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Saturday, March 25, 2006


Let's talk about marine surveyors for a minute, because these dudes have an inordinate amount of power when it comes to the transfer of property between a buyer and a seller.

First of all, there's no real standard by which a surveyor learns his or her trade. You don't need a degree in it, nor do you need much experience. You don't need to be a seafarer, a licensed captain, or even a weekend warrior. You can become an accredited surveyor by making up some business cards and taking out an advertisement in a magazine.

This doesn't mean all surveyors are inexperienced or no-nothing charlatans. There are some very good surveyors out there. You just have to take the time to find them. You also have to know what you want your surveyor to do for you. Remember, a surveyor is working for you, NOT for themselves, which seems the case all too often.

I recently had an experience with a surveyor who made unsubstantiated claims that later turned out to be in direct conflict with a USCG inspection of the same vessel. This surveyor was not experience. In fact, prior to the inspection, he actually admitted to me it was his first crossplanked vessel. He said he had to research the particulars on the Internet. Right then and there, I knew we were all heading the wrong way.

When searching for a surveyor, make sure you choose one who specializes in the type of boat you're buying. If it's a wood sailing yacht, don't choose a guy who inspects steel tugboats for a living. In my case, the surveyor who came for the buyer thought he knew more than the Coast Guard Inspector, a guy who not only specializes in passenger vessels but who does nothing but inspect passenger vessels year in and year out. In fact, this particular Coast Guard inspector knew the type of boat intimately.

Everything worked out for the best, despite the survey. But it was a stressful experience I would not want to repeat.


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