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Captain Alan Hugenot



Myths surrounding "PRE-PURCHASE" SURVEYS

Would you spend $11,500 to find out if a $10,000 boat is worth buying? ....No

Yet, I am often asked to do just that. To perform a complete "PRE-PURCHASE" survey on an older used boat.

Having worked as Expert Witness on 43 Maritime lawsuits since 1983, it is amusing when a Yacht Broker informs me that, "Any survey performed prior to the purchase of a vessel, is by definition a 'PRE-PURCHASE SURVEY"..... Often, the boat salesmen also believes that this perceived "PRE-PURCHASE SURVEY" also carries a GUARANTEE by the surveyor.

Unfortunately, the Broker's myth about the timing of the survey, does not hold up in the courts. Instead,  "PRE-PURCHASE SURVEY" has a precise legal definition in State and Federal Admiralty Courts. Under the court's definition the survey must include an "exhaustive inspection". "Exhaustive" requires that ALL the shipboard systems must be thoroughly tested, and ALL discrepancies must be listed in the final survey report. The surveyor can be held liable for anything missed or not listed. Consequently, the surveyor will need enough time to check everything and then include it in his "exhaustive" write up.

On the other hand,  if for any reason the buyer chooses to leave out any part of the inspection (For example choosing not to have a mechanic inspect the engine, because it has low hours, or not assigning percentage condition to the sails, which is almost always left out because it takes too much time to get them all out), then the survey is no longer "exhaustive", and will not qualify as a "Pre-Purchase Survey" even when so labeled. Instead, regardless of its label, it is viewed by the court as only being a Condition & Valuation Survey-CVS (an insurance survey).

Yet, some of my direct competition, who are obviously not expert enough to know these legal definitions, will gladly label their normal 3 hour insurance survey as a "PRE-PURCHASE SURVEY". just to get the work. And, not surprisingly for this "specialized" work they often want to charge more than I do.

Unless you are Larry Ellison buying a four deck mega-yacht, you should be content to purchase a Condition and Valuation Survey-CVS (an insurance survey), which is a definition the court uses for all surveys other than a Pre-Purchase survey.  After all, a CVS survey satisfies the lending institutions for your boat loan, and the underwriter's for your insurance.  So, do you really need to be more thorough than they do?

Of course, since an insurance survey is required to get the loan or the insurance, you are smart to have it done before you buy, the surveyor might just find a reason not to buy. But, remember like the bank you are just buying his expert opinion, and not a guarantee.

To qualify as "EXHAUSTIVE"  the inspection must examine everything" on the vessel. This means that all navigational equipment must be energized and tested for proper operation. All electronics systems should be energized, and each malfunctioning application properly noted. That nav-electronics inspection alone, will take an underway sea trial and two days researching the various equipment and writing up the list of operational and non-operational functions. Next. the surveyor must activate the stove, refrigerator, all pumps and household systems, all of which must be cycled, operated and inspected, and then all the questions answered, "Yes the freezer cools down to below 32 degreesF", "Yes, the hot water heater works on 125VAC and also from recycling engine heat"....  "Yes, the HVAC system both cools and heats the cabin adequately.....

Next, the surveyor must test all the 125VAC circuitry to determine if it is in accordance with  with the latest NFPA code for Motor Craft (NFPA STD 302). I'm actually one of 12 Principles who sit on the NFPA Committee which writes that standard. Then the inspection must verify the 12VDC system is also in accord with the NFPA & the applicable ABYC codes .....

Finally, the engine must be operated to see if it is up to it's specified performance levels, and compression tests must be done, and any discrepancies listed in the survey report. Finally all the tankage and valves on supply and returns to all tanks, must be examined and cycled. And all through hulls must be cycled and examined.

Establishing this multitude of facts simply takes many hours of testing, and then it all has to be written up in a formal report which must be checked and edited.

Consequently, visually examining, and then checking all these systems against the specs, for even a small boat will take a minimum of a week for one surveyor, or all day for a team of (4) surveyors....  The cost for those 4 guys for 8 hours at $120/ hour (the current rate for an hour of work in most boat yards on SF Bay) which comes to $4,000 just for the inspection. Then all this information has to be collated and written up in a 16-20 page report, photos have to be processed, and just the photo editing and writing up can take another three days of office time. +$2,880.

Finally if the vessel is made of wood, there will be a lot of dismantling by paid shipyard workers so that all the timbers can be inspected. + $2,500, Which includes replacing everything that was dismantled.

So, the likely cost of a true "PRE-PURCHASE SURVEY for a 20 year old, 36 ft wooden boat will be just under $10,000 including the survey and the shipyard labor, then there is the added cost of the haul out and a weeks storage on the hard while the survey is being completed. This adds another $1,500, for a total of $11,500, where a CVS survey might only cost $600.

Now, why would you spend $11,500 just to find out if a $10,000 boat is a good buy?

This is why you should not ask for a PRE-PURCHASE survey, unless the boat is selling  for a minimum of $200,000.

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The Sea Raven missed the start of the Master Mariner's Race on May 26th this year, because the conversion to Electric Propulsion was not finished before the race.

