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Old 09-15-2019, 08:22 PM   #1
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Did my own survey - here is what I missed.

We bought our current boat 9 months ago and having owned boats for 35 years and being reasonably technical, I did my own engine and hull surveys. Usually, insurance companies insist on a new survey but ours accepted a survey the selling broker had done 6 months before our purchase.

Winter in the PNW is a good but not a pleasant time to buy a boat. Few people are shopping because of the constant rain, wind and cold. My view is if a boat looks good in those conditions, you might have a winner. Leaks certainly will be obvious.

I did a detailed inspection of all the systems, performed a full cold start, a WOT throttle test, checked for blow by and made sure the generator would hold high loads without overheating. I sounded out the teak decks and found no delamination. No obvious blisters. I asked for and got a significant price reduction because of high hours on engines and generator. Although well equipped otherwise the vessel did not have a bow thruster nor stabilization. We bought the boat.

Now, 9 months and 100 hours later what did I miss?

1- Two dead 105A alternators ($320 total). Pretty embarrassing but not expensive $ wise. I did notice that the engine ammeters did not move during the sea trial but voltages seemed ok. Of course, on the first 5 hour trip the batteries ran down and I had to start the generator to keep going. Should not have missed this one.

2- Holding plate refrigeration system was low on charge. The boat has two holding plate refrigerators and one holding plate freezer. During my inspection I turned them on and made sure the evaporators would start to ice up and they did. However, when we started using the boat, the compressor was not able to fully pull down the holding plates within an hour or two and then go for 8 hours without running. It turns out the system was low on refrigerant (4 lbs R404A). It works great now for the last 3 months but I assume there is a slow leak somewhere.

3- Davit cable an accident waiting to happen. Since we like to anchor out, we used the dinghy quite frequently after we bought the boat. But the winch would make strange noises at times. I finally took off the inspection plate and saw that the stainless steel cable was not feeding properly and there were loose cable loops below the working layer. Clearly someone had removed tension on the cable in the past and then just wound in the cable on top of that mess. The replacement cable was only $70 but it took me two days to get the old cable mess off due to lack of easy access.

4- Dinghy motor hinge frozen. I did not test the dinghy motor during my inspection so I was pleasantly surprised when the motor started up at first try. However, the motor would not turn port or starboard. Total lack of lubrication for some time. I was able to free it up with a heavy duty grease gun. It is still stiffer than I'd like but serviceable.

Other things I learned.
a) Having used the boat for nine months I'll not add the bow thruster I had planned for. The boat is very easy to maneuver and due to its weight nothing happens fast. Just watch your inertia.
b) Don't be intimidated by bright work and teak deck maintenance. Very doable even for a bright work novice.

I'm not recommending that anyone skip professional surveys when buying your next boat but it worked out OK for me. There will always be some surprises. You just don't want them to be show stoppers.
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Old 09-15-2019, 08:32 PM   #2
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I think you did well. I'm sure the alternators would have been picked up but maybe not the davit wire and reefer/fridge issue.
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Old 09-15-2019, 08:46 PM   #3
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In my un-professional opinion you came out OK.
#1 and #3 cost $390. Or about the cost of a cheap survey
#4 was free and better than when you bought the vessel. Will need more later and all boats need more later.
Not sure if #2 is fixed and even if more work is needed is still working somewhat.
Into all of the above you asked for and received a significant sales price reduction.

The question (rhetorical at this point) is would you have gotten more reduction in price?
If you paid money to find out the 4 items were an issue would the price reduction have been more to cover the survey and the repairs?

Or on the flip side what else is lurking that you have NOT discovered? And would have been discovered with a survey?
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Old 09-15-2019, 10:06 PM   #4
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And you might have picked up some things a surveyor might not in the brief survey time.
All you can do with fridges is turn em on and see if it starts to frost.There isn`t the hours to check a full pull down.
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Old 09-15-2019, 10:13 PM   #5
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With or without survey, if you've owned the boat six months, been happy with it, spent very little on it, then you're doing ok.
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Old 09-15-2019, 10:14 PM   #6
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Quote:
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In my un-professional opinion you came out OK.
#1 and #3 cost $390. Or about the cost of a cheap survey
#4 was free and better than when you bought the vessel. Will need more later and all boats need more later.
Not sure if #2 is fixed and even if more work is needed is still working somewhat.
Into all of the above you asked for and received a significant sales price reduction.

