In this part of the Northeast, Pre-purchase surveys in the winter present a different set of
problems for vessels stored outdoors or in non-heated barns. They include access to the boat,
snow and ice, winterized engines and water systems, frozen hulls, shrink-wrap and items
removed from the boat for storage. Complete Pre-purchase surveys including sea trials are
seldom possible. My personal concern is injury from slips or falls. Some of my electronic
equipment especially the digital camera fails to operate when cold. IMPORTANT: Hull moisture
and/or delamination cannot be determined when the hull and deck laminates are
frozen. Controlled tests have been conducted in the laboratory and the field on the reliability of
moisture meters which have shown them to be ineffective and not reliable for detecting or
reading moisture content of wet frozen materials including wood, fiberglass, and foam.
Furthermore, percussion soundings of frozen materials will give misleading results. For these
reasons, I seldom survey during the months of January and February. I will always recommend
that the survey be postponed until more favorable conditions permit me to be more thorough.
When winterized the engine(s) will not be started and electric pumps etc will only briefly be
powered on unless arrangements have been made with the seller.
As in all surveys, (if I do survey), I need access to all parts of the outside of the hull and
machinery and the ability to SAFELY get inside the boat. There must be at least one battery
connected for the DC systems and electronics check, (electronic navigational instruments should
be in place and connected if possible), and if the vessel has a shore power system it should also
be powered up. If batteries and AC power is/ are not available, I carry my own power supply but
charge $25 to connect.
When ambient temperatures have been above freezing for at least 48-72 hours, a survey is
possible if the bilge temperature is above freezing. (No ice sighted).
If you are buying a boat in the winter, along with the information gleaned from a C&V survey, I
recommend an agreed amount be held in escrow until commissioning and/or a sea trial can be
performed to assure the boat will operate as represented. Please pass this information along to
the broker or seller if buying a boat. If there are any 3rd party charges for preparing the boat,
they might be the obligation of the buyer and should be discussed with the seller and agreed
upon before the survey.
I take pride in my work and for the reasons stated above, I might refuse to take assignment
when conditions could possibly compromise the accuracy of my results. I usually take time off
from mid January to the end of February, (or as long as extreme winter conditions exist). My time
to catch up with the "Honey-do list", my educational requirements, and prepare for the coming
From the Surveyor's Notebook
This boat had a foot of snow in the
cockpit and although temps were
above freezing, the survey was