Now, two months later it is almost complete. The 24hp, 96VAC, 3 phase brushless motor, powered by a 96VDC Battery Pack is all installed with a 12 amp 96volt charger which recharges it overnight from the grid. And the control system is all wired and almost ready to energize.

This conversion required removal of the entire exhaust system (mostly stainless steel) most of the engine auxiliaries, removing the reduction gear housing, and sawing off the reduction gear spindle,in order to fit the electric propulsion aboard before complete removal of the diesel. The 96VDC Battery Pack also required a reconfiguration of the ship's existing 12VDC system. This 12VDC reconfiguration was finished today with all the original 12VDC systems (Two VHF's, Radar, Galley lights and individual reading lights) all working again.

The conversion took over 200 hours of work, and could have been finished before the Master Mariner's Race (we were even registered to race). But, unfortunately, the 70 year old Skipper has been doing this work mostly by himself. In fact, only 16 hours of that 200 were worked by any of the "crew".

Over the winter and in the early Spring work days were duly advertised, but mostly no one showed up........

One stalwart crew-member, Ryan, has helped more than three times, and even calls the Skipper to request workdays. And, Michael also called to set up a work day, But, the other "fair weather sailors" may just have better things to do, while waiting until the new propulsion system is finished. Well, its almost completed, but the non-participants missed a great learning opportunity on the cutting edge of technology and where sailing as we know it is now headed.

On the other hand, there is still lots of varnishing etc. which has been neglected while the skipper concentrated more of his time on the engine change out.

On the other hand, this has effectively demonstrated that even an old man, can convert a boat to electric propulsion in just 200 hours, including removals, re-design & new installation, even if working almost entirely by himself.

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Schooner SEA RAVEN approaches the Farallone Islands from the North

It’s an hour and a half after Sunrise, November 3, 2017... The 21 ton William Garden designed schooner SEA RAVEN rests at anchor in Drakes Bay, California, half mile inside of Chimney Rock, and a quarter mile from the beach.

The crew is a mix of newbies and sloop sailors lead by a mate who is a seasoned schoonerman. They are still a bit groggy after coffee and and warm blueberry muffins, as they struggle into their foulies. The drizzle which came in with yesterday’s southerly has now stopped veering to a Northwesterly with blue sky showing to the West.

We have 100 feet of 5/8 chain out on our 45 lb. CQR plow in 3-1/2 fathoms, which has held well in the sandy bottom even with the wind shift overnight.

"Shall we just sail off the anchor?”

This will be a new maneuver for the crew, and only their second time hauling chain, and that single time was with the motor easing their hauling.

“Aye”....”Let’s do it”

“Hoist the staysail and leave the sheet out” the order is passed, while the helmsman resists the temptation to start the diesel.

“Heave short on the rode...and sing out when she is up and down”.

The chain rattles in through the hawse pipe.

“She’s up and down sir”, the bosun cries from the foc’s’tle.

“Very well...Port Watch break her out, starboard watch back the staysail to port”. the order is passed.

The bow begins to cant around to Starboard off the 8 knot wind and onto a reach....

“Starboard watch hoist the fore..... and as soon as she is up and we have boat speed we’ll gybe”.

She is gaining headway on a port broad reach and will soon clear Chimney Rock.

“The hook is catted sir”, the bosun hails from the bowsprit.

“Stand-by to Gybe”

“Ready” says the mate

“Gybe ho”......The fore boom and staysail go over and are swiftly trimmed to a starboard broad reach, while the helmsman steadies up on 174o magnetic.

“Hoist the main”

Shortly she reaches her hull speed of 8 knots, as the breeze freshens up to 12 knots when she clears away from the cliffs of Point Reyes.

The sun is smiling from behind the receding clouds and she is headed for the Farallone Islands, This mystical isles 28 miles west of the Golden Gate, just east of the sunset, but still a territory of the City of San Francisco.

“Thar she blows”, cries the lookout as a pod pf Mink whales breeches to port an eighth of a mile off our beam.

The day continues with the schooner circumnavigating South East Farallon and Main Top, and witnessing Stellar Sea Lions, a thousand sea birds and vast herds of seals.

But, it is also humbling to know that we are among the very few who will ever ship before the mast on a traditional sailing ship. This excellent “old school” evolution preformed by tis crew who are all in their late 20’s and early 30’s with day jobs in high tech, bio-tech and medical tech, has been for themselves alone..... no sport fisherman, no “round the boys sloop sailors” not even a tourist to witness it. The only witness to their excellence has been the grizzled old skipper, with over 50 years at sea. But, for them it is an achievement which keeps alive the knowledge of traditional sail.

It has all been worth it, the cold lonely bow watches, falling by to varnish on Sunday afternoons that you could have spent at the pub; pumping the bilge underway, getting smoke of burning grease tinged with diesel in your eyes as you struggle to produce a gourmet breakfast in the rolling pitching galley, and the new muscle you have put on heaving in the anchor and repeatedly hoisting 1000 sf of sail by hand.

For a fun professionally edited 1.5 minute clip of this cruise on youtube go to this URL

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