Is buying a salvage boat for me?2017-01-23T20:16:09+00:00

Are there salvage boats deals out there?

Yes, there are. There are also salvage money pits. So let’s take a look at what salvage is:

Salvage boats generally fall into two categories. The ones that are damaged to an extent that the cost to repair exceeds the market value, or repairs would not put the boat back into the condition it was in prior to the loss. And two, where a constructive total loss is declared. A constructive total loss is where the agreed insurance value, less salvage is less than the cost to repair.

Most of the time salvage is sold on an “As Is, Where Is” basis. This means there are no warranties, the condition is the condition, any costs incurred in storage may be yours to settle up when you pick it up and you must transport it from where it sits. They are sold on a competitive bid basis and where many boats are damaged at the same location often an auction is held. There may be particulars unique to each situation and you should be aware of these by contacting the selling party or their agent for a bid package or bid solicitation prior to bidding.

It all cases you should inspect the boat prior to bidding to determine the extent of the damage and your repair cost (see “pig in a poke” below). Remember you will be bidding against professional salvage companies. These people know what to look for and the resultant salvage value. They have the expertise to repair this vessel at a cost competitive rate and the resources to resell the repaired vessel.

Finally, be sure the seller will provide you with clean title or documentation on the vessel after the sale. It is also a good idea to contact your attorney to determine what (if any) your obligation(s) may be in the future to a potential buyer.

What expertise is needed to repair a salvage vessel?

Do you know how to complete structural FRP repairs? We are not talking about small nicks or gelcoat repairs here. Do you know how to fabricate a template to be used in a major hull repair? If you have not completed major structural repairs do you know a yard that has? and will they work with you at a lower than market labor rate to effect this repair? Most of your repair cost is going to be labor. If you can answer “yes” to all of the foregoing then keep reading.

What should I look for on a salvage vessel?

If the vessel sank in salt water you can presume the engines and electronics need to be rebuilt or replaced. The electrical equipment will likely need to be replaced. The wiring will need some work, but will mostly be reusable (based upon a salt water immersion study recently completed and to be published soon). If the submersion was in fresh water some of the foregoing equipment may be repairable. The interior furnishings, other than those broken or damaged, may be reusable. Rub rails, windshields, and other extrusions may no longer be available and you may need to change out all just to replace a damaged section. So it boils down to “how much needs to be replaced”. An avenue to consider is using several salvage boats, as parts, to rebuild one boat.

What is pickling?

When an engine is submerged the oil inside is displaced by the water and it fills with water. When it is removed from the water rusting (oxidation) begins immediately. The best way to combat this oxidation is to de-water the engine, change the oil and filter (at least 2x) and run the engine to operating temperature to dry it out. Be sure you pull the spark plugs or injectors and turn it over to blow the water out of the cylinders before you start it. If you don’t you will bend the connecting rods, because water doesn’t compress. If your not mechanically adept contact a qualified marine technician for assistance. If there is no time available to do the foregoing then the engine is de-watered and filled with diesel fuel (pickled) to reduce the formation of rust and prevent seizing. This pickling is better than leaving it full of water and it should last for a short while. It will allow for salvageable parts during an engine overhaul. As a rule of thumb if the pickling is one month old, forget the engine.

Do I need a survey prior to buying the salvage boat?

It will help you ascertain the extent of the damage, and the net salvage value (bid price) for the boat. It won’t uncover all of the repair problems that need to be addressed, as some of these will only turn up after taking the salvage apart to fix it. But much of this ‘hidden’ damage can be anticipated with a survey.

So what’s this “pig in a poke” mean?

As a general rule do you want “to buy a pig in a poke”. A good deal has to be more than just monetary considerations, although that aspect cannot be overlooked.  Buying a boat for $500. Then putting $7000-$10,000 into it and still not having a boat that is worth using or that you could have bought used for only slightly more is not a deal. First determine an average price for the “Value” of the boat in good working condition (you can use value books [NADA, BUC, Abos Blue Book] for this purpose). Determine the finished “value” and write it down.  Remember the items to look for in the rest of the FAQ, then use a survey form and price out all the items that need to be replaced, Determine if you have the skill or expertise needed to do the work, use a multiplier of at least 125% of total repair cost (parts/labor/sales tax), and finally answer the question: “will this boat fit your needs when it is completed”.  Here is a survey form you can use:

Average “value”                       $ __________________


Salvage buying price            less                $  __________________


Marine survey cost                less                $ __________________


Major parts to be replaced    less                $ __________________

List: __________________     $ __________

__________________     $ __________

__________________     $ __________

__________________     $ __________

__________________     $ __________

__________________     $ __________

__________________     $ __________

__________________     $ __________

__________________     $ __________

Sales Tax                                  $___________


(use additional paper if required)


