Links to information on this page:
Subject of the Month Stern gland seals
News & Views from the South
Common survey faults.
Prevent osmosis .


Yacht Surveys

Pre-purchase- insurance- damage assessment-osmosis surveys on GRP Timber- Ferro cement (some)- steel Partial surveys/ Damage surveys. Free & unbiased advice via email or phone on any aspect of yacht & boat construction. For a sample survey, be it for Timber or GRP or Steel you will find several sample surveys here. For a free survey template to help you survey your own vessel or possibly carry out an informed inspection of any vessel you might consider purchasing, the you can use this guided list to help you decide whether or not to pursue with a professional inspection here. Much more information here covering Moisture Meters/Osmosis/ Ultrasound thickness testing/ Saving costs on insurance surveys/ Find the right surveyor & so much more


timber yacht surveyor

Fishing vessel surveys

The fishing industry is very closely regulated, particularly with regard to the fishing vessels construction & inspection. At this time there is only one authority approved for MCA surveyors for this work & that is SCMS. Mecal did start the application procedure but ultimately decided to withdraw from the process.. New MCA rules are coming into force all of the time & many skippers & owners are facing real problems keeping up with the changes , which in some cases, are having serious consequences for the owners & vessels.. To see some of the changes go to this page. More information here

large catamaran fishing vessel

fishing boat surveys

Shipwright Work

We carry out shipwright repairs to all types of vessels including timber & GRP hulls . For more information on what we can do go to this page

timber yacht repairs Seasurveys

GRP repairs and surveys
Timber construction & joinery for wooden & GRP yachts. Grp hull damage repairs & finishing to invisible standard.

Buying a boat

Buying a boat is possibly one of the most expensive things that many people do and this article might help avoid the pitfalls.

for sale

for sale




Hi I'm John Lilley at SeaSurveys.

yacht surveyor,  marine surveyorJohn Lilley, professional GRP & timber yacht/boat marine surveyors & shipwright based close to Dorchester in Dorset for Hampshire, Devon & Sussex. Poole, Portland & Weymouth, The Solent, Lymington. We cover an area from: Plymouth to Littlehampton on the South Coast and the Bristol channel. We carry full public & professional liability insurance to ensure customer satisfaction and peace of mind. We are approved and authorised by the MCA , Mecal & SCMS to carry out surveys/inspections on New-Build & existing Fishing vessels. The first step is to give us a call so we can talk about any concerns you have prior to commissioning a survey. Without committing a penny you can find out what we know about a particular class of vessel. It is possible we may have surveyed the vessel before. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by contacting us.

wooden yacht surveys

Feeling confident in your choice of surveyor is the start of the process. The only way of achieving that is to speak to them directly and don't be afraid to ask questions, after all it is your money. All boat construction details & wooden boats in particular have a language of their own & too many surveyors will use confusing terminology when questions are asked causing an owner or buyer to hesitate asking further for fear of appearing uninformed. I will try to explain everything in plain language at all times.

Timber Yachts & surveys

Timber construction is not something that many surveyors feel particularly confident in undertaking as there are so many possible issues that can be extraordinarily expensive to overcome, and many surveyors do not have the experience & knowledge to advise correctly, even sometimes giving the seriously wrong advice. See here for Timber Construction. This photo shows what goes wrong when anodes are fitted..boat surveyor for woodGo to this page for more information or for a free survey template for timber or sample survey on timber try here.


GRP yachts & surveys

Grp construction is much simpler but nevertheless there are numerous areas where a lack of understanding can make a huge difference. Hard spot cracking is one area that is often misdiagnosed by surveyors.


Although not clear on the photo, these are hard spot cracks in the laminate & a previous surveyor put them down as scratches in the gel coat. This page give a few example of GRP construction problems. FREE SURVEY TEMPLATE HERE
Sample surveys for GRP HERE

Subject of the Month

Stern Gland seals
PSS gland seal
Recently on a few surveys there have been potential stern gland issues on the internal end of the stern tube.
A bit of explanation firstly though. Scroll down.

