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If you own a boat or personal watercraft, as the weather gets warmer and the days longer, your thoughts turn towards the water. Many do not realize that more than 70% of all boating accidents are due to inattention, speeding or boating under the influence of drugs and alcohol, warns the U.S. Coast Guard. The key to preventing boating accidents is education. Last year, 80% of all boating fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had not completed a boating safety course.
Although collision with another boat is the most reported type of accident, hurricanes, theft and fire also pose a significant threat to boat owners. In fact, more than $40 million dollars worth of boats are stolen each year, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
With private boats costing thousands or even millions, having the appropriate property and liability coverage is essential.
Canoes, small sail boats, and boats equipped with motors that are less than 25 mph are generally covered under a homeowners or renters insurance policy. Coverage is usually about $1,000 or 10% of the home’s property value and it generally includes the boat, motor, and trailer combined. Liability coverage is typically not included—but it can be added as an endorsement to a homeowners policy.
Larger and faster boats, yachts, and personal watercrafts such as jet skis and wave runners require a separate boat insurance policy. For yachts, damage to the craft, including the hull, is covered. These policies also provide broader liability protection. A boat insurance policy will cover:
Bodily injury—for injuries caused to another person.
Property damage—for damage caused to someone else’s property.
Guest passenger liability—for any legal expenses incurred by someone using the boat with the owner’s permission.
Medical payments—for injuries to the boat owner and other passengers.
Most insurance companies offer liability limits starting at $15,000 and can be increased to $300,000. Typical policies include deductibles of $250 for property damage, $500 for theft and $1,000 for medical payments. Additional coverage can be purchased for trailers and other accessories. Boat owners may also consider purchasing a personal excess liability policy which will provide additional protection for their boat, home and car.
The type of vessel, the horsepower of the engines, the value of the vessel, and the location where it is kept are all factors in determining coverage and premium.
Another variable influencing the cost of boat insurance is the water where it’s used. Sailing in the ocean is generally riskier than sailing a quiet lake.
Boat owners should also find out about available discounts, including ones for diesel powered crafts (considered less hazardous than gasoline), Coast Guard approved fire extinguishers, ship-to-shore radios, claims-free experience, multi-policy with the same insurer (such as a car, home or personal excess policy), and safety education courses.
To be a safer boater, the U.S. Coast Guard suggests that you:
Get a free vessel safety check by calling 1-800-368-5647or visiting http://www.vesselsafetycheck.org.
Monitor the weather forecast and let someone know where you’re going and when to expect you.
Check engine, fuel, electrical and steering systems, especially or exhaust-system leaks.
Keep marine-type fire extinguishers accessible and in good condition for immediate use. Make sure they are matched to the size and type of the boat.
Equip the vessel with required navigation lights and with a whistle, horn or bell. Consider additional safety devices, such as a paddle or oars, a first-aid kit, a supply of fresh water, a tool kit and spare parts, a flashlight, flares and a radio.
Make sure that every person on board wears a life jacket and don’t permit riding on the bow, seatbacks, or gunwales. Every year, 80% boater fatalities are attributed to a missing life jacket.
Never boat under the influence. Alcohol is involved in more than one third of all boating fatalities.