Buying a Fibreglass Boat—Hiring a Surveyor and Managing the Survey

Whenever the subject of buying a boat comes up, the horror stories about surveys that failed to find serious, or even catastrophic, structural problems are sure to follow (I have one of my own). This applies to any material, but let's focus on fibreglass.

Given that, I would argue that the two most important questions those of us considering buying a fibreglass boat need to answer are:

  1. Is it even possible to assure that the boat we plan to buy is sound in hull and deck?
  2. And, if the answer is yes, how can we actually do that?

And here's the thing, if we take those questions to a bunch of different people, we get a bunch of conflicting answers...and a bunch more horror stories...no help at all.

So, like so many things in life, the key to arriving at a good answer is not to try and parse all the conflicting opinions and anecdotes (especially not the anecdotes), but rather to learn enough about the subject to find the few, the very few, who actually know what the hell they are talking about, and then ask them the right questions.

(By the way, if you want to learn more about this decision-making process, which can help make all aspects of our lives better, I strongly recommend reading Principles by Ray Dalio.)

To get those vital questions answered, I spent a fascinating, focused and deeply informative hour and ten minutes on the phone with Steve D'Antonio.

About Steve

Many of you will be familiar with Steve's fantastically informative web site and monthly ezine. He has also repeatedly and generously shared his expertise in the comments here at AAC.

You can read more about Steve here, but the key things to know are that:

  1. He ran one of the best boat yards in the business for many years.
  2. He has been on the sharp end of fixing a lot of bad shit, much of it missed by poor surveys.
  3. He is considered by the boat building industry as one of the foremost experts on fibreglass construction (and much else).
  4. He now makes his living inspecting boats and supervising new builds, most of that work for those with deep pockets who can afford to hire the best.

Start From The Top

I started by asking Steve the big questions above:

  • Q: Is it even possible to be reasonably (there is no certainty in life) sure that a fibreglass boat is structurally sound before buying her?
    • A: Yes
  • Q: How?
    • A: Read on:

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  1. The Right Way to Buy a Boat…And The Wrong Way
  2. Is It a Need or a Want?
  3. Buying a Boat—A Different Way To Think About Price
  4. Buying a Cruising Boat—Five Tips for The Half-Assed Option
  5. Are Refits Worth It?
  6. Buying a Boat—Never Say Never
  7. Five Ways That Bad Boats Happen
  8. The Two Biggest Lies Yacht Brokers Tell
  9. Learn From The Designers
  10. You May Need a Bigger Boat Than You Think
  11. Sail Area: Overlap, Multihulls, And Racing Rules
  12. 8 Tips For a Good Voyaging Boat Interior Arrangement
  13. Of Cockpits, Wheelhouses And Engine Rooms
  14. Cockpits—Part 1, Safe and Seamanlike
  15. Cockpits—Part 2, Visibility and Ergonomics
  16. Offshore Sailboat Winches, Selection and Positioning
  17. Choosing a Cruising Boat—Shelter
  18. Choosing A Cruising Boat—Shade and Ventilation
  19. Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying a New Voyaging Boat
  20. Cyclical Loading: Why Offshore Sailing Is So Hard On A Boat
  21. Cycle Loading—8 Tips for Boat and Gear Purchases
  22. Characteristics of Boat Building Materials
  23. Impact Resistance—How Hull Materials Respond to Impacts
  24. Impact Resistance—Two Collision Scenarios
  25. Hull Materials, Which Is Best?
  26. The Five Things We Need to Check When Buying a Boat
  27. Six Warnings About Buying Fibreglass Boats
  28. Buying a Fibreglass Boat—Hiring a Surveyor and Managing the Survey
  29. What We Need to Know About Moisture Meters and Wet Fibreglass Laminate
  30. Offshore Sailboat Keel Types
  31. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 1, How We Shopped For Our First Cruising Sailboat
  32. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 2, The Boat We Bought
  33. Q&A, What’s the Maximum Sailboat Size For a Couple?
  34. At What Age should You Stop Sailing And Buy a Motorboat?
  35. A Motorsailer For Offshore Voyaging?

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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