What is the Boat Survey Process?

Don from BoatBuy

If you’ve never bought a boat before, you’re probably curious to know the normal procedure. Do you need to put down a deposit? Do we need to slip the boat? Who pays for this? Do I need a survey?

If you’re new to boating, it can seem daunting purchasing a boat. Buying a boat is not like any other purchase. There are certain steps that need to be followed to achieve a desirable outcome. There can be many pitfalls and newbie mistakes that can turn a pleasurable experience into a boating nightmare.

Decide on a boat

After your search long and far, the first step is deciding on the boat you like. It’s worthwhile reviewing the service history to see if it’s within the manufacturer’s recommendations. This should come before putting down a deposit. If you don’t understand the paperwork, ask someone who does. Once you’ve found a boat, and viewed it in person, it’s time to get a contract signed. Once you have this, a deposit paid so you can organise a survey and mechanical inspection.

Contract

Before the deposit is paid, a contract of sale must be written up and agreed to, by the buyer and seller. It is normal practice to pay a deposit, having in the contract a clause pending a satisfactory survey. The survey needs to be completed in a set amount of time, and a sea trial undertaken. If issues arise on the survey, and you and the seller cannot agree to fixing or negotiating on, the deposit is fully refundable. Typical settlement periods allow 2 to 4 weeks, giving you time to do your due diligence before handover. If you have a short settlement period, you might not allow enough time to book with a reputable surveyor. There also needs to be sufficient time to get issues fixed or quoted if they arise on the survey.

Deposit

Most sellers/brokers will request 5 to 10% deposit be paid before the vessel is taken to survey. Because it is a lot of effort to spend half to a full day inspecting, testing, slipping and sea trialing a boat, the seller wants to know you’re serious. For bigger boats, for example a $500,000 boat, the deposit at 10% would be $50,000. It is important to pay a deposit as otherwise you may get halfway through the survey process and the broker can rightfully sell the boat to somebody else. Having a deposit also allows the broker to motivate the vendor, showing they have a serious buyer ready to purchase should issues arise on the survey and there needs to be a price reduction.

Organise a Surveyor & Mechanic

Now the deposit is paid and contract signed, you should contact your preferred surveyor/mechanic and book them for an inspection. If you contact us to do the job, it is as simple as calling us to request a date. You then complete our online form to collect details, then we can organise the rest for you. Don’t be fooled by some surveyors claiming to provide pre-purchase reports, be sure to find out what exactly is inspected. 

Most surveyors do not include mechanical, and if you decide to go with one of these providers it is advised to have a mechanic check the engines. An engine is often 50% of the cost of the boat, even sometimes more. Here at BoatBuy, we provide survey and mechanical inspections in one comprehensive report upon request. All decent surveyors will be happy to provide a sample report upon request. It is also worthwhile asking the surveyor how long it will take to produce their report. If you opt for oil samples, be aware that they can take up to 5 days for the results so it’s important to factor this into your settlement dates.

What about slipping?

Slipping or hardstanding a vessel, is the process of removing it from the water for inspection or repair. To complete a satisfactory inspection, it is normal practice for the vessel to be “slipped” for the surveyor and mechanic to check the underwater components, have the bottom of the boat cleaned off, and then the vessel put back in the water for sea trialing. Slipping is also required for a pre-purchase report to be accepted by most insurance companies, and is necessary when buying a boat. If the vessel is not slipped, the surveyor can not verify if the bottom of the boat is clean, and therefore may not be able to get a satisfactory sea trial completed.

Who pays for, and organises, the slipping?

It is normal practice for the buyer to pay for the slipping and cleaning of the hull, to complete a survey. Occasionally I will have a customer ask about antifouling the boat while it’s slipped, and this is not recommended. The reason this is not recommended is because you need to give the surveyor time to compete the inspection, the vessel needs to go back in the water for a sea trial, and the report produced. You don’t want to pay for an antifoul on a boat that you down own yet! The broker/seller can organise the slipping if they have a preferred slipway, otherwise the surveyor can liaise with slipways and put the buyer in direct contact for payment.

Can we do the slipping separate to the sea trial?

If the survey needs to be conducted over the course of more than one day, it is normal practice for the surveyor to charge additional fees to visit the boat on more than one occasion. 

Can I attend the Survey?

Yes, as a buyer it is encouraged that you attend the survey. This allows you to be available to see the process, and ask questions about areas you’re unsure about. It is a good idea to stay out of the way of the surveyor. This ensure you don’t distract them while they are inspecting important areas of the vessel. 

Should I show the seller the survey?

Generally speaking it is better to share the survey findings with the seller so that both parties can come to an agreement to move forward with the sale. When there are defects found, the buyer and seller can obtain quotes to rectify work where possible. In some circumstances the findings in the survey may require further diagnosis, and in this case it is recommend to get the seller to complete further diagnosis so you can come to an agreement that suits both parties. 

Most reputable boat brokers will strongly recommend a survey is done prior to purchase. This provides a written baseline on the condition of the boat on the day the boat was sold, which can avoid later disputes. A boat broker/seller will not typically go to the same lengths of inspection as a surveyor. Issues are more likely to be uncovered on a survey as opposed to when a seller lists a boat.

Do I need to get a survey? The seller told me the boat was in good condition.

When you purchase a boat, it is in your best interest to get it checked. A boat broker typically does not spend the same amount of time inspecting a boat as surveyor or mechanic would. Brokers rely on the survey report to form their opinion of the condition. Whilst there may be some brokers who hire shoddy surveyors, most reputable brokers understand that it’s in their best interest to hire an experienced and thorough surveyor to avoid the chances of getting sued later down the track!

What if the boat is on a trailer?

If the boat is on a trailer it is your decision whether to sea trial it or not. For boats more then 10 years old, it is strongly recommended a sea trial is completed, as you cannot verify if a vessels seaworthiness without putting it in the water and testing it out under load. Potential issues such as performance, overheating, trailer problems and leaks are more likely to be found when the vessel is water tested.

Is a Boat Survey a warranty?

Whilst a survey is a necessary and valuable step when purchasing a boat, it is not a warranty. Most survey and mechanical inspections are visual only, as it is not plausible to disassemble another persons boat. Whilst the aim of the survey is to uncover as many issues as possible, it is possible that there are hidden or latent defects that are not detected or be able to be detected in a reasonable survey. This does not mean a survey is useless. A good surveyor can detect an array of potential issues before they arise, saving you thousands before a purchase. As the nature of second hand boats are, once you purchase a boat and start using it, there will be additional items discovered.

Summary

Step 1:  Decide on a boat and negotiate the price.

Step 2:  Write up a contract of sale, including a clause stating the deposit is refundable if the survey is unsatisfactory.

Step 3: Pay the deposit.

Step 4: Book a surveyor/mechanic.

Step 5: Surveyor/broker will organise a slipway and date for the inspection to be completed.

Step 5: Review survey report and proceed with sale if the report is satisfactory. If the report is unsatisfactory, negotiate or request the seller repair desired items on report.

Step 6: Go boating!

Outboard Vs Sterndrive Trailer Boats – What’s More Reliable?

e-tec outboard

When buying a used trailer boat, you can be faced with a couple of options which may not make a lot of sense to start with. Outboard vs sterndrive – what one should you choose? What does “sterndrive” or “outboard” even mean? What are the advantages and disadvantages of them? To give a fair comparison, we need to clarify that we are specifically talking about trailer boats that permanently live on a trailer, and are only put in the water at each outing. Comparisons about reliability cannot be compared when a boat lives permanently in the water. This is because mooring a boat can be a much more taxing environment.

What is a Sterndrive?

Volvo Penta Sterndrive Package

A sterndrive is a vessel that has a propeller at the stern (back) of the boat. This is achieved by mounting the engine at the rear, and having a gearbox to transmit the power through the back and into the water. Sterndrive units typically have single or twin (duo) propellor configurations, and can be found in a number of different brands. Volvo Penta and Mercruiser are the two prominent brands in Australia.

What is an Outboard?

Yamaha 175hp Four Stroke Outboard

An outboard powered vessel is an engine that is mounted “outboard” or “outside” of the boat. Outboard motors are bolted to the transom, and hang above the water at the back of the boat. They still have a small gearbox to transmit the power to the water, and typically only have a single propellor. Although, some rare models can be found with duo propellors.

What Are The Advantages?

Outboard

Outboard powered boats have the advantage of being able to include more space inside the boat. The extra space could be for storage, seating, or other features the manufacturer includes. They typically weigh less than their sterndrive equivalent. For example, a 2019 220hp Mercruiser V6 MPI sterndrive weighs 329kg without a transmission, while a 2019 225HP Yamaha outboard weights 253kg including a transmission. This weight reduction in turn usually equates to slightly better fuel economy. The pricing is very similar new. A225hp Yamaha coming in at approximately $25,000. A Mercruiser 200HP 4.5L V6 comes in at $19,000 with an Alpha gearbox (less heavy duty), or $25,000 with a Bravo gearbox (more heavy duty). An outboard is also quicker and easier to install on a boat than a sterndrive.

Outboard engines are generally easier to work on because the access is not as limited to the bilge. There are also less moving parts than their sterndrive equivalent. This makes outboards cheaper over a longer period of time for servicing. They also have less perishing parts. For example, there are no bellows, and can be trimmed completely out of the water.

From a performance perspective, the two units are pretty close as they are both mounted in a similar position. However, you will also benefit from some slight fuel economy savings, because outboard engines are lighter. At the time of writing this, there are a handful of diesel outboard options but have not yet become popular. Sterndrives have an array of diesel options, although at a much higher price point.

Vibration and noise is generally lower with an outboard. Although, this is relative to the construction of the hull, insulation used and whether the motor runs on petrol or diesel.

Sterndrive

The advantages to a sterndrive are the vessel design and ability to offer larger horsepower options. With a lot of fishing boats, the rear deck space and access is important. For those looking to do water sport, it can be beneficial having a rear swim platform without a motor protruding in the middle. A sterndrive also opens up the design options, making it possible to have a rear sun bed.

Having an outboard can prove to be in the way, although there are plenty of excellent outboard fishing boats. Sterndrives, up until recently, used to be capable of larger horsepower output, although in the last 10 years the technology has come a long way. The largest outboard has gone from 350hp to 450hp (in Australia), with one particular model boasting 627hp, although I’ve never seen one fitted to a boat in Australia, and you probably won’t find it on a trailer boat!

Salt-Age Factor

Salt-age becomes an important factor when we compare the outboard vs sterndrive. As with both outboards and sterndrives, the age of an engine that has been used in saltwater can increase the toll it takes on its components. Not all second hand boats are guaranteed to have been flushed out after use, and this will start to show at the 5 to 10 year mark. 

Outboard motors have small water galleries and water jackets designed to cool the compact motors, which can clog up with salt. In most water jackets, there are anodes designed to decrease the effects of corrosion. Outboard motors also have thermostats and poppet valves, which means more mechanical components that can seize up.

Sterndrives usually have exhaust elbows or manifolds and risers, which can be saltwater cooled and need replacement at regular intervals defined by the manufacturers. Sterndrives also use rubber bellows which house driveline components that protect them from the saltwater, which can perish overtime and require replacement to avoid water ingress. Lastly, depending on the style of engine fitted, there can be freshwater cooling components fitted such as heat exchangers, or oil coolers and thermostats that will need servicing after periods of saltwater use.