The stern tube is generally a length of plain bronze tube bonded through the hull skin on GRP or an interference fit through a timber hull as the deadwood is usually quite wide at that point
.Sometimes it might be a GRP tube bonded to the GRP.Each end of the bronze tube is threaded for around 3 or 4 inches & to this is the stern gland housing which is then fixed to the hull with removable fastenings. This unscrews both ends quite often. Externally a support bearing is fitted, more often than not a cutlass bearing (also known as a cutless bearing for obvious reasons) This is replaceable when it wears. On older vessels this might be a white metal bearing or even a form of packing gland which takes the place of a bearing. Internally there are various choices.. conventionalConventional packing gland
An adjustable packing gland as part of the stern tube inner gland housing. These are the most reelable & easily maintained type. Fitted with a greaser.flexible Flexible stern gland
Most GRP vessels were fitted with a short flexible rubber connection attached the the end of the stern tube & with the adjustable packing gland housing on the other end. Greaseable. This allows the prop shaft to align more easily if the engine vibrates without stressing a fixed stern gland on the stern tube. Eventually this rubber connector fails due to grease causing softening and delamination, They then start leaking.
driplessDripless Seal
The alternatives are dripless gland seals & PSS gland seals. Both are designed never to leak & water lubricated. The PSS seal is the more elaborate & expensive but few owners realise that these two items have age replacement requirements set by the manufacturers and in the event of a failure resulting in an insurance claim, the insurers can legitimately void that claim if the item was beyond the required manufacturers replacement age.
PSS seals have various requirements when fitted as they are water lubricated & have to have some form of water feed/air bleed. Depending upon the design & vessel these will vary quite considerably.
The other frequent problem is that they can leak significantly if they are not fitted "perfectly" or are accidentally distorted when in position. Other issues with some of the flexible stern gland seals is that I have seen many cases where the shaft alignment was so far out that the shaft was hitting the inside of the stern tube, particularly when the engine was started because the engine will move on the flexible mountings quite substantially as it fires up., The noise is alarming.

Common survey faults

This page outlines common faults that appear in all construction types, many of which can be serious.gate_valve This photo shows a typical corroded gate valve but other valves can often give problems, particularly with pipe work connections & clips. Read more here.

See these & do something soon

Timber Boats:
Deck leaks are freshwater & freshwater will eventually cause rot. Notice a deck leak or paint/varnish that is darkening or lifting for no obvious reason, then stop the leak as soon as possible.

Anode & anode wires: see any build up of white crud around the anode bolts or where the anode wires connect to any part of the system then be aware that this is possibly electrochemical damage occurring. This can destroy parts of a timber boat. Disconnect it or check for stray currents.

rotted_plywood_deckNotice a part of the structure where the paint or varnish keeps lifting....there is always a reason, & usually not a good one. Investigate & sort it out early. Often found on external planking around chain plates & other places where freshwater can accumulate unseen. It is also an early indicator of electrolytic damage due to mixed metal contact or corroding fastening, particularly below the waterline both inside & out.

GRP boats:
Deck leaks through mast wires & rigging fittings will cause freshwater decay to bulkheads if left. Anywhere discoloured varnish or peeling paint is seen for no obvious reason may be a sign of water leakage. Eventually decay will set in. Sort the leaks out

water-damageU bolts through decks can appear perfect externally but on occasions these can suffer from unseen corrosion where they pass through the deck, particularly if they have been leaking long term. When they fracture might be a bit too late to investigate...

Look in the bilges & under the saloon berths at the keel support areas. Many vessels will have signs of movement &, in some cases cracks in the grp reinforcements as well as corrosion stained bolts or nuts. Do not confuse gel wash cracks, which are quite normal, with laminate cracks which are not desirable. On first sight they can appear to be similar.

failoed-bondingsWhere bulkheads fit against the hull, on close inspection you might find that the bonding has either come loose on the plywood or there might be a fracture in the laminate right in the corner of the hull/plywood connection. Don't ignore either of these.

Deck stanchion bases come loose and allow water leaks. If you have a cored deck this could be serious so be vigilant & attend to loose stanchion bases early if you do not want a big later expense. Also check alloy bases for vertical fractures at the socket due to corrosion expansion. Not easy finding new crew when they have gone over the side.

News & Views from the South
March 2024
The year has been quite quiet so far, a considerable amount of wet weather has kept most owners away from the yards and pleased to be in the dry & warm. Some works are just beginning, not because of the weather but more likely pressure of time as the new season approaches. Easter close at hand now and probably a rush of boats to get afloat, |but BEWARE of rushing to use the boat over Easter as so many problems usually occur due to the boat not being fully prepared, fuel problems with old filters & water, mast problems because the rigging has not been checked fully, seacock problems due to lack of use & so many more. The unpredictable Easter weather also creates issues so do take the time to make everything ship shape . Better to lose Easter if any doubts of maintenance exist rather that the whole year wishing you had done everything..
Enjoy the start ........
September/October/Early November 2023
September was a relatively quiet month in all respects however, early October had some unusually high tides at the beginning. The weather remainder reasonable although far from perfect. However, the end of October and early November heralded very high tides combined with Storm Ciaran with forecasts of 100MPH hurricane force gusts along the south coast, however, fortunately the mid Dorset area missed these strong force gusts but did not miss the very high tides. wareham causewayThese combined with low pressure caused significant flooding in some areas. Ridge wharf at Wareham was partly flooded with some of the vessels on hard standing in 8 inches of water for quite a sustained period. Wareham Causeway was flooded. (library photo).So far as I am aware there were no yachts or boats severely damaged in the local area although a bit further along the coast at West Bay. Bridport the very heavy seas break ashore caused significant mayhem to beach structures and damage to the cliffs.

