Mallorca, 20th-Setember-2010

Boats have allowed us to harvest the seas, explore new lands, escape from oppression and find serenity. Boats put us into an unnatural environment and therefore draw from us an intense trust. This utter dependence we place in our boats requires us to appreciate their design and integrity. A marine survey will ensure a boat is in good condition and will confirm the vessel’s inventory is sufficient to handle emergencies.

It is much more important to understand likely causes for troubles and common areas from which they originate than to list frequent problems experienced on a given boat design. Most problems on boats relate to fatigue, corrosion, rot (in wooden boats) and overloading in stress concentrations. Every boat will experience these and one of the informal rules of thumb during a survey is to assume these problems exist and keep looking until you find them. You will rarely be disappointed.

Upon identification of problems, one must ponder whether the problem is serious and consider the best course of repair. There are two principal responsibilities a surveyor has to the client. They are:

* 1.-evalutation of the structural integrity of the vessel, and

* 2.-evaluation of the safety equipment

This is a short list but must always be kept in mind so that the cracks in the corner of the fiberglass settee do not rise to the level of separated bulkheads or a loose keel. Structural integrity is perhaps a vague description but it includes all the items that keep a boat safely afloat such as the hull, deck, keel, ribs, stringers, bulkheads, engine bed, chain plates, mast steps, standing rigging and all the fasteners that keep them connected.

Safety items are usually dictated by statute, but a short list of critical items includes bilge pumps, fuel system and fire extinguishers. The ability to thoroughly investigate structural integrity and safety items is the minimum requirement for a merely adequate surveyor. Beyond these minima lie the many parts, pieces and systems that make a boat operate efficiently. Pointing out broken hinges and kinks in the potable water line may not seem important but they should be a natural outcome of a good survey.

Surveying is not glamorous. Headfirst contortions into malodorous bilges and the inadvertent burying of hands into piles of decaying rodents is part of the business for BruMed Marine Surveyors. However, a love of boats, a desire to ensure the safety of their passengers and crews along with personal integrity are sufficient ingredients to motivate the surveyors into the unpleasant, never visited corners of a boat. Some areas will be listed as “inaccessible for inspection” but this is a defeat for the surveyor and should rarely be used. Unfortunately, even the most careful surveyor cannot always identify and prevent problems related to fatigue, crevice corrosion, metallurgical problems and inaccessible areas. The burden of addressing these types of problems lies fully with the boat designer. The designer must provide preventative maintenance scheduling for all critical components. These can be based on operating environments (e.g. salt water vs fresh water, pleasure yachts vs workboats, etc.) but it is impossible for a surveyor or boat owner to consistently and reliability know when such things as the keel bolts, standing rigging, hull-to-deck fasteners and bedding need to be replaced. The replacement schedules for these items are based on engineering analysis and experimentation, both of which are not the responsibility of the surveyor.

Just as providing poor preventative maintenance specifications is an evasion of responsibility for the boat designer, it is an equal wrong for the surveyor not to make conclusions about the vessel’s condition. For example, the survey can register a long list of cracked features in the deck, but is the deck seaworthy or not? Are repairs to these cracks required, recommended or cosmetics? That is, the surveyor must make conclusions on behalf of the client. Deep cracks in the coamings and some gel coat cracks in the hull do not mean the boat is a dangerous wreck. In the same manner, a gleaming, sailing yacht with a poorly supported, misaligned keel is a disaster waiting to happen.

Careful consideration must be given to predicting the loads that are carried by every part of the boat. The designer and the surveyor should expect all of these “unexpected” applications.

One of the major features of a Marine surveyor is a self belief in his knowledge and experience such that when he looks at a craft he can be confident that what he reports is factually correct. It is the Surveyor’s job to look at and report on all that he sees when surveying a yacht. In order to do this a primary attribute is that of observation. A good Surveyor will often look at what would generally appear to be a part of a yacht in seemingly good condition but some small and seemingly insignificant detail will alert him that all is not what it first seems. At his point the second major attribute comes into play, that of determination, and the Surveyor doggedly and systematically sets out to discover what is wrong.

Finally the third major attribute comes into play, when the surveyor must communicate his findings to his client in such a way that the client fully appreciates what the Surveyor has found during the yacht survey. In doing this the Surveyor needs to remember that he is the expert and that his client might not be as well informed in terms and yachting jargon as the Surveyor. Therefore, the Surveyor needs to prepare his report using language that is appropriate for his client.

All these attributes are held together by honesty and integrity. A surveyor is an independent expert who frequently works a long way away from his client. As such his client needs absolute faith that not only will the marine surveyor be diligent in the execution of his work but also that he will faithfully, accurately and honestly convey what he finds to his client. These are the principles of BruMed Marine Surveyors!!