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 used will 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 $3,200.00.

Do you accept credit cards?

Yes, SDMC does accept credit cards for select transactions, those of $3,200.00 and under.  Above that we do accept personal checks and wire transfers.

If I provide you with my e-mail address for Marine Systems Excellence eMagazine 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.

Can I buy just an hour of your time?

In short, no.  For several reasons I don’t offer short consulting periods.  All of the consulting programs I offer include the preparation of both consulting and confidentiality agreements.  Preparing those necessary documents for a one hour discussion is simply cost ineffective.  Additionally, the answers I provide to clients while consulting nearly always generate more questions, making the “I only need one hour” request frequently unrealistic.  Finally, see the FAQ “Why don’t you charge by the hour?”

Why don’t you charge by the hour?

I’m a strong advocate of quoting within the marine industry, for more on that subject see quoting, and for the most part eschew time and material billing, it nearly always leads to dissatisfaction on the part of boat owners, and thus, I must practice what I preach. Just as with boatyards, and the industry as a whole, billing by the hour can lead to constantly escalating costs, as what may at first appear to be a small issue or project grows in magnitude; and inefficiency is rewarded, the slower one works, the more you pay. I provide my clients with a project fee, and they know what that is before making a decision to proceed.

I have been employed in the marine industry, as a marine mechanic and electrician, boat yard and boat building shop manager, I have authored over 1,000 technical articles, as well as conducting vessel inspections and providing consulting services for over three decades, I’m typically able to anticipate the effort required based on the size and complexity of the project. Above all else, 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 boat buyer, owner, and industry testimonials on this website, you will see that my clients believe my services are well worth the fees I charge.

Finally, charging by the hour implies that there is a connection between the value of the information I provide, and the time it takes me to provide it, which is incongruous with the time it’s taken to accrue the knowledge. I may offer advice or guidance that saves a client tens of thousands of dollars, or prevents him or her from purchasing the wrong vessel, or selecting the wrong boat builder, or making a dangerous technical or repair error. That answer may take mere minutes to share, however, it’s based on a professional lifetime of experience, and thus there would be no reasonable way to charge for this by the hour.

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.

Are your services 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.

In fact, some insurers will accept my report, however, upon doing so they will often say, “Proceed with correcting all of the items in this report and we will provide coverage”, which is something you may not wish to do, at least not initially.  SDMC’s Pre-Purchase Inspection reports often include in excess of one-hundred observations.

What is the difference between your pre- purchase, or pre-acceptance, inspection and a survey?

The answer to this question is necessarily complex.

In over three 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 lenders, and too often solely relied upon by buyers to assess the condition and value of the vessel.

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 surveyor.

In the vast majority of Pre-Purchase and Pre-Acceptance 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. 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 makes 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 https://stevedmarineconsulting.com/sample-inspection-reports/   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”.

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.

Finally, for 19 years I worked as a marine mechanic, electrician, and manager of boat building and refit yards.  In that time I developed the ability to assess a builder’s attention to detail, adherence to recognized standards and industry best practices, and willingness to follow equipment manufacturer’s guidelines; and as the Technical Editor of one of the industry’s leading boat building magazines ( www.proboat.com ), I’m exposed to the industry’s latest technical trends and developments.

There is a place for what competent surveyors do, they can document and test a vessel’s equipment, both of which are important and valuable, however, very few possess the industry experience and confidence to critically assess a boat builder’s skillset.  In short, the overlap between my Pre-Purchase and Pre-Acceptance Inspections, and those of most surveys, would be very little.

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?

While some insurers and lending officers will accept my inspection reports, if they do, they may very well insist that you correct all of the deficiencies I identify; and that may be a burden you don’t wish to bare during your initial ownership of the vessel. Therefore, my recommendation is that you retain a surveyor as well, to fill this need.

Do I need to have a new vessel inspected?

Yes. I strongly recommend that new 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.  If the builder professes to comply with standards set forth by the American Boat and Yacht Council, then confirming compliance with those standards makes very good sense as well.  Regrettably, many make this claim , but fail to actually comply; or they don’t fully understand the Standards well enough to comply.

A pre-acceptance inspection for new vessels allows you to ensure that the boat meets the safety, reliability, comfort and ease of maintenance requirements that you (and I) expect from the builder. Pre-acceptance is when you have the highest leverage for encouraging a builder or dealer to correct defects and flaws.  Better builders welcome such inspections, as it is nearly always more cost effective for them to make corrections while the vessel remains in their possession, rather than after you have taken the vessel hundreds or thousands of miles away.   Builders who discourage such inspections nearly always have reasons for doing so.

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, and those corrections almost always cost the builder more in those cases.

Many of my new boat clients also request I inspect their vessel prior to the expiration of the warranty period.