Outboard vs Sterndrive Verdict

What’s our verdict on the outboard vs sterndrive argument? In a trailer boat environment, you can’t go wrong with either option provided that budget is not a concern. Both options offer a similar amount of reliability at the same age, provided correct maintenance protocols have been adhered to. Sterndrives cost more to maintain, but they offer more access to the rear of the boat. On the other hand, outboards are slightly cheaper to maintain. They also offer better economy due to being a lighter package, and have more space inside the boat.

Be aware, if the boat is moored permanently on the water you are faced with a different set of issues. These issues are a result of saltwater damage. Personally, I would pick a nice four stroke outboard option (Yamaha) from one of the Japanese manufacturers, unless I definitely wanted the layout that can’t be provided with an outboard or a diesel engine. This provides cheaper servicing, economy and a quiet operation while maximising space inside the boat.

Is an outboard or sterndrive cheaper to maintain?

Sterndrives incur higher maintenance costs due to more perishing parts over time and limited access for servicing.

Are sterndrives reliable?

Yes, provided correct maintenance procedures have been carried out at the required intervals. Sterndrives on trailer boat applications are more reliable than permanently moored sterndrives. Most issues arise around neglect and improper servicing, although there are a small number of faulty sterndrive models which should be avoided.

Are outboards more fuel economical?

Generally speaking the fuel savings are due to to an outboard being lighter than a comparative sterndrive counterpart, so the short answer is yes.

Low Hour Boats – Are They Really Better?

Low hour sterndrives

“Low hours” and “only X amount of hours” are common tag lines thrown around in online advertisements when selling low hour boats, usually implying that it’s a good thing.

There is always two sides to every story. Inspecting boats everyday, I get the chance to see high and low hour boats, and the condition they’re actually in. As with everything, context always plays a big part. Just to clarify – I am not talking about new boats here. Sure, a boat less than 3 years old with low hours generally will be a good sign. But lets take a look at a 10-15 year old boat with 200-300 hours.

Older Low Hour Boats

We’ve all seen the online ad that says “low hours” or “hardly used”. Hours on a boat is not the same comparison as kilometres on a car. If this was a car far from saltwater, in a garage away from the sun – you’d be onto a winner. Unfortunately, most boats live at a marina, on a mooring, or on a trailer. These environments make boats subject to long days in the sun, rain, salt and sometimes even hail.

Depending on where in the waterway the boat lives (usually closer to the outlet the more growth it will accumulate), the boat would have been growing barnacles on the bottom and being cleaned each year. For context, let’s say that the boat is a 2004 model sports cruiser, with 2x petrol/diesel engines fitted and 300 hours. You divide this number of hours by 15, and we’re averaging 20 hours use a year. This equates to 6-7 trips, between 2-3 hours each, every year. With that being said, most people will be all excited when they first buy the boat. They might do 100 or so hours in the first year, then it starts to sit. In its later years, it may be doing 15 hours or less a year.

How Does This Affect The Condition?

What does that mean in regards to the condition of the boat? Usually what I’ve found, is the boat has been so irregularly used. More often than not, the owner isn’t sure what does and doesn’t work. The mentality hits that “I’ve hardly used the boat, so I don’t need to service it”. Most manufacturers recommend an hourly schedule of maintenance OR time, for example: 100 hours or every year. The reason it’s so important to get it checked annually is because if your engine develops a small leak, or a bilge pump fails – you won’t know about it until it’s too late. The owner will probably continue to drive it for the small amount of time each year (15-20 hours) as usual, with saltwater splashing around everywhere.

The other factor to consider is the boat’s sun exposure throughout its lifetime, and all the birds/dirt/debris as well. Covers and clears will deteriorate, and if the owner has essentially forgotten about the boat, you’ll find that they’re much less inclined to reach in their pocket to pay to have it detailed or have work done to it.

A pair of “low hour” sterndrives that got forgotten about on a mooring for a few years…

Old Higher Hour Boats

From my experience, a boat with higher hours is often a little more loved and looked after. This is usually because the owner has been onboard using it. They will notice when the horn fails, the bilge pump stops working, or perhaps when the engine springs a leak. As hours on the boat increase, the owner is typically more inclined to have it serviced, detailed and anti-fouled each year. Although a boat like this might have double or triple the hours of a low hour boat – it will often be in better shape because everything has been started up, used and repaired as necessary. The saying “use it or loose it” really applies in this case.

Winding Back Hours

Is it possible to wind the hours back on a boat? Yes, definitely. Let’s uncover this in a little more detail.

For anything new, such as Volvo or MAN diesels, it is very difficult to wind back hours as it needs to be done by a dealer. I’ve seen some instances where one engine has broken down, resulting in putting a significant amount of extra hours on the second engine. The dealer then increases the hours on the broken down engine to make the hours equivalent.

For older boats there are a few different scenarios. If analogue gauges are fitted, some run the hour meter only when the ignition is turned on. This can be a misleading, as often I’ve seen people tick up 10s if not 100s of hours from accidentally leaving the key on. Depending on the motor, if there is an ECU the actual hours can be read directly. This will help you know what the hours actually are.

Another scenario is where people completely replace the gauges, or run them backwards to lower the hours. In these cases, looking at the service history with the hours noted at the service time is the only chance of verifying the correct number of hours. Because there are so many other factors to consider in a marine environment, hours are not always the best judge of condition. Examples of these other factors might include water ingress and marine age.

Are Higher Hours Always Better?

The main limiting factor regarding high hours, is: how many hours is the engine realistically good for? Much like high performance cars, some boat engines are not designed to last forever. If a boat is 10-15 years old, 200-300 hours is most likely not enough. You would want to see that number closer to 500 or more for a boat of that age. Generally speaking, 1000 hours on a petrol V8 inboard putting out 350hp or more in a large sports cruiser (think 25ft or larger) has had a hard life. You will often find share syndicates off-loading around these hours or re-powering. Petrol outboards will usually last a little longer. Some commercial operators getting 2000-3000 hours out of their four-stroke outboards, but these are usually the lower HP models.

People often compare hours on an old boat with commercial operators. However, commercial boats do their hours quickly and early in the life of the engine. This means that the engine doesn’t get a chance for seals to dry out, salt to set in and further problems to occur. Their boats don’t achieve these higher hours without obstacles along the way, but if you try and put the same amount of hours on a low hour engine later in its life, you will usually run into more problems.

Are low hours on a boat better?

This depends on the age of the vessel. If the vessel is brand new, then yes, low hours are better. If the vessel is 5 years old or more, it is usually better to have moderate to high hours, as it is more likely the boat has been serviced and maintained.

Everything You Need To Know About Buying & Selling A Boat

Riviera 5000 in travel lift

If you’re in the market for buying a boat, or if you’re selling a boat – this article is for you. Having bought and sold a couple of my own boats over the years, I’m going to go through my top spots to buy and sell boats, some tips for shortlisting the advertisements, and what works when you’re listing your boat for sale.

Where to buy or sell your boat

The 4 main websites I use when I’m looking for, or listing a boat are:

  1. BoatsOnline – www.boatsonline.com.au
  2. BoatSales – www.boatsales.com.au
  3. Gumtree – www.gumtree.com.au
  4. Facebook – www.facebook.com

BoatsOnline

This website is a little hidden gem, and the underdog to BoatSales. Often you can find exclusive listings on here, that haven’t been listed on other sites. It’s much cheaper to list on BoatsOnline. You’ll find that some sellers and brokers refuse to pay the exorbitant fees asked of BoatSales – listing exclusively with BoatsOnline. BoatsOnline provides all the same core features and an excellent platform. It allows you to search by price, location, size, make and model. You also have the ability to enable email alerts.

BoatSales

Currently the biggest online database of boats for sale, but also the most expensive to use. If your boat is more than $7500, the minimum listing cost is $95, with the most expensive ad being $420. Conversely, if you’re looking for a boat worth over $100,000 or something specific, BoatSales is the place to search. If your boat is priced competitively and is in the lower bracket, I’d suggest listing on BoatsOnline and Facebook before trying BoatSales. All the usual, features including ability to search by price, location, size, make, model and the ability to set up email alerts for new listings.

Gumtree

Gumtree should be your go-to if you’re buying a boat or selling anything under $150,000 because it’s popular and free to list. They make their money from online banner advertisements on the web page, as opposed to the users. The biggest downfall to Gumtree is that a lot of the users are “swappers”, meaning you might get offered 2 VY Commodores for your $40,000 Trophy fishing boat – even though Gumtree clearly labels listings as “For sale” or “For swap”. Like with BoatsOnline, some brokers refuse to pay for the more expensive BoatSales, and will list on Gumtree instead. It’s definitely a good option, with plenty of buyers viewing the listings.

Facebook Marketplace

Facebook

Facebook Marketplace has really taken off for selling anything and everything. It has been the most successful way for me personally selling anything used as of late. I often find myself falling for the trap – I’m scrolling through my feed when a for sale ad pops up for one of the boating groups I follow. Before I know it, I’m thinking “Wow, that actually looks like a great deal!” Before I know it, I am logging into my online banking app to see if I can scrape the funds together… and I wasn’t even looking for a boat!

If you’re in NSW you need to be in the Boats For Sale N.S.W group. It has over 58K members (and growing daily), and this is where all the action happens. The group is full of people who have “followed” a boat for sale group. This means that when a seller posts an ad, it will be published in their newsfeeds. This prompts them to see the post and contemplate the purchase, or tag someone who’s considering buying a boat.

When searching Facebook Marketplace, the default settings are to “notify” you when a new item in that category becomes available. The only downfall is there are very few high end boats listed (above $150,000) – so it’s not the place to look for larger boats. The search tool is amazing if you have a very specific boat in mind, but the filtering is not the same as the other websites where you can search by criteria as opposed to brand.

Tips For Shortlisting When Buying a Boat & Selling a Boat

1. In Person Inspections A Must

Every so often, I get customers who are so excited when they’re buying a boat they haven’t even inspected themselves. I do my best to try and convince them to have a look in person first, because it’s not uncommon for sellers to list their boat with old photos from when they bought it. It’d be nice to think everyone is honest, but the reality is people forget details when selling a boat. Everyone has different expectations, and what you might consider poor condition, someone else claims is immaculate.

2. What can I do to shortlist a boat?

View the service history

If the boat is immaculate but the seller can’t find the service history – what does this say about the rest of the boat? Even if he’s owned it for a short period, he should keep all documentation from the previous owner. It’s not uncommon on some surveys I am presented with a large folder of the history of the boat, entailing all the receipts that sometimes even date back 10 years. A boat without service history means you need to assume major maintenance is due. You should account for the cost of any major maintenance in the price unless it can be otherwise proven. It is easy to become emotionally invested when you’re buying a boat, but it is important to have an understanding of its service history before you considering putting down a deposit or proceeding with the purchase.

On the other side of the fence, if you’re a seller – always keep a log of your service history. I often come across people who “paid cash” for the service, and don’t have a receipt. As a minimum, log what was done and when.

Sometimes getting the service history doesn’t mean much to someone new to boating. As a Surveyor and Engineer my job entails checking the service history. If you’re confused, reach out in a Facebook boating group or send me an email here. I can help review the history and give recommendation to where there may be missing or incomplete history.

Ask when the photos were taken

When selling a larger boat, for example one that lives on a mooring – it’s a pain to row out and take photos specifically to sell the boat. It’s much easier to google the last time it was sold, collect the photos and re-list. In reality, the boat might look completely different – there could have been pigeons crapping all over it, the sun blazing down each day, and the salt spraying over the boat when the wind picks up. By simply asking when the photos were taken, you can ascertain if the boat looks anything like the photos.