Outside labor cost needed    less     $____________________

List: __________________     $ __________

__________________     $ __________

__________________     $ __________

__________________     $ __________

__________________     $ __________

__________________     $ __________

__________________     $ __________

__________________     $ __________

__________________     $ __________

Sales Tax                          $__________

(use additional paper if required)


Other costs (Storage, transport) while being repaired    less   $_______________

Re-titling                                                    less   $_______________

State licenses                                             less   $______________


Fudge factor  +25% add parts labor and sales tax and add this cost  to your      repair costs to cover additional expenses that may be required


Fudge factor             less               $ ___________________


Add up your costs, including the fudge factor, and subtract them from average “Value” listed above.  Is it a big number or a little number? Does it appear to be worth the trouble of your time and monetary investment? If so get the wife’s permission and go for it.

Why is there no smoke detector in my boat?2017-01-23T20:15:06+00:00

CPSC notice: Since 1992, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has reminded consumers to check smoke alarms and change batteries when they change their clocks, but in that time, many alarms have lost their effectiveness. This year, CPSC wants to remind consumers to replace smoke alarms every ten years and replace carbon monoxide (CO) alarms every five years. Click here for the link to the notice

Why doesn’t my boat have a smoke detector:

Smoke detectors (alarms) are commonplace in your home, but you probably haven’t seen one installed in your boat’s cabin, berth or galley. There is currently no marine standard for smoke detectors. The marine environment is harsh from the standpoint of moisture and shock. Also there is normal outgasing in FRP boats that can affect certain types of gas detectors.

It is these types of issues that are addressed when standards are developed and thus a performance criteria is established. UL marine is the usual source for this type of standard and in fact they currently have a standard (UL 217) for RV smoke detectors.

When it comes to fires and fire prevention the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is the source for standards. The NFPA issues a standard, 302, that pertains to fire safety onboard boats. The most current edition (2004) includes a requirement for the installation of smoke detectors meeting the RV standard of UL 217. The NFPA standard recommends boats 26 feet or more with sleeping accommodations be equipped with a single station smoke alarm that is listed to UL 217, and installed and maintained according to the device manufacturer’s instructions.

The USCG mandates installation of RV smoke detectors (alarm) onboard inspected commercial vessels under 46CFR 181.450.

UL is currently working on a marine standard for smoke detectors and the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) is working on a standard for the installation of marine smoke detectors. When that work is completed a marine smoke detector will be available for your installation and likely it will be included with new boats having sleeping accommodations.

Can I install a RV smoke detector (alarm)?

Sure you can. Just remember that the unit you install is not tested and listed to be reliable in a marine environment. Be sure the unit you choose is listed for RV use. Read the smoke alarm owners manual and NEVER install a residential use detector in a boat.

What is teak surfing?2017-01-23T20:14:35+00:00

Teak surfing is the practice of dragging (body surfing) a person from the swim platform while operating the boat. The ‘surfer’ is in danger from contact with the propeller and is in the exhaust outlet stream (CO poisoning). The USCG issued a safety alert:  http://www.uscgboating.org/articles/boatingview.aspx?id=22 and the State of Pennsylvania has passed legislation, the State of Nevada by regulation,  making the practice illegal. Watch for other states to follow suit.

What is Carbon Monoxide (CO) on boats about?2017-01-23T20:14:07+00:00

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, deadly gas that is a byproduct of combustion. It is found in the exhaust of spark ignition engines, onboard your boat that is likely to be your gasoline propulsion engine(s) and your generator. It is important to remember that any flame heat source, such as your alcohol or propane stove, oven, or heater also produce CO. If your boat is diesel powered (diesel engines are non-spark ignition and produce lower levels of CO) it is important to remember that the boat tied up next to you may be a source of CO.

CPSC notice:  Since 1992, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has reminded consumers to check smoke alarms and change batteries when they change their clocks, but in that time, many alarms have lost their effectiveness. This year, CPSC wants to remind consumers to replace smoke alarms every ten years and replace carbon monoxide (CO) alarms every five years. Click here for the link to the notice

The Centers for Disease Control in concert with NIOSH have completed a series of tests and issued reports on the dangers of Carbon Monoxide on boats. Their website is http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/coboating/

The USCG Office of Boating Safety has issued an advisory about the dangers of carbon monoxide. It can be found at: http://www.uscgboating.org/alerts/

The USCG also has posted an educational page about carbon monoxide (Click the foregoing sentence to follow the link to this page.)

