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Want to buy a Wharram... how to avoid unnecessarily hiring a surveyor?

Hello everyone.

I want to buy a Wharram (in my case I'm looking for a Tiki 38) and I am not that knowledgeable about boat construction. The process would be to visit the boat and if I generally like it and the price is right for me, have it hauled out and have a surveyor thoroughly check it -- and of course discard the boat and take the loss if the surveyor's findings tell that the boat is unreliable in ways not worth fixing.

This is, however, an expensive process -- even more so in remote places where a local knowledgeable surveyor might not be available.

Can you please list symptoms of poor construction or serious damage that you've seen and which I could look at to quickly discard the boat without needing to call (and pay) a surveyor? I'm not talking about things which can be fixed at reasonable cost/effort, such as replacing a beam or a mast, but about serious stuff which would make the boat best described as a "floating wreck".



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Jordi, post pics here of your concerns regarding the boat, there is enough experience with these boats here to get a good idea of your concerns.

cheers paul.

@Jacques: Merci, ceci est très utile.

@Paul: At this moment I am not concerned about any particular boat -- rather about my inability to recognize one which a fellow forum member described as a "floating wreck" as such. Your suggestion is an excellent solution -- since I don't know, I'll rely on the knowledge of others. I'll add that step to my selection process. Thanks.

This is an interesting topic. I am in the same situation as I am in the hunt of W. cat too. Jacques suggests that the water line should not touch the step but, this is not necessarily right as the boat could be heavily loaded, nor it would indicate the extend of rot. The reality is that, is very difficult to find folts. They could be hidden in inaccessible places, where also a surveyor could miss too.

Hi Raf,

hopefully problems which are this hidden will be local, and hence usually fixable w/o great costs. I am ready to take such risk. I just think it would be worse if I built the boat myself, having zero boat-building experience.

I am not asking "how to be sure the boat is in fine condition", but rather "how to discard boats which will obviously be discarded by a proficient surveyor".

Jacques' recommendation is really good because a surveyor would probably miss THAT one... specially if she surveys the boat out of the water!



This sounds all too familiar


Je recommence parce que ça avait foiré:

Déjà regarder où se situe la flottaison. Le redan ne doit pas toucher l'eau. Sinon le bateau est lourd. Un tiki lourd, ça ne marche pas bien.

Savoir et se faire prouver quel type de contreplaqué a été utilisé (okoumé etc...) pour les oeuvres vives en tout cas. Il me semble que le minimum soit qu'il soit BS088 marine.

Le sandwich des ponts. Attention au polystyrène (balsa c'est mieux). Les ponts deviennent mous. Tester leur fermeté.

Vérifier qu'il y a bien une strate sur tout l'extérieur, y compris les poutres. C'est incroyable la protection que cela apporte au bois.

Ensuite, les collages. Peu importe où. Essayer de voir s'ils ont bien fonctionné. Un collage qui baille, c'est pas bon signe. Ca veut peut être dire qu'ailleurs, sous la flottaison ça risque de foirer.

Un oeil sous les planchers, bien entendu.

Le gréement: Bois ou alu pour les mats? Alu is better, je pense. Les haubans? Diamètres, manchonnages. Têtes de mat, pieds de mats ok?

Tout l'inox: Cadènes, brides etc. Méfiance. Ca casse sans prévenir, détecter s'il y a des fissures. Un constructeur avisé cherche à éliminer l'inox et le remplacer par du textile.

Electricité: le plus simple le mieux (éclairage/Feux/nav/musique/Eau). Eviter les usines à gaz. Elles sont tout le temps en panne.

Moteurs. Faut savoir qu'ils sont près de l'eau et en bouffent pas mal. Vérifier qu'ils tournent correctement et qu'ils sont pas trop vieux.

Voiles: Ca s'use beaucoup. Les miennes ont 8000 miles et devront être changées dans 2 ans au mieux (4000 €).

Matériel de sécurité: ça coûte cher à l'achat (2500€ pour un radeau de survie).

Système de barre. Doit bien fonctionner. C'est très sollicité. Le design des plans marche bien. Attention aux modifs (type hydraulique ou quoi).

Après, le reste (accastillage, peinture etc ...) ça peut facilement se modifier ou arranger.

Merci beaucoup, Jacques -- c'est beaucoup plus que j'attendais!

My french is limited but I think generally spiking Jacque is right. One thing to be aware too is, where the boat was moored and how many years. If thats in the wet tropics, BEWARE!  the boat might have a lot of rot, or worst, rot could be well in the way and is undetectable when under paint. I live in the wet tropics and seen the horrors of timber on boats first hand as, I am a boat builder my self and worked on them.

Shoulder the cost of a surveyor it may save you a fortune in the future!

So many times I have come across people who have bought a boat without the "expense" of a survey and a great expense it turned out to be. At the very least they did not detect faults at the point of purchase and could not negotiate the cost of repair off of the asking price and at worst it was found that post purchase the boat amounted to "Constructive Total Loss" meaning the cost of putting the boat right would reach far beyond its worth when completed.

If you buy a boat that's not fit for purpose and you didn't get it surveyed, then you have nothing of any worth.

If you buy a boat that's not fit for purpose and the surveyor said it is, then you have something to fall back on as that surveyor is now responsible for any financial loss that may occur on your behalf.

If you do not have it surveyed at the point of purchase then you're usually asked to get it surveyed at the point of insurance anyway. Sooner or later you'll need one! In my professional opinion the sooner you bring a surveyor on the scene the more money you'll save and the better you'll sleep in the long run.

check beam and beam boxes .foremast tabernackle.keel from the inside and out.

@Geminidown: the intent of the question is not to do without a surveyor, but to allow me to reject "bad" boats which I would discard after survey. I agree that the cost of a surveyor is worth shouldering... unless you end up not buying the boat anyways.

Jordi I agree completely with your goal. Many years ago when I was new to big sailboats, I relied on a marine surveyor. I have a technical background with an engineering degree and affinity for things mechanical. I watched the surveyor closely without comment during the survey. When I received the report I was extremely disappointed with unmentioned items which I observed. After purchase I found even more issues not discovered by the professional. I've learned it's a pretty much unregulated industry and it was really a throw of deice on quality of survey. Viewing many surveys since has simply confirmed that opinion. Also most if not all have disclaimers as to missed items so a lawsuit would be needed for compensation, money,time... So finding an quality surveyor is a large job itself. There are certainly great surveyors but it's more than just looking in a phone book to find one. Personally I would have a huge disclaimer on this type boat.

So your education will never be wasted. IMO quality of materials is the first thing to evaluate. Was marine grade plywood used? If there are areas finished clear the look of BS1088 is obvious to inferior grade ply. If a bill of materials used is available, was epoxy used etc,etc,etc...The problem of course is these are mostly home built and one man's High quality build is another man's junk. You may be well served to view other wharrams, not just the 38s, to get a feel for the quality of builds.  

Best of Luck


Jordi said:

@Geminidown: the intent of the question is not to do without a surveyor, but to allow me to reject "bad" boats which I would discard after survey. I agree that the cost of a surveyor is worth shouldering... unless you end up not buying the boat anyways.

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