The Thief Of Maintenance Neglect

It is always disappointing and disheartening to me as a surveyor when I discover this unwanted passenger on board. My clients expectations are generally high on the survey date. Life’s blessings and hard work has delivered him or her to the point where they can reach for their dreams. A knowledgeable Marine Surveyor has a different prospective on boats than buyers, brokers, or owners. We know what the elements can do to hulls, motors, rigs and equipment. Our job is to paint an accurate verbal picture of the vessel we are inspecting.

A buyer’s initial vision of a vessel can be clouded by the excitement, the weather, the spouses agreement to make the purchase, the need to own a boat, spring fever, a sudden lapse of good judgment, or whatever. Lots of these folks do long distance travel to take a run at their dream boat. The surveyor on the other hand had better be knowledgeable enough to identify the many ailments, design flaws, and short comings this particular vessel may present.

The survey day arrives, the prospective buyers are elated, and anxious within sure reach of their dreams. The broker is hovering around having made arrangements for delivery, haulage and sea trial and maybe prematurely tasting his 10% commission. The owner is home on his knees in silent prayer offering supplications that all goes well. The surveyor arrives with limited time to enter the fray, socialize and do his or her job and escape unscathed. The boat on the other hand is just a dumb object at the mercy of the owners care or victim of the lack thereof.

It doesn’t take the surveyor’s trained and unprejudiced eyes and ears long to hear the boat start to explain her sad story of maintenance neglect. She tells the surveyor that much to her displeasure, the present owner invited the passenger of neglect on board some time ago. You should have seen my varnish and now I’m ashamed to be seen in public. My canvas used to be new and clean but the top stitching is now a mess. My hull was shiny and waxed but just look at me now, all oxidized and mildewed. My engine once was so clean you could eat off the valve cover, but I can’t remember when the oil was changed last. And that leak I developed around my starboard dead light was going to be fixed, but alas, my owner let that slide and now look at these stained ceilings. My bilge water was so clean and now resembles a septic tank with all manner of foul things floating around. I told my captain four years ago my port aft stanchion was leaking, and was hopeful for a fix, but I must admit, the coring has now gone soft. As her sad tale continues to be told the surveyor looks and listens intently with sadness of heart as he knows this dastardly passenger too well. The surveyor knows that this one passenger can cost the owner untold large amounts of cash and eventual disappointment. The prospective buyer’s hopes are dashed on the harsh shores of reality. The broker is disheartened because the owner refuses to admit he let the passenger on board in the first place, and the brokers hard sought commission has taken wings. The surveyor is glad that the killing of the messenger of bad tidings is strongly frowned upon in this land.

It could have been a much different story. The boat owner could have refused the thief passage. He could have simply been the good steward and fought the good fight of adequate maintenance and care and thwarted the adversary’s advances to rob and destroy. The end of each and every story can be written only by the boat owner. I personally like, they all lived happily ever after. Go forth and do maintenance and remember, the Lord loves boaters.

Neil K. Haynes April 2003

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