If on a trailer, has it been anti fouled?

If the boat is on a trailer, always ask if it has been antifouled. I’ve seen numerous attempts to hide it in an advert, from painting a fresh coat of white antifoal (so it blends and is hard to tell), to taking photos high enough that it just cuts the bottom of the hull out. The only reason to antifoul a trailer boat is if it lives permanently in the water. If this is the case, the boat will often be worse for wear than a non-antifouled counterpart that lives on the street, in a garage or under a cover.

3. Deposit & Inspection

I’m not sure how many times I’ve had customers book in, and cancel because the boat sold “under” them. If you’re serious about buying a boat, it’s good practice to leave a small deposit that is refundable if the inspection comes back unsatisfactory. I know when I’ve sold my own boats, it’s first one with a deposit before I will pause the ad. If it’s a private sale and you don’t trust the seller, leave the smallest deposit possible to secure the boat. However, this approach may not work with a broker because they will usually dictate the deposit size. For larger deposit to a broker, make sure it’s paid into a trust account, and do your due diligence beforehand. Make sure you have any agreements in writing, so if anyone reneges it’s clear what was agreed on.

It is normal practice for the buyer to pay for slipping costs to inspect the bottom of the hull. Buyer’s will also need to cover any cleaning costs to assess it properly (for example, water blasting while it’s slipped). It is worthwhile getting the bottom cleaned, so a proper test run can be performed. A boat with barnacle growth on the bottom will not perform properly.

Selling a Boat – Boat Broker or List Yourself?

If you’ve got a boat worth less than $40,000, usually a broker is going to cost a considerable chunk that can sometimes outweigh the advantage. With that being said, maybe you don’t have the experience or you’re selling because you couldn’t use the boat. If that’s the case, a broker is the way to go. For anything over $40,000, and boats that live permanently in the water (meaning it’s a lot of hassle to show the boat), a broker can also be a convenience. In saying that, not all brokers are created equal. It pays to find someone who is excellent at what they do. Little things go a long way – such as staging, cleaning and photographing the boat for sale.

Being at the forefront of boats being sold, I get to see who the good and who the bad brokers are. If you ever need a recommendation, feel free to email me. I’ve seen examples when a survey has come back bad, but the brokers ability to liaise repairs or negotiation, and buyer/seller expectations has worked out well. I’ve also seen instances when a private seller hasn’t known how to take a detrimental survey report, and has lost a sale over it. When things come up in survey that are critical, it’s usually in the sellers best interest to repair them. Otherwise they will have to sell the boat at a considerable discount to account for the extra risk the buyer is taking.

Where is the best place to list a boat for sale?

The 4 best websites for listing a boat for sale in Australia are: BoatsOnline.com.au, Gumtree.com.au, Facebook.com and BoatSales.com.au.

Marine Cooling Systems – What You Need To Know About Your Boat

Volvo Penta IPS1200 Diesels

How are marine engines kept cool, and what maintenance needs to be done to the cooling systems? We’ve all lost our cool before… but when it happens at sea you can find yourself in real trouble. Unlike a car motor, boat engines use the water from below the vessel to keep cool. Most of the places people use their boats in Australia are salt-water. This means, the salt-water beneath your boat is sucked up and ran through your engine to cool it down while it’s running. 

Two Main Cooling Systems

There are two main ways engine manufacturers engineer the cooling system on a boat:

1. Raw Water Cooling Systems

This style sucks the salt-water straight out of the ocean, through a strainer (filter), and then cycles it through your engine block. Water is then usually exited through the exhaust and out the back, or below the boat.

2. Closed Loop Cooling Systems

There are a number of different ways the cooling system can be setup – closed loop half, or closed loop full. Generally this means the salt-water gets sucked up and ran through a series of heat exchangers. On one side of the heat exchanger you have salt-water, and on the other side you have “coolant”. The coolant runs through the engine, avoiding any salt-water from running through the block.

Engine Horsepower

Another consideration to make in relation to cooling systems is the higher horsepower an engine, the more heat it will produce. This means, the bigger and more efficient the cooling system needs to be. Having an unlimited supply of cool water (the ocean) is a very convenient and efficient way to cool an engine, providing there are no blockages.

How would you get a blockage? Over time as salt-water runs through the passages, it leaves a “scale” which blocks up the passage ways. The system needs to be pulled down and cleaned in acid to remove the scale. The seals would also need to be renewed.

Corrosion

Unfortunately, there are draw backs to this amazing supply of unlimited cool water. Because heat exchangers run at such hot temperatures, the metals are continually expanding and shrinking. This means surfaces don’t last forever, and o-rings and seals will need to be changed regularly.

People don’t use their boat as regularly as a car, and often skip routine maintenance “because it hasn’t been used”. This isn’t justifiable in the salt environment. Once you get a leaking o-ring, you have introduced salt-water to the exterior of your engine. Slowly but surely, it starts to corrode away anything in its path, and even damages the cooling component sealing surfaces. Meaning when you service the components, you will start to find throw-away items instead of just o-rings that require replacement. The last consideration is sacrificial anodes – if the engines aren’t getting serviced, the anodes definitely aren’t getting changed. Simply put, anodes are designed in the cooling system to corrode away (sacrificial) before any of the more expensive components.

Manifolds, Risers & Exhaust Elbows (Petrol Engines)

What about exhaust manifolds and risers? Manifolds and risers, are the term given to the water cooled exhaust components by engine manufacturers. The “exhaust manifolds” bolt on to the engine, with the “risers” fitted on top to increase the distance between the water level and where the exhaust exits. If the water level is above the exhaust level, you risk the salt-water back-tracking through the exhaust into your engine.

Exhaust manifolds and risers can last anywhere from 3-7 years, depending on whether they run coolant or salt-water through them. Once they become blocked, you cannot clean them out as they rust and corroded internally. This makes it impossible to access the areas of corrosion. The only option given from manufacturers is to replace – making them a throwaway service item.

When looking at Mercruiser branded petrol engines, another tell tale is the factory emissions sticker that is on the OEM manifolds and risers from new. If you find this sticker is still fitted and the boat is more than 5 years old – the manifolds haven’t been changed.

Mercruiser Manifold Emission Sticker
Original emission sticker on a Mercruiser manifold – a dead giveaway that its original

Exhaust Elbows (Diesel Engines)

Exhaust elbows are often found on diesel engines, where the elbow has the cooling water introduced before it exits overboard to cool the exhaust. This is another popular spot to “block up”. As such, it’s recommended that exhaust elbows are checked on a regular basis.

After-Coolers (Diesel Engines)

Ever so common on newer engines, are alloy housed after-coolers. These are usually only found on engines where a higher horsepower is obtained from a small block. The idea is, the after-cooler cools the air before it enters the intake, making it more dense enabling more air and fuel to be combusted in fewer engine cycles. The downside to after-coolers is they need servicing regularly, to avoid o-ring and housing failures. Typically, you will need to remove, inspect, clean, grease and refit the coolers to keep them running optimally every 3 years. After-coolers are renowned for leaking if left untouched, even when used lightly. Once salt has been through them, they slowly corrode away. O-rings can leak or coolers can fail, and you will be unaware until it’s too late and your engine has been filled with salt-water.

Blocked Cummins After-Cooler
Blocked Cummins After-Cooler – Photo courtesy of sbmar.com

So how do you avoid cooling system issues?

Petrol

Remove, inspect and replace cooling system components as recommended by the engine manufacturer. Usually exhaust manifolds and risers are replaced every 3-7 years, and heat exchangers are inspected every 3-5 years.

  • Keep a log of when the exhaust manifolds and risers were done
  • Keep a log of when the heat exchangers and oil coolers were done
  • Make sure that you’re on top of your anode replacement

Diesel

Remove, inspect and replace cooling system components as recommended by the engine manufacturer. Usually exhaust elbows are replaced every 3-7 years, and heat exchangers, after-coolers and oil coolers are inspected every 3-5 years.

  • Keep a log of your last salt-water service
  • Keep a log of your last exhaust elbow inspection
  • Make sure that you’re on top of your anode replacement

Anodes are replaced yearly, and usually a salt-water service is completed every 3-5 years. If the boat is kept on a trailer, always flush the motor with fresh water after a day out.

What To Look Out For?

When buying, there are a couple of tell tale signs. If there is no service history of the cooling system, and the boat is more than 5 years old –  you’re going to have to expect it hasn’t been done and will likely need to. Upon testing running a vessel, it is important the vessel is ran at full throttle for a period of time to ensure the temperatures aren’t creeping up. If the temperatures are increasing above 92 Degrees Celsius or more, you’ve likely got a cooling system blockage.

How long do manifolds and risers last?

Typically wet-joint manifolds and risers need to be checked at 3 years, and can last up to 5 years in salt-water. Dry-joint manifolds and risers last approximately 8 years, and have much less chance of water entering the engine. It is always best to remove and inspect manifolds and risers immediately if they are found to be leaking externally.

How often do I need to clean my heat exchanger?

As a general rule of thumb most manufacturers recommend every 3 years, although it’s best to look it up in your operators manual for the specific model.

Why do I need to clean my marine heat exchanger?

Depending on the type, regular maintenance needs to be completed on your marine heat exchanger to avoid fouling and galvanic corrosion from dissimilar metals.

What is a marine aftercooler?

A marine aftercooler is a type of heat exchanger designed to cool the compressed air before it enters the engine, to increase the amount of horsepower a small displacement engine can output.

How often do I need to clean my marine aftercooler?

As a general rule of thumb most manufacturers recommend every 3 years, although it’s best to look it up in your operators manual for the specific model. It is very important to service your aftercooler, as if they leak, there is potential for water to enter the engine and cause major damage.

Why do I need to clean my marine aftercooler?

Depending on the type, regular maintenance needs to be completed on your marine aftercooler to avoid fouling and galvanic corrosion from dissimilar metals. It is vital the aftercooler is serviced regularly, otherwise you risk the core leaking water internally and entering the engine.

Mercruiser Transom Assembly Replacement

Two Mercruiser Bravo transom assemblies
Mercruiser transom assembly on white background

A leaking transom assembly is a common problem found on boats over 10 years old fitted with sterndrives, living permanently in saltwater.  Many popular makes such as Sea Ray, Riviera, Sunrunner and Mustang will all likely need a transom assembly replaced or repaired at some point.

But what’s all the fuss about?

After completing the process on both boats that I’ve owned, I saw this as an opportunity to document and photograph the entire process, and share it with other boaters.

Firstly, the most common reason the assemblies need replacing is because in most cases, the steering pin seal leaks. Once it starts to leak and is left untouched, it corrodes the surfaces where the seal sits. This means that installing a new seal won’t work because it won’t seal. The seal is located approximately where the arrow sits in the photo below. However, it can only be accessed internally when the engine is removed, without modification. It is possible to cut holes and install bungs, but in my case, the assembly was too heavily corroded.

Mercruiser Transom Assembly and Sterndrive exterior
Location of steering pin externally
Mercruiser steering pin leaking
Aftermath of leaking steering pin internally (engine removed)

When repairing my boat, unfortunately on the port side, the steering pin had been leaking for so long it had corroded a hole the entire way through the transom housing! If the water line had dropped an inch or so, the boat would be constantly taking on water and likely sink.

Corrosion Hole in Mercruiser Transom
Corrosion hole in Mercruiser transom

So what’s the process of replacement?

