A major part of a boat sale is going through a satisfactory survey and sea trial. This can be a long, stressful day, especially for the seller, where he is asked to run the RPM’s up far beyond where he usually cruises, the surveyor is pounding on decks with a mallet to check for voids and delamination, and people are barraging him with questions. In fact, it’s frequently a good idea to hire a professional captain to run the boat so that the seller can be available to demonstrate equipment. A captain also has the experience to make handling the boat look easy to the buyer, so he doesn’t worry he’s bitten off more than he can handle.
While a good broker does his or her best at managing the buyer’s expectations of a boat’s condition based on its age and price he’s paying, there are certain things a buyer expects at any price point. The seller can do some simple troubleshooting to make the day go easier.
If possible, take the boat out for a spin, running up the RPM to check for overheating. Test your electronics and make sure they are operational and you know how to demonstrate them.
Make sure the boat, including the engine compartment and bilge, are clean. Put a fresh set of oil “diapers” under the engine if the old ones are soiled.
Top off oil and coolant, but DO NOT change the oil in preparation for the survey. This would render an oil analysis virtually useless, and make the buyer wonder if you’re trying to hide a defect in the engine.
Change the impellers if it’s been a while. You’d be surprised how often they go out on survey day!
Check hoses for splits and hose clamps for rust; make sure hose clamps are securely tightened. Any hose below the waterline should be double clamped, with the two clamps going in opposite directions.
Exercise seacocks to make sure they open/close properly.
Check prop shaft stuffing box to make sure the packing is functioning adequately.
Verify that the shower sump pumps and bilge pumps are working properly.
Make sure the heads are operational. It’s also nice to have the holding tanks empty, flushed thoroughly with fresh water, and check hoses to minimize the potential of odor.
Replace any burned out light bulbs.
Check expiration dates on safety equipment (flares, fire extinguishers) and replace as needed. Some Kidde fire extinguishers have been recalled and are eligible for a free replacement. Here’s the website to check to see if yours are in that category: Kidde.com
Have your diver clean the bottom a few days before survey, so you don’t have any engine overheating issues caused by growth. Ask him to also replace zincs that are significantly deteriorated.
Clear out pathways to equipment that needs to be checked; empty lockers that are access points.
Connect the boat to shore power and make sure batteries are charged.
Have the air conditioning, refrigerator, and water heater turned on, at least overnight.
If at all possible, please remove any personal items not included in the sale, so the buyer isn’t tempted to try to negotiate for them. Unless you live onboard, remove any food.
Re-familiarize yourself with the ideal placement of slings for haul out and be prepared to guide the boat yard to avoid snagging prop shafts or stabilizer fins.
Properly inflate the dinghy, if it’s included in the sale.
If your boat is a sailing vessel, have your best set of sails rigged and ready to raise. If an extra set of sails is included, remove them from the boat but have them handy (in the car or dock box) to show the buyer as an added value item, but don’t have them included in the survey or in the way of the surveyor.
Check running rigging for wear and use your best lines.
Check standing rigging for cracks and replace defective components; tune as needed.
Do NOT start the engine or generator the day of survey until instructed to by the surveyor.
Unlock lazarettes and storage compartments.
There are frequently as many as eight people on board for sea trial, so make sure you have enough pfd’s on board.
Have maintenance logs, receipts, manuals, schematic drawings, etc. accessible, if you have them, especially those pertaining to engine or generator rebuilds.
Have at least a copy of your Certificate of Documentation and/or State Title and Registration on board, as well as proof of insurance.
If your air conditioner tends to lose its prime when hauled out, be sure to close the seacocks to it before the boat is lifted in the sling.
Most surveyors have a certain order they go in, and questions or suggestions intended to be helpful can often be a distraction resulting in something being missed or inaccurately reported. If the surveyor needs to know how to work something he’ll ask you to demonstrate it. So stay handy in case he needs you, but let him run the show.
Buyers appreciate having access to your knowledge of the boat, so please feel free to offer helpful tips and point out features and upgrades. Always answer any questions truthfully, but don’t necessarily volunteer features you would like to see improved on, that might be a turn off. If you know of something not working properly, it needs to be disclosed.
Even though everybody loves a good tale of adventure, some of your most harrowing sea stories might set off alarm bells in a buyer’s head or cause the surveyor concern about structural damage. Unless there is prior damage that needs to be disclosed, save survival stories for sharing with friends.
Disclaimer: Curtis Stokes and Associates does not necessarily agree or promote the content by the above author. This content is to be used only with the reader’s discretion.
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