Owning a boat has its risks.
In general, the biggest risk comes to the bank account. At least that’s in my personal experience,
owning a boat always seems to costs me money.
Of course, so does a Harley, Cessna or anything else I own. There is
always a never-ending list of improvements and gadgets that I want to add. And if I don’t add things to the existing
boat, there is always another boat around the corner I want to buy. New or used
the “risk” is there.
So think you can save money by not adding anything new to
your boat? Sorry doesn't work that
way. Even if you don’t add or change
things on your boat, there will always be regular maintenance items that are
the result of age or wear and tear. There are also a few fixed costs that boat
owners cannot get away from. Slip or mooring
fees and insurance are just a couple. No one but the owner pays these types of
expenses. They are part of the risk of
owning a boat.
Maintenance is necessary and vitally important to
maintaining the value and safety of the boat. It is also something that can’t
be covered by warranties or insurance. There are a few things that are covered
under the warranty that may be construed as maintenance, but typically,
warranties are good for defective manufacturing or assembly of your boat, motor
and accessories. If it is a problem that
results from regular use (wear and tear) or recommended service intervals…it is
not going to be covered by a warranty.
Sure there is always that chance that the local dealer might include
free oil changes or tune-ups for some limited amount of time. But that’s not a
Time to make a shameless plug and tell you to buy my book, "Ultimate Boat Maintenance Projects". Published by Motorbooks International and available at book stores or directly from SkySmith. Okay, good maintenance wont protect you from everything, but it sure will help. I also think that doing some of your own maintenance will make you feel more comfortable as an owner. Learn how and do basic maintenance as an owner,m its good for you! Want to know more, go to one of my seminars at a boat show in your area. Not speaking at your boat show? Maybe you should get them to invite me! Okay, off the soap box.
Anyway...Insurance, (often defined as the transfer of the risk of a potential loss, from one entity to
another, in exchange for a reasonable fee) is sometimes expected to pay for
these regular expenses. Well, let me
remind you that wear and tear and maintenance are not covered by
Many people try to have
regular maintenance items covered by insurance only to be disappointed when the
claim is denied. Items like frozen and
cracked engine blocks, overheating damage, even the failure of the bellows will
not be covered. The cause (poor service, lack of antifreeze, etc) won’t be
covered but the resulting sinking or fire may be. That’s the key. Let me try and
clarify this again, the accident and the resulting damage should be covered,
but the cause might not. An example
could be the deteriorating bellows on a lower unit. If the bellows dries out and cracks it could
leak and the boat could sink. The
bellows would not be covered, but the damage that results from the sinking
probably would. Okay, seems pretty
gray, which but that is just the way it is.
So what are some of the most common claims?
There are a few claims that keep popping up. One marine insurance claim department I
contacted felt that about 80 percent of their claims are the result of hitting
a submerged object.
Think about it. The
more storms there are, the more rivers that flood, the more stuff is floating
in the water and under the surface. Submerged objects will result in damage to
lower units, propellers, keels, and hulls.
Sometimes sinking does occur. If you think or know you hit something,
make sure you check bilge area and monitor the bilge regularly to make sure
there is not any damage that could result in submersion or, in other
Using information from marine insurance claim departments
and organizations like Boat US, a few of the other common claims I discovered
Theft of assorted boat equipment and parts (portable or
permanent). Items like out drives,
electronics, outboard motors, and trailers are some of the most popular
parts. Leaving the trailer unattended in
the parking lot or the cockpit uncovered is an invitation for a thief. Check your policy, many do not cover items
stolen from your boat unless it was permanently attached or in a locked
Grand theft boat.
Snatching the whole boat is another big claim. While there are cases of theft from a slip or
mooring, trailer-based boats are the ones that are usually turned in on a
claim. Boats, like cars, are often stripped and the parts sold a piece at a
time. Remember the phrase “the sum of
the parts is worth more than whole” well that’s true with boat parts. Plus if you take all the parts off the boat,
the parts are harder to track down.
Collisions with anything are bad.
Collisions with pilings, docks, and other boats can be deadly. Collisions are not the same as hitting
submerged items. Collisions are just that, colliding with something else either
moving (another boat) or stationary (like a dock). You can help stop collisions by watching
where you are going, learn the rules of the area and use your charts.
Grounding or running aground. Most claims departments indicate that often
more damage is caused by trying to accelerate through the sand, mud or rocks
than by just stopping and waiting for help.
Using a tow service or an alternative method to get unstuck like air
bags, reduces the risk for further damage. .
Now is a good time to repeat - carry up-to-date marine
charts and plan your cruising routes to avoid accidental grounding.
A few of the less common but still important claims
Lightning strikes. Being the one of the tallest things on
the water during storms is bound to result in a lightning strike. Lightning usually “fries” the electronics,
puts holes in fiberglass and starts fires.
It is a hard thing to prevent.
Best way to reduce the damage is to ground the boat so the current has a
way to pass through to the ground.
Damage from docks.
Wind, weather, and hurricanes, can cause chafing, damage to rub rails
and hull joints and even rip cleats out of the decks. Get in a habit of moving the boat to a safe
harbor or new neighborhood when bad weather is imminent. Learn to tie up securely, use high quality
dock lines and fenders. Last year was
bad for the hurricane states. The
underwriters are already increasing rates and reducing or eliminating territories
There are a few claims relating to fire and explosion. Often
the cause is from bad wiring, fuels leaks, overheated manifolds, and even bilge
vents not being used or being blocked. These claims can be reduced or
eliminated just by taking part in a good preventative maintenance plan.
Occasionally there will be a boat that sinks from bad
through-hull fittings, damaged sea cocks and the bilge pump being blocked
and/or the back up bilge pump and warning system being inoperative. Occasionally a storm with lots of heavy rain
or combined with a lightning strike can short the boats battery preventing the
bilge pumps from working.
Of course, the list above is not inclusive. There are all sorts of variations along with different
levels of each type of claim. Even if
you take all the precautions, accidents do happen. Boat owners buy insurance to
transfer the risk to the insurance company for those unexpected catastrophes,
so make sure you have the right coverage for your vessel and you implement a
preventative maintenance plan to help reduce potential claims.
Labels: Boat claims, Boat Insurance, boat maintenance, Boat shows, boating, boating safety, boats, Insurance, Motorbooks International, power boats, sail boats, sailing, Ultimate Boat Maintenance Projects