If you’ve already done an inspection on the manufacturer and type of boat I want to buy, can I purchase that inspection from you rather than have you inspect the boat I’m considering?
No, inspection reports are only valid for a specific vessel on the day the inspection was completed. The quality of vessels may vary considerably from hull to hull even when built by the same manufacturer and the maintenance, upkeep, age, miles traveled, and regions where they are usedwill have an impact on the condition of individual vessels. In short, every vessel is different, making an inspection report valid only for one specific vessel.
Do you undertake expert witness work?
Generally, and for a variety of reasons, no except in rare circumstances that involve existing clients whose causes are worthy of my involvement. When I started the consulting business I decided that I wanted to be perceived as a resource for the marine industry, someone from whom they could learn and receive guidance, an ally rather than an adversary. That approach allows me to extend my influence further within the industry, which in turn benefits my clients. If I become involved in expert witness work I would forfeit that advantage. And, on the handful of occasions I have acted as an expert, reluctantly, I found it to be thoroughly unfulfilling, typically everyone is angry and rarely is there a clear winner.
Do you have a minimum consultation fee?
Yes, typically for first time consultations the minimum fee is $1500.
Do you offer discounts?
Yes, SDMC does offer discounts to active duty and active reserve military personnel.
Do you accept credit cards?
No, SDMC does not accept credit cards. We do accept personal checks and wire transfers.
If I provide you with my e-mail address for Marine Systems Excellence Ezine notifications, will I start getting junk mail, i.e. do you share or sell e-mail addresses?
SDMC will never share or reveal your e mail address with third parties without your express permission. As a rule, we don’t sell or share mailing lists.
Why don’t you charge by the hour?
It is not the most cost-effective approach for a client or for me. Just as with boatyards, billing by the hour can lead to constantly escalating costs as what may at first appear to be a small issue grows in magnitude. I provide my clients with a project fee and they know that is what it will cost in advance.
I have been conducting inspections and providing my consulting services for many years and know the time it takes based on the size and complexity of the project. I don’t want to place my clients in the position where they don’t know the total cost of my services for a specific project. If you read the testimonials on my website, you will see that my clients believe my services are more than worth the fees I charge.
Do you accept commissions or any other compensations for referrals or recommendations you make for boat yards, service providers, products or manufacturers?
No. In order to ensure unwavering objectivity, recommendations made by SDMC never involve commissions or an exchange of funds.
If I only need a referral to a boatyard, surveyor, technician, manufacturer or vendor that you recommend, do you charge for that?
Existing SDMC clients are afforded access to my preferred manufacturers, vendors, boat yards and boat builders as well as all of my contacts within the marine industry, however, it’s an integral part of the services I provide rather than a standalone product.
What does it mean when a boat builder says he/she “builds to ABYC standards”? Are all boats built to these standards?
This is an area where there is no shortage of confusion and occasional misinformation. Few boat builders build boats that meet every ABYC Standard, there are over 60. However, reputable ones will meet key standards such as electrical (there are several in this category), fuel systems, running gear, LP gas to name a few. Those that genuinely strive to meet these standards will often be happy to explain to you which ones they meet and why. When a builder or broker says “We build to ABYC standards” yet he or she can’t articulate which ones they are referring to or their guarantee regarding compliance, you should be suspicious. And, no, all boats certainly are not built to ABYC standards.
I assume the costs for your services are quoted in U.S. dollars?
Yes, all fees are quoted in US dollars.
Why do you not do your inspections in a way that will be accepted by an insurance company?
The goals of insurance companies are much different than mine and in many cases they do not serve all of the buyer’s interests. That is true of the goals of most surveyors, as well. My inspection reports go far beyond virtually every survey report I’ve ever read. You can review examples of my reports on my website. I believe it is impossible to serve both the needs of the insurance companies, and what I believe should be the legitimate expectations of any wise buyer in the same inspection or report.
The primary mission of an insurer is, understandably, to avoid losses and the resultant claims. While as a boat buyer you too want to avoid claims, there is a significant difference between a failure that results in a claim and many other types of failures. If you purchase a vessel and that suffers chronic systems failures, you will be unhappy and inconvenienced at best.
My goal is to carry out an inspection that will reveal flaws, defects and potential failures as well as identifying potential improvements and changes that can result in enhanced reliability, efficiency and safety, without also being required to meet the needs of insurers.
What is the difference between your pre- purchase inspection and a survey?
