Recently, with all the new enthusiasm for boating, I was approached by a person who was thinking about buying their first boat. They wanted to know if they needed to get a marine survey.

My answer was yes. Good marine surveys can provide the buyer with a great deal of important information and with antique or classic boats they are usually required to properly insure the vessel.

The survey should be done when the vessel is out of the water so that everything below the waterline can be inspected, so this is a good time when boats are already out.

A good marine surveyor will thoroughly inspect the condition of the hull, topsides, frames, stringers and motor mounts. Even in fibreglass boats there is often a great deal of wood core between the layers of fibreglass that is subject to rot, especially in the bilge and on deck where through hull fittings allow access to water if they are not properly sealed. With fibreglass boats the exterior hull below the waterline may be subject to osmosis. This is where blisters form when water gets in below the outer layer of gel coat. It can freeze during winter lay-up and cause blistering.

While most surveyors will not provide you with a report on the mechanical condition of engines and out drives, you need a qualified marine mechanic for that, they will inspect the hoses, drive belts, clamps, seals, flame arresters, wiring, batteries, shore power, fuse panel gauges and electronic equipment. The presence and condition of all Transport Canada required safety equipment will also be noted.

When making an offer it should be conditional on a satisfactory survey, which the purchaser usually pays for and subsequently owns. Safety items and conditions requiring attention and repair are noted and this information can often be used to renegotiate the deal if the buyer wishes to proceed. This can often save hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars, and can more than cover the cost of the survey.

Marine Safety SurveysDepending on where you are in the country, you may need to hurry. Surveys should not be conducted during winter freeze up. If there is any moisture in the hull it will freeze and when sounded with a plastic hammer will present as solid. If a preliminary inspection is conducted during the winter months a final return trip will usually be required in the Spring.

Be sure to accompany the surveyor. Don’t breath over his shoulder but observe what is going on and ask questions. This will really enhance the process and provide personal references to the written report.

The “Do I need a Survey?” question led to other related questions.

Where do I find a good Marine Surveyor?

If you belong to a club check with members who may have used the services of a surveyor. Usually the boating magazine, related web site or marine broker where you found information about the vessel you are interested in will also have information about available marine surveyors. Your marine insurance specialist will also have a list of surveyors that they will accept reports from.

How do I know if the marine surveyor will meet my needs?

Ask them a lot of questions. Ask what type of boats they are familiar with how many surveys they do each year. Are they accredited? In Canada marine surveyors are not required to have formal certification but most good surveyors will belong to and be accredited by a recognized association of marine surveyors. Check references and ask what the survey will consist of. Will it be a simple checklist or will it be a detailed written report with photos and recommendations?

Follow the recommendations from your marine insurance broker and make sure they will accept the report from the surveyor that you choose.

How much will a Marine Survey cost?

This depends very much on the boat. You should expect to pay $15 - $20 a foot plus travel expenses for a typical boat. Small runabouts may be quoted at a flat rate that is a bit less. It’s fine to ask for a quote.

What if the boat already has a recent survey?

Again check with you insurance broker. It will depend on how recent and if the boat has been in use since the last survey. If so, conditions may have changed and there could be damage and further deterioration of conditions previously mentioned or not mentioned at all. Perhaps the surveyor that did the original survey can be contacted and asked to do a follow up survey.

Remember, surveys are usually arranged and paid for by the purchaser. They represent a third party arms length assessment of the vessel and can provide you with a wealth of information to help determine if you want to proceed with the purchase and, if so, what repair and proactive maintenance will be required.

Two final items should also be considered in the formal offer to purchase.

The engine, transmission and out drive or drive trains will need to be inspected by a marine mechanic and an in water test drive is also in order to make sure the performance of the vessel meets your needs and expectations.

John GullickMeet John Gullick

John is currently Manager of Government and Special Programmes, Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons responsible for government relations and the management of two national programmes mandated by Transport Canada, Office of Boating Safety and Industry Canada, special projects and staff supervision.

John writes “Just Ask John for the CPS’ Port Hole. This article and others are “Second Time Around”

His many achievements in the boating field include:

• Past Chair Canadian Safe Boating Council, 1999 –

• Co Chairman, Recreational Boating Advisory Committee to the National Canadian Marine Advisory Council, 2007 -

• Management of the Pleasure Craft Operator Card and the Restricted Operator Certificate (Maritime) programmes provided through 150 Squadrons, 400 independent Recognized Providers/Examiners and a number of Provincial Partner Organizations.

• Past Chair of the Peterborough Dragon Boat Festival. Considered to be one of the world’s largest single day community event of its kind now in its 20th year.

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