Finding the Right Surveyor
To finance or insure a boat, you’ll need a current survey. But how can you find a reputable marine surveyor whose advice you’d trust with your investment and your family’s safety? “There are no requirements that say a surveyor needs to know anything more about a boat than what you may know,” says Dwight Escalera, principle surveyor at Executive Marine Services in Wakefield, Rhode Island. To complicate matters, your yacht broker can’t ethically recommend a surveyor to you; doing so could invite collusion.
Where to look? Three organizations—the National Association of Marine Surveyors, the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors and the American Boat & Yacht Council—can help you find the expert you need. First, compile a short list of surveyors to interview. While your broker can’t give you a single name, he or she can provide a list of half a dozen names. Alternatively, go to the NAMS or SAMS website and enter the boat’s location for a list of certified local surveyors. SAMS accredited marine surveyors have demonstrated basic knowledge, including an exam. SAMS surveyor associates haven’t yet qualified as an accredited marine surveyor, but they’ve agreed to abide by SAMS ethics and standards. Membership in NAMS or SAMS doesn’t tell you about a surveyor’s knowledge of boat systems and construction. But the ABYC does, in eight areas: marine electricity, diesel engines, gasoline engines, marine systems, composite boatbuilding, marine A/C and refrigeration, marine corrosion, and general standards. “Knowledge of the ABYC Standards would demonstrate that a surveyor knows how a boat needs to be constructed in order to be safe,” says Escalera. ABYC deems someone who’s earned at least three certifications a master technician. Cross-reference these lists, then interview several candidates about their particular experience. If your boat has particularly complex systems, look for experience in those areas or call in an additional specialist.