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Surveyor's Toolbox

The Surveyor’s Toolbox
A voyage in my bag
Taking advantage of a forced idleness, out of the blue decided to bring order to my
toolbox. Actually I don’t have a single one, more like a bundle of tools and instruments I
use according to need. What I always bring along are an EVA PVC framed suitcase,
hosting the greatest part of tools, and a photographer
backpack, in which I carry cameras and thermal imagers
(a laptotp at need, and other electronic stuff). Aside from
those, in my car there is always a larger plastic box,
containing stuff I don’t usually need, but at hand if
necessary; other specific instrumentation is conveniently
stored in my garage, and I carry it for peculiar
Let’s open the suitcase; we’ll see at a glance a lot of
tools: hammers, screwdrivers, flashlights, tape, electronic
gauges... some of which in duplicate or triplicate.
The suitcase is quite heavy, it’s furnished with a shoulder
strap (a pair of wheels and a handle would suit better,
though) and a TSA padlock useful when I ship the case as
a checked baggage.
Massimiliano Panessa – Yacht & Small Craft Surveyor
Surveyor's Toolbox – page 1 of 10
Here you may see all tools nicely spread out on my kitchen table, let’s explore them,
properly grouped.
Traditional instruments and manual (or electric powered) tools
You’ll find three different hammers in my bag; a wooden hammer, used in tap-testing
GRP and wooden hulls; a pein hammer for metal hulls and cored decks, and a phenolichead hammer for other things to be stroke (seacocks, engine mounts, brokers’ head...)
Massimiliano Panessa – Yacht & Small Craft Surveyor
Surveyor's Toolbox – page 2 of 10
I prefer not to categorise this tool: it’s by far the most
used tool in my box - and often in my pocket, adequately
protecting the probe with that red rubber sleeve you see
in the picture. With this spike I puncture blisters, pierce
timbers (and sometimes GRP hulls), explore voids, clean
up cracks, and the handle is useful to tap test GRP.
Marking media
Permanent markers,chalks,
mason’s pencil, and an
amazing set of tiler’s
crayons, capable of writing
on virtually any surface in
any weather condition. A
wide range of coloured
tapes complete the set.
Measuring tools
A tape measure, a caliper, feeler gauge (here is the
old one, I usually replace it when it starts to get
rusty) and various metallic rulers. I also have a spirit
level, but I don’t use it to level things as much as to
check for concavity on convexity of hulls.
Massimiliano Panessa – Yacht & Small Craft Surveyor
Surveyor's Toolbox – page 3 of 10
I have got a series of lights to be used in dark enclosures
or to project a particular light when taking a picture.
Here a penlight is missing – I forgot it on board of one of
my last surveys, a classic – and I have another in my
backpack, not shown here.
Access tools
I usually hope to find on board all sole boards
unscrewed and other places readily accessible,
but it never happens: I always need to dismantle
covers, untighten bolts, and then reassemble
everything. Hence the screw driver handle and bit
set, the tiny battery screwdriver, adjustable
wrench, the pocket knife, the suction cup and, last
but not least, my beloved multitool (this one is a
Gerber, worthy substitute of my previous
Leatherman), priceless especially when working
aloft - with compulsory lanyard.
How should I categorise this tool? A scraper is a scraper,
and I need it to remove coatings: from hull, from
propellers, from shafts...
Mental note for me: just noted that I’m out of spare
blades, buy some.
Massimiliano Panessa – Yacht & Small Craft Surveyor
Surveyor's Toolbox – page 4 of 10
Magnetic retriever
I dip this telescopic pick up
tool into engine and
gearbox oil to find
suspended metallic particles
Litmus paper
Litmus is a mixture of different dyes extracted from
lichens. It is often adsorbed onto filter paper to produce
one of the oldest forms of pH indicator, used to test
materials for acidity. I need it to test
acidity of hull blisters content – the
lower the pH, the higher the acidity,
and so the more advanced is the
osmotic process.
Digital instruments
Digital multimeter
In fact I have three: the most used is the one on
the left, a clamp meter capable of reading both AC
and DC currents, beside to other electrical stuff
such as resistance, voltage, diode testing, and bla
bla bla. The blue one is my old one, carried only
as a spare because it don’t measure DC currents.
Middle below a multimeter I use on two occasions:
to check for galvanic potential of metal fittings in
the water, and for testing AC grounding (between
the boat and shore pedestal) – this is because
other tester hasn’t got capability for in-line current
testing. Ah, I also carry some spare probe.
Massimiliano Panessa – Yacht & Small Craft Surveyor
Surveyor's Toolbox – page 5 of 10
Moisture meters
I have three of them as well. The principal one is
the yellow Protimeter Aquant. The meter works by
emitting a radio frequency through the inspected
material, and the received signal is interpreted
giving as a result a reading between 0 and 999, 0
meaning totally dry, and 999 meaning totally wet.
