Scott Marine Surveyor Blog


Posted On: May 23, 2019

This weekend is Memorial Day and unfortunately that usually means multiple mishaps on the water, I feel compelled to address safety on the water.

Few things are more enjoyable than being out on the water to watch a special event, but when it's over, it may be dark, and there'll certainly be lots of other boats all trying to get home at the same time. Here's how to make sure that your summer outing stays fun from start to finish:

This excerpt from an article in BoatsUS Reports is dead on.

Manage the guest list. An overloaded boat doesn't handle well, and when this gets combined with washing machine-style wakes generated by a pack of boats making their getaways, it can lead to swamping or capsizing. Be mindful of your boat's capacity, keep extra people off the flybridge, and have a properly fitted life jacket for everyone aboard.

Check your navigation lights. In the dark, the only way for another boater to determine your boat's direction is by tracking your navigation lights. Fix any broken lights before you go, and make sure that nothing blocks any part of the arc of the light. If your boat has a combination bow light, check that the lens hasn't been reversed during installation. Make sure you're showing red on port and green on starboard.

Don't paddle your own canoe. Standup paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes are great — but not in the middle of a crowd of boats after dark.

Boat responsibly. Wait until after you've tied up for the night before consuming alcohol. Operating a boat while under the influence is illegal, and in some states it could cost you your car driver's license, or worse.



Posted On: May 18, 2019

Steps To A Season of Eating


Cleaning  Tips to Get Your Grill Party-Ready

The weather has finally broken, It's about time to fire up your grill for another season of outdoor cooking.

What Materials You’ll Need  

  • heavy-duty grill scraper
  • abrasive grill brush
  • scouring pad
  • sponge
  • microfiber cloth
  • dish soap
  • warm water
  • large, plastic bucket
  • latex gloves or work gloves
  • natural grill degreaser (optional)


Assess the Mess

Determine if you need to simply clean or replace the grates and burners. Rusty or crumbling grates require disassembly and replacement.  Be sure to check your owner's manual, and take a photo before you pull the grill apart. And, always turn off the gas when disassembling a grill

Warm It Up

For a basic deep clean, keep the burners in place and focus your attention on the grates. First, turn on the grill to warm up the unit.

Start Scraping

Once warm, use a heavy-duty grill scraper to remove the top layer of cooked-on grit and grime.

Scrub Warm Grates

Scrub the heated grates with a wire grill brush. If you need more power, opt for a battery-powered model. When you're finished, turn off the grill.

Soak Grates

Once the grates are cool to the touch, place them into a bucket of warm, soapy water. Soak the grates for a few hours, then scrub off any excess grime using a scouring sponge.


Use a degreaser to clean up the grates as well as the grill’s exterior. Wipe clean with a damp sponge, then dry with a fresh microfiber cloth.

Shine It Up

Shine up the exterior with a stainless-steel cleaner or equivalent if not stainless; this will also help protect the exterior in the coming months.





Posted On: May 16, 2019


Knowing how to read a tide table can mean the difference between a good day and a bad one.

If you've ever waited anxiously for the twing of your antenna against the underside of a highway bridge, you know that playing with tides can be a game of inches. To pass safely under that bridge or over the bar that lies between here and home, we need to understand all the components of the tides. Along most of the coast, tides rise twice and fall twice each day. These are called semidiurnal tides. In some places, the tides cycle only once per day; these are called diurnal tides. And in still other places, one daily high tide is much higher than the day's second high tide; these are called mixed tides. Tide tables, provided by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at, tell you three important things for any given place: the time of high tide, the time of low tide, and the heights of each. But what about the times in between? For that, you'll need the Rule of Twelfths (see chart ).



Posted On: May 14, 2019

Understanding the Waves         

The first rule of waves, especially in the open ocean, is that there are no rules. Kind of a hypocritical statement considering the intent of this, but it is a cold hard fact. There are simple physical factors that makeup the "normal" wave, but within the forces of nature, there a myriad of other factors that need be considered. Regardless, an understanding of what makes a wave can be of considerable benefit  to the everyday sailor.

