Marine Survey Recommendations
Recommendations are just that — issues the surveyor found on the boat that may need to be addressed. It's the "may" part that's important here. Typically, a surveyor will list recommendations in order of importance, often as A, B, or C.
A-list recommendations (more properly called must-dos) are the most important ones to pay attention to. You can be sure your insurance company will — not just for your boat, but for the safety of you and your crew. These are issues that, unaddressed, can cause your boat to sink, burn, become involved in an accident, or cause serious injury. Even if you're not financing or insuring a boat, these recommendations need to be addressed before the boat is used:
- Worn or damaged below-waterline hoses, seacocks, and thru-hull fittings that pose a sinking hazard.
- AC or DC wiring deficiencies that could cause a fire.
- Lack of or non-functioning USCG-required equipment, such as fire extinguishers, flares, or navigation lights.
- Propane system deficiencies that could cause an explosion.
- A vessel with too much horsepower that could make it unstable.
- Lack of operable carbon-monoxide alarms.
- Unsecured batteries or fuel tanks that could break loose and damage the hull, or cause a fire.
- Missing oil-spill and waste-management placards. These are required by law and will be checked during a USCG inspection.
These tend to include either (1) items that are not an immediate risk but will pose an unacceptable hazard if left uncorrected for too long; or (2) things that may enhance the safety, value, and enjoyment of your boat. Some of these may cross over into A-list recommendations as far as underwriters are concerned, and may also need to be addressed before your boat can be insured. For the most part, they're things you'll want to do, anyway. Here are some examples:
- Hoses and wires that are chafing or not installed to ABYC standards
- Worn cutlass or rudder bearings.
- Stiff or corroded steering or control cables.
- Engine maintenance needed to forestall a larger problem.
- Cleats or stanchions that need to be re-bedded to prevent deck-core rot.
- Heavy corrosion on fuel or water tanks.
The C-list generally includes normal upkeep items that should be addressed as you can. Examples include:
- Water leaks through ports or hatches.
- Anodes in need of replacement.
- Loose or worn engine belts, hoses, and engine mounts.
- Cosmetic issues.
- Winches in need of service.
Keep in mind that while surveyors inspect a boat with an eye toward industry safety standards, such as those written by the ABYC, they recognize that newer standards were not in place when older boats were built. But some of those standards, like the need for carbon-monoxide or proper wiring, are critical enough that insurance underwriters may still require boats to comply with them.
All of the recommendations can be used as negotiation points for buyers. Any purchase contract should specify that a sale may be voided if the survey results are unacceptable to the buyer. In some cases, a seller may choose to do the required repairs before a sale, but make sure the boat is reinspected before the sale is finalized. Typically, surveyors will reinspect specific items for a fee, once the sale is made, and sign off that they have been properly done. If, after the sale, the buyer choses to make the repairs, insurance coverage can begin immediately, while the repairs are in progress. But, either way, the insurance company will usually require proof — a written statement from the owner, or yard bills — to confirm the recommendations have been completed correctly.
Attend The Survey Inspection
A good surveyor welcomes prospective buyers to be present at the survey. There's no better way to learn about your new boat than watching a professional methodically dig through it. The surveyor's notes will be more meaningful if he's able to discuss with you what he's examining. He'll also answer questions that might not be significant enough to be included in the written report, and can tell you about problems they've seen on similar boat that you can watch out for.