Day 1

The first day was spent slipping the boat, then removing the hatch. Once that was out of the way, I had access to disconnect the engines. Before disconnecting the engines, I removed both sterndrives. Upon removing the port side I found a shell blocking the water intake, which was the answer to an overheating problem I was also looking for. This is pretty common to find when a sterndrive boat hasn’t been slipped and legs split in over 12 months.

Blocked Mercruiser water intake
Blocked water intake
Sunrunner 3300 hatch removed
Hatch removed for access to engines

Now I was ready to disconnect the engines. This involves removing all the mounting bolts (2 per side and 2 at the rear), fuel connection, electrical harness, throttle, shift, trim and mercathode wires, power steering lines, exhaust droppers and rubbers, water inlet to sea pump, positive supply to starter, ground wires on belhousing and leg overflow lines on both engines. Sure enough, by early afternoon I was ready to crane the engines out.

Sunrunner engine removed
Starboard engine removed with exhaust horn detached
Two Mercruiser V6 engines on hard stand
Both engines removed and on the hard stand

I moved onto removing each transom assembly, getting the starboard side out but the port needed a little more persuasion. It was getting late, so I decided to call it a day and come back fresh in the morning.

Day 2

First up was removing the port transom assembly, which was the side with a hole in it. A large sledgehammer and about 20 minutes of banging – and sure enough out it came. The transom timbers were in good shape with no signs of rot, so there were no repairs required. Knowing the transoms had been leaking for such a long time, I anticipated that the exhaust horns would need replacing, and sourced two new (second hand) horns before organising the job. Lucky – because the old ones were heavily corroded.

Mercruiser bullhorn corrosion
Corrosion to bullhorn sealing surface

A few hours of scrubbing and vacuuming the water out, and sure enough the bilge was now clean. I then spent the rest of Day 2 fitting the new transom assemblies, exhaust horns and changing the exhaust manifolds and risers on the port motor.

Sunrunner 3300 bilge clean and new transom assemblies installed
Bilge clean and new transom assemblies installed

Day 3

The pressure is on – the boat was due to go back in the water in the afternoon and engines were still on the hardstand. The morning was spent tidying up the engines, getting them ready to be refitted. New thermostat and gasket was fitted on the starboard motor, then I cleaned as much corrosion as possible, and painted the motors. The port side exhaust manifold elbow also cracked, so a new one was sourced and fitted. By about 11am, the engines were getting craned back in. Fast-forward to 2pm, they were all bolted down and alignment done, ready for the sterndrives to be fitted. Once the sterndrives were fitted, the Marina was notified that we were ready to float. By about 4pm, the slings were being connected, and we were floating at 5:30pm.

Two Mercruiser V6 MPI motors fitted to Sunrunner 3300
Engines refitted

 A few leaks from the exhaust droppers were found, but an adjustment of the rubbers and a few new hose clamps and 30 minutes later it was ready to drive. I parked the boat at the marina overnight while all minor adjustments were made (leaks, shift cables etc.).

Day 4

The fourth and final day consisted of cleaning the now extremely dirty rear deck, and refitting all seating and upholstery. After this, a test run was done, finding a few more small leaks (more hose clamps needed replacement), top up of oils and we were good to go!

So there you have it – that was my 4 days of replacing a pair of Mercruiser transom assemblies. I will also note I inspected the boat before taking on this job, to ensure engine compressions were okay and fit to reuse, as the job wouldn’t be viable if there was more engine work to do.

Feel free to contact me with any questions you might have. I no longer offer mechanical repairs, but am happy to chat all things boating and repairs if you need help or a second opinion. You can reach me at aaron@boatbuy.com.au or call on 02 9188 5182.

How long do Mercruiser transom assemblies last?

This depends on the usage, if installed on a moored boat that lives permanently in the water, and the waterline is close to or above to steering seal, it’s not uncommon to get 10-15 years before replacement is required. If the waterline is lower than the seal, it’s possible to get even longer.

Can you repair a transom assembly?

Yes, while it is possible to repair, it will depend on how long it has been leaking for. In some cases the engine will need to be removed to assess first, and if it has been leaking for a long period there can be other items that need replacement too, for example the exhaust droppers.

Do Volvo transom assemblies leak?

Yes, it is possible for Volvo transom assemblies to leak in a similar manner. Volvo uses a different seal setup, has a number of different transom assembly designs, and as a result are less prone to leaking than a Mercruiser.


Sterndrive Vs Shaft – Are You Throwing Your Money Away?

two shaft drive propellors

You’ve heard the sterndrive horror stories… thousands spent on repairing transoms and other components – but how does something like this happen?

First, if you need clarification of what a sterndrive or shaft-drive is, check out one of our first articles here.

When you’re looking at a 30-35ft boat in the $80-120k price bracket, you’re likely going to run into a lot of sterndrive petrol packages. But what does that even mean? Usually they tick all the boxes, having an immaculate interior, generator, and sometimes they’ll even have air-conditioning. So, what’s the downfall?

Sterndrives

With any sterndrive, there are a number of additional parts that live in the water such as bellows, universal joints, steering rods, bushes, transom assemblies and trim rams – which a shaft-drive vessel doesn’t have to worry about. Surely, you’d think that would mean they cost more, but not necessarily. A sterndrive is mass produced and very popular, meaning they cost less initially. There are going to be some trade-offs in the long term, such as maintenance as they will need to be anti-fouled, and the cleaned internally for barnacle growth. It’s also common to expect between 10-15 years out of a well-used sterndrive and transom assembly, and then it’s a matter of continual repairs or replacing it once and for all.

Sterndrives are a faster and more efficient design, as they are mounted to the rear and produce less drag. They use less fuel than a shaft-drive, and can be trimmed up in shallow waters, allowing you to beach your boat. The trim can also be adjusted whilst running to help with the correct bow angle you desire for certain conditions.

Shaft-drives

So, what about shaft-drives? Are they all bliss? To a certain degree, shaft-drives are a lot less maintenance. Now, this isn’t to say that a 15 year old shaft-drive boat wont need any maintenance – there are still numerous parts such as skeg bearings, rudders, bonding straps and seals that wear-out and need to be replaced. The distinct advantage is that they’re cheaper and more readily available, having a longer running life.

But what does it cost to swap one of these transom assemblies out?

Cost Comparison

Let’s do a comparison using a 15 year old 32ft boat as an example. One boat is a shaft or V-drive, and the other is a twin sterndrive. Both boats have 500 hours, and for arguments-sake need some maintenance. From our experience, we will consider the differences in maintenance considerations at 10-15 years for both shaft-drive and sterndrive. 

 Shaft DriveStern Drive

Parts

Shaft Bellows & Seals 

 

$500-700 per side (x2)

Transom Assembly 

 

$5,000-6,500 per side (x2)

Parts

PSS Rudder Seals 

 

$500-700 (x2)

Sterndrive & Transom Package

 

$12,500-15,000 per side (x2) 

Parts

Skeg bearings $200-400 per side (x2)$7,000-9,000 for a new sterndrive

Parts

Bonding straps $200-300 

Services

Balance props & rudders $2,000-3,000 for both sides 

Total Labour

Best case: 21 Hours $2,200

 

Worst case: 30 Hours $3,300 Labour calculated at $110 per hour

Best case: 27 Hours $2,970

 

Worst case: 40 Hours $4,400

Labour calculated at $110 per hour

Total Cost

Best case: $6,690

 

Worst case: $10,200

Best case: $12,970

 

Worst case: $27,970

Worst case with new sterndrives: $34,400

Figure 1 – Estimated costs of repairs

As you can see, the cost of repairing a sterndrive is predominately parts, but it also includes more labour, because every time you work on the transom the motor needs to be removed. Every boat will be different, and that’s why the labour amount will change. All of these costs are NOT incorporating any engine work, slipping costs and days on the slipway, which can add up significantly as well. These costs will vary depending on the boat design, as some vessels may require floors and seating to be removed to gain access. It will be cheaper to get all the work done at the same time, as opposed to bit-by-bit as you will have to pay for slipping each time.

On the other side of the argument, a shaft-drive boat will usually attract a higher price, but not always. A new Sea Ray in V-Drive is $17,000 as an additional option when new. Sometimes a price of $20-40k more is asked, but this may also include a diesel. It’s near impossible to find a shaft-drive boat in the 22-28ft range and they’re usually less manoeuvrable with one engine. Owning a single sterndrive can be much more acceptable cost-wise compared to a twin sterndrive, but it will still cost more than an equivalent shaft-drive. 

Allowing all the engines to be mounted to the stern does have it’s design, speed and economical advantages – but they really hurt when it comes to second hand maintenance costs. Ultimately if sterndrives were not invented we would have far fewer vessel designs.

Still unsure? 

If you’d like to learn about the differences between sterndrive and shaft-drive powered vessels, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We can talk you through the buying process, and also give you some tips and tricks on what to look out for on initial inspections. Once you’re ready to make a purchase, we can provide a comprehensive survey and mechanical inspection. You can call us on 02 9188 5182 or shoot us an email at aaron@boatbuy.com.au. 

Is shaft drive better than sterndrive?

Shaft and rudder

As a comparison, shaft drive is cheaper to maintain over a long period of time when compared to sterndrives of a similar age in salt-water. As a trade off, shaft drives are less efficient and sterndrives provide more fuel efficiency and higher top speeds when installed in planing hulls.

Are sterndrives expensive to maintain?

Low hour sterndrives

As a general rule of thumb, sterndrives that are moored in salt-water are the most expensive propulsion type to maintain when compared to shaft drives and outboards. This is due to the additional moving parts, limited access and regular cleaning and maintenance required.

Aluminium Boats vs Fibreglass Boats

Bar Crusher 760

If you’re in the market for a boat – you’re most likely looking at a either fibreglass boats or aluminium boats – but what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

Fibreglass Boats

The invention of fibreglass, also known as GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic), dates back to the 1940s. Like the name suggests, fibreglass is made up of glass fibre strands usually laid in a mould, embedded with a resin matrix. Once set, GRP makes a lightweight, strong and robust material that is easily mouldable into virtually any shape.

But hang on – my shiny white boat doesn’t look like a mix of glass strands mixed in plastic? That’s because most boats are generally laid up with a “gelcoat”, which is a material used to provide a high quality finish on the visible surfaces. If you look below the gunnels you will often see the matting and resin in its raw state. Gelcoat is typically laid between 0.5mm to 0.8mm thick – this is what you’re removing to surface a new layer when the boat is polished.

Let’s cut to the chase – what are the advantages of fibreglass? Depending on the thickness of the layup and design, a fibreglass boat tends to have a softer and quieter ride than an equivalent alloy boat. Fibreglass can be moulded into any shape you can think of – where an alloy hull is constrained to how you can bend and weld the metal. 

Another advantage of fibreglass is that it’s not prone to corrosion. Yes, you can have similar crippling affects such as water ingress, osmosis and delamination, but a fibreglass hull will never suffer from electrolysis.

What are the downsides to fibreglass?

On the flip-side, although gel coat has a high UV resistance, when constantly exposed it will begin to fade and become porous – this means that you will need to keep up with maintenance such as polishing and waxing, otherwise dirt will stain the exterior of your boat and become hard to remove, along with the fading. As well as regular polishing, one of the downfalls of fibreglass designed boats are that they usually have a centre core, typically balsa or foam, to improve strength – meaning that if any water enters the centre core, it will tend to rot from the inside out. While there are plenty of ways to avoid this, for example sealing anything screwed through the fibreglass, when buying a second hand boat it can be hard to know if the previous owner has done so. The most common areas to check on a fibreglass boat are the transom and stringers, which if soft, will need to be cut out and replaced which is quite an extensive job.