There are three factors that make up waves:

  • Wind speed Length of time the wind has blown
  • Distance of open water that the wind blows over; called fetch

All of these factors have to work together to create waves. The greater each of the variables in the equation, the greater the waves. Waves are measured by:

  • Height (from trough to crest) Length (from crest to crest) Steepness (angle between crest and trough)
  • Period (length of time between crests)

Waves are never created in one uniform height. Waves fall into a systemic pattern of varying size. Therefore, in order to classify wave height we determine the significant wave height, which is the average of the highest 1/3 of the waves in a system. This is how weather reports will specify wave height. Once you have the significant height, it is simple to determine the theoretical average height, the highest 10% and the highest wave sizes in a given area. Mathematically speaking, it's simple arithmetic based on predetermined ratios:


Average height


Significant height


Highest 10%





Waves take their time to develop; they don't spontaneously erupt from the ocean. It takes a certain speed of wind to blow over a certain distance for a considerable length of time to create lasting waves.

There are three different types of waves that develop over time:

  • Ripples
  • Seas
  • Swells

Ripples appear on smooth water when the wind is light, but if the wind dies, so do the ripples. Seas are created when the wind has blown for a while at a given velocity. They tend to last much longer, even after the wind has died. Swells are waves that have moved away from their area of origin and are unrelated to the local wind conditions -- in other words, seas that have lasted long beyond the wind.

The definition of swells can be a bit confusing when you understand that waves never actually go anywhere. The water does not travel along with the waves, only along with the current -- two mutually exclusive elements of water animation. If two people stand at either end of a long rope and undulate their arms up and down in an equal rhythm, waves will develop along the length of the rope that appear to move from one end to the other. The rope fibers aren't actually moving at all, other than up and down. This is exactly what is happening with waves. The speed, or velocity of the wave is measured by how long it would take a wave to pass a given point crest to crest -- say a line drawn on the ground beneath the rope. There is a slight movement of the water particles within a wave, Waves can be further described as:

  • Non-Breaking
  • Breaking

A non-breaking wave, is a "normal" rolling wave. A breaking wave is one who's base can no longer support it's top and it collapses. Depending on the size, this can happen with considerable force behind it -- 5 to 10 tons per square yard. Enough force to crush the hull of a ship. When the ratio of steepness of a wave is too great, it must break. This happens when a wave runs into shallow water, or when two wave systems oppose and combine forces



Posted On: May 09, 2019

Checking "under the hood" of his outboard

Boat Safety Checklist For Summer

Good spring prep increases safety and fun for the entire boating season.

Follow these tips to help you build your own list.

