C&C 27 Association – Buying 2 – Finding a marine surveyor

Repeatedly on this site, we have said that it is imperative to hire a marine surveyor when buying a 27 – or any other boat. And this means a surveyor, licensed and credentialled, not some character at the club or marina who 'knows boats'. A knowledgable friend may help you narrow down the field of boats for serious consideration, but when it's time to lay your money down, you want the insight (and possibly the negotiating leverage) that only comes with a comprehensive and authoritative report on the vessel's condition.

In response to a request in the Forum prompted by the Buying a C&C 27 page's recommendation to use a surveyor, Scott Schoeler, a C&C 27 owner and marine surveyor, offered the following advice.

I often speak at various boating organizations and the question of "How do I find a good surveyor?" comes up every time. So I'm taking this opportunity to put in writing and share with you some of my thoughts on the subject.

Obviously the starting point is to put together a list of two or three possible surveyors (based on geography and credentials) from a certifying organization such as the Society Of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS), the National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS), or the local surveyors' organization if there is one. These are much more than just credentialing organizations. There are many requirements for their members to conduct the practice of marine surveying in a professional manner. The organization also acts as a mediator in the event there is a dispute between you and your surveyor; however unlikely this may be, it does provide you with a very real level of security. The suggestions found on the C&C 27 Association web site in the Black Arts section under the Buying a C&C 27 heading are very well written. If you haven't already done so, I encourage you to read that document with care.

Once you have your list of two or three possible surveyors, the next and probably the most important step you should take is your telephone "interview" of the surveyors. The point of your interview is to find the best surveyor for the boat you're looking at. Therefore you should have questions, written down, that help you determine that. The best interview style and the best way to find the answers to your questions is in a conversational-style discussion. One way to start the conversation rolling is, after letting the surveyor know the year, make, model of boat and the reason you're looking for the survey (pre-purchase or insurance), simply state that you're new to this and ask an open-ended question such as; "What all is done or included in a survey for this situation?" Listen to the answer and ask more questions if you hear any jargon you are unfamiliar with. Ask more questions as you would in any conversation, but make certain to direct your questions toward getting the answers to all your written questions. You may want to know what they do as far as inspecting the engine, or how they inspect the rig, but you should always steer the conversation back to your list.

I believe the best sailboat surveyor, owns a sailboat and this is the type of information you're looking for with your interview list. As a sailor, you want to make certain the surveyor is comfortable surveying sailboats. A sailboat-owning surveyor can provide an excellent survey of a powerboat but a powerboat-owning surveyor may not have enough knowledge and experience to provide the best pre-purchase survey of a sailboat. As part of any conversation between two boaters, sometime during the conversation it's natural to ask; "What boat do you own?" That's how you'll know if you have a sailboat-owning surveyor.

Always remember this is a conversation from which you're looking to hire the only person who represents your interests in this financial transaction. So you should direct the conversation in that direction. I cannot emphasize too strongly how important this interview/conversation is. Take your time and "visit in a focused way."

The last question you should ask is the cost for the service. There are very specific reasons why you should save this as your last discussion item. If you're not convinced this is "your guy," when you get the price, you can honestly say that you'd like give the whole thing some more thought and politely move to the next surveyor on your list. If you've decided this is the person you'd like to hire, it bodes well for you that your first issue was not the cost of the service.

Once the survey has been completed and you've had a chance to read the written Report of Survey, you can make a fully informed decision regarding buying or not buying the boat. Your options are:

  1. Proceed with the purchase as agreed.
  2. Renegotiate the previously agreed purchase price, based on the "Findings and Recommendations" within the survey.
  3. Request a refund of your conditional down-payment and walk/run away from the deal. (This of course presumes that you have taken the traditional steps of a negotiated and accepted offer to purchase with a down payment and paperwork prior to commissioning the survey.)

If the "Findings and Recommendations" are such that if you decided to pass on the purchase, you shouldn't consider the survey fee a waste, since the survey saved you from making a very expensive mistake. Although it is your report, it is not permissible to sell the report to another potential buyer. The Report of Survey is the work product of a contractual agreement between you and your surveyor. It is not transferable to a third party. An insurance survey has the same contractual agreement between you and your surveyor with the purpose of being read by the insurance company underwriter for determination of risk but there is no contractual obligation between the surveyor and the insurance company. Again and to be clear, the surveyor works for you, to represent your interests in the financial transaction of buying the specific vessel at a specific time.

By the same token, it is unwise to put your faith in someone else's survey of the vessel. Between the time the boat was surveyed and the time a copy of the survey came to you, anything could have happened to the boat. If it was in the water and being used, it could have been run hard aground and seriously damaged; it could have been struck by lightning, etc. Additionally, insurance and finance companies will not accept a Report of Survey conducted on behalf of someone else; you're going to have to hire a surveyor at some point, so it might as well be at the time of maximum advantage, before you take out your money. Save yourself some potential trouble, contact the surveyor who previously looked at the boat and have it re-surveyed. Reputable surveyors will re-inspect the vessel for any changes, produce a current Report of Marine Survey and generally do so at a reduced fee.

I hope you find this information helpful in your search for your boat.

All the best!


C3 Marine Services LLC
Capt. Scott D. Schoeler, SAMS® AMS®
Superior, WI 54880
(218) 343-6794
Web: www.c3marine.com

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