the point of a boat survey
would be to ascertain if a boat was seaworthy and worth the asking
However if you are buying cheap, with a view to restoring or rebuilding her, then your survey will have a different perspective.
What you want to know is
Buying a wooden boat is a bit like getting married.
You’ll get lots of advice but will probably ignore most of it in the heat of passion.
And yea, I must admit that I’m as much a sucker for a graceful sheer-line and neat turn of the bilge as anyone (boats as well as women).
But for what it’s worth here is my advice on that fateful first meeting.
Now first impressions, despite what ‘they’ say are important.
Stand back take a good long look at her from all angles and consider her potential.
Can you see yourself loving, honoring, and cherishing her?
Then forget it.
If you are going to spend time effort and cash renovating a boat you are going to need passion and love.
However, she will also need to fit your imagined needs, what ever they are.
And do try please to be realistic.
There are preservation societies which will rebuild a boat from a few blackened timbers dug out of a bog. But they will probably have hundreds of volunteer helpers, government grants and unlimited time.
So, you’ve met a pretty boat will she be worth marrying/buying?
It is time for a reality check, time to do some poking around.
Whenever you go to look at a
boat take with you
And talking of impressions, if the seller is with you and you have
turned up equipped and looking as though you know what you are doing,
he might be less inclined to bullshit.
Best not to take your cheque book on the first visit.
A boat which is
being sold cheaply because it needs some work doing on it will most
dirty, have peeling paint maybe some moss growing on it.
Try to see beyond this. Its best to have a first look at her without
covering, but do consider how she has been covered.
Has the covering kept the rain out of her?
Sea water might ‘pickle’ the wood, but any fresh water which has
been allowed to collect inside her will result in rotten timbers.
On the other hand, if she has not been allowed any ventilation for any
of time, condensation will have collected and could be just as
she has been freshly painted, be even more wary.
What is that new paint covering up?
Anti-foul, bottom paint would normally be applied just prior to
Proper bottom paint is expensive, so if it has been applied prior to
her up for sale, it might have been done to hide something, be
Has the boat been sheathed, if so ask you self why?
I don’t care what
has been sheathed with, be it concrete or glassfiber, the only way to
if the wood below the sheathing is sound will be to strip it all off.
Does the boat appear to sag at the ends? If she does it probably means
Walk away now because this means her backbone needs replacing.
Make a note of any obvious damage, has it been caused by old age and
by a collision.
Take a photo.
Has the collision caused damage to the underlying structure?
Have a good check around the planking especially the bottom boards, the
garboards and the stem.
Tap the wood with the handle of that screwdriver.
Don’t at this stage be tempted to poke or prod at suspect areas.
The owner won’t be very impressed with you if you cause any damage,
regardless of whether the wood was rotten under the paint.
Take a photo, make a note to go back to those areas later.
Assuming that you are looking at a cabin cruiser and the outside view is not too off putting, open the hatch and go below.
What doe she smell like inside? Damp and mildewed?
Um, that means damp and probably plenty of rotten wood as well.
Now remember that you are here to assess the amount of work that needs doing to make this a safe and sound boat, one that floats, how she is laid out isn't your main concern at this stage.
Have a look under the cabin sole, that’s why you’ve brought your torch. Is there water lying in the bilges? Is it salt water or rain water?
Now use that torch to peer into as many nooks and crannies as you can.
It is these out of the way places which, because they are difficult to get at, may not have been maintained as well as they should.
Open the lockers and drawers try to see what’s behind.
However, be warned you probably won’t be able to see everything.
No matter how besotted you have become at this stage, don’t commit yourself.
Go home with your notes, impressions and those photos.
Try to make a realistic estimate of
Then double or perhaps even treble your repair estimates, then think again.
Now you want a more in depth survey.
If you want a second opinion take a pal with you.
If you are about to spend mega bucks on her you might just want a professional survey.
Bear in mind that professional surveys are expensive and the surveyor will want paying whether or not you buy the boat.
If you do think that this is the way to go, make sure that the surveyor understands wooden boats and why you are intending to buy her.
Most surveyors these days spend all their time looking at plastic boats for buyers who want one that is ready to sail away in.
What to look for on your Second date.
Assuming that you are going to
do the surveying yourself,
get as much information as you can.