Visit Pensacola

A Rant About Surveys

Published on January 11th, 2017

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
My wife and I just bought an Alerion Express 28 (which we adore), and it was during the purchase process when we spoke to our broker about who to use for the survey. We were handed a lengthy list of referrals, but our broker was quick to state that he offered no recommendations as to be free of conflicts.

I appreciated that bit of clarity, as it was important the surveyor was working only for us, and was motivated to provide a thorough and accurate assessment of the boat. And that’s what we got, but as Britain’s Paul Newell describes, that’s not always the norm…

I feel the need to write on this subject due to three things that have happened in my local area in recent months.

1) A boat bought by one of the local clubs for committee boat work came with a comprehensive survey. Within eighteen months the floors in the cockpit area had collapsed due to rot in the floor timbers.

2) A 32ft yacht was bought from the east coast (UK) and sailed round to the Isle of Wight. The survey specifically said the the toilet was in good working order and that the hatches were sound. They weren’t. The toilet didn’t work at all and the hatches leaked badly.

3) An oldish 42ft yacht, recently bought with on the back of a comprehensive and positive survey, which when read between the lines said nothing at all and not a survey that one of the local yards could use to estimate on for repair/maintenance work, and indeed missed out most of the glaring problems altogether.

So my question is: Whats the point of having a survey done at all if such basic problems are not only not recorded but not even noticed to start with?

A friend of mine recently qualified as a Marine Surveyor. He’s been in the marine trade for close to forty years so probably knows a bit about how a boat is built, how to fix problems when they occur and what to look for before writing his report. But one of the other candidates, who got his surveyors “ticket”, was a shoe salesman in his past life and had absolutely no experience of the marine world at all.

So is it just a random happenstance that the above mentioned three boats were all surveyed by the aforementioned shoe salesman or are there a lot of shoe salesman out there who happen to have become marine surveyors?

Whichever it is it makes a laughing stock of the whole process. Surveyors who do not know there job. Owners buying boats that are potentially unseaworthy on the say so of insurance companies insisting on having a survey that is in fact not worth the paper it’s written on but has actually cost a lot of money to have done.

And remember also that, to an extent, we, the sailing public, put our lives in their hands and the majority of sailors would not have the slightest idea that their new toy (second hand though it may be) is a potential death-trap if something major is missed by an inexperienced and over-qualified surveyor. Rant over (for now).

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