The question (rhetorical at this point) is would you have gotten more reduction in price?
If you paid money to find out the 4 items were an issue would the price reduction have been more to cover the survey and the repairs?

Or on the flip side what else is lurking that you have NOT discovered? And would have been discovered with a survey?
I have had surveys done and the surveyor missed what I thought he should have picked up. I always do what OP did and then hire a surveyor for peace of mind... I think he did good. He is obviously and experienced boater and lived with hid decision
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Old 09-16-2019, 12:05 AM   #7
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I bought a Catalina 27, older from the 1970's, and had it surveyed in North Vancouver, the land of rain. But the survey was on a bright sunny summer day. Nothing about problems with water getting in through the main hatch which turned out to be a bigger problem than I initially thought. I won't purchase a boat now unless it is pouring out for 24 hours before I go see it with the survey guy, not in Coastal BC.
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Old 09-16-2019, 01:07 AM   #8
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My surveyor surveyor missed some fairly obvious issues with the boat, and I would be hesitant to use one next time, unless required by the insurance company. I only had the opportunity for a quick look before the survey; A mistake on my part.

I also made the mistake of getting a local surveyor for my boat which was interstate, to avoid having to pay airfares and travel costs. He was very positive about the boat, strongly recommending what a good buy it was.
Thinking about it afterwards, perhaps he was trying to ensure the sale went through, ensuring he built up his reputation locally, rather than with me, who would likely never use his services again.

Next time I would do a thorough self survey, and only use a licensed surveyor I was 100% confident with if the insurance company required it.
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Old 09-16-2019, 01:31 AM   #9
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When we bought our current boat I spent the day prior to the survey poking around on the boat. The surveyor came the next day and as he was doing the survey I kept telling him what was wrong with the boat. He finally asked me if I had been a surveyor. Told him no, just had had 22 boats before and liked working on them. It did give me a negotiating position with the seller to have some things fixed and the price dropped so all in all it was worth it besides the insurance company required a survey.
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Old 09-16-2019, 05:17 AM   #10
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I didn't see OP mention of the age of the boat which IMO is a major consideration if doing a DIY survey.
No risk as a step prior to hiring a surveyor but the risks go up for skipping the surveyor as the boat ages.
I have only hired surveyors twice but very satisfied with both situations.
I completed a DIY survey on our 3rd boat purchase as it was only 4 yrs old and I felt the risk of hidden issues was reduced... not zero, but reduced and very different than a 40 yr old boat!
I then decided to skip the full survey. I found several minor - moderate issue items and negotiated comparable price reductions w seller.
I did miss an non-functioning alt charging system that might have been caught. I suspect this was a factory wiring issue the PO never discovered due to the boat returning to dock every evening it was out. Cost to correct low but it lead to an upgrade that did cost me some but that's a very different situation.
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Old 09-16-2019, 09:42 AM   #11
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I bought my current boat without a survey. I did spend 3 full days going over the boat and found almost every fault that has turned up in the 12 years since I bought the boat. I do have to say that I bought my boat as a project because I wanted to work on it. The boat spent 4 years at my house uninsured before I launched it the first time. I had no trouble getting insurance without a survey, but I did provide the insurance company with over 1,000 pictures and 300+ pages of text to document the refit I did. During the refit I replaced all systems (complete rewire, repower, etc.) in addition to the structural repairs I did.
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Old 09-16-2019, 10:22 AM   #12
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I did my own survey when I bought my last used boat. It was 9-1/2 years old when I bought it and just under the insurance limit for no survey.

I felt fairly confident about doing the engine myself. I figured as an intelligent amateur mechanic I was at least as good as the average hull surveyor and maybe even better than some engine surveyors, Ski excepted of course .

The only thing I found and I was moderately aware of the consequences was an exhaust riser that was marginally too low. Further research and experience led me to correct that at a cost of about $1,000.

I didn't find anything wrong with the hull and other systems and five years of ownership confirmed that.

So if you are reasonably confident in your skills and your insurance company won't require a survey anyway, consider DIY. OTOH, there is the authority that an "independent" survey finding gives you when and if you try to negotiate a price reduction to pay for survey problems. So consider that as well.

