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Boat Safety Survey: Not just for racers

Our boat sat unused last year because of Covid, and I scheduled a two day in depth inspection last week to look at the boat, and safety issues.  Issues found were extremely surprising and have led to improvements in boat safety.  

     We have a Trintella 47 built in Holland in 2001 with excellent construction.  But he found:

  • The positive cable to the starter abutted the engine and could have worn through and shorted with vibration. This would have almost certainly turned into a serious fire and we could have lost the boat or worse.  
  • One of our shore power outlets was found to be wired with the wrong polarity, but this was traced to a shore power cable that was wired incorrectly. All the other outlets are fed from the inverter.   
  • There is no automatic polarity check on the control board. 
  • Five 110v sockets near sinks, engine spaces or water are not GFI protected.
  • The blades on the bow thruster are loose and need replacement. 
  • There is no insulation on the positive electrical feeds to the bow thruster.  
  • There was no galvanic isolator or over-current protection on the shore power.  
  • A strap holding the newly inspected life raft had broken and the second was partially torn.  The life raft was in danger of falling off the stern from its stern mounted position.     

Several other issues were found and are being corrected.  I had previously scheduled an electronics repair or upgrade five issues. After this survey, we had twenty electrical and several mechanical issues to fix.  

The inspector was happy at finding:  

  • A rope ladder that can be reached from in the water to reboard if I fell overboard.  
  • The keel is extremely well attached to the boat. 
  • A dedicated 110 volt outlet powered directly from the generator and 3/4 horsepower crash pump with 2” outlet and flat fire hose that can be secured to discharge overboard. There is no issue of starting load on an inverter since this socket is wired directly to generator and generator is mounted high in boat. 
  • An AIS alarm that recognizes our AIS MMSI’s is installed and alarms if one of us falls overboard. 

A purchase survey done eight years ago and survey 2-3 years ago, did not begin to address many issues that may affect safety.   Purchase surveys, in general, are too superficial to be useful for future boat safety.

There should be a safety survey for boats like the sailing safety inspection for the Bermuda Race, with basic survey in electrical, rigging, damage control, and construction.  I am not sure most surveyors are experienced enough to carry this out well. 

Perhaps everyone needs a “Boat Genie in a Cigar Box!”