Survey for Sugar Shack

Every few years private yachts / vessels need to get a survey.  It is similar to surveying a house when you want to buy or sell it.  Our insurance carrier requires a survey to verify their investment is valued at what we have it insured for – or at least close to it.

There are three types of surveys:

  1. Out of water survey (typically done with an in water survey)
  2. In water survey
  3. Rigging Only Survey

Sometimes you can get away with doing an “in water” survey which looks at the interior and not the exterior or structure of the boat.  This is the cheapest and easiest to get done.

The out of water survey requires a haul out (taking the boat out of the water) which gets expensive.

Our insurance required an out of water survey in addition to the in water and rigging.  Crapola!  Our last out of water survey was 2016, our last rigging survey was 2017.  So, technically, I guess we are do.  Photos from our last survey.

Hindsight is 20/20

In 2018, our boat was struck by lightening in Costa Rica and had a major refit of all electronics (see blog).  We spent 8 months on the hard working on the boat, fighting with insurance, and replacing lots of gear.  We were working closely with a local surveyor who was extremely helpful and quickly became a friend.  Toward the end, we had asked him if we needed to resurvey the boat and he said “no, save the money.”  I should have pushed and insisted as I really wanted an updated survey.  But, I didn’t.   This survey would have saved us a lot of heartache when searching for a new insurance carrier.

That decision has bitten me in the a$$ more times than I care to admit.  So, we are here a few years later finally getting that out of water survey.

Finding a Surveyor

Most insurance companies based in the U.S. require the surveyor to hold either a SAMS or NAMS certification.  NAMS surveyors are pretty much based in the U.S.  SAMS has surveyors in 22 countries with the closest being Australia or Panama.  So, basically, we would have to fly someone to French Polynesia, pay for the flights, hotel, transportation, and their daily rate, plus the survey.  All in all, it would be thousands of dollars!  Not going to happen.

Plan B

We found two “surveyors” in French Polynesia.  I have them in quotes because neither are SAMS or NAMS certified.  One I contacted last year and he was not very responsive so I went to the other guy this year. He was very responsive and seemed “easy going” which is always good when assessing your boat.  I asked him to send a sample survey so I could get it approved by the insurance carrier.  He had just surveyed a Catana 50 which could not have been better for us.  They approved his survey and we scheduled our meeting.

Surveys are Subjective

You have to understand that a survey is pretty subjective (like art).  Sure, there are lots of boxes to check, but for the most part it is subjective.  Which is always worrisome when you want and expect a specific outcome.  Sugar Shack is insured as stated value, not depreciated value, considering she is in excellent condition — even at 20 years old.

Out of Water Survey

Our surveyor remained patient with us as we changed our out of water survey several times.  We were trying to get work finished up before he took photos and put them in the survey.  Unfortunately, it did not work out that way.  He came a day early and took photos while they were still doing fiberglass work and paint. Ugh!  So, I took photos and he promised to include mine in his report as well (we shall see).

The out of water survey consists of examining the hulls, props, rudders, through hulls, ground plates, SSB plates refrigeration plates, and dagger boards.  Pretty straight forward.  He walked around writing notes and asked a few questions.  It felt like the entire thing took 6 minutes but in reality, it was longer.  He said “for a 20-year-old she is in really good condition.”  Surveyor upside down by dagger board as Matt and I watch on.  Noel (foreground) working on the polish.

In Water Survey

I sent a very detailed list of all of our equipment to the surveyor prior to the survey.  The list included the type of equipment, the make/manufacturer, model #, serial #, date purchased, and location.  This list included everything on our boat.  I am sure the surveyor has never seen anything so comprehensive from a client.  Made me kinda proud – yea me for my Project Management certification!

Christophe showed up right on time and worked diligently for 4 hours checking, opening, testing, and verifying that our boat was in good working order.  From testing the strength of our hand rails, to making sure our hatches are water tight to verifying up to date fire extinguishers, EPIRBs, PFDs, Life Raft, Medical Supplies, and more.  He verified my equipment list and ensured that all of the equipment was onboard and functioning properly. 

He went up the mast to check the mast, standing rigging, rods, connection points, radar, antennas, lights, and wind indicators.  We started the engines and all the electronics, we showed the amperage of the electronics and batteries, and opened up all the bilges, engine rooms, cabinets and more.  The boat was completely exposed having a stranger poke and prod everywhere.

The Result

The only complaint I have is with his value of our boat.  We disagreed on the value and he would not budge.  He was unyielding and stubborn.  Even after I showed him comparable yachts and our previous survey.  I was severely irritated and pissed off.  I could not believe how unreasonable he was when it came to this one thing. Everything else we agreed upon.  I thought the value should be higher based on all of our new electronics and good state of the boat – but he refused to budge. 

After arguing for a week, we agreed to disagree and there was nothing I could do.  However, we  are now armed with an up to date out of water, in water, and rigging survey.  We will use this when we shop around for a new insurance carrier in Q1 2021.

The survey took place during the week of 25 September 2020.  The blog post is 6-8 weeks behind the survey date.

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