  • Check things that might have deteriorated during winter, including exterior wiring connections for navigation lights, dock lines (chafing or freeze damage), life jackets (mold, rotten threads or fabric), paper charts, pipes including cockpit drains that were subject to ice damage, and hose clamps.
  • Move the rudder. If it turns with undue resistance or if there is too much play, find the cause and fix it. Check steering and control systems (cables, control box, linkages, hydraulic systems). Replace swollen, stiff, or rusty control cables.
  • Replace deteriorated zincs. Clean contacts of wires attached inside the hull to zinc bolts. If the wire is corroded at the terminal, replace with tinned boat wire.
  • Check engine oil levels, particularly if your boat was left in the water. High levels may indicate water intrusion that requires work immediately to save the engine. Check oil reservoirs including tilt/trim on outboards, some windlasses, and hydraulic fluid in steering systems.
  • Check that vent hoses haven't become clogged.
  • If your boat has been under cover, check for deck leaks, particularly around wooden areas. Run water from a hose over possible problem areas.
  • Check things that might have deteriorated during winter, including exterior wiring connections for navigation lights, dock lines (chafing or freeze damage), life jackets (mold, rotten threads or fabric), paper charts, pipes including cockpit drains that were subject to ice damage, and hose clamps.
  • Move the rudder. If it turns with undue resistance or if there is too much play, find the cause and fix it. Check steering and control systems (cables, control box, linkages, hydraulic systems). Replace swollen, stiff, or rusty control cables.
  • Check for freeze damage where water may have entered confined areas. Examples are around gel coat cracks, the rudder shaft seal, prop shaft seal, and thru-hull fittings. Examine cored transoms on outboard boats for cracks that could have allowed water into the transom.
  • For I/Os, carefully check the bellows for any deterioration.
  • Check and test communications equipment. Test EPIRB/PLB batteries, and verify that the registration is current. Verify that your MMSI is correctly entered into your DSC radio, and/or update your information at
  • Test navigation equipment. Depth-finder transducers may be damaged by cold, particularly if water has migrated through cracks in the plastic.
  • Load test batteries. Check the electrolyte level and specific gravity if applicable. A simple voltage reading with a volt/ohm meter won't tell the whole story, nor will just testing to see if it can turn over the engine.
  • Replace fire extinguishers if needed. Invert hand-helds, tap hard on the bottom with the palm of your hand, and shake. Do automatic extinguishers need servicing?
  • Replace flares if they show any sign of damage or are outdated.
  • Is your toolbox wet inside from condensation or leaks? Are tools such as pliers and adjustable wrenches rusted?
  • Test bilge pumps and alarms. If the float and alarm switches for your bilge pump(s) can't be activated manually, or you can't reach them, use a hose to fill the bilge enough to see that the pumps and alarms work.
  • Test bilge blowers and check their hoses for tears or disconnected fittings.
  • Check for moisture in the fuel tank. If you didn't leave your tank topped up to almost full with appropriate additives and you've been using E10 gas, you may have water in the tank from condensation and phase separation, which could damage your engine. Draining and replacing the fuel is sometimes needed. If it is, hire a qualified professional. Replace fuel filters even if new.
  • Check fuel lines and fittings. Look for signs of leaks such as discoloring around a fitting. Replace any line or fitting looking impaired, per ABYC and USCG standards or better. Secure any loose lines.
  • Carefully examine the galley stove. Check connections and plugs for the electric stove and check the burners. For gas stoves, check fittings, line, and emergency shutoff solenoid valve and solenoid wire connections at the switch and solenoid.
  • Check end plates of engine heat exchangers for white or greenish discoloration indicating water seeping past seals. Many manufacturers recommend these seals be replaced every year. Check all other water seals, including around the raw-water pump, freshwater pump (where it mates to the front of the block and weep hole underneath). Look for signs of corrosion, salt, or antifreeze residue.
  • Remove antifreeze in drinking lines. Check heads and hot-water heater for cracks, even if you drained them or added antifreeze.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and change batteries.
  • Check prop(s) for dings, bent blades, or damage. Consider sending them to a prop shop for refurbishing. Grab the shaft and try to wiggle it. If there's play, the cutlass bearing needs replacing. Check the hull and all underwater components. If you have a bolted-on keel, check for seepage or signs of rust or other deterioration.
  • Check thru-hull fittings and hoses before launch, lubricate (per the manufacturer's instruction), and work each.
  • Clean raw-water strainers for the engine, generator, air conditioning, head, and any others. Check gaskets and/or O-rings.
  • For waxed twine stuffing boxes for the rudder and prop shaft, replace the twine and tighten. While the seal is disassembled, check the shaft where it's normally concealed by the seal, for crevice corrosion or wear, particularly if the boat sits for long periods without running. Don't over-tighten; a slight drip is OK. Tighten again once you've run the boat, if needed. Inspect "drip-less" shaft seals including the lubricating water hose for free flow of water to the fitting, if you have that type.
  • When the boat is launched, check bilges, all thru-hull fittings, below-water hoses, and any other relevant areas for seepage.
  • Run the engine(s) at the dock at idle, or slow for at least 15 minutes, and then away from the dock, at varying speeds, but within easy towing distance.
  • Sailboats: In addition to the above, check and service winches, furling gear, blocks and cars, all standing rigging before the sails are put on, then check and work all running rigging with the sails on. Check swage fittings for any signs of cracking or other deterioration. Also check tangs on the mast where stays are attached. Check chain plates above and below deck for cracks or other deterioration, and check the structure where plates come through the deck for leakage or deterioration. Look for broken strands in stainless cable. Remove any tape covering turnbuckles or other areas, inspect underneath and replace tape if needed after servicing