A fibreglass laminate is fully acceptable when the
reading is 0~169; 170~199 readings ask for a
clarification, and higher readings require further
investigation. The green one is an Extech MO55,
working on two principles: resistive, measuring
the resistance between the two prongs when they
are inserted in a suitable material (typically
wood), or capacitive, when a low alternate current
flows between two pads on the back of the meter,
measuring the capacitance of the inspected
material. Both resistance and capacitance vary
according to moisture content, and the instrument
reading should be interpreted correspondingly.
Finally my old Sovereign, capacitive moisture meter; still working,but I use it only for
confirmation of particular findings.
Conductance tester
Conductance is the opposite of resistance. The tester is to be connected to battery
poles, and through them it injects an AC current; the information gathered is, to cut a
long story short, the internal resistance of the battery. The readable results are Voltage,
effective CCA, Internal resistance (expressed in micro Ohm – mΩ) and battery State-of-) and battery State-ofHealth - SoH. I have two of them, but the most used one is a Ring RBAG700, becauseit
can give a reading without knowing the nominal CCA of the battery, thing that often
Massimiliano Panessa – Yacht & Small Craft Surveyor
Surveyor's Toolbox – page 6 of 10
happens. Nowadays I use the Autool only to test Gel batteries, since the Ring lack this
capability. Both have a built-in printer.
Salinity Meter
Well, I opened a sole board and found a substantial
amount of backwater; it’s brown, muddy, stinky and
greasy: how am I supposed to tell fresh from sea water?
Surely not tasting it.
It is a non-contact tachometer designed to measure the
speed of a turning device, such as an engine shaft – for
instance, to calibrate the engine rev meter.
Environmental thermo-hygrometer
I need it to evaluate air temperature, humidity and dew
point before taking any measurement; hull moisture
should be tested with air temperature 5°C over dew
Massimiliano Panessa – Yacht & Small Craft Surveyor
Surveyor's Toolbox – page 7 of 10
Voltage detector
Convenient to tell a hot conductor from a neutral one.
Nothing to explain, I presume. I prefer a bridge Lumix DCFZ82 with a 20-1200mm lens, corresponding to an
impressive 60x optical zoom. As a spare I carry a Lumix
DMC-FT30 (yes, I’m stuck with Panasonic, I can’t help)
compact camera, that is as well water proof, so I can use it
during sea trials. The action camera aside is to capture funny
time-lapse videos.
Inspection camera
I used to use the inspection
camera on the right, but
nowadays the Bluetooth
connected camera on the left,
with dedicated smartphone
app, is quite practical.
Massimiliano Panessa – Yacht & Small Craft Surveyor
Surveyor's Toolbox – page 8 of 10
Sound Level Meter
Used only on appointment (e.g.; for Comfort Class
Assessment) exactly for what the name tells.
Spare batteries
All above drain tons of juice, and where batteries
are not rechargeable I need to carry spares of all
sorts: AA, AAA, even AAAA, (if they made AAAAA
I’m sure I’d need them, too), 9V. By the way, see
how’s made a 9V battery inside:
NDT Equipment
NDT means Non-Destructive Testing. I’m pretty sure that most of above reported tools
are non-destructive, still NDT include a clearly definite list of techniques: Ultrasonic, Dye
penetrant, Radiography, Magnetoscopic, Infra-Red Thermography, many other that I
cannot begin to guess and, yes, Visual.
Ultrasonic Testing
My UT equipment is composed by an Ultrasonic Flaw Detector, Mitech MFD620C, that I
use with two probes: a low frequency probe for composite materials and a dual crystal
5MHz for metals. A pocket-size Panametrics 26MG comes in handy when I need to travel
light. Ultrasound gel, for coupling the proves on the inspected surface is imperative.
Massimiliano Panessa – Yacht & Small Craft Surveyor
Surveyor's Toolbox – page 9 of 10
Infrared Thermography
Infrared thermography applies on hulls, decks, engine and electric systems onboard. I
always carry a Testo 882 thermal imager, a very powerful device, though a little bit slow
(it takes forever to start) so sometimes I use a less capable, but more flexible Trotec
AC080V, phone shaped camera.
Dye Penetrant
Let’s close the inventory with this set of sprays: a cleaner,
to be used before the test and to remove the penetrant,
the penetrant itself, that find any possible crack gleefully
making its way into, and a developer, that extract the
penetrant from the cracks making it clearly visible.
So now, let’s put everything back.
Massimiliano Panessa – Yacht & Small Craft Surveyor
Surveyor's Toolbox – page 10 of 10