Aluminium Boats

The first trace of aluminium boats date back to 1920s, although they didn’t really take off until the 1960s with brands like de Havilland and Quintrex. Physically very similar to steel, aluminium weights approximately a third of steel – making it an ultra-lightweight option. On top of being lighter, alloy is highly corrosion resistant when compared to steel, but not to the extent of fibreglass. Because techniques for moulding steel aren’t feasible in the boat building industry – aluminium boats need to be cut and welded.

So what sort of advantages can you expect with alloy? Aluminium boats are usually lighter than fibreglass, meaning you will get better fuel economy and can fit smaller horsepower engines on similar length boats. This also extends to the trailer you need for your boat – meaning you can have a bigger boat with a single axle trailer because it’s lighter, and also have a less powerful tow car. Alloy is much harder to gouge, and whilst it is quite common to find a fibreglass boat has gouges out of the gelcoat where the owner has missed the trailer, on an alloy boat this will be less evident. Sure, if you hit hard enough you will likely dent the alloy.

What are the downsides to alloy?

Firstly, the top half of an alloy boat is usually painted, otherwise it will have a raw and rugged look. Some people feel the look of an alloy boat is less appealing, although today manufacturers have done a great job of making them look as good, or if not better. The fact that they’re painted also means if you pull up along side a wharf and scratch the paint, you’re not going to have the option to buff it out.

Secondly, they also tend to suffer from paint peeling over a period of time when exposed to salt water if not washed properly. Where as with a fibreglass boat you can buff a new layer back – the only option for a painted boat is to respray it or touch it up. Lastly, alloy boats can fall victim to electrolysis. Electrolysis is essentially when your alloy surfaces are decomposed if electricity is passed through. This can only happen when the ions are free to move (for example, when submerged in water). A common example of this happening is when a sinker or fishing hook drops between the cracks of the deck and into the bilge, and is submerged in saltwater as it rolls up the back. It won’t happen over night, but over the course of a few years you’ll likely find electrolysis. This can be avoided by being carful with fishing gear, and for moored boats – installing the correct anodes with adequate bonding systems. Many of the manufacturers are now designing aluminium boats with sealed decks and plastic bilges to ensure no metal objects can make their way to the bottom.

What about Plate Aluminium Boats?

Plate alloy (or Plate Aluminium), usually referred to any alloy that’s 4mm thick and up – is popular in the boating and fishing world at the moment. By using a thicker alloy, it can be designed with fewer support ribs, and usually is a more robust grade of alloy. The downfall is that it cannot be pressed so it will limit design of ribs and other hull characteristics, but because it is thicker and heavier usually presents a softer ride closer to that of fibreglass. There are many popular Australian boat brands emerging such as Bar Crusher, which provide a high quality finish with the thicker plate-alloy material used. 

What Material Makes a Better Boat – Aluminium or Fibreglass?

Truth be told, there really is no “better” material, although people will have their own personal preferences. Fibreglass is more common for boats that live permanently in the water, but an adequately maintained aluminium boat can be just as good – and charter operators often choose aluminium because of the fuel savings with day to day use. Aluminium trailer boats are becoming more popular than fibreglass, with bigger and better alloy offshore boats being sold. The maintenance and lifespan of both needs to be taken into consideration when purchasing, and factors that the purchaser may deem important, like ride quality if there’s a lot of offshore work.

Are alloy of fibreglass boats better?

Truth be told, both have their advantages and disadvantages. Alloy is lighter, but cannot be manipulated to form the same shapes and hull designs as fibreglass. Both require specific maintenance, and it really comes down to the individuals desired use.

9 Reasons You Can’t Sell Your Boat

Boat at Marina in berth

Have you ever wondered what is going to come back in the survey when you go to sell your boat? Seemingly you’ve spent thousands on the boat, but was it on the clear covers or the mechanical components?

Over the past few years I’ve hundreds of hull and engine surveys. With experience, you start to see a trend of common problems found. Because a fair amount of the vessels being inspected are between 10-20 years old, a lot of the issues are the same. I’ve written this article with bigger boats in mind – over 30 foot and shaft driven with diesel engines, although some points are relevant to all boats.

1. Sea Cocks
When left untouched, these will cause you trouble. Sea cocks are valves fitted on the inside of a vessel skin fitting, and are used to stop the flow of water. Because of the salt water environment and barnacle growth, they can become stuck. Now this doesn’t present a risk immediately, but if you have a hose blow you may want to turn it off real quick. Operating them every few months is usually enough to keep them serviceable – but if left for years at a time they can seize and then snap off when attempted to be operated.

2. Shaft Seals
Shaft seals that are original with the age of the boat have a tendency to leak only when under load. So this means unless you’re getting down into your engine room while the boat is underway, you may never know they’re leaking – and better yet, spraying salt water around your engine room. Depending on the make and model they’re often water cooled, and the cooling fittings need to be checked to be sure they haven’t become brittle or corroded. If one of the shaft cooling fittings snaps and goes unnoticed on a trip, you risk overheating your seal and essentially blowing your bellows and seal to bits – leaving no barrier between the ocean and the inside of your boat.

3. Salt-Water Cooling System Service
Saltwater service, meaning anything related to cooling the engine, is often overlooked and found as an issue on many surveys. Things such as the after coolers, heat exchangers, and oil coolers all need removal and inspection at certain intervals (as advised by the manufacturer). This ranges from 2-5 years, and majority of owners aren’t aware of this. To avoid disappointment, I suggest every buyer budget for this NOT being completed in their offer, as giving up a deal for 10k worth of service work, only to find the next boat needs the same work, is a waste of time. Some owners claim the manufacturers recommendations are excessive, but as a bare minimum you want to know when it was done in your ownership and then you can decide if the risk of not doing it is worth it.

4. Bilge Pumps and Float Switches
Electric bilge pumps that are nearing 10-20 years old are starting to wear, and often become intermittent. Maybe there is a dirt build up, or maybe they work one day and not the next. Often they’re found not secured, or even worse, not connected. Sometimes they appear to be working but the impeller is snapped. For the few hundred it’s worth, it can be a boat-saver paying to have them replaced.

5. Sea Pumps
Classified as part of the cooling system service – it is very common going to a boat finding it riddled with leaks, the main contender being the sea water pump. For the 5 minutes it takes to check – it’s well worth getting down into the engine bay before you decide to sell your boat.

6. Hydraulic Steering Cylinders
After 10 years of hydraulic pressure behind the seals, it’s relatively normal to find air in the steering system. Most people jump to the conclusion that it just needs to be bled, but the truth is it will often need a new seals or a steering cylinder replaced to stop a continued leak.

7. Ice-Maker / Fridge
If you’ve got over 10 years out of your ice maker, you’re doing well. Often the arms inside the component get stuck, or it stops cooling. They take a few hours to drop a cube, so even if it’s getting cold its easy to believe it works, and then find out leaving it on overnight still hasn’t produced any ice.

8. Low Water Pressure
Nothing worse then a shower with low water pressure! By year 10 its not uncommon to find a leak has developed somewhere in the system, a damaged mixer, or a snapped fitting. It is less common to find the water pump has failed, but it does happen. Before you jump to a conclusion – check if there is any water in the tank. Sometimes a tap gets left on somewhere out of sight (think transom shower), and it drains the entire contents of the tank. If this is the case, you will likely hear your pump continually cycling trying to draw water to bring the system up to pressure.

9. Worn Cutlass Bearing
Below the water line, your propellor is supported by a cutlass bearing. If, at any stage your engine is out of alignment with the propellor, you will wear through this bearing ever so quickly. The cutlass bearing can be checked when the vessel is out of the water by moving the propellor shaft around by hand and inspecting for play. The propellor shaft and bearing should be a snug fit.

IPS vs Shaft: The Truth About Pod Drives

Riviera 45 flybridge

We’ve all heard the horror stories – but how bad, or good, can they be? Pod drives, such as Zeus or Volvo IPS (Inboard Propulsion System) are all so popular in Australia. The first Australian manufacturer that comes to mind is Riviera who have been fitting twin and triple set-ups.

POD drive is a system where the gearbox and drive is mounted beneath the boat in the water. They steer on a large axis, and when mounted in twin and triple set-ups can be used with a joystick for ease of parking. Much like a sterndrive, the exhaust and water inlet is incorporated with the drive. They are mounted in a manner that allows them to increase fuel efficiency, and reduce drag.

There are two main brands in the market – Volvo IPS and MerCruiser Zeus. There are some distinct differences – such as:

Now on the other hand, shaft drive is traditionally a shaft with a propeller, and a rudder mounted behind for steering. You must understand the principles of driving a shaft, before operating as there usually isn’t a joystick (although manufacturers are starting to combine bow & stern thrusters with a joystick set-up). While a shaft drive will usually have lower fuel efficiency over a pod, the maintenance is decreased because there are less moving parts, and less metal parts mounted underwater. Typically pod drive oil is expensive and needs to be changed regularly. Seals in the gearbox stopping water from entering can wear out, and a close eye needs to be kept on the gearbox at each service interval to ensure they stay water free. Because they’re made of metal, each pod requires special anodes designed to sacrifice first – protecting your pod from eroding away.

The last thing that needs to be considered is availability of parts and technicians to work on them. If you’re going to be planning some serious offshore trips, and extended trips to remote locations – pods are not for you.
If you’re happy to just cruise around the local waterways and the odd week or weekend away – a pod drive is great.

What to look for when buying an IPS or Zeus pod?

Pre 2009 IPS drives were fitted with certain parts that are now superseded, one being a bronze steering seal. When used in salt water they were prone to failing sooner than expected. Although Volvo never actually did a recall, they are now fitting a stainless steel version. To replace the ring is a labour intensive job, including the removal of the drive and top box – the cost of the part itself is around $1000. It is generally a good idea to get the seals replaced, or keep a very close eye on water levels, for any Pod that is over 5 years old. If water starts to get in it will then cause damage to the clutch plates in the gearbox, which becomes a spiralling effect and before you know it you’ve spent 15K rebuilding a single gearbox.

Stainless Steel Seal-Runner Fitted to IPS Pod Drive

How will I know there is water in my gearbox?

Fortunately we’re no longer in the Stone Age – we can use oil sampling to check for water mixed with oil. Anyone buying a pod that is out of warranty should really consider getting a sample taken for testing to see where the seals are at. If you already own the boat you can monitor it at each service, or more regularly if you’re concerned.

What to look for when buying shafts?

Fortunately shafts have been around for a long time, and there are more mechanics competent at checking them. The 4 main things to look for when buying a shaft is checking its condition (straight etc.), the skeg bearing, the alignment, and the propellor. Generally speaking the worst case repair for a shaft and propellor would be closer to the vicinity of $2000-5000 for a moderate sized boat (model specific) whereas a POD you’re looking at upward of $20000 just for the drive.

So, whats best?

It really comes down to the purchaser, and how they’re planning to use the boat. For lots of offshore work and driving to remote locations – shaft all the way. For really big boats (60ft plus) – shafts again. For anything in between, river and inshore cruising, and lots of parking in Marinas – Pods are a great option. One other advantage of pods is that the cabin set-up can be completely different, as the engines don’t have to be mounted right in the middle of the boat. Be aware of the additional cost from the beginning – don’t expect it to be cheap! Technology costs money, and you’re going to pay for it with pods if you keep the boat long-term.