Posted On: May 07, 2019

A marine survey can offer a wealth of information about your boat — if you know how to read it.

At some point in the process of buying or selling a boat, you're likely to come across a marine survey. If you're buying a boat, you'll probably hire a marine surveyor to get one. If you're selling a boat, you may see one the buyer has commissioned. This document, which can be a couple of dozen pages long, is a snapshot of the condition and valuation of a boat on a specific day. Think of it this way: Buyers and sellers can speak for themselves, but an independent marine survey speaks for the boat. Because of its depth of information, it has several uses: It's designed to give a potential buyer a clear picture of the condition of the boat with respect to U.S. Coast Guard regulations and nationally recognized standards, to provide a fair market value for the boat, and to document any potentially dangerous deficiencies in the boat's systems.

A marine survey is also a useful tool for buyers when negotiating price based on what repairs or upgrades the boat needs. And finally, insurance and lending companies that need to know the true condition and fair market value of a vessel often require it. Insurance company underwriters carefully read through a marine survey to make a determination as to whether the vessel is a good risk, and may require an owner to address certain deficiencies. To drill down through a marine survey to find out what you need to know, read on.

The Basics

Not all surveys are the same, but they generally begin by describing the boat overall. This part of the survey lists the year, make, model, hull identification number (HIN), and the basic specs of the boat, such as length, beam, and weight. It should also explain the scope of the survey, which describes the limitations. For example, it may say that hard-to-access areas were not inspected, that electronics were only powered up and not tested, or that engines were not part of the survey. From there, the survey goes into meatier stuff. It will document the condition of structural components, such as hull and deck, running gear, bulkheads, and engine beds. Things like the fuel, plumbing, and electrical systems are inspected and discussed with respect to relevant standards; living spaces are inspected; and safety items are noted, such as the existence — or the lack — of carbon-monoxide alarms and fire extinguishers. A good survey is more than just an inventory of the boat's equipment. The surveyor will comment on each section of the inspected boat. Finally, near the end of the survey are the recommendations, arguably the most important part.

The Recommendations

Recommendations are just that — issues the surveyor found on the boat that may need to be addressed. It's the "may" part that's important here. Typically, a surveyor will list recommendations in order of importance, often as A, B, or C. A-list recommendations (more properly called must-dos) are the most important ones to pay attention to, and you can be sure your insurance company will — not just for your boat, but for the safety of you and your crew. These are issues that, unaddressed, can cause your boat to sink, burn, become involved in an accident, or cause serious injury. Even if you're not financing or insuring a boat, these recommendations need to be addressed before the boat is used.

A-List Examples:

  • Worn or damaged below-waterline hoses, seacocks, and thru-hull fittings that pose a sinking hazard
  • AC or DC wiring deficiencies that could cause a fire
  • Lack of or nonfunctioning USCG-required equipment, such as fire extinguishers, flares, or navigation lights
  • Propane system deficiencies that could cause an explosion
  • A vessel with too much horsepower that could make it unstable
  • Lack of operable carbon-monoxide alarms
  • Unsecured batteries or fuel tanks that could break loose and damage the hull, or cause a fire
  • Missing oil-spill and waste-management placards. These are required by law and will be checked during a USCG inspection.