The American Boat and Yacht Council, Inc (ABYC) is a non-profit safety standards organization that produces standards and recommended practices for small craft. The ABYC standard A-24  pertains to the installation of carbon monoxide detectors onboard boats. ABYC has also produced an educational technical bulletin on carbon monoxide, TH-22 you can contact ABYC at: www.abycinc.org and you can download the referenced items for a fee from this site.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) publishes pamphlets in a “Know more about it” campaign. The pamphlet on CO can be found at: http://www.nmma.org/certification/publications/brochures.asp

How can I protect others and myself? The NMMA recommends:

Know where and how CO may accumulate in and around your boat

Maintain fresh air circulation throughout the boat at all times

Know where you engine and generator exhaust outlets are located and keep everyone away from these areas

Never sit on the back deck, teak surf, or hang on the swim platform while the engine(s) or generator are running

Never enter areas under swim platforms where exhaust outlets are located unless the area has been properly ventilated

Although CO can be present without the smell of exhaust fumes, if exhaust fumes are detected on the boat, take immediate action to ventilate these fumes

Treat symptoms of seasickness as possible CO poisoning. Get the person into fresh air immediately. Seek medical attention- unless you’re sure its not CO.

Install and maintain CO detectors as recommended by the manufacturer. Do not obstruct a CO detector by placing objects in front of it.

Follow the checklist provided in this pamphlet

Get a vessel safety check

How does CO accumulate? The NMMA pamphlet indicates:

Inadequately ventilated canvas enclosures

Exhaust gas trapped in enclosed spaces

Blocked exhaust outlets

Another vessel’s exhaust, CO from the boat docked next to you can enter your boat

“Station wagon effect” or back drafting

At slow speeds, while idling, or stopped; Be aware that CO can remain in or around your boat at dangerous levels even if your engine or another boat’s engine is no longer running!

What is the checklist NMMA recommends I follow?

Trip checklist for Carbon Monoxide

Make sure you know where exhaust outlets are located on your vessel

Educate all passengers about the symptoms of CO poisoning and where CO may accumulate

When docked or rafted with another boat, be aware of exhaust emissions from the other boat

Confirm that water flows from the exhaust outlet when the engine(s) and generator are started

Listen for any change in exhaust sound, which could indicate an exhaust component failure

Test the operation of each CO detector by pressing the test button

Boater’s monthly maintenance checklist

Make sure all exhaust clamps are in place and secure

Look for exhaust leaking from exhaust components. Signs include rust and/or black streaking, water leaks, or corroded or cracked fittings

Inspect rubber exhaust hoses for burned, cracked, or deteriorated sections. All rubber hoses should be pliable and free of kinks.

Annual checklist, Have a qualified marine technician:

Replace exhaust hoses if cracking, charring, or deterioration is found

Ensure that your engine(s) and generator are properly tuned, and well maintained

Inspect each water pump impeller and the water pump housing. Replace if worn. Make sure cooling systems are in working condition

Inspect all metallic exhaust components for cracking, rusting, leaking, or loosening. Check the cylinder head gasket; exhaust manifold, water injection elbow, and the threaded adapter nipple between the manifold and the elbow.

Clean, inspect and confirm proper operation of the generator cooling water anti-siphon valve (if equipped)

How long have Marine CO detectors been available?

Marine CO detectors have been available since the mid 1980’s and have been installed as standard equipment on many brands/models of boats for over five (5) years.

How often should I change my CO detector?

The USCG and the detector manufacturers suggest the detector be replaced every five (5) years or at any time that the unit fails to alarm during testing. They also recommend that a UL listed marine CO detector be installed on all older boats that have a sleeping area.

My detector alarms all the time. Is something wrong with it?

NEVER assume the detector is malfunctioning when it alarms, NEVER disconnect an alarm; Remember CO is a colorless, odorless, deadly gas. Immediately ventilate your boat, remove personnel to fresh air and if anyone is showing symptoms similar to seasickness or intoxication seek immediate medical assistance. As soon as possible have your boat inspected and serviced by a qualified marine technician.

Did NIOSH do any testing relative to CO?

Yes they did. Two NIOSH reports are available: Lake Mead and CO Recboat study both of these reports are Adobe acrobat reader (pdf) files and can be downloaded by clicking on the underlined links.

Did the USCG test Marine CO detectors for reliability?

Yes they did. The report is titled: “A Study of Carbon Monoxide Detector Performance in the Marine Environment”. You can order a copy form the USCG office of Boating Safety for review and comment using the link below.

The document is the result of a boating safety contract to evaluate the reliability of Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors that, in 2002, were advertised as being suitable for marine environments.  The hypothesis was that one or more factors including humidity, salinity, temperature variants, or out-gassing of new boat construction materials, could cause detectors to fail Underwriter Laboratories UL 2034 standard for CO alarms on recreational boats.