Just remember – if you ask someone who has owned a shaft their whole life and never an IPS they probably aren’t going to be a fan of the IPS, and there will be mixed emotions from those who have owned them and couldn’t afford to maintain them.

Are IPS drives reliable?

While there is always going to be horror stories, IPS drives when regularly maintained are reliable. Many of the issues around pod drives relate to lack of use, lack of servicing and underwater impacts.

What types of pod drives are available?

While there are more than two brands, the most popular ones in Australia are Volvo Penta IPS, and Zeus Pods.

What is a pod drive?

Pod drive is a marine propulsion system where the gearbox and drive is mounted right beneath the boat in the water. They steer on a large axis, and when mounted in twin and triple set-ups can be used with a joystick for ease of parking. Much like a sterndrive, the exhaust and water inlet is incorporated with the drive and they are mounted in a manner that allows them to increase fuel efficiency, and reduce drag.

Top 9 Easily Avoidable Boating Breakdowns

boat broken down being towed

Throughout the years of inspecting and repairing boats, I’ve noticed a trend of common breakdowns and issues that could’ve been avoided with proper preventative maintenance, and some basic inspection before boating.

#1 Wheel Bearings

Worn Boat Wheel Bearings

You’ve all seen the trailers parked on the side of the M1 heading up the coast come holiday time. This is a holiday nightmare. Consider this – you’ve got the whole family in the car and a holiday destination booked. You’ve just battled through peak holiday traffic and you’re busting to get there and relax. Finally, the traffic finally eases and you’re doing 110km/hr, when smoke starts bellowing out of your trailer wheels. You pull over, and realise the bearings are cooked. Now you’ve got to either:

  1. Repair them yourself,
  2. Leave the boat where it is and come back, or
  3. Order a tow truck.

Depending on the size of the boat – this can be one of the biggest hassles known to man. You’re now going to miss a night of holidays, or get there a lot later than planned.

How can this be avoided?

A simple inspection of each wheel bearing should be carried out before a long trip. Often, repair shops forget unless you mention you’re going away – so don’t be shy to let your repairer know at your next service.

Take a look behind your wheels and bearing caps – if they look like a ball of rust, you need to revaluate your trip!

#2 Flat Batteries 

Everyone has done it before – packed the boat up and forgot to switch the isolator off, left the shore power lead out, or left the depth sounder on. If your boat lives on a mooring it can be worthwhile getting a decent solar system fitted, one that has provisions to trickle charge each battery individually so you keep all the batteries in top shape.

Basic battery maintenance includes cleaning the terminals, ensuring the water levels are topped up to the correct level and charging if left unattended for 3-6 months at a time.

Boat batteries can often be in awkward spots to change, so ensuring they’re kept charged is much easier than replacing or jump starting every outing.

#3 Bellows Failure

Bellows

Bellows are a hidden part, that as an owner you will unlikely see – unless the boat is out of the water and you go looking. They are designed to keep the water out whilst also being flexible as the drive unit moves around.

Each year when your boat is serviced ask for the bellows to be inspected. If there is any doubt of the condition, it’s best to replace them. Keep tabs on when they were changed as over time the rubber becomes hard, which will eventually lead to a tear or failure. Where possible, always keep the drive trimmed down when not underway, as the bellows will not be constantly stretched and will result in a longer lifespan. Damaged bellows that go unnoticed almost always convert to a sunken boat.

#4 Alternator Failure

Every modern boat has a voltmeter fitted to the dash, and this will show you if your alternator is charging. A voltmeter takes a reading of battery voltage – so you know when they are being charged. With the engine off (with your ignition switch on), your battery voltage will be anywhere from 11.5v to 12.8v. With the engine running and alternator charging it should be 13v or higher. If your alternator is not charging your trip will be limited to how much battery is stored, and once it runs out your engine will likely stop running – this is because modern engine electronics require power to run, telling the engine when to fire, how much fuel to inject and even what position the throttle is in.

Please note: On larger diesel-powered boats – you may come across a 24v system. In this case, the numbers are double – you will have between 23v and 25.6v with the engines off, and 25.6v and 28v with the engines running.

#5 No Steering

Depending on the steering type, the most common failures are either no steering, or seized steering.

Hydraulic steering has rubber seals to stop the oil from escaping, and with age they deteriorate. Before a big trip it’s a good idea to pop the fill cap at the helm to see if the fluid is low. If the fluid is low, this means it’s escaped in the system somewhere and there is likely a leak. The two most common places to find a leak would be at the steering ram and behind the helm/s.

If you find your steering is seized – it is more likely you have a mechanical type. The steering arm at the back mounted through your outboard – and this can build up with dried up salt. Most manufacturers install a grease nipple which needs to be greased every service –  and ensuring you hose down the rear of the outboard after each trip will help prolong the life.

#6 Leaking Sea Pump

A leaking sea pump, while it won’t stop you from operating the engine (most of the time), can cause havoc in your engine room.

Every brand of inboard engine will have a water pump, which is designed to circulate sea water around the engine to cool it. They have seals which can wear out over time and leak water. Depending on where the pump is situated on the engine, sometimes it can circulate down onto the pulleys and get sprayed around the engine room – corroding the front of the engine and alternator. Pictured above is a typical scenario where there is a stain below the engine due to water being sprayed around in the bilge. Getting a leak fixed as soon as it happens should be treated with urgency and is important step in avoiding problems. When left too long it will cause the inevitable – a break down, usually in the form of a dead alternator or faulty sensor.

#7 Tight To Shift Gears

Over time, cables originally fitted will wear out and become stiff or stretched. If left unattended to, they eventually break – then you’ve lost control of your engine. If it happens at the wrong time it can be the difference between parking safely and crashing into another boat. Imagine you’re reversing into your berth and you go to put it into forward, but the cable has snapped, leaving it stuck in reverse. You’re now heading towards the berth (or other boats) with no means of stopping the momentum.

Best way to avoid this happening to you? Inspect the cables visually for any obvious exterior damage – but usually you won’t be able to see much and a better indication is feel. If the cable is beginning to get tight or miss gears – don’t wait for it to snap – get it replaced!

#8 Overheating

We’ve all heard that dreaded engine alarm once in our boating life. You’re headed to your favourite spot at full throttle, and the alarm starts squealing. A quick check of the dash confirms the temperature light is on. The best ways to avoid an overheat are:

  • Replace your manifolds and risers at the correct service intervals
  • Replace your impellers at the correct service intervals
  • Cleaning your closed loop cooling system at the correct intervals (heat exchangers/aftercoolers/wet exhaust elbows etc. approx. every 5 years)
  • Regularly flushing your engine if stored out of the water
  • Inspect your thermostat. Your mechanic can check it with a few bolts and a gasket(most cases). The thermostat will open when dropped into a bucket of boiling water – confirming it is still good.

Seems like a lot to check? It’s definitely better than breaking down in bad weather.

 #9 Contaminated Fuel

You only use your boat a few times a year, but can you remember when fuel was last put in? Having fresh fuel at the correct octane, clean, and water free is one of the best ways to avoid getting stuck. The diesel fuel filter pictured below is full of dirt with a portion of water – which can be drained from the screw down the bottom. Not all fuel filter have this feature, but if you get the option for a sight glass it’s a good idea.

Some boat manufacturers even go one step further and install a sensor that alerts you on the dash if the fuel has water mixed together.

Regularly changing your fuel filters and getting rid of old, stale fuel is vital step for trouble free boating.

Buying A Boat: What Is The Process In NSW?

Empire Marina Bobbin Head

So you’ve decided on the boat you want to buy, but where to from here? What paperwork do you need? Typically the process works as follows, although some people will do certain parts differently. This only applies for a boat bought and registered in NSW.

Are you insuring the boat?

Before organising an inspection, you need to consider which insurance company you will be using and confirm their requirements. Depending on the insurer, some require an out of water Marine Survey if the boat is over 5-10 years old. If you have this information first, you can then get the required inspections done together and save time and money.

Book an inspection

If you have any concerns about the condition of the boat, or want to put your mind at ease – it’s a good idea to book in an inspection with a Marine Engineer.

Deposit

Putting money down will secure the sale of a boat if you’re leaning towards buying it (even before you’ve done any of the above steps). If no deposit is left and no agreement made, the seller can sell the boat to whoever produces the cash first. When drafting the receipt, it should be clear and include:

  1. Date
  2. Seller and purchaser’s full name and address
  3. Deposit amount
  4. Final purchase amount
  5. Location
  6. Signatures
  7. Agreed terms

What paper work is required when buying a boat?

The last check worth doing is a PPSR (Personal Property Securities Register). This is a government website allowing you to find out if the boat has any financial interests registered (finance owning). The PPSR check is best done just before the sale, because if done earlier a new interest could have been registered. They can be done online for boats here, or by calling 1300 007 777.

Make sure you check the registration papers and actual serial numbers/HIN (Hull Identification Number) match – your receipt will be invalid if the details do not match the boat you have purchased. You will also need to ensure the registration is current.

Manufacturers HIN – usually found near the transom
Boatcode HIN – usually found on older boats that don’t have a manufacturers engraving

You will need to take your licence on the day of handover, as the seller will need licence numbers on the paperwork for the notice of disposal. Make sure the papers are in the same name as the person selling you the boat, unless a broker is involved.

The final 3 piece of paperwork you should have are:

  1. Vessel registration papers filled out and signed. The seller takes the notice of disposal and you take the remaining half.
  2. Trailer registration papers filled out and signed. The seller takes the notice of disposal and you take the remaining half.
  3. Receipt with all the relevant information signed by both the seller and purchaser.

How to transfer your boats registration?

Once you’ve bought a used boat, you have 14 days from the date of purchase to transfer the registration into your name. Failure to do so in NSW will cost you in the form of a fine.

Provided the boat was bought in NSW and you have the current registration papers, you won’t need to get a HIN/Boat Code inspection. If the boat is bought interstate, you will need to book in a boat code inspection with an authorised agent from this list on the RMS website. They will inspect the HIN/Boat Code to ensure it hasn’t been tampered with, and the boat hasn’t been stolen.

You’re now ready to attend your local Service NSW, or alternatively you can mail in your transfer paperwork.

You will need to:

  1. Fill out an Application for Transfer of Vessel Registration for the boat and Application for Transfer of Registration for the trailer which can be done at Service NSW.
  2. Provide photo ID
  3. Ensure all the sections on the registration papers are filled out

They will then charge you the transfer fee ($31), and provide you with new registration papers in your name. If the boat comes with a trailer, that will need to be transferred into your name too, and you’ll need to repeat the process above.

How do I transfer boat registration?

Service NSW and Maritime logos

In NSW you will require signed registration papers, which you will need to take to your local Service NSW. You will need to fill out an Application for Transfer of Vessel Registration, along with paying a fee and providing identification.

8 Berthing Tips That Work Every Time

Roseville Chase Marina

1. Check the wind direction and speed

Knowing exactly where the wind is blowing will have a big impact on the path you choose to park your boat. If you’re being blown onto another boat, you will need to drive into the wind, whereas if the wind is blowing you away from other boats you can get away with closer distances and you will have more time to tie the ropes.

2. Learn to tie up

Knowing how to get a line secured onto a cleat before you practice berthing is essential– otherwise you will be practicing parking and ropes, all at the same time.