B-List Recommendations:

Tend to include either (1) items that are not an immediate risk but will pose an unacceptable hazard if left uncorrected for too long; or (2) things that may enhance the safety, value, and enjoyment of your boat. Some of these may cross over into A-list recommendations as far as underwriters are concerned, and may also need to be addressed before your boat can be insured. For the most part, they're things you'll want to do, anyway. Here are some examples:

  • Hoses and wires that are chafing or not installed to ABYC standards
  • Worn cutlass or rudder bearings
  • Stiff or corroded steering or control cables
  • Engine maintenance needed to forestall a larger problem
  • Cleats or stanchions that need to be re-bedded to prevent deck-core rot
  • Heavy corrosion on fuel or water tanks

C-List Recommendations:

Generally normal upkeep items that should be addressed as you can. Examples include:

  • Water leaks through ports or hatches
  • Anodes in need of replacement
  • Loose or worn engine belts, hoses, and engine mounts
  • Cosmetic issues
  • Winches in need of service

Keep in mind that while surveyors inspect a boat with an eye toward industry safety standards, such as those written by the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC), they recognize that newer standards were not in place when older boats were built. But some of those standards, like the need for carbon monoxide alarms or proper wiring, are critical enough that insurance underwriters may still require boats to comply with them.

All of the recommendations can be used as negotiation points for buyers. Any purchase contract should specify that a sale may be voided if the survey results are unacceptable to the buyer. In some cases, a seller may choose to do the required repairs before a sale, but make sure the boat is reinspected before the sale is finalized. Typically, surveyors will reinspect specific items for a fee, once the sale is made, and sign off that they have been properly done. If, after the sale, the buyer choses to make the repairs, insurance coverage can begin immediately, while the repairs are in progress. But, either way, the insurance company will usually require a written statement from the owner, or yard bills, to confirm the recommendations have been completed correctly.



Posted On: May 02, 2019

8 Things A Marine Surveyor Wants You To Know

If you've never had a marine survey before, here are some things to help make the experience better.

For many people, a boat may be the second biggest purchase they make, after a house, and there's a lot at stake financially.

Many insurance companies and banks require a Condition and Valuation survey in order to provide coverage or financing. But if you've never had a boat surveyed you might be wondering what to expect when you do need one. 

Do Your Research Ahead Of Time

Decide what sort of boat you want and need. Have a look at a few models, then narrow down the list to one or two before you engage a surveyor. A surveyor has looked at hundreds or thousands of boats during his career and can offer advice on many boats, but he does not know which boat will suit you. One of my clients, after having me check out several boats, eventually asked me if I thought he should buy a power or sailboat! You'll need to have your choices much narrower than that. The last thing a surveyor wants to do is tell you what kind of boat is best for you.

It's Not Just About The Cost

Don't choose a surveyor on price alone. Of course you need to know up front what the cost of the survey will be, but it could be a case of "if you don't pay now, you'll pay later." That bargain-basement-price survey could cost you in the long run should the surveyor miss some important fault on the boat.

If problems are caught before inking the deal, you have the option of renegotiating the price or getting faults corrected before you take delivery of the boat. While there is no guarantee that you will get more from a more expensive surveyor, as in all things, you typically get what you pay for. Prices are generally around $20 to $22 per foot, but if you're quoted $12 per foot you need to ask yourself why.

Surveyors often get concerned when a client asks for a cheap survey because "it's only for insurance." Most surveyors are professionals and want you to be happy with your boat and ensure your safety on the water. In return, you want him or her to spot any deficiencies with the boat. Surveyors need to be able to stand behind their work (possibly even in the courtroom), and doing a "light" survey doesn't help anyone. Most surveyors have a set fee based on the size and type of boat, the type of survey, travel costs, and so on.