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Old 09-16-2019, 11:16 AM   #13
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The boat in question is a 20 year old Grand Banks 52. Of course, the list in post 1 covered just the "unexpected/missed" items. There were many other known items we took care of in the last 6 months, e.g. full engine and generator service, coolant change, replacing the wet risers with dry risers, replacing carpet underlayment etc).

I agree that a good survey generally pays for itself. But you typically only get 6-8 hours of surveyor time that needs to be divided between the hull and the many systems on a mid-size boat. A good surveyor will necessarily focus on the big items and you are on your own on the "smaller" items anyway.

Since the engines (210hp 3208 NAs) had over 7000 hours, rather than doing a full engine survey, we assumed a repower was in the future and adjusted our offer accordingly. It turns out the engines are doing fine but one of the gears has a noisy damper plate when cold and shifts are quite hard. Something to watch.
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Old 09-17-2019, 08:03 AM   #14
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Thanks for sharing your experience, I'd agree with others as some of what you didn't find a surveyor may not as well. All the best, enjoy!!
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Old 09-23-2019, 12:50 PM   #15
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Like several others here, when I bought my boat almost a year ago, I was lucky enough to have a half day to poke around on my own, and found a number of things. My survey was an entire day as it included an engine survey and marine survey conducted by two different surveyors, but that worked together in tandem for parts of the day. They found everything I found, and more.

Almost 11 months later, I can't say I have found anything significant that wasn't on the list. There are always small things you find, but none of them are earth-shattering. I could have likely done my own survey for everything but the engines, and while I will probably never do it on my own, its nice to see folks who can, and even take a shot at it yourself even the day before - it helps so much to know about your boat and to be able to take care of her.
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Old 09-23-2019, 01:07 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Action View Post
The question (rhetorical at this point) is would you have gotten more reduction in price?
If you paid money to find out the 4 items were an issue would the price reduction have been more to cover the survey and the repairs?

Or on the flip side what else is lurking that you have NOT discovered? And would have been discovered with a survey?

This assumes that a professional surveyor would have found those items. I am not convinced they would have, from my experience. Surveys always miss things, such as the bypassed Lectra San that I found after paying a professional surveyor. ($1200)
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Old 09-23-2019, 01:17 PM   #17
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gshotz: Interesting post and thank you for the "after action report" (or AAR as we used to call them in the Army). I, like you, are mechanically inclined and have owned boats, built a few, rebuilt some, restored aircraft and old cars and feel that I too could do an adequate survey. Probably using Marine Survey 101 as a guide. I would probably miss the same type of stuff that you did.
Regarding the stiff outboard steering, check to see if there is a steering friction adjustment probably close to but behind the mounting clamps. I have a Johnson from the 70's that has a bolt that impinges on a steel pad that adjusts the friction. Might work.
Good luck with your boat.
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Old 09-23-2019, 01:43 PM   #18
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As an aside, we all miss things when boat buying. Dollars to donuts an experienced friend could find all sorts of issues we as owners never noticed. Of course we'd not be friends anymore. There is an alternative.

On a GB parked near Bellingham I'd pay Brian Pemberton (or his right hand man) a good days wages to poke around the GB. I've gone through their charter fleet check lists and I'm amazed at the thoroughness. Once NW Exploration has gone through a GB rest assured little would be missed.
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Old 09-23-2019, 02:03 PM   #19
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Like you, I've been in this boating thing quite some time, but even though I once had a survey company of my own, I always have another surveyor aboard to do the "official" survey. I'll certainly survey the boat myself first, but I won't stop there.

First off, a stranger has zero emotional attachment to the boat or the sale and will not assume or gloss over things I might because I am emotionally involved in the outcome. Second, what's a few hundred bucks in a big sale when it means an added bit of information about my new purchase? I rarely, if ever, get together with the PO since few are professionals, and their input is often more emotional than factual.
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Old 09-23-2019, 03:23 PM   #20
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Surveyors and surveys should be labeled similarly as navigation equipment, don't rely exclusively on any of it, use all the tools you have. I am a boat tech for near 30 years, I did my own survey, and hired a surveyor, and a mechanic. A good surveyor will have research on the boat if it is a production model and know particular issues to look for. Surveyors vary widely as to what they're picky about and what they'll let pass, and where their particular specialties are. Unknowns will remain.
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