Having sailed on the Chesapeake Bay for many years, we never thought much about the intricacies of marine insurance. When we bought our previous boats and Dolce Vento we acquired coverage from a broker recommended by our loan officer. It was simple and for Bay sailing, the coverage are a standard, covering sailing throughout the Bay down to Norfolk, requiring that we stop sailing November 1 through April 1, and providing “named storm” coverage with a deductible of 10% of the boat’s value for a cost of less than $1000 annually. Not bad for a 46′ boat. We are also Boat US members with “Gold Unlimited” towing benefits. On the Bay you are bound to miss a mark and go aground, experience engine trouble, or mistakenly snag a crab pot or trot line. We’ve experienced all three.
As we planned our southward adventure, marine insurance suddenly became potentially very expensive and the coverage options varied dramatically. Due diligence was required. I talked with other folks living on their boats to see what they did for insurance. Then I researched various insurance brokers and the companies they represent.
With hours of emails and phone calls my head was spinning as I entered options and costs into a spreadsheet. The more I learned, the more I knew this was more than an afternoon project. Reading the “specimen” policies was the way I found the detailed data for the true ” apples to apples” comparison. For example, one company would insure us for the Atlantic and Gulf coastal waters and Bahamas all year round for what appeared to be a very reasonable sum, but after digging I discovered that I hadn’t asked the right questions. The deductible on that policy was 20% of the boat’s value and there was no coverage for named storms. Another would insure us for sailing just about anywhere, but would not cover “named storms” which in my opinion is a primary reason for getting insurance. Additionally, with the increase in the severity of “named storms”, marine insurance will only become more expensive with more restrictions.
In the end, we changed brokers with an agent named Morgan who spent the time to educate us on our options, instead of just emailing us proposals based on what we said were our “plans and requirements”. He actually questioned them because of their cost and risk impacts. We decided that the best value for us will be coverage of the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal waters and Bahamas with a restriction to be above the 35th parallel from November 1 – June 1 (official hurricane season). If our plans change, then we can get a “trip or a specific location” endorsement.
Lesson Learned: Find an experienced marine insurance agent who can teach you the ins and outs. Get multiple estimates and read the fine print multiple times. Pay attention to the terms used in the policies. Here are the many questions to ask. Here are some of them:
- Is there insurance coverage for where you want to sail? What is the location coverage? What are the sailing boundaries? Bay, coastal,and off shore water require different types of coverage.
- What is the deductible for what coverage situations?
- Are “named storms covered”? In what time frame? For what locations?
- What are the rules for preparing your boat for a named storm? Will the insurance cover all or part of the preparation costs?
- Is the dinghy and its outboard covered? Is it a fixed sum?
- What is the extent of theft protection is provided?
- Does the boat need to be out of the water or winterized at certain time periods?
- Does the boat need to moved to a specific location during “hurricane season? What are the dates?
- What are the liability limits for medical, incident damages, oil spillage, towing and other standard coverage?
- What are the requirements for a “trip” or “location” coverage amendment for an off shore voyage?
- Will the cost of my insurance differ if its written from my current location or my destination location?
- What are my incident reporting requirements?
- Can I subrogate to the insurance company if I have an incident that will be paid for by someone else’s insurance?
And remember, Boat US or Sea Tow membership is available for all US coastal waters to at least 20 miles off shore. It will increase your boating safety and save you hundreds, even thousands of dollars in unexpected costs .