June/July 2023
June was exceptionally hot with relatively light winds for most of the time. Possibly , in retrospect, the best time of this year so far for extended coastal cruising. Probably too early for most people who had high hopes for July. The wind in July has , so far, been extraordinary in its persistence of strong breezes every day 24/7. No major gales on the south coast but more often than not , every day in excess of force 5 with gusts of 6 for the whole day. Watched the Round The Island race from Yarmouth and saw the front leaders go past at about 12 knots windward, but too much wind for the less powerfully crewed vessels with broken masts & multi hull capsizes. The Solent look like the top of a cake with royal icing scattered all over.
aukThe large sailing vessel Auk was finally broken up at Ridge Wharf. All that is left is the iron ballast keel with a multitude of bent stainless steel keelbolts & centreline bolts protruding from the keel.....all appearing in pristine condition. Stainless steel is not usually advised on timber vessels below the waterline as it is unpredictable.....but sometimes you get surprised.
April/May 2023

A lot of boats were late this year getting into the water. Probably several reasons, one being the drab weather that failed to encourage. I also suspect the cost of living crisis played a part, the difficulty is here that irrespective of where the boat is, the cost of keeping her remains the same, so this year quite a few sellers simply due to financial pressures .A few fishing vessel inspections for the MCA and one or two new build fishing vessel inspections. A new fishing vessel can cost far more than an equivalent yacht of the same length. Even a small under 7m vessel can cost upwards of £65000 . Larger vessels into the hundreds of thousands.
January 2023
The new year started on a cold note...then got colder. Temperatures as clow as -8 degrees in some parts of Dorset, certainly enough to split pipes if fresh water systems were not drained ot heat exxhangers not antifreezed.
Something easliy overlooked until the boat goes in the water only to find problems caused by ice.. This also extends to seacocks, as a seacock can easily split if it is closed & fresh water was in the pipe. Yards are still quiet as the weather is still too cold for most owners.
It is now the end of January and the last few days have definitely warmed up although the pessimistic forecasters are still suggesting a period of bad weather on the way in February..
It seems that yachts sales may have slowed down in certain sectors, whenever this happens, it might have a knock on effect on values. Possibly a good time to start looking if thinking of buying. Might be less expensive than the last tjree years. Who knows........

October 2022

Well, it's that time of year and the yards are beginning to be occupied with boats for layup. The gales are arriving thick and fast now but not heard of any gale damage to boats..
Had you looked over the Twinsails Bridge in Poole you might have noticed a sunken yacht alongside one of the pontoons. john lilley Being towed after salvaging to Ridge Wharf .
This is a very large (24 tons) timber sailing yacht. The salvage was delayed because of wind & tide but eventually she was raised after about 11 days underwater. Towed to Ridge Wharf by Jemkins Marine. for inspection.
it appears she was broken into, ransacked of some valuable gear & equipment including wind generator & some very expensive winches and then, inexplicable scuttled by taking a pipe off the galley drain & opening the seacock.
if you saw anything suspicious on Friday or Saturday 29th September then contact the local Poole Police. A considerable amount of damage has been done

August September 2022
As I write this the August/July heatwave appears to be subsiding. Any timber vessel that is still ashore will have serious problems if unprotected from the sun now. Had a call from a Brittany based 8 Ton Hillyard with serious leakage having been launched early July after 8 months ashore. So serious that they were unable to keep the bilge level below the engine & that was underwater. Two other timber vessels that were launched at the same time did not float and were reportedly terminally damaged.

The Hillyard did eventually take up and was enormous concern.
A few new fishing vessel inspections for the MCA. The MCA have changed some of the rules for fishing vessels, meaning that many smaller vessels are unable to meet the new requirements very easily and some vessels have been restricted or even refused to carry on fishing commercially. The recent fishing vessel tragedies have caused the MCA extreme concern & have adjusted the rules in response/

Links to useful pages on this site

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Survey faults & photos
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