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As weather wreaks havoc, better check your boat's insurance policy

by Scott Croft 8 Jul 14:06 UTC
Heavy rain events and subsequent flooding can sink a recreational boat. © Scott Croft

According to NOAA, the 12-month-period ending in April 2019 was the wettest in U.S. records dating back to 1895. As extreme weather events become more common, few are more affected than recreational boaters who store their vessels on the water at a marina, boat club or backyard dock. Flooding, hurricanes, tornados or heavy snows falling on boat shed roofs are just a few sound reasons to insure your boat.

As the frequency and severity of storm events increase, the nation's largest advocacy, services and safety group for recreational boaters, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS), expects the impact on recreational boaters to grow, and has three tips to help deal with extreme weather and how your insurance policy addresses potential harm to your boat.

1. Focus on the big stuff. With extreme weather, boaters need to look at the biggest boat insurance risk - a sinking with partial/total loss of the boat. According to the BoatUS Marine Insurance Program claims files, the lion's share (69%) of boat sinking insurance claims occur while the boat is tied up at the dock, the owner absent. While these sinkings are often the result of striking a submerged object or equipment failure such as a bilge pump that doesn't work, cracked outdrive bellows or damaged thru-hulls, precipitation is a common underlying factor in dockside sinkings. Does rain easily shed off your boat, and do you have a reliable way to remove water that makes its way in?

2. Proceed with caution. In the springtime, boats sink for certain reasons such as when rains overwhelm a bilge pump and battery, ice pops a hose off its connection, or scuppers are clogged. Severe rain and thunderstorms, which can include hurricane-force winds, require ensuring decks and boat covers are watertight and the bilge pump is in good shape. With forceful currents and other navigational hazards, boats stored on rivers and creeks may also be more prone to damage from flood events and should be hauled before launch ramps are closed. Running a boat in floodwaters requires additional safety precautions. For the biggest storms, BoatUS.com/Hurricane-prep offers free hurricane preparation tools for boaters and clubs.

3. Know your policy's salvage coverage. As the last backstop to a potential weather-related sinking, having full salvage coverage included in your boat's insurance policy is important. Salvage comes into play when a boat sinks and needs to be recovered. A policy's salvage coverage will pay to recover your boat from under the collapsed shed, at its dock or stuck on a beach, and transport it safely to a repair facility. While many salvages are routine, some are not and can be costly. The question is, do you have enough of this coverage?

Many boaters assume the cost of raising or moving the boat to a safe location is included. That's not always the case. Some marine insurers, when processing your insurance policy claim and writing you a check, may subtract salvage costs from the insured value (hull value) of the boat, or put a very low limit on salvage coverage available. This could leave a boat owner potentially on the hook to pay for salvage expenses out of their own pocket, reduce the funds available to make repairs, and, in the case of a complete (total) loss, decrease the final claim amount paid to the owner.

Better policies, according to BoatUS, provide full salvage coverage that is separate but equal to the limit agreed to on the boat's hull value coverage, giving the boat owner a better value. This means if a boat has an agreed hull value of $30,000, there is a separate $30,000 limit available to pay salvage expenses. If extreme weather comes your way and something bad happens, you're ready for it.

For a free quote or to learn about the BoatUS Marine Insurance Program, go to BoatUS.com/Insurance.

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