The answer to this question is necessarily complex, so please take the time to read it if the subject is of interest to you.
In over two decades in the industry, I’ve reviewed hundreds of survey reports and worked with scores of surveyors. They are often required by insurance companies, and too often solely relied upon by buyers to assess the value of the vessel, and the cost correcting or improving its systems to where they meet the buyer’s requirements for safety and reliability.
I was inspired to begin my vessel inspection and consulting business partly because I saw too many unhappy new and used boat buyers, who, after bringing their boat to the yard I managed, taken aback by the cost associated with correcting the multiple safety and reliability issues overlooked in the typical survey.
In the vast majority of Pre-Purchase Inspections I conduct, surveys are also carried out concurrently and in most of those cases I’m given copies of the surveys. Simply put, in every case my reports are significantly more detailed, reveal more flaws, more defects and offer more recommendations for improvement while identifying more areas that will cost the buyer money and compromise the safety and reliability of the vessel.
Most surveyors demonstrate an ability to thoroughly document the vessel’s systems, and that is certainly of value to you. However, the scarcity of action items contained in most surveys makes it clear to me that many surveys do not provide a thorough inspection of the vessel and its systems and in that respect, are of little value to the buyer in negotiating with the seller or builder or in understanding the funds that will be necessary to raise the vessel to a standard that is acceptable to you and make it seaworthy, reliable and safe.
I recently completed a survey aboard a 52-foot vessel. It required two full days and my report numbered 154 observations (and over 400 photographs), roughly 40% of which fell into the critical, must be resolved without delay, category. You can see sample Pre-Purchase Inspection Reports on my website by following this link. They are typical of my findings on both new and used vessels. Among other things, in addition to inventorying the vessel’s gear, the survey for the same vessel included a scant two action items and the vessel’s overall condition was deemed “very good”.
Finally, consider the source of a survey. I’ve been provided with broker initiated or supplied surveys on many occasions in my career and I take them for what they typically are, an inventory of the vessel’s systems and no more. While the broker may be honest and reputable, with few exceptions most simply will not retain or recommend a highly critical surveyor to carry out a survey, or pass along a truly detailed survey. And, they would be obligated to reveal anything such a survey reveals, even if they didn’t provide it to potential buyers.
Here’s an example, a survey I recently reviewed for a potential client indicated that the fuel tank installation is “ABYC Approved” yet, just a few lines below that the surveyor dutifully notes that the generator and fuel manifold are equipped with “Racor 500 FG” series filters and that the fuel system is “well thought out” and the condition is “good”. FG series filters lack a heat shield and therefore do not provide the flame resistance necessary for ABYC and UL Marine compliance; they are not designed for use in marine engine rooms. That’s simply one example that I selected at random from that report, as I said, there are countless such examples in my files.
In short, the overlap between my Pre-Purchase Inspection and most surveys would be very little indeed.
Is your inspection of a used boat useful in my negotiations with the seller?
Absolutely! You will have the ability to present the seller with an objective evaluation by an expert of those aspects of the boat that present safety and reliability issues for you as well as major future costs you will incur if you take ownership of this boat. All of that can be of value in your negotiation of the final purchase price.
Is your pre- purchase inspection report accepted as a survey by insurance companies and banks?
No, most insurers and lending institutions insist on reports from traditional surveyors.
Do I need to have a new vessel inspected?
Yes. I strongly recommend that both new and pre-owned vessels undergo a full inspection prior to an owner taking possession.
A boat is a complex product, with all the systems found in a modern home, as well as those required to be independent of land, and to propel it safely and reliably in a variety of conditions. Because of this complexity, as well as constant changes and improvements in both equipment, and within industry standards that relate to proper installation of marine systems, no two new vessels from a manufacturer are ever exactly the same, especially those built for cruising, making consistency and the value of repetitive construction, an elusive target for even the most conscientious builders. In many cases, the issues I uncover in a new vessel inspection are entirely unknown to the builder, and the reputable ones are only too happy to make corrections.
A pre-acceptance inspection for new vessels allows you to insure that the boat meets the safety, reliability, comfort and ease of maintenance requirements that you expect from the builder. Pre-acceptance is when you have the highest leverage for encouraging a builder or dealer to correct defects and flaws. In my experience, once you’ve taken possession, even when under warranty, the builder or dealer has less incentive, or at least there is less of a sense of urgency, to make corrections.
Many of my new boat clients also request I inspect their vessel prior to the expiration of the warranty period.