We are frequently asked what to expect during a pre-purchase marine survey by customers who are making their first big boat purchase. A pre-purchase Marine Survey, sometimes referred to as a Condition and Value (C&V) Survey, is the most common type of marine survey and is vital for a buyer so that they can appreciate the true value of the vessel they are planning to buy. There are normally 3 main parts to this survey: The in-water inspection of the vessel and systems, an out-of-water inspection of the hull and running gear, and a limited trial run (often referred to as a ‘Sea trial’, this is not a true sea trial but rather a short test in calm conditions to test the basic functions of the vessel). For most boats these inspections can be completed in one day, ranging from about 4 hours for a small boat to all day for larger boats and sometimes a 2-day inspection is needed for large boats with many systems to inspect. Normally the in-water inspection portion is performed first so that I can establish familiarity with the vessel, and then the hauled-out inspection and sea trial can be performed in whichever order is more convenient. Only non-destructive testing will be performed, and I always leave the vessel in the same condition that I find it.
The in-water survey portion is where I inspect the deck, the interior areas, electronics, electrical systems, plumbing, engine components, etc. Normally this is done first while tied to a dock and with shore power supplied to the boat. The engine should be cold when I arrive to begin the survey so that initial startup can be witnessed. All deck hatches will be opened, and the entire interior area of the boat scrutinized thoroughly. The Seller or Seller’s broker should insure that the vessel is open, clean, and ready to be surveyed at the scheduled time of survey.
The out of water, or hauled out, portion of the survey is critical to check the condition of the bottom of the vessel, through hulls, rudder, and running gear/propulsion systems. This expense is paid for by the Buyer separately from the Marine Survey and is vital for a thorough vessel inspection. Normally the vessel can be hauled out in a travel lift, pressure washed, and then the survey performed in the slings with the vessel then returning to the water immediately afterward.
The third section, which can be performed before or after the haul out, is the limited trial run. The boat will be driven by the owner, broker, or hired Captain while I’m performing the marine survey. This is normally done in calm inland waters. Keep in mind that this is only an inspection of the operation of the systems, this is not an opportunity to go offshore and test the vessels seaworthiness in storm conditions. Steering will be checked, the engine will run at temperature, and we will run the engine(s) at full throttle for 3 minutes to test that the cooling systems are operating within design specifications. If the vessel is a sailboat we will raise the sails and check their shape/condition as well as the rigging. The trial run portion of the marine survey will usually take 30-60 minutes. For some vessels we may recommend a separate engine survey performed by a qualified marine mechanic and for some sailboats a separate rigging survey should be completed by a qualified marine rigger. Optional engine oil analysis can be performed by me if requested.
I encourage prospective buyers to be present during the pre-purchase marine survey so that they can have a full appreciation of the condition of the vessel they are looking to buy as well as ask questions about the various issues that inevitably turn up. EVERY boat will have some issues, and I consider one of the most important parts of a marine surveyor’s job to be the ability to properly contextualize those issues that do come up. I will be taking voluminous notes and pictures during my marine survey, and afterwards I will write up the full report and email a pdf file of the full marine survey to you within a few days. I understand well the importance of promptly sending the survey to my customers so that they can make the most informed decision possible on the purchase of their vessel.