Who Does A Marine Survey Matters

General boating discussion
kmorin
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Who Does A Marine Survey Matters

#1

Post by kmorin » Tue Jul 03, 2018 11:59 am

I'm not operating a full time boat building business as I have in the past. I am working as a helper and part time welder for a project so I've gotten more involved in welded aluminum boats recently than in the past four or five years.

I was called to help look over some problems with a boat, recently purchased, by a friend's friend which began to show some problems within a few weeks of the purchase: there was a marine survey done on the boat prior to purchase that missed many (MANY!) small problems and a few major ones too.

My post is to advise the Forum of my opinion of the importance of a Marine Surveyor being involved in a sale of a six figure valued boat and to stress one aspect of a buyers' responsibility that may not be obvious? This point wasn't obvious to the skipper and new owner of the boat in question!

A surveyor's qualifications are like any other "expert" - they vary for all sorts of reasons: overall knowledge of the materials of the boat- some surveyors work mainly in plastic or wood! So that surveyor's knowledge of what to look for in a welded boat may be nearly non-existent? Personal reputation in the insurance and banking loan departments in the area of the purchase- usually reflects a long term experience this marine surveyor has with these local institutions- both of which are often critical to buying and financing a boat of the class we most often discuss here.

The surveyor who "wrote the book" on this particular boat- missed so many details that were substandard- that the owner should have asked for a very significant price reduction over what he paid? OR the owner should have requested the list of details we found later, after the sale, to be corrected before he went forward with the sale?

By relying on a surveyor who was not thorough enough, or who either didn't look at these items or didn't object to them (?) in his survey- the new owner is the sole party who's been disadvantaged. The new owner faces the costs to pull apart the boat's finish work and redo all the plumbing errors, all the wiring errors, the incorrect anodes, and the internal corrosion that was found. ( I welded a hole in the hull that was dripping bilge water! )

So, a word to the wise aluminum boat buyer/ Forum Reader: make sure your surveyor is welded metal boat qualified or you risk having a fee to pay that doesn't really contribute your financial security! Spend enough effort to insure you know about this person's professional and personal qualifications to survey your prospective boat purchase! This is a brief report of the consequences to someone who I'd have thought "knew better" but failed to understand how critical the surveyor's qualifications and experience are.

IF you are the buyer, you need to be very involved with the selection of a the marine surveyor- not just accepting anyone's word on the boat's condition and approx value. If you're not involved in qualifying the surveyor- the information in that report may not be thorough and you may buy a boat for a price that is above market with repairs required that are very (Very) expensive.

Part of the "Buyer Beware" theory of buying and selling; (PLEASE) be sure you have taken time to investigate the surveyor's qualifications, past history, education, experience with metal and membership in professional associations- (rank of full member or just associate?).

Cheers,
Kevin Morin
Kenai, AK
kmorin

kmorin
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Re: Who Does A Marine Survey Matters

#2

Post by kmorin » Tue Jul 03, 2018 12:49 pm

it is not unreasonable to ask a Surveyor for his/her list of 'check items'. For example in the fit out and plumbing category (regardless of how it is titled) is the alloy of the tank-to-hose fittings noted? OR, if the alloy is not shown/confirmed in every boat with a live aboard cabin: that list of check items is incomplete- bronze, brass, or any copper based fitting, valve, or king nipple (for example) will end up creating a corrosion problem of one or two types- depending on the use, location, and latitude of the boat's cruising and storage/harbor waters.

Many welded aluminum boats are fitting with copper alloy fittings and 100% of those fitting cause long term problems- there should not be any exposed copper alloy fittings in a welded aluminum boat's fit out. But, countless surveys don't even note their presence!!

In the electrical list of checked items: if the alloy of the anodes (See Chaps' many posts and explanations re; alloy of anodes) is not noted, confirmed or checked with a recommendation to upgrade from zinc to aluminum- if the engine anodes aren't noted for condition compared to the hull anodes? well this reflects only cursorily reviewing the "hull's condition and seaworthiness." Are the anodes bolted to the hull? Are those bolts' alloy (material) noted? if not; the potential for resistance shift in the connections are not questioned. That can lead to perfectly correct anodes not being electrically 'common' or zero resistance to the hull. Meaning; by poor install practices the "zincs" aren't able to do their job- even if their alloy is correct!

