Selling Your Boat: the Survey!

The “full purchase survey,” as it is known, is a vital part of selling your boat.  At this stage in the process it is highly unlikely that, as the owner of the boat, you will be anywhere near it, nor should you want to be—your boat is about to be dissected meticulously by surveyors as a process of evaluation for the new guy—yes, the buyer!

Okay, it’s not that dramatic, but the purchase survey process is designed to examine the actual condition of your boat for sale and is conducted at the cost of the prospective buyer.  It represents his or her opportunity to have a good run over the boat, have professionals examine the vessel and ultimately take it for a test sail.  Thankfully, once the buyer has progressed to this stage and is parting with money, things are likely heading toward the sale of the boat, or rather an offer.


The survey consists of various stages of inspection.  The boat will be hauled and the hull will get a complete sounding with all its appendages, generally with the use of a phenolic hammer.  The surveyor, involved in roughly eight hours of inspection, will then compile a full report based on his or her findings.  The key elements they will be looking for on the hull will be delaminating evidence and roots of osmosis, and the haul out will be fast yet thorough.

The working parts of the boat are also run through a vigorous practical analysis.  The engine will be tested for compression and emissions, vital to its longevity.  If you have had water in the bilge for a long period of time it will start to show now as the bulkheads, bilges and keel fittings will be tested for signs of structural compromise and damage to the ingrains of the plywood bulkhead.  The cost of fun is an acceptable part of enjoying the boat and depreciation is widely accepted, but negligence will prove to be very costly indeed.  The survey is, in essence, the first line of defense and one of the first stages of negotiation, so do have a broker unless you think you can fully appreciate the devaluing of your boat and smile about it too to the potential new owner.  Good luck with that one!

Lastly, the boat will undergo a sea trial and this, for the most part, is largely enjoyable.  Whilst the surveyor has been checking every system and every nook and cranny, bar tearing the upholstery apart with a machete, the sea trial is the boat under way and is vital to the decision maker.  The rigging and its wires, swages and fittings need examined under the load of sail and the conditions they are in too!  Providing all goes well, the prospector will be able to hoist sails, take the helm and enjoy the feel of the boat.  Once the rig is loaded, the chain plates will be inspected and the vessel will not only be considered on the basis of its maintenance upkeep, but its sea worthiness, which is completely understandable.

All in all, the survey day for the seller should be as stress-free as possible.  An interested party is taking your boat for a sail, having it tested and paying the bill, so you really have nothing to worry about.  But seriously, if you thought that little crack that got painted over was just… well never mind—now’s the time the boat will bite you back and the cracks will show.  So, ship shape once again, next month we will be moving on to The offer: getting to the price of it.  

Next issue
The offer: getting to the price of it.