Whether you have your heart set on a classic sailing boat or a luxury motor yacht your insurer may ask you to provide a current survey before they will take your boat on cover.

We asked Martin Patten, Director at Marine Techniques in Falmouth to explain what happens during an insurance survey and give us his top-tips for boat ownership.

"Initially when buying a boat, if you don’t have a survey carried out beforehand you will not only own the boat, you’ll own any problems as well", Martin explains.

"Our job, as marine surveyors, is to take the hassle out of boat buying, identifying potential problems before they become your problem and enabling you (amongst other things) to provide your insurer with the documentation necessary to protect your investment correctly.

"Insurance companies wish to assess risk when taking on new clients for yacht or small craft insurance, and to this end a full survey will frequently be required.

"During your ownership of the boat, for example, your insurance company may periodically ask for an insurance survey; however, the frequency will depend on the type of boat and its construction.

"An insurance survey is not as comprehensive as a full pre-purchase survey (which you hopefully had carried out when you purchased your boat). This type of survey is termed a ‘structural survey’ and concentrates on the major parts of the boat that are related to its seaworthiness and the safety of people aboard.

"During an insurance survey, the boat is firstly removed from the water and pressure-washed below the waterline. A typical insurance survey concentrates on the condition of the hull and the general safety of the boat. Broadly speaking, it covers the following (although not all elements are relevant for every type of boat):

  • Internal and external hull condition
  • Through hull fittings & valves
  • Stern gear
  • Rudder
  • Deck & superstructure
  • Deck gear
  • Mast rigging
  • Controls
  • Machinery
  • Fuel system
  • Bilge pumps
  • Gas system
  • Cockpit & other drains
  • Electrical installation
  • Radio equipment
  • Safety equipment & firefighting

"Following the survey, the surveyor will produce a report which contains the findings of the tests or visual inspections carried out, together with any recommendations.

"A valuation of the boat is given as part of the insurance survey, which will take into consideration the type and overall condition of the boat based on the surveyor’s findings. This will also assist insurers in determining an accurate schedule value for maintaining cover. We see many boats, for example, where the sum insured greatly exceeds the market value.

"Many boat owners regard the insurance survey as an expensive but necessary evil; however, this type of survey provides peace of mind that the boat is safe for you and your family and that it is insured for the correct amount.

"Insurance is normally provided on the understanding that the owner will undertake any recommendations made in the report. Although your insurer may not ask for proof that these recommendations have been followed up it’s well worth remembering that if you make a claim and you haven’t acted on the recommendations of the report this may affect your claim."

Martin’s Top Tip

Prepare your boat for a survey:

Many boats carry a significant amount of equipment - much of which is comprised of personal effects and not relevant to the survey. You should remove as much non-survey related equipment wherever possible to ensure all areas are readily accessible and provide the surveyor with easy access to things like lockers and bilges. You should also have paperwork relating to servicing of gas appliances, fire extinguishers and safety equipment readily available for the surveyor.

Martin Patten is a Director at Marine Techniques in Falmouth. The company was established in 2009 and provides marine surveys across the UK. For more information visit the website marine-techniques.co.uk.