If the bilge spaces are not inspected, any water present isn't tested for ph, or if they're not noted as wet/dry/status: this is critical to the reliability of the surveyors' report. There are plenty of surveys that don't include the "Full Banana" or the scope is limited by the agreement retaining the surveyor- so its super critical to understand what is in the survey and what is excluded? These items listed may be excluded? If So.... you really can't call that a fully comprehensive marine survey- do you still want to buy this boat? Do you play Russian Roulette for fun at family barbeques? The more the cost of the purchase - the greater the details of the survey should be.

Asking a surveyor for their past surveys- for comparable boats; boats comparable in size, alloy/materials, accommodations, level of finish and similar propulsion systems is very important for the buyer to read- in order to become familiar with this particular surveyor's methods, scope and to see how critical they were of items found deficient in their survey of that boat?

Shopping for a qualified surveyor involves getting a good picture of their reports, and their check lists or the level of detail in those check lists are part of becoming fully informed about what you can expect from the marine surveyor who acts as an expert for the seller, you the buyer, the bank and the insurance company. These qualifications can become crucially expensive to you if end up missing that the surveyor you're using is a plastic production boat expert with only a few metal boats in their recent past services!

Let the Buyer Beware.

Cheers,
Kevin Morin
Kenai, AK
kmorin

kmorin
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Re: Who Does A Marine Survey Matters

#3

Post by kmorin » Tue Jul 03, 2018 4:54 pm

building a welded aluminum boat is a bit more work in terms of "supply chain" than cellulose or plastic because there are many more suppliers of hardware, fixtures and fluid connectors for the previous two hull material types than for welded aluminum boats.

As a result; finding, specifying, buying and incorporating (correctly passivated) SS, Galvanized, High Density Plastics or other materials that would work well in combination with a welded aluminum boat takes more effort in research, takes more time to make sure you have a clear understanding of the costs and materials in a series of "boat parts" that are made in smaller quantities than those of copper based alloys.

Making sure parts are installed correctly, after the longer and more expensive purchase cycle, is also more time and therefore more cost. Building in welded aluminum is more effort for these reasons, but also because the material has been around only since WWII, roughly, so we could consider it "new".

If you add all the costs to "build it right" to the already expensive material, high (relative) cost of needed specialized labor and other relatively higher costs compared to other boats' materials; welded aluminum boats are about the most expensive of all consumer products in the marine market. So if you're considering buying one- are you expert enough to make sure someone before you didn't take a short cut, OR perform an upgrade that could be of incompatible materials?

In order to avoid a builder's short cuts, a previous owner's maintenance or repair decisions and actions, and to insure you aren't inheriting problems from the boats' past; a marine surveyor is supposed to be your "knowledgeable inspector", who is not biased toward higher prices or lower than market prices. Someone who is, in theory, an expert in spotting problems, even those problems that may only be present in conditions or circumstances within the boat as it is inspected/surveyed.

On this person's opinion you and the bank and insurance company are essentially spending a lot of money! Shouldn't you have the most critically informed and thorough professional inspection of the boat possible? I used the instance of a 6 figure valued boat above to begin this (rant) thread encouraging you to become involved with the surveyor's reputation, experience and past work; all to insure you avoid what the skipper/owner I mentioned had to go through.

I'd even want to have a brief discussion with anyone who surveyed for me about the lines, performance and seakeeping of their estimation of the hull's shape and construction!

Summary: the boats we're most interested in owning, using and for me -building; are expensive by their nature and material- building them fully compatible to the parent material makes them even more expensive and many builders- unfortunately even name builders who "know better" continue to take short cuts, install incompatible materials and design and build welded boats that end up with built in damage or deterioration in a few years of life. A well qualified and experienced marine surveyor should be able to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise in welded aluminum boats- and they should know what is and what is not a long term fitting out problem: both by looking and 2nd by contacting the builder, maintenance yard or previous owner to discover what was done & by whom- for what reason and with what materials.....

It will be your wallet that is drained if you don't take the time to insure you're getting a qualified surveyor in the sale/purchase of any welded aluminum boat.

Cheers,
Kevin Morin
Kenai, AK
kmorin

Chaps
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Re: Who Does A Marine Survey Matters

#4

Post by Chaps » Tue Jul 03, 2018 6:41 pm

Great info Kevin, thanks!
1987 24' LaConner pilothouse workboat, 225 Suzuki
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