Narrowboat Surveys Explained
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Mon Nov 23, 2015 at 4:00pm

Narrow Boat Surveys

There are three different types of surveys that a narrowboat can undergo. In this article we will look at each type of survey and why it is important and necessary to have the surveys done.

Why and When

The whole idea of a narrowboat survey is to find out the condition of the boat. We believe it is essential to have a survey when buying a second hand narrow boat. It gives the buyer a full picture of the boats condition, so that they know exactly what they are buying.

We always recommended that before you buy a second hand narrow boat, you employ a marine surveyor to carry out a hull survey to ascertain the true condition of the boat before you buy the boat. The surveyor is working on your behalf and not on behalf of the seller or of the broker.

When you purchase a narrow boat from a marina the broker will normally accept an offer subject to survey. Once the survey is completed the buyer then has the opportunity to perhaps renegotiate the price according to the findings in the survey. This will obviously depend on how near the asking price the buyers offer was before survey, and what Boat Safety and insurance work the survey brings up that is needed to make the boat safe and insurable before purchase.

Who carries out the survey?

Only a qualified marine surveyor can survey a narrow boat and supply it with the necessary certificates. When you are considering buying a second hand narrow boat please take the time and spend the money on getting the boat surveyed, it could save you a lot of hassle and expense in the future.

When buying a narrow boat the expression “never judge a book by its cover “comes to mind! Don’t fall in love with the look of the boat without knowing more about what issues could be hidden away from the unprofessional eye.

How to find a marine surveyor

If you do not already know of a marine surveyor and you haven’t been recommended one then use this link to find one in the area the boat is moored.

Things to consider when choosing a surveyor

Referrals from friends, family or other boating experts are always a good option if you don’t already know of a surveyor. If buying through a brokerage company they will have a list of local surveyors you could call.

Remember that the broker is not allowed to recommend a surveyor, but can supply you with a list of surveyors in their area. It’s a sensible idea to use someone local to where the narrowboat is moored; so that IF the boat fails the survey, the surveyor will need to make a return journey to sign off any work carried out prior to purchase, and may charge for travel expenses. This may increase the costs if you have to pay for someone to travel long distances.

Remember if you are having a full survey or a hull survey you will need to have the boat hauled out of the water, so you will need to arrange with the surveyor where this can happen.

Check out the surveyors websites for testimonials and make sure that they are actually qualified to do the work. Check the surveyor is a member of a professional association. You can identify each membership they belong too as it is usually displayed by the surveyors name on his documents or business cards.

The list below explains the abbreviations of each membership you will see;

YDSA - The Yacht Designers and Surveyors Association. Members have to pass an entry examination and submit reports for approval before accreditation by the Association.

IMarEST - The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology. Members have to hold a suitable marine based qualification or many years of experience within the marine sector.

IIMS - The International Institute of Marine Surveying. Members have to submit reports for approval before accreditation by the Institute.

Dip.MarSur - Diploma in Marine Surveying offered by the IIMS.

ABSE - Association of Boat Safety Examiners. Members have to be qualified Boat Safety Scheme examiners.

NABSE- The Nationwide Alliance of Boat Surveyors & Examiners is a Limited Liability Partnership that was formed to ensure that UK boat owners receive the very best of in-scope professional services.

IEng - Incorporated Engineer - Engineering Council

Let’s Talk Survey Costs

If a full survey or a hull survey is carried out the canal boat will need to come out of the water and will require the use of a dry slip. The cost for using our marinas slip way is £195 plus VAT, so you will need to factor this into the survey quotes you obtain (unless it has already been included).

All surveyors have their own price guides. When asking for quotes remember to ask about any hidden costs such as travel expenses that may be added to the quote.

Full Survey

A narrow boat that requires a full survey will need to be out of the water so that ultrasonic measurement of the hull can take place. This enables the surveyor to measure the thickness of the steel and check for damage and pitting.

Average Cost £500 - £600

Other checks that a full survey covers are:

  • Weedhatch assembly    
  • Cabin fabrication, condition and fixtures    
  • Stern gear/ propulsion and rudder assemblies    
  • Engine and gearbox condition and installation    
  • 12v system    
  • 240v system    
  • Gas system     
  • Plumbing; domestic water and heating systems    
  • Water tank/ toilet tanks Fit out, linings and vessel interior.    
  • Insulation    
  • External coatings    
  • Cratch and fore and aft covers.    
  • Windows and portholes
  • Decks and deck boards    
  • Firefighting and safety equipment    
  • Ventilation

Hull Survey

A Hull survey will only check the hull area and not any other areas of the boat. It will be looking at the quality and thickness of the steel.

Average Cost £300 - £400

Check points;    

  • Hull for cruising damage and build quality.    
  • Hull plate condition and weld patterns to the base plate, counter floor and hull sides.    
  • Hull outlets, freeboard and hull penetrations    
  • Hull plate thickness particularly at vulnerable areas    
  • Pitting depth and quantity    
  • Weedhatch assembly    
  • Cabin fabrication, condition and fixtures    
  • Hull internal    
  • Stern gear/ propulsion and rudder assemblies

 Internal Survey

Internal surveys only check the boat for boat safety items, but surveyors can be asked to comment on the engine and stern gear if required.

The cost for a Boat Safety Certificate is usually around £150.00.  

Check points;    

  • Fuel systems    
  • Electrical systems    
  • Propulsion    
  • Firefighting equipment    
  • LPG system    
  • Appliances and flues    
  • Ventilation    
  • Pollution prevention

What happens if the boat fails the examination?

There is no need to panic at this point! Depending on what issues are found during the survey, this will determine the costs and severity of the situation. In most cases a boat can have the relevant work carried out to make it meet the requirements needed to pass the examination.

There are various ways to deal with this situation. If the boat doesn’t pass the examination then you can either; renegotiate with the sellers over the price - asking them to lower the sale price and then pay for the problems to be fixed yourself. Or request that the seller pays for the problems to be fixed and you will still pay the original pre-sale price agreed before the survey.

Finally if you don’t wish to continue with the sale after the survey because the boat is un-insurable or has too many problems, you can withdraw your offer.

If you would like more information about narrow boat surveys please give us a call or come along to the marina where our staff are on hand to help!