3. Prepare and tie ropes beforehand

Having a bow, stern, and fenders tied on ready to goes a long way when getting into tricky berths. If your bow has blown too far out but you have a rope on the stern, you can put your engine(s) in forward and it will slowly bring it around.

4. Turn your bow thruster on before

Most thrusters take a few seconds to turn on, and some even have other switches that aren’t in reach at the helm. Once turned on, some brands will timeout and automatically switch off after a period of 2-5 minutes.

5. Know your style of boat

I find a lot of people jump onto YouTube, watch a few videos of people driving into a berth but can’t get the same techniques to work for them. It’s essential to know if you have a stern drive or inboard, and what equipment is available (bow thrusters, stern thrusters etc.) to decide how to park your boat. For example, driving a boat with rudders will be completely different to a stern drive, because the steering is connected to the stern drive, whereas the rudder requires forward or reverse momentum to make steering adjustments.

Mercruiser Alpha 1 Sterndrive trimmed in the up position

6. Trim your sterndrive leg down

This only applies to stern drives and outboards, but it’s vital that your boat isn’t trimmed up aggressively as you will have less “bite” on the water, and
gear changes will have little to no effect.

7. Ask for help

If it’s your first time berthing, don’t expect to get it straight away. Driving a boat is foreign to everybody at some stage, and rather then coming crashing into the berth, ask somebody for some help. Driving a boat is completely different to a car, and even taking some lessons can be a good idea.

8. Park forwards

Sometimes, parking in your berth forwards is safer than reversing in with heavy winds. Provided you can tie up securely and the berth is long enough (some marinas have very short berths which can make it impossible to board the boat), driving in forwards is OK until the wind speed and direction changes

How Much Does A Marine Survey Cost?

Marine Survey Percussion Testing

Marine Survey costs vary, depending on what type of inspection you want. Marine Surveyors in Sydney generally charge $22 – $35 per foot (vessel length) for a pre-purchase inspection, with the higher-end pricing generally for timber vessels. On the other hand, an insurance survey may be done for $14 – 18 per foot.

Marine Surveyors are not mechanics, although there is a handful that are dual certified, so it’s always best to find someone who is, or use two separate parties. Mechanics typically charge $100 – $180 per hour for engine inspections.

BoatBuy Pre-Purchase Marine Survey Sample

Types of Surveyors

Marine surveyors are typically hired by boat owners for pre-purchase and insurance surveys, companies and sole operators to meet government regulations for commercial operations, and insurance and shipping companies to assess damages.

The different types of Surveyors include, but are not limited to:

  1. Pre-Purchase Surveyors, usually have either a formal Surveying qualification, a boatbuilding background, or shipwright qualification
  2. Mechanical Surveyors, usually hold a Marine Mechanical qualification or experience of similar
  3. AMSA Surveyors, generally one of or a mix of both above with relevant experience and understanding of national law that has been approved by AMSA (Australian Marine Safety Authority) for certain classes of survey

Insurance companies set the standard for the condition of the boat that they consider an acceptable risk to insure, and decide whether or not to insure the boat based on the surveyor’s report.

If you’re unsure what will be covered in your survey, you can always ask your preferred surveyor for a sample report.

Several institutions certify surveyors and set a standard. Examples are the Australian Institute of Marine Surveyors (AIMS) – in Australia, the most popular and the International Institute of Marine Surveying (IIMS).

What entails a good Pre-Purchase Marine Survey?

A good report will focus on the condition of the boat, as it currently is. Don’t get fooled by a long report – it doesn’t necessarily mean it is useful. Is the Surveyor providing a list of the boats features or actually commenting on the condition of each of those features? It should be clear if the report will include a mechanical component, as some surveyors are not qualified to inspect machinery.

As a minimum, all surveys should include:
HIN Number
Registration number
Engine serial number/s
Condition of bilge pumps and automatic float switches
Inspection of through-hull fittings and exhaust outlets
Underside inspection, checking for osmosis, delamination, design and production faults, previous damage electrolysis and corrosion
Tally of features and electronics fitted
Condition of the vessel

Mechanical Report

As a minimum, a mechanical report should include:

  1. Compression testing on petrol engines – although these are quite difficult to perform, they are essential in accurately gauging the condition of the internals
  2. Gearbox and steering system inspection – depending on the make and model this can be as simple as an oil sample and testing the operation
  3. Water test run under load – the most important part, as this is the most likely time an engine will fault or problems will arise
  4. Visual inspection – is the engine corroded? Salt-water is a damaging environment, and having a ball of rust in the engine bay will cause problems down the line
  5. Engine fluids inspection – every make and model will have different fluids, such as coolant, power steering, engine oil, gearbox oil and even anti corrosion products such as salt away

Use your report to bargain

A pre-purchase report should be used to bargain on price. When a broker lists a boat, they base it on the vessel being in good operating condition, with everything working unless otherwise stated. A good broker will inform the owner before he sells the boat of any problems he comes across, as problems will affect the likelihood of a higher sale price. Often, boats are listed and the broker isn’t aware of problems until the survey, or out of water inspection. This is when you have the opportunity to ask the seller to fix problems, or bargain the price down.

What about Boat Brokers?

The seller pays a boat broker to get the highest price possible for their boat. Don’t be fooled into believing a broker works for you, although a good boat broker will be fair because the broker will want to keep the buyer as a potential customer when they need their next boat. A broker with a large list of previous clients can be a great asset, as they will have clients come to them to upgrade – so you may hear about off-market deals.

Credibility

When spending a large amount of money on a boat, it’s important to ensure the person performing the inspection is credible. Although it’s common for brokers to recommend surveyors, the question must be asked whether the broker has a relationship with the surveyor, and if they will likely “go easy” to get the sale through. A broker may not recommend someone who is very diligent if the product they are selling is not great. On the other hand, a good broker will recommend a thorough surveyor so that he knows the boat has been checked properly and there is less chance of the customer coming back with a complaint. However, there is no problem with selling a boat that has problems, provided the buyer is aware and factors it into their consideration when purchasing. Hiring a thorough inspector will work in your favour, knowing the current condition, and being able to more accurately price the boat.

How much does a Marine Survey cost?

A Marine Survey usually ranges from $14 to $30 per foot depending on the purpose of the survey, construction and age of the vessel.

What types of Surveys are there?

There are 4 main types of surveys: Pre-Purchase, Insurance, Mechanical, and AMSA (Periodical). Pre-Purchase is for finding out the condition when buying a used boat; Insurance is for obtaining an insurance policy and is usually requested when the boat is over 10 years old; Mechanical is to check the condition of the engines; and AMSA is to pass government regulations to operate a boat commercially.

What does a Marine Survey include?

This will depend on the purpose of the survey, but generally includes condition of the hull and superstructure, electrics, machinery, serial numbers, HIN and safety gear. Please note that not all Surveyors are qualified to provide a Mechanical survey at the same time, and it’s best to get both the Hull and the Mechanics checked before a purchase.

How long does a Marine Survey take?

This will depend on the length of the boat, number of engines and generators to be inspected. On a typical 40ft Sports Cruiser Pre-Purchase and Mechanical Survey with two engines and one generator, you would expect the Surveyor to onboard for a full day depending on the age and condition.

How often should boats be Surveyed?

The length of time between surveys will be dictated by the insurance company, or government regulator if used commercially. Generally the insurance company will want regular out-of-water surveys once the vessel becomes over 10 years old, and the government regulator will want anything between yearly to once every 5 years depending on the risk category of operation.

Do you need a Boat Survey for insurance?

Each insurance company sets their own guidelines regarding how often or whether you need a survey before a policy can be obtained. It is always best to speak your preferred insurer before purchasing a boat. Generally, most vessels older than 10 years old will require a survey if permanently moored.

Mooring, Berth or Dry Stack?

Burraneer Bay Marina Berth

Every boat needs a home, and in this article we’re going to outline the differences between storage options and which one is best suited to your needs.

Aside from storing your boat on a trailer, you have three (3) options:

1. Mooring– a large cement block, typically placed on the seabed with a chain and rope attached to the boat.

2. Berth– a boat’s allotted place at a wharf, dock or marina.

3. Dry Stack – a large structure designed to stack boats on top of one another to optimise storage space.

Mooring

Mooring a boat is often the most economical way to store a large boat on a long-term basis. Moorings licenses can be obtained from Maritime, and a mooring contractor is then enlisted to drop a suitable size mooring in the right location. Using Sydney Harbour as an example, the further away from the city and smaller your boat is, the cheaper the moorings become.

But what needs to be considered before you decide on a mooring?

1. How are you going to get out to the boat?
This is an extra expense, which you will need to cater for – swimming out to the boat isn’t really a viable option. Depending how far out in the bay your boat is, you will need a small dinghy and you might even want an engine. You will need to contact the local council and find out about dinghy storage – there are dinghy racks located on the shoreline for this purpose. One of the pitfalls of a mooring is getting your gear onboard. The size of your dinghy will dictate the amount of trips out to the boat required. A larger dinghy will be heavier and harder to maneuver between the storage rack and the shoreline. A small fiberglass dinghy and some oars provides the most economical option, and can often be picked up second hand for a few hundred dollars. You can also find a compromise of convenience – a mooring at a marina that can include a tender service out to your boat; these often include a public dock where you can load passengers and clean your boat.

2. Mooring service
Mooring lines in NSW need to be inspected every 12 months. This keeps your insurance company happy, and peace of mind that your boat is safe and secure. If you have a mooring line failure, you will not only be up for the repair of your own boat, but any others it drifts into during the course of coming undone.

3. Mooring
Connecting up to a swing mooring is typically much easier then parking a boat in a berth. With a boat hook on hand, you drive into the wind and hitching up is straightforward. The bridal arrangement needs to be matched to your boat, which consists if the lines that holds your boat in place.

4. Charging the batteries
Charging the batteries isn’t as easy as plugging into a 240v shore power lead. Keeping your boat on a mooring means you cannot run the 240v systems, (for example, a water heater or air conditioning) unless you have a gen-set onboard. A well setup boat, with a twin batteries and an automatic bilge pump should have you covered for a considerable period of time (6-12 months) but often there are other electronics slowly draining the batteries. Ensuring the batteries are isolated after each trip is essential, and getting the batteries checked each year helps prolong their life. A good safeguard is fitting a solar panel to trickle charge batteries at the correct rate, but requires careful consideration in relation to regulation of the current. Ideally you need a system that can evaluate the voltage of each battery and top up the one with the lowest charge first, then move to the next. Once the batteries are full, the charge needs to stop otherwise they will become overcharged and pre-maturely fail. There also needs to be a suitable position for the solar panel where it will get the most sunlight.

5. Cleaning and birds
Keeping your boat on a swing mooring means you are open to the elements, and seagulls love to boat-sit while you’re away – dropping their waste all over the deck. If you do a lot of fishing onboard, they will become attracted to the leftover bait and fish remains, and flock to your boat even more. Furthermore the boat is out in the open environment and over time becomes dirty. Depending on the size of the boat, sometimes a deck wash pump, freshwater tank and hose is fitted and the boat can be cleaned on the mooring. If not, you will need to find a suitable place to berth and wash down the hull. Most private marinas do not allow you to wash the boat when refueling, and are not very accommodating unless they are paid for the berth. Covers, netting and bird repellants can be placed on the boat to help, but need to be removed and refitted after each outing.

Berth

Berthing is one of the most convenient ways to store your boat, but also comes at a higher cost. The bigger your boat is and the better your location, the more expensive. But are there any disadvantages?

