Why do I need a Marine Survey?

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By Tim Martin
Marine Surveys Canada

Whether you are an experienced boater or are purchasing your first boat, you are likely to end up requiring a marine survey at some point. By simple definition, a marine survey is a boat inspection. More specifically, it is a very detailed technical inspection and lengthy document that speaks to the condition and value of a boat. The findings of the marine surveyor typically establish whether or not a boat is seaworthy (safe to be in the water). Many unsafe boats will float and get a family to and from a favourite anchorage. Many appear to be perfectly safe, even to experienced boaters. In reality, marine surveyors often find issues with boats that come as a complete surprise to the boat owner.

In 2003, I ran a boat repair shop near Edmonton, Alberta. Often I had requests from customers for me to provide a ‘marine survey’ as a requirement to renew their boat insurance. Honestly, at the time I was as perplexed by the request as they were. The insurance brokers in the area knew little of what they were being asked by the insurance company they represented. The mechanical inspection reports I had provided to customers were not sufficient to meet the requirements for insurance companies, and some of my customers were left uninsured. Frustrated for my clients, I did a little research. What I discovered led me to a new profession in marine surveying. More than 15 years later, I can safely say I have learned a thing or two about marine surveys.

Marine surveyors are required to be familiar with safety legislation and construction standards. Experienced marine surveyors will provide important insight as to how the standards and legislation apply to a given boat. It is for this reason that insurance companies look for a marine surveyor’s report, which helps the insurer to determine the level of risk they undertake when they insure the boat. The marine surveyor will inspect the boat’s structure, electrical systems, fuel systems, safety and navigation equipment, and even the cosmetic items that can erode the boat’s value. A boat with a fuel leak that catches fire on the lake is a very expensive catastrophe for an insurance company, not mention a tragedy for the affected families.

The risks to a prospective boat buyer are much the same. As a major purchase, a boat buyer signing on the dotted line without having the benefit of a marine survey could discover they are on the hook for thousands in structural repairs in order to have the boat insured. Would you consider buying a home without a home inspection? In addition to a marine survey, a mechanical inspection done by a qualified marine service technician can also verify that the engines and mechanical systems have good serviceable life in them.

If you are contemplating that your next big purchase might just be a boat, be sure to hire a marine surveyor before you make the commitment. It might just be the safest boating choice you can make.

Wire Nuts on Boats

There you are just finishing up installing that new stereo or fish finder on your boat and all you need to do is join those last couple of wires and then time to hit the water with your newly installed electronics but AHH you look around and there are no more butt connectors left in your tool tray. What to do? As you look around your garage for something else….Bingo you spot a box of wire nuts (twist on connectors) and think you’re all set. Think again.

Wire nuts on boats are prohibited by ABYC and are not to be used in marine applications.

As per ABYC E11.14.5.6 “twist on connectors, i.e., wire nuts, shall not be used”

Even though many electrical components may come with wire nuts for install just turn around and throw them away or save them for your household project. Wire nuts on boats are one of the most common issues we see when surveying vessels and quick to be flagged and documented.

There are a few issues with wire nuts and why they are not allowed on boats, even though they are standard use in many other applications.

-Wire nuts work great on single strand wire, that is what they are designed for. As you may have noticed all boat electrical wire is multi-strand. When the multi-strand wire is twisted together in the wire nut the strands tend to break off making the connection weaker.

-Wire nuts are a great place for water to accumulate. Although we love being in the water we want to keep as much of it away from our electrical components as possible. An upside down wire nut is a great place for water to accumulate.

As the saying goes ‘you are only as good as your weakest link´ and that weakest link being that wire nut. Nobody wants to be chasing around electrical issues on their boat when they should be out enjoying it on the water.

The best option is a butt connector and preferably a shrinkable one. You could use a regular style butt connector and put a piece of shrink over it if it’s going to be located in a higher moisture area (ie. Bilge). Not a good idea to solder them together either, that too goes against the ABYC Standard. When stripping the insulation makes sure to use the proper tool and that none of the wire strands are damaged. If so cut the wire and strip it again.

Now that you have that electrical unit properly wired up and installed it’s time to sit back and know that you will have trouble free boating in your future….at least where that component is concerned!