Selecting a Multihull Marine Surveyor
You just found the cat of your dreams and you set out in selecting a surveyor to give you a report that you can use to get that financing and insurance so you can close the deal and start playing captain.
Your task in selecting a multihull Marine Surveyor is more difficult than meets the eye as you will see in the following examples. Marine Surveying is not a regulated or licensed industry. Anyone can call himself a Marine Surveyor and it will be up to you, the client, whether you think he’s qualified or not.
It is highly recommended to contract a surveyor who is a member of SAMS, US Surveyors, and other Societies and Associations. It means that the surveyor paid his dues! There might be a partial open book test and some other requirements but it is certainly no proof of qualification although it’s made to sound like it is! A true measure of qualification is formal education in yacht design or seminars involving a proctored closed book test. If you pass, you become certified in that particular knowledge base. Such certifications are issued by the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC).
Fiberglass multihulls are surveyed very much as monohulls and the process is very similar as applied to both types of surveys. The big difference is the physical connection (the akas) between the two hulls (vakas) and the stresses it must receive in a seaway. One hull wants to go one way as the other will try to go some other way creating stresses of considerable magnitude as the hulls are kept parallel to each other and going the same way by the akas.
So during a survey, considerable time is spent carefully looking at the akas and checking for excessive stress which often shows up as stress cracks in the fiberglass of that connecting structure. If stress cracks are found, it is the depth of such cracks that will determine whether it is cosmetic in nature or dangerous structural damage. Only experience in having looked at numerous multihulls can assist in drawing that line between cosmetic and structural damage. Sometimes it’s a line that fades and blends… and there is no fine line that sorts out cosmetic damage from structural damage.
There are also other minor differences such as rigging that needs to be strong enough to handle the sideways forces involved in multihull sailing. In a monohull, when the wind gusts it will give as it heels and the forces on the rigging are relieved. A multihull only heels slightly and will stand up to the force of the wind more readily producing much more stress on the rigging.
Surveying multihull is a specialty requiring experience which is difficult to attain in the North East due to the low number of cats as compared with monohulls. So besides finding some signs of formal education in yacht design, it would be preferable if you can get a recommendation from someone involved in multihull yachts since experience in this area is important.
This editorial was written by Capt. Charles A. Avalos who spent many years in the British Virgin Islands surveying yachts where multihulls have become abundant. Charles has therefore acquired the experience and knowledge for surveying multihulls.