1. Berthing
Parking your boat in the berth at the marina is one of the trickiest maneuvers you will learn when owning a boat. There is millions of dollars worth of other boats close by, packed in a tightly as possible to maximize space. Having a plan to get into the berth taking into consideration wind beforehand is essential, as well as having ropes ready. Getting a feel for how your boat reacts and what it is capable of is essential before trying to head into a berth – it’s best to practice on a parallel fuel wharf first. Once this is mastered, your next step is getting into a berth. Becoming comfortable with being close to other boats is a must, as panicking often causes you to be too heavy on the throttle and make other mistakes. Getting some lessons and having someone experienced by your side the first few times to guide you if things don’t go to plan can be well worth it. Only drive into a berth as fast as you’re prepared to hit, and don’t be too proud to drive out and re-attempt if it’s not going to plan.

2. Car parking
What is the parking situation at the marina? How far will you have to lug all your gear to get to your boat? Some marinas are positioned down the bottom of hundreds of stairs, and others have parking restrictions/limits and can be costly for you and your guests to park for the day.

3. Lines
After you have made the decision on which marina – it’s a good idea to get some lines spliced to length to secure your boat properly. This makes tying up a breeze – the lines are already on the dock waiting at the correct length. It also protects your boat from drifting off and hitting other boats. A properly spliced rope is stronger than a knot that can come loose.

4. Shore-power
Shore power is one of the benefits of storing your boat in a berth. Simply hook up your 240v lead to the dock, and you can run your fridge and battery charger full time. DO NOT run your shore power lead in the water, as any stray current that conducts through your boat can cause electrolysis and cause a chemical reaction – eroding away your boat’s metal parts!

5. Cost
Price is the # 1 reason people don’t leave their boat in a berth. It is significantly more expensive; you typically have to pay a monthly fee that is calculated on the length of your boat and location of the marina. Berths can also be purchased, but ongoing costs such as strata fees will still be applicable to up-keep the marina and surrounds.

Dry Stack

Dry stacking your boat is becoming much more popular – with facilities popping up everywhere. Is it the perfect way to store your boat?

1. Access
One of the pitfalls of a dry stack is you must call beforehand to have the boat placed in the water. Often they work around the clock, and have marina berths vacant for when you return in case there is a line, but you don’t have the luxury of sitting on the boat whilst it’s stored, which you can do in a marina berth or on a mooring.

2. Salt
Saltwater that dries up will leave salt deposits. This in turn can cause components to seize over time, and is also a common problem with trailer boats. To combat the issue, it’s good practice to flush your boat with freshwater every time it gets taken out of saltwater. A boat that lives at the marina doesn’t have the same problem, as the underwater components stay continually wet and the salt doesn’t get a chance to dry up (except for it’s once yearly slip, and usually it gets blasted with freshwater upon being slipped). Always ask if there are provisions to flush the engine and boat before it’s stacked.

3. Shore Power
Most dry-docks do not have provisions to plug your boat into shore power – and will not be positioned in the sun for a solar cell. This is worth asking before choosing a dry stack because if your boat doesn’t get much use, your batteries are likely to go flat over time.

4. Reduced Maintenance
The # 1 reason to dry stack your boat is to remove the need for all the additional maintenance associated with a boat that lives in saltwater. There will be no barnacle growth on the hull, the anodes will last longer and the hull and gel coat will stay in superior condition.

5. Size
The final thing to consider is a limit on size, and boats larger than 12 meters often cannot be stacked. Sizing limits will be individual to each dry stack.

Overall there are a few ways to store your boat, with the main difference being price and convenience. Each option has its pros and cons, and everyone will have their own preference. Some swear by launching a dinghy from the beach, having peace and quiet, and the atmosphere that surrounds you. Others prefer the marina berth, and get a lot out of local events and services. It is possible to take each up on a short-term basis and then decide. Ultimately, the decision lies with you and with experience you will figure out what you prefer.

Choosing A Boat – 4 Major Drive Types Explained

IPS Drives on Riviera

One of the most common questions I get asked is “Should I buy this boat for X amount?” Before I can give a good answer some basic details need to be figured out. First, you need to determine the main purpose of your boat (for example: fishing, cruising, watersports etc.). Second, where you’re going to keep it. Are you going to moor it, or trailer it? Of course, the size of the boat may dictate this, but not always. Where you’re planning to store it may also affect the type of engine setup that you choose and vice versa. How do you know what type of engine and drive you should get? Here’s a rundown of your options to help you figure out whether to moor or trailer your boat and what sort of engine and drive to go for.

Moored or trailered?

When selecting your first boat you need to think about how you will get to your boat, or how to get your boat in the water.

  • Do you have a big enough car to tow it?
  • Will you have a berth or a mooring?
  • If you have a mooring, how will you get out to the boat?
  • Will you use the boat regularly enough to keep batteries charged?
  • If you have a waterfront property with a slipway, is it set up to accommodate your choice of boat and if not, what else needs to be done?

Maintenance costs vary greatly depending on whether the boat is kept permanently in the water or not.

Moored Boats

When you have a moored boat, you will need to have it slipped, cleaned and antifouled every 6-12 months. The reason for this is that over time the part of the boat in contact with water will accumulate barnacles and moss. Antifouling reduces the amount of growth and it also becomes easier to clean off when you have a protective coating. You will also need to change corrosive anodes to stop metal parts (e.g. stern drives, shafts, propellers etc.) of your boat corroding away.

Trailer Boat

When you store your boat on either a trailer or dry-dock, you no longer need to antifoul the boat as it isn’t in contact with the water. This will minimize maintenance costs, but you will still need to consider:

  • Storage – garage, warehouse, off-street or on-street?
  • A suitable car to tow – for instance, once a boat and trailer combo weighs over 2 tonne you’ll need to carefully consider your tow vehicle.

Engine and Drive Setup

How a boat is powered and the type of transmission attached can also have a large impact on maintenance costs. Let’s look at the different drive types, and review the pros and cons of each.

There are four major drive types you will come across when buying a boat:

  1. Inboard Stern drive,
  2. Inboard Shaft drive, and
  3. Outboard
  4. Pod Drive

There are other setups available but these are less common in Australia.

Inboard Stern drive

Stern drive is a transmission and engine package, which combines outboard drive with an inboard engine. They come in all different combinations: large stern drives coupled with diesel engines or smaller ones coupled to petrol engines. They are also available from a number of manufacturers but the two most common brands in Australia, for example are Mercury and Volvo.

Example of a Volvo Penta Diesel & Stern drive setup

Inboard Shaft Drive

A boat with a shaft drive has the engine mounted inboard, with a shaft through the hull driving a propeller. Shaft drives may have the engine mounted in a few different positions, including (but not limited to) middle and rear. A rudder behind the propeller steers the vessel.

Conventional straight shaft driven boat

Transparent view showing a mid-mount shaft drive

Outboard

Outboards have the engine attached to the stern, on the outside of the boat. It is a single unit, which includes the engine and transmission in the one package.

Yamaha 80hp Four-Stroke Outboard

Pod Drives

Vessels fitted with pod drives have the engine mounted either in the mid or the rear of the boat, with a “pod” incorporating the transmission, propellors and outdrive straight through the bottom.  A pod can steer left to right, and the two most popular brands are Volvo IPS and Cummins/Mercruiser Zeus drive.

Volvo Penta IPS Pod Drives

Advantages and Disadvantages

Stern drives

Typically the main reason people buy second hand boats fitted with stern drives are because they are common, cheaper than other types and provide good handling characteristics. They allow you to trim up and down to shift the planing position, and the whole stern drive physically moves when you steer. Stern drives are a great option for a trailer boat, especially as you won’t have any barnacle growth on them. They need to be serviced yearly, but are a good all round option.

When a stern drive is used on a moored boat it becomes the less desirable option. Stern drives usually have rubber bellows that house drive components and stop water entry. These crack with age, and if you leave your boat moored over time it will grow barnacles. When the leg is turned to steer the sharp barnacles can pierce the bellows, allowing water entry. The water can then cause damage to bearings and other components and if left unattended it may even cause the boat to sink.

Another thing to be aware of is the water pickups, which cool the engine. These are mounted on the stern drive from factory. In the picture below they are covered in barnacle growth, which would cause the engine to overheat under load.

Example of Mercury stern drive with growth from sitting in water for a long period

Shaft drives

Shaft drives are a much better option if you’re intending to moor the boat. Barnacles will still grow on them but there is no rubber bellows to change, as they don’t have to steer. They have shaft seals that can wear and leak over time, but don’t cost as much to maintain.

A downfall of a shaft drive is that they draw more water, so you cannot enter shallow waterways. They do need anodes fitted yearly, but so does a stern drive. As for handling, a single engine shaft drive can be more difficult to steer compared to a single engine stern drive. If you have twin engines, then shaft drives are an easier boat to maneuver. Twin shafts allow you to split the controls, using one engine in forward and one in reverse, spinning the boat on the spot – this works too on a stern drive but to a lesser effect.

Outboard

Outboard powered boats can sometimes have the best of both worlds with regards to maintenance costs. They are easily removed/replaced if a major repair needs to take place, and can be trimmed upwards to keep them out of the water, hence not needing to be antifouled. They also provide the handling benefits of a stern drive, in that they can be trimmed up and down and steer left and right. They offer more useable boat space, because the motor isn’t mounted inside.

The disadvantages of outboards are when you need certain weight distribution, bigger horsepower, or diesel power. Some people prefer shaft drive or inboard for fishing, so they can fish off the back too.

Pod drives

Pod drives are exclusively paired with diesel engines, and provide a number of benefits. All pod drives are coupled to a joystick, which enables control of the boat without manually engaging gears and steering. This makes the learning curve for docking the boat much easier. Pod drives are also between 10-30% more fuel efficient than a traditional shaft drive, as they can propel the vessel with less drag. Zeus pod drives offer inbuilt trim tabs and have rear facing propellors, where as Volvo IPS do not offer trim tabs and have forward facing propellors.

The disadvantages of pod drives are that they cost more than a regular shaft drive to maintain. They do not have rubber bellows like a traditional sterndrive, but use expensive synthetic oils that need to be changed regularly, along with anodes. Pod drives are very sensitive to water entry, and certified technicians are required to work on them. This means there are less people available to fix them should you have issues in remote locations.

Summary

Drive TypeAdvantagesDisadvantages

Inboard Stern Drive

Handling
Boat design
Performance
Maintenance costs when moored
Reliability
Replacement
Corrosion

Inboard Shaft Drive

Maintenance when moored vs. stern drive
Reliability
Engine output potential

Replacement
Handling
Efficiency (fuel)
Draft required in shallow water
Corrosion
Performance

Outboard

Handling
Maintenance
Replacement
Boat Design
Performance
Efficiency (fuel)

Engine output potential
Weight distribution
Engine security (theft)
Fuel type (currently no diesel outboards)

Pod Drive

Ease of use (joystick control)
Efficiency (fuel)
Engine output potential

Draft required in shallow water
Corrosion
Replacement
Maintenance costs
Availability of mechanics

Basic comparison of drive types

So what do I buy?

Everyone’s situation is different and needs to be taken into consideration. You need to assess your intended use for the boat, your storage options, your budget and your ability to maintain the boat.

Some people can be quite flexible and would be happy with any of the above options, where as others have specific requirements. Our aim is to determine what best suits your needs and source it. Feel free to drop us a line and ask us any particular questions you might have, we love to chat!