Our first Marine Survey: United Forces Part 2

Never have we been that close to finding our new liveaboard sailboat. We’re travelling to Italy for a second visit to Viribus Unitis, this time for our very first marine survey. Fingers crossed, maybe we’ll be owners of our very own Aluminium boat soon.

Looking for marine experts

We were in good spirits after our first visit to Viribus Unitis – for the first time visiting a boat, we had discovered no major defects. With this in mind, we started looking for experts for the various components of Viribus Unitis, especially for a marine survey, which is executed by an expert which takes and overall look at the state of the vessel.

A marine survey helps to detect the hidden defects, not only the obvious ones such as the broken window of Viribus Unitis
Obvious defects on Viribus Unitis – now it was time for the hidden ones

Who were we looking for?

A Mechanic

While we had Sylfia on our search radar, we attended to a marine diesel engine course with Heinz Dirnberger from MT Marine Technik on Lake Zurich. With his competence and directness, he was our first choice for the inspection of the two engines from Viribus Unitis. The two-day inspection would have been around Easter, unfortunately, whereupon Heinz had to reject our offer, because he himself had too much work to do.

A Rigger

The search for a specialist in rigging was also unsuccessful. We made calls all across Italy and used contact after contact, but unfortunately, we couldn’t find anyone suitable.

A marine surveyor

On the other hand, we were successful in looking for the man for the rough job of a general marine survey and the subsequent assessment of Viribus Unitis. I found what I was looking for on a nightly search – Paul Fay seemed to be our man. On his homepage it is written:

“Having spent many years involved with building, designing and repairing Steel and Aluminium yachts and motor boats, I offer a specialised marine survey on vessels constructed of these materials.

I am a truly independent surveyor, I am not affiliated to any broker, repairer or boat yard. I work only for you the person using my services. Advice you receive will be given in your best interests for both financial and quality reasons.

Is Paul Fay our man?

Music to my eyes ears. I immediately emailed him, including a couple of questions about some weird indentations on the aluminium hull of Viribus. What I got was not just a generic answer – Paul took the time to comment on each of my pictures in detail. After a few phonecalls the case was clear – we would fly him in from England to do the Viribus Unitis inspection. His investigations would take two days – on day one he’d look into the hull and the deck, on day two he would work his way through the interior.

Planning a trip to Italy (again)

After the weekend for the inspection was fixed, the planning began. Pati’s father Urs also wanted to join us on our trip and so he, Carmen and Iñaki went on the trip together by car. Unfortunately, Pati was unable to take part in the second and most exciting part of the inspection due to quarterly closing and therefore a lot of work in the office. I would also only follow by bus via Milan to Udine a day later because of work.

Visiting Stadio San Siro

The bus trip was fun and during the few hours I had to wait for connection in Milan I took the opportunity to visit the venerable San Siro. As a complete and utter football freak, I couldn’t miss this, of course – it was a great experience to stand alone in front of this legendary stadium in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, I’ve never been inside.

There’s a hole in the boat!

Paul’s marine survey of the vessel with Iñaki in tow was already in full swing when I was picked up by Carmen and Urs in Udine. We stayed at the same hotel in San Giorgio di Nogaro again. When I got to the ship, bad news already – Paul had already discovered A HOLE in the ship that was only covered by a bubble in the layer of paint. He suspected it was pitting corrosion because there was an indefinable white powder all around the hole.

A marine survey in full swing

We worked our way forward all day. Paul was obsessed with detail and found things everywhere that would never have caught a mortal’s eye. It quickly became clear to us that we had selected the perfect candidate for this inspection.

Pitting repair with Fiberglass?

An extremely important point that Paul discovered on day one (apart from the hole, of course):

On the outside of the hull between the bilge keel and thus directly under the engine compartment, a large area had been patched up with fiberglass and epoxy resin. This, according to the owners, to repair a larger area with pitting corrosion. Unfortunately, this did not solve the problem of corrosion in any way. There was also controversy about the adhesion of fiberglass mats to aluminum. Optimally, the defective area would have been cut out and a new aluminum plate welded in.

Why you should do your own research

Prior to our trip to Italy, in the manner of a private investigator, I was able to establish contact with the shipyard that had carried out the work, so a phone call from Paul to the person responsible for the “repair” was possible. Urs distracted the two owners in the deck saloon, while Paul, Iñaki and I spoke on the phone in the engine room. Tehehehe…


Larger and smaller jobs came together over the course of the day, which should have been tackled before our long journey. The day was over quickly and to quote Paul it was about “beer-o-clock” anyway.

In quale direzione verso una birra fredda?

Inspecting the inside

The next day it was the turn of Viribus’ interior to be dismantled by Paul. Same picture there – Paul found a number of shortcomings, two of which were massive:

We were sitting on a floating bomb!

Apart from the fact that the entire gas system ran inside the ship, this includes the gas bottles, the outlet for the gas bottle locker was placed too high. In the event of a gas leak, we would have been sitting on a floating bomb. Even if the outlet would have been in the right position, the gas would have leaked into the vessel…

During the marine survey the gas system is checked, too.
Imagine having a leaking gas bottle…

Water tanks were corroded!

A huge fresh water tank was built directly into the ship’s bilge, so its bottom was part of the hull. The owners had never opened the tank since their purchase of Viribus Unitis because the lid was attached to the tank with around 40 bolts (Fig. 1). Nevertheless, we tackled the opening of the tank and promptly found bad pitting. The corrosion had partially eaten the hull down to a thickness of only 2mm. “You would have noticed that at the latest if the drinking water suddenly tasted salty.”, said Paul.

This guy was a marine surveyor at it’s best. We could not ask for more.

The anatomy of boat water tanks

Also, with a capacity of 1500 liters, no baffle plates were installed in the tank. With baffle plates installed, the water in the tank can still move freely, but not the entire amount of water in its entirety (Fig. 2). Since liquids move in a certain direction when accelerated, in Viribus’ case more than a ton of water would have been set in motion in rough seas, which could have led to structural problems. No problem with quiet trips in coastal waters, a big problem on the high seas.

A steep learning curve

We were brought back to earth by cold facts, while the two days with Paul relentlessly showed where the problems with Viribus were. The learning curve was as steep for the two owners and they discovered with Paul, just like us, that there was a lot to do on board. The corroded water tank in particular shocked them so much that they agreed to pay half of Paul’s fee for the marine survey.

What good seamanship looks like

In general, the two owners were extremely helpful and readily and honestly provided information on all questions. They also wanted to repair the shortcomings in the tank before the ship was even listed to be for sale again. Thanks for that!

Need a good marine surveyor?

Book Mr. Paul Fay today!

At this point, a big thank you to Mr. Paul Fay. He was worth every penny of his fee and we highly recommend him for whatever marine survey there might be.

Turning down an offer

Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that although Viribus Unitis was a great sailboat, there were too many contingencies and uncertainties. We couldn’t really estimate how much hidden work she would have in store for us. So, with a heavy heart, we sent the owners a rejection and had to start the search again.

Until we meet again

As fate would have it, we also met Viribus Unitis a second time – again on Youtube. On the channel BootsProfis” (a great channel, unfortunately only available in German), a sailor was looking for a live-aboard sailboat. It happened that the group also visited Viribus, with a good general knowledge of the vessel, since they received Paul’s survey report from the owners. Long story short, Viribus found a new, happy owner, which we too are very happy about.

Who knows, maybe we’ll meet Sylfia AND Viribus Unitis in an anchor bay somewhere in the world.

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Two more aluminum boats with youtube vlogers are Vet Tails‘ Sailing Chuffed and and White Spot Pirates.

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