Inspecting the Aging Sailboat by Don Casey has been one of my go to surveying books since I first bought it in 2007.  It gives a brilliant insight into how to assess the condition of an aging fibreglass yacht and is a really great read for boat buyers, boat owners and boat brokers as well as marine surveyors.

Book Review of Inspecting the Aging Sailboat by Don Casey

Buy it on Amazon by clicking THIS LINK

This book was first published in 1997 and my copy is the 2nd reprint from 2005.  It’s a 140 page paperback written by one of America’s best and most trusted do-it-yourself boating writers.  Don has published several great books including the bestselling This Old Boat and Sailboat Electrics Simplified and has been a monthly columnist for SAIL magazine in the US for many years.  He has been an active sailor, boat and product tester and writer for several decades.

Along with reviewing this fabulous book, I’ve got a really useful resource to share with you which contains several other essential recommendations for your boaty library.  I’ll sign post you to that later on.

So then, let’s get down to business.  There are five big selling points for this book in my opinion.


The first thing that really grabs you about this book is the quantity and quality of all of the black and white line drawings by Rob Groves and Jim Sollers used to illustrate the text.  They are beautifully drawn, really clear and are every bit as good as a lot of real boat photos I have seen.  I have a sizeable back catalogue of surveying photos accumulated since I started surveying in 2008 and most of mine would struggle to match the clarity that these drawings have. But then again, I am an amateur photographer in every sense of the word.  These drawings are very reminiscent of some of Ian Nicolson’s drawings in some of his classic texts such as The Boat Data Book, now in its 7th edition.


The chapters of Don Casey’s book follow a very methodical, and to my mind at least, logical routine for a survey on a boat that is out of the water in a boatyard.  Do the outside first (hull, keel and stern gear), then go up on deck and do deck and deck fittings, followed by the rig and sails, before moving inside to look at the hull interior, the instruments and controls, the engine, electrical and domestic systems before finishing with the safety systems.

My normal survey routine is very much a journey around the boat in this methodical manner which I find helps me pace my time throughout the day and ensures I cover all of the key areas as I go.

Surveying Tips

Throughout the book Don gives the reader plenty of practical everyday surveying tips.

Image from page 59 of Inspecting the Aging Sailboat

Testing the rigging for snags with cotton wool


On page 59 he advises checking the standing rigging with a soft cloth or some cotton wool which will quickly highlight any broken strands and is much better than slicing your fingers or palm.




Image from page 89 of Inspecting The Aging Sailboat

Measuring engine pulley alignment






On page 89 he shows a simple test to check whether the engine pulleys are in line or not, useful when you see lots of black dust from the drive belts nearby assuming the belt is tight enough.

A clever trick on page 31for boat owners is to draw a horizontal line with a dry wipe marker beneath any window or hatch suspected of leaking.  After the next heavy rain look for a smudged line with runs passing through it.



The 30 Minute Survey

The author also offers the tempting prospect of a 30 minute DIY survey and this is a really useful section for anyone looking to buy a boat.  He covers all of the main areas of a typical old yacht with the most serious defects to keep an eye out for.  As a professional surveyor I have only had to make ‘the call’ to my client a handful of times to strongly advise against buying a boat based on my immediate observations during survey.  Don’s 30 minute survey would have been pretty effective at putting any observant buyer off before engaging the services of a marine surveyor.

Advice On Hiring A Professional Surveyor

Don closes the book by offering his advice on engaging a professional surveyor and what to expect. As the book is written for an American audience the advice steers buyers to the US equivalents of the International Institute of Marine Surveying here in the UK.  The IIMS has nearly 500 small craft surveyors around the world and the website has a really good surveyor search function which works on both mobile and desktop so you can easily find a suitably qualified and experienced surveyor close to where the boat is.

International Institute of Marine Surveying LogoInternational Institute of Marine Surveying LogoInternational Institute of Marine Surveying Logo

Clink on this link to visit their website:  IIMS





This book is a really good read for any aspiring marine surveyors looking to develop their survey routine and gain a feel for the level of detail one should seek to work to when surveying older FRP yachts.  For the prospective boat buyer it is an invaluable text which will help you speed through the sifting process of potential purchases in your local marina.  Whilst for owners of older FRP yachts, there is plenty of detail to help you understand the ageing process of your own boat and what to keep an eye out for as the years and miles pass beneath the keel.

Other Books To Buy

Like most marine surveyors I have acquired a bookcase full of various texts relating to my trade and industry as a whole.  Some are now out of print and some aren’t worth recommending but there are some really excellent books about marine surveying and boat design, building and maintenance that I do recommend.  Several of these have helped me develop my skills both as a marine surveyor and also as a sailor.  I will be reviewing some of the classics such as Surveying Yachts and Small Craft by Paul Stevens and Marine Diesel Engines  by Nigel Clegg in future book reviews.

But to help you decide which book to buy next, I have put together an essential reading list on Kit.Co at  All of the books are currently available on Amazon and its affiliate sites around the world and as an Amazon Affiliate I earn commission from every qualifying purchase.

I hope you found this blog informative and if you learnt something new, then why not buy me a beer by visiting