Page published 3 April 2023
After our the river trial on 30 November we proceeded to book a surveyor to complete a "pre-purchase survey". The broker supplied a list but did suggest one from the list who we were told, unlike some of the others, actually welcomed the buyer being present and showing them what he was finding and how it might matter to a purchase decision.
© 2022 P Tierney
The photo that our surveyor took to identify the boat in his report.
Accordingly, it was arranged that Pat Tierney would survey our boat and it would take place on Wednesday 7 December. It was another of the two hour drives to the brokers for us. We got there some time after the survey had commenced. In preparation for that the boat had been moved again from where it was berthed at our River Trial and was now next to the slipway and close to the broker's office, the nearest building seen in the background of the photo that our surveyor took to illustrate the front cover of his report.
As we arrived we were told that there had been unusual activity at the marina during the morning with an ambulance arriving on site with blue flashing lights. We were told someone in one of the chalets on site had been taken ill. In Pat's photograph you can just make out a number of the chalets, some of which are permanent homes while others are weekend retreats and holiday homes.
It was pretty cold and I wasn't really dressed for it, having left my fleece at home. I left Diana in the office, as she had various calls to make, and went to see Pat to introduce myself and see what he had found so far. It emerged that Pat was a steel boat enthusiast and lived aboard a narrowboat. When I arrived he was working his way through a checklist of items and had got to the part that was looking at the engine and gearbox and he was not happy with what he had found.
To show me the problem he got me to start the engine and ease the throttle forward to put the gearbox into drive. Then he asked me to move the throttle slowly from forward through neutral and into reverse. I suppose you might call the result a loud grinding noise that eventually subsided as reverse drive was engaged. Oops, I thought, I hadn't managed to produce that result during the river trial. I had moved the throttle rather faster that Pat had asked me to do and, it seems, I had passed through the noisy stage without incident.
"Should I stop the survey now?", he asked, going on to explain that the noise implied that a complete overhaul of the gearbox was needed. He went on to explain that he was aware that a new drive plate had been fitted by the current owner and this was frequently done as the noise we were hearing could have been caused by its failure so owners always opted to replace that as it was a much cheaper option than fitting a reconditioned gearbox.
On the basis that I didn't think we'd find a better kept example of a Mk III without waiting a long time I told him to proceed and we'd hope that we could negotiate a further reduction of the price on the basis of the surveyors report. It was only after that I went to tell Diana of my decision and, as expected, she felt it was the right course of action.
The survey continued with the boat still in the water. There were other items which Pat noted, such as short lengths of flexible pipe that were near the end of their life and needed to be replaced, an out of date fire extinguisher, but nothing he felt was at all critical.
While all this was going on we were interrupted by the sound of a helicopter. I did manage to take a photograph of that, which seems strange. You might have felt that taking a picture of the various faults would have been a higher priority. It must have been that my conversation with Pat and his explanations of the importance or otherwise of what he found completely distracted me from the business of making my own record of what was being found on board the boat.
The Air Ambulance as it came into land further across the marina.
After Pat had completed all the internal checks the boat was lifted out of the water and taken to the fenced yard where all the boats were kept over winter. I was approaching the limit of what I could stand of the cold by then and, once more, failed to take any photographs. The bulk of the next hour or so involved Pat clambering around under the boat tapping the hull with a small hammer. He reported finding osmosis. Lots of it!
Initially, I was somewhat alarmed by this. In 18 years of running the SeaHawk web site, not one owner of the couple of hundred who had posted questions about the boat had reported even finding any osmosis in their boat. Pat reassured my that it was normal on a boat of this age especially where they had been kept in the water for extended periods. While there was some osmosis present all the tell tale bubbles he had found were well within the limit where any treatment would be required by insurance companies with the overall the average size around 10mm.
There were two other points that arose from checking the outside of the boat. No anodes were fitted so the rudder and associated metalwork were not protected from corrosion and there was a failed GRP repair to a small area of the hull on the transom. Pat said he wasn't surprised by the lack of anodes as this appeared to be common on Broads-based boats, but they should be fitted. He suspected that the small chip in the hull had been repaired with a non-marine filler, saying it was common for people to use inappropriate car body fillers on boats.
The front cover of the report was corrupted on receipt, with only part of the photograph appearing. I edited and reformatted it to get it to appear like this.
With that the survey was complete and Pat promised to get his formal report to us in a couple of days. However, Samantha, the broker, was present with us for that final part of the survey and she was appraised by Pat of what his report would show. I had previously found that reconditioned gearboxes on eBay were priced at around £1,300 and assumed that the GRP repair would be a relatively minor expense. In short, we said to Sam that to complete the purchase we would need a further reduction of £2,000 on the price that had been agreed subject to the survey.
The report, when it arrived a few days later, was intriguing. Perhaps I should have expected it, given its general purpose. It is aimed at at insurance companies and navigation authorities rather than buyers. Hence one of the "Main Defects" was the inoperative fire extinguisher, which are both cheap and simple to replace. The others were judged "major" because they might affect whether the boat might sink, damage the boats of others or poison those on board. Whereas the expensive gearbox and osmosis issues, which might worry a buyer more, were listed under a catch all "Defects / Other Observations / Recommendations" heading.
The following day we heard that our revised offer had been accepted and by the 16 December had confirmation that the balance after the deposit had been received by the broker and the sale complete.
Now, it is just a matter of arranging for the work that need to be done and getting the boat shipped to Norfolk.