Survey/Sea Trial Process

The process of survey and sea trial is where the hard work of condition and price have resulted in an offer contingent on this inspection. Your sailboat's condition and ability to pass survey/sea trial is the most vital part of the entire sailboat listing process.

Prepare and understand the process

Survey/Sea Trial Process

Your sailboat was listed, shown, and now has a contract on it contingent on survey and sea trial. How you prepare, and a full understanding of the process your sailboat will undergo, will help make this a success - avoiding rejection from the buyer.

The buyer pays for the inspection, haul out, fluid samples and production of report. You, the seller, make your sailboat available for survey/sea trial and accept the risk of sea trial, cost of commissioning systems, and are expected to provide an operator for the vessel.

Prepare Prior to the Survey

This will not only increase the chances of a strong result for your sailboat listing but it will also make your broker’s job easier to navigate.

Service Records

Gather any and all service records you have for the history of your vessel. Also find your title and or USCG documentation. Have this ready to produce and in your brokers hands.

Systems Check

Starting at one end of your sailboat and working your way forward or aft test all systems for function. AC/Heat working, bilge pumps functional, shower sumps, windlass, navigation lights, radar, gps, autopilot, generator, sea cocks open and close, winches working, sails & mast ready? They will all be put to the test on survey day so check them now and if not working fix ahead of time.

Run Your Boat

Run your sailboat means under full load to rated RPM. This is critical - as too many sellers say “I ran the boat and it ran fine,” only to have their yacht broker discover their real meaning - "I ran it at the dock for 30 minutes. At sea tria,l your sailboat will 100% be tested to make rated RPM under load and not overheat. If your bottom is fouled or props are nicked or bent, address it now so that you have time to ensure your sailboat is ready. Also make sure there is enough fuel to run the boat (1/4 tank minimum).


Sailboat Survey Process

The buyer’s surveyor is going to go through the sailboat from stem to stern checking the entire structure from keel structure (on land or hauled out) to the decks for fiberglass/delamination issues, through the entire sailboat's operational systems.

Depending on the sailboat, this can be a half or all day affair to multiple days of testing for larger vessels. A thorough surveyor will record and document things many sellers have not even accounted for like expired flares, fire extinguisher dates and various USCG requirements. Their job is to observe and produce a report on the health and safety of the systems and vessel overall.

A report will be produced for the buyer that typically will give the sailboat a market value and list of suggested repairs and concerns. This punch list of items many times is separated into essential and non-essential recommendations. Minimizing the items on that list is why you prepare ahead of time as it saves you money, time and possibly a sale altogether.

Sea Trial & Sail

At some point in the survey process (it can differ at request of buyer/surveyors) your sailboat is going to leave the dock and head for sea trial. This will be where all mechanical systems are going to have to function in a real world environment. Engines, transmissions, motor mounts, generators, stabilizers, steering, navigation equipment will all be stressed and tested. Sails will be hoisted and provided there is sufficient wind a sail session will occur.

Buyers of a sailboat will want to know the motor runs and sails operate. Either of those failing will put the sale in jeopardy of rejection.

There is not a doubt what will be asked of your vessel at sea trial. It will need to run properly at all RPM band ranges from idle all the way up to wide-open throttle. Saying “I never run my boat at WOT is not an option or excuse” as it will be asked to be proven. Does your boat make full RPM, not vibrate and not overheat. If the result of those 3 things passes, you have a fewer worries. Should it not make full RPM, vibrates, or overheats the level of buyer concern and post survey issues will be a hurdle to cross.

After Survey/Sea Trial

As indicated the buyer will receive a thorough printed report from all inspectors he has paid to do this inspection process. Oil samples if taken will have results that come back as well. From this report begins that acceptance phase of your sailboat listing.

The buyer on or before ACCEPTANCE DATE faces one of three decisions:

Accept The Vessel As Is

That is the best result post survey where the buyers not seeking any further repairs or concession on price. It does not always mean nothing was found at survey just that the buyer is satisfied and ready to go to closing.

Reject The Vessel

This means the survey or sea trial has been unsatisfactory to the buyer. It can be for almost any reason legally from a long list of small items making the buyer uneasy, not being satisfied with the performance of the boat for any reason (speed, steering, vibration etc.), finding signs of damage or major component failure that leaves the buyer not willing to move forward.

Conditional Acceptance of Vessel

This is probably the most common and it’s a negotiated agreement between buyer and seller based on survey findings. This list is essentially either the repairs a buyer will require or a cash concession to the price in lieu of repairs. The seller does have the right to negotiate this list or price concession. Once signed and agreed on by both buyer and seller this forms the basis on post survey conditions. If a straight concession on price then the deal proceeds to closing, but if repairs are required the buyer will have the right to inspect those repairs and should sign a final clean acceptance that repairs are to their satisfaction.

“Proper preparation for a sailboat heading to survey is vital to making the deal stick.”

My Sailboat's Value

Learn Your Sailboat's Value in Today’s Market

You will receive a report with sold comps, active comps, and become an educated seller on how to best position your sailboat to sell, not sit. 

“Running your sailboat does not mean at the dock. It must be run to full rated RPM under a load.”

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