By all means ask how much the surveyor charges, but don't wait until the day of the survey and then try to start negotiating the fee. You have the right to back out of the purchase up until your contract acceptance deadline, which is often at least several days after the survey date. If you change your mind about the boat after the survey is done, the surveyor still has to be paid. Most surveyors expect payment on the day the service is completed. Surveyors typically won't send out the completed survey report until they get paid. It's the surveyor's version of "no cash, no splash."

The Surveyor Works For You Only

You'll be paying the bill, so it's important that you understand that the surveyor reports only to you. He doesn't share his findings with anyone else unless you specifically request it. If you have a broker acting as your buyer's agent, then you may ask that the surveyor send a copy of the survey to the agent as it makes your broker's job easier if he's asking for things to be addressed. Keep in mind that a survey is only good for a specific time because it's really a snapshot of what the boat was like on a specific day. Old surveys should not be relied upon.

Make Sure The Boat Is Prepared

If you are asking a surveyor to come to your boat to perform an insurance survey, make sure that the surveyor has access. Don't expect him or her to empty out lockers of heavy anchors, bags of sails, and boxes of spare parts. The surveyor needs to look at the mechanical parts of the boat, and it causes delays to have to move tons of stuff out of the way. If in doubt, ask the surveyor what he needs before he arrives. He won't expect everything to be off the boat, but he will appreciate reasonable access. One client asked me to survey his 33-foot sailboat, but it turned out that the entire contents of a small apartment seemed to have been crammed aboard. If that wasn't bad enough, the boat also had a Great Dane aboard!

Don't Get In The Surveyor's Way

Most surveyors like it when the buyer is at the survey. They can answer questions and point out things of interest on the boat that may not find their way into the survey report. That being said, it makes the job slower if you hover. Allow the surveyor to do his job — you'll get a complete written report about everything he sees.

A Sea Trial Is Not A Boat Ride

The purpose of a sea trial is to check the boat's systems, engines, generators, electronics, and other parts that cannot be inspected while the boat is not under commission or is "on the hard." The surveyor will need to pay close attention to the engines, helm, and systems, and how the boat handles. To get the most from a sea trial, leave the kids, dog, and Aunt Kate at home. They can get a ride on the boat later, assuming you buy it. Too many folks on the boat makes it difficult for the surveyor to do the job properly.

Surveyors Are Happy To Talk Things Over With You

Most surveyors are only too happy to talk to you about the survey process, especially if this is your first time employing a surveyor. They will also answer questions after the survey, so don't be scared to call them up if you see something in a survey report that you don't understand. Surveyors are on boats every day, but owners and buyers may not always understand some of the technical terms.



Posted On: April 30, 2019

Dead Reckoning

Your on the water, but where am I?

Hey, Pirates never used chartplotters, and their depth finders were lead lines. But they found their way. Take a lesson from them. Bring along a ruler to use with your chart. Using the chartplotter or a GPS position from a cellphone, plot your position on the paper chart as you go along. To plot your course on paper, simply take the latitude and longitude coordinates from the GPS. Find the corresponding coordinates on the edges of the chart. Typically, the longitude coordinates are on the top and bottom edges, and latitude coordinates are on the left and right edges; some chart books have chart views arranged at other angles for space or clarity purposes. Using a straightedge, make a light pencil mark where the lines intersect.

After you've plotted three or four positions, wait 15 minutes or so, then turn off the chartplotter, paying close attention to the compass heading as you do so. Now try to keep track of your position without it. You may not know where you are at that moment, but you'll know where you were 15 minutes ago, and that'll be a pretty good clue. If you know this, you can "dead reckon," which comes from the phrase "deduced reckoning" and means steering by your compass while taking note of your speed and passing time to determine distance traveled. You'll likely find your way to where you want to go, or at least be close. You can also use landmarks, seamarks, and Aids to Navigation to verify and adjust your dead-reckoning position.

Unlocking the navigational clues scattered across your chart won't only add to your onboard fun — it will keep you safer should something knock out your electronics