All surveyors visually inspect the rigging from deck level. Since most of the moving parts and the most corrosive effects of salt water occur at this level, the most serious problems are likely to be observable during this inspection. If the surveyor is required to go aloft, there will be an additional charge. The mast can be unstepped to allow for a more complete and thorough inspection without the surveyor going aloft, but this is rarely done.
Sails will be inspected as part of the pre-purchase/condition survey. Bagged headsails can be removed from the bag. If an in-water survey is conducted, the surveyor can inspect a mainsail and a roller-furling jib when they are set out for sailing. For racing or cruising sailboats with many different expensive sails, the sails can be inspected separately in a sail loft.
If the buyer doesn’t plan to finance or insure the boat, the decision to engage a marine surveyor is entirely up to the buyer. A survey is generally required when financing the boat’s purchase, or to insure the boat. A survey is strongly recommended for older boats and boats with multiple complex systems, such as plumbing, electrical systems, generators, and other systems. The newer the boat, and the smaller and less complex it is, the less a survey is needed.
Buyers who commission the construction of a custom boat often retain a professional marine surveyor to monitor the construction process and provide professional insight into the quality of the construction procedures and their compliance with recommended and required guidelines and regulations. Less commonly, buyers may hire a surveyor to perform a survey prior to closing on the boat purchase — but since any defects in the boat will generally be covered under the new boat warranty, and there’s no possibility of damage from previous usage, buyers are far less concerned with surveying a new sailboat and generally forego the expense. Some boat owners, who buy a new boat like to use their new boat for a season, then have it professionally surveyed before the warranty expires.