Testing indicated that some of the detectors alarmed sooner than required.  None of the detectors failed in a manner that presented a safety hazard to the public.

Click the underlined: USCG Office of Boating Safety Articles link to review the complete USCG posting and to order the report.

How long does it take?2017-01-23T20:11:35+00:00

Generally we can complete a Condition and Value Survey within six (6) business days of your request. If you own the boat, we ask that you be present at the survey to open any locks or give us permission to board and access to inspect the vessel. If you don’t own the boat, you need to have the owner’s permission and access for us to complete the inspection.

How much does it cost?2017-01-23T20:10:56+00:00

Davis & Company charges a fee that is based upon the size of the boat. Specifically:

$16.00 per foot for pleasure craft
$18.00 per foot for commercial craft
All fees subject to change without notice (11-2013)

The charges cover only the actual cost of the survey and any non-destructive testing (such as laminate moisture). Mechanical, electrical and oil testing are available for an additional charge. All Condition and Value and Buyer’s Surveys are subject to Davis & Company Ltd.’s “Standard Terms”, a copy of which can be found here: Standard Terms

How often is a survey required?2017-01-23T20:08:44+00:00
It depends on the insurance company, the value of your boat, and its age. For the sake of safety, we recommend a survey at least once every two years.
Why is a survey important for an insurance company?2017-01-23T20:08:23+00:00
For insurance companies, a Condition and Value Survey helps determine whether the vessel meets USCG and ABYC specifications, and carries the appropriate level of coverage in the event that it is lost or damaged.
What good does it do me as a boat owner?2017-01-23T20:08:00+00:00

Most importantly, the survey helps determine the overall condition of your vessel, that it meets the safety criteria which safeguard your passengers and crew. For individuals buying or selling a boat, a Condition and Value Survey helps determine the actual value of a craft. The survey also helps you determine whether you’re carrying the proper amount of insurance coverage.

Remember that you are hiring our surveyor for his or her objective opinion of the condition of the boat and its value. You may not agree with their final findings in either regard but you have benefited from their professional opinion.

Who needs one?2017-01-23T20:07:08+00:00

Anyone who owns a pleasure boat or commercial craft, or is considering buying or selling one. Insurance companies and financial institutions also need Condition and Value Surveys anytime they insure or finance a boat.

What is a Condition and Value Survey?2017-01-23T20:06:24+00:00

Simply put, a Condition and Value Survey (CVS) is a report which details the current condition of a boat and estimates its value.

The surveyor will complete a thorough visual inspection of the boat you intend to purchase. Some non-destructive testing, such as sounding the laminate with a hammer or testing with a moisture meter, may be included. If you want the bottom inspected on boats in the water you will need to arrange for haulout and pay for this before the survey appointment. The surveyor won’t be able to take things apart (destructive testing) because you don’t own the boat.

The survey report will cover the areas inspected and include recommendations regarding problem areas. It will also include a current market value estimate.

Buyers survey differs from a condition and value survey as the surveyor will operate electrical devices, and participate in sea trials. The Buyers survey is billed at time and expense rates to accommodate the cost/s of these additional services.

But the boat I’m looking at looks “brand new”; a survey will be a waste of money.2017-01-23T20:06:01+00:00

That could be true. But did you know that 12% of all boat damage is a result of a lack of proper maintenance? Do you know how to look ‘under the covers’ so to speak and know if the boat has been properly maintained? The surveyor you hire to inspect the boat has the knowledge and expertise to know what is proper and what is not.

But I thought boats were built to ‘standards’, so why do I need a survey?2017-01-23T20:05:37+00:00

That is true. There are federal regulations and there are ABYC (American Boat and Yacht Council, Inc) voluntary Standards and Recommended Practices. In fact in the same MACM 96 paper the author found only about 3% of boat damages are related to a manufacturer defect. However let’s look at the other side of the coin. How many owners are aware of all of the standards or regulations pertaining to boats? As an example did you know that spark plug wires, alternators, starting motors, and other ignition components used in marine applications are specifically made in order to be ignition protected? The surveyor you hire to do your inspection knows this and about the other areas covered in the federal regulations and ABYC Standards and Recommended Practices.

Do I need a survey for my boat purchase?2017-01-23T20:05:04+00:00

In a paper presented at the 1996 International Marine Applications of Composite Materials Conference (MACM 96) entitled “How Boats Get Damaged, A Marine Surveyor’s Perspective” the author, Gregory T. Davis NAMS-CMS, cites statistics gathered from Insurance company boat claims that suggest you may need one. The data indicated that 54% of all boat damage is a result of operator error. What might have happen to your dream boat?