Is Your Boat Prepared for Survey?


By Bob Marston
Partner, Wellington Yacht Partners

When it comes time to sell your boat, presentation is important. Buyers have often already done their research in terms of which designs they are attracted to and what features they want. They then search the market for potential offerings, and first impressions are everything.

It should not come as a surprise that buyers are looking for boats that have been well kept and maintained regularly. When it comes time for a survey, a buyer wants to hear a surveyor say, “This boat is a good buy.”

The following are some basic steps a seller can take to ensure the survey goes well:

• Use your boat. A boat in commission will always show better than a boat stored ashore. Regular use is healthier for the boat and its systems. If you don’t have time to use it regularly, at the minimum take it out once a month and run all systems.

• Clean the bottom. If the boat is in the water, make sure the bottom and running gear are cleaned regularly. A fouled propeller can impede a boat’s performance greatly, both for sail or power. For best results on a sea trial, the bottom and running gear needs to be clear of algae, marine life and barnacles.

• Keep the exterior clean and waxed. If you have exterior wood or varnish, have it treated accordingly.

• For sailing yachts, have the rig, rigging and sails inspected. It’s prudent to hand a rigging and sail report to a surveyor to incorporate into his report. This will mitigate any concerns about care of the rig or rigging.

• Chain plates are often hard to access on most boats. It is worth taking the time to inspect yours to make sure there are no concerns such as signs of corrosion.

• Keep stainless steel hardware and fittings polished and rust free.

• Check your engine regularly, and maintain a tidy engine space. Keep a drip cloth beneath your engine to catch any leaks as they develop. Address issues early.

• Make sure all machinery is in working order and fluids, filters, belts, zincs and impellers are current for the engine, generator and other systems.

• Have batteries load tested, and check terminals for loose fittings.

• Inspect the steering system, engine controls and rudder(s). Do not stow loose gear in rudder areas. Make sure wheel stops are fixed and cable ends are in good order.

• Maintain a clean bilge. It is nearly impossible to keep water out of a boat’s bilge, as there will always be some standing that the pump cannot pick up. If your bilge is dirty, take the time to clean it properly. Keeping it clean will go a long way in the presentation of the boat and help you be aware of any potential problems with other systems.

• Have your fuel tank inspected. Over time fuel sludge can build up in a boat’s fuel tank and pose a real problem when you need your engine most. If you have never had your fuel tanked cleaned, it is probably time to do so.

• Clean the water tanks. There are safe chemicals you can use to clean your water tank; I recommend doing this every spring.

• For salt water toilets, when leaving the boat, flush your toilets with fresh water, so as not to have the seawater odor that develops after a couple of days.

• Exercise thru-hulls and seacocks monthly. Check that hose clamps are in good shape, and consider tying wooden bungs to each thru-hull for quick access in an emergency.

• Maintain keel joint caulking, and fill any scrapes or dings in the keel for a smooth finish. Check rudder bearing and any support, inspect shaft(s) and cutlass bearing(s) for play. Service the propeller(s).

• De-clutter. Organize all lockers and drawers, and consider storing those items you “haven’t used in three seasons” off the boat. A clutter-free boat will also make it easier to gain access to systems and areas not often used, which in turn, lends itself to good maintenance.

• Keep the interior cabins and living areas clean.

• Clean the galley stove and oven and refrigerator.

• Safety: Make sure all safety equipment on board is current and up-to-date. This includes pfds, life raft, flares, horn, smoke- and CO2 detectors. Inspect all navigation lights.

Going through the items above will not only give you a better sense of the condition of your boat, but it should also help eliminate any surprises that might turn up during a survey and ensure the sale goes through smoothly.