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Advice and tips for boaters on looking for insurance

By Chad Richardson
crichardson@rivertowns.net

The dream boat you’ve sought since your first big job is at its slip. You’ve been diligent at mainte­nance and you’ve babied it. Memories are made on board every weekend (and some weeknights). But as you watch the radar and see the big mutli-col­ored thunderstorm blobs move across the screen from west to east, you can’t help but get nervous. That isn’t the time to be wondering if you have the right insurance on that dream boat.

For this issue, we’ve asked an expert in boating insurance to share his tips and advice on what to look for and what to avoid when it comes to your policy.

Kevin Gruys of Aircraft and Marine Insurance was kind enough to do a Question-and-Answer session with us. Here goes:

Q: How does boat insurance differ from auto or home?

A: If your question is whether or not a boat be­longs on an endorsement to a Homeowners policy, or, if it belongs on a Boat policy; the answer is simply this: If the boat will ever leave your garage you need a boat policy. Any time a boat is endorsed onto a homeowners policy, the coverage is usually strictly physical damage coverage and on an acv basis. In other words, you would be lacking the accidental fuel spill coverage, the medical payment coverage, the personal property coverage and the big coverages such as wreck removal and salvage and mechanical breakdown. So, I recommend you purchase a boat policy, or a yacht policy.

By the way, there are lots of vvays boat insurance differs from home and auto insurance. The primary ways are that boat policies contain warranties. Warranties are agreements contained in the boat policy (or yacht policy), and if an insured should break ( or breach) one of these warranties, then coverage provided by the policy would become void. For example, there is a private pleasure use warranty. There is a navigation area warranty. There may be a winter lay-up period warranty. And, the companies you should avoid using typical­ly contain a warranty your boat will be maintained in seaworthy condition. Essentially, if the company determines your boat was not in seaworthy con­dition at the time of loss, their policy will not pay. I recommend you purchase a boat policy that does not have that warranty. There are several boat insurance companies policies that do contain that warranty.

Q: What questions should a boater ask when shopping for marine insurance?

A: They should ask their agent if the agent is comfortable and knowledgeable with boat insur­ance. They should ask the agent which insurance company has the best reputation for paying claims fairly and promptly. They should ask which com­pany provides all the key special coverage such as Wreck Removal Coverage and Salvage Coverage and Mechanical Breakdown Coverage. Typically no one asks how the loss settlement clause reads of a particular boat insurance policy. I know this can have a significant impact on how much money a company will pay for a particular claim. For example; If there were to be damage to a boats outdrive unit; will the company be paying based on the cost of an OEM outdrive, or, a remanufactured outdrive unit (from the original manufacturer), or, will it be based on the cost of a copy of an OEM outdrive that was made in China. Trust me, there are big differences in price and this will make a big difference in the dollar amount your insurance policy will pay you. Generally speaking, at least make sure you are buying an “Agreed Value” policy, and make sure you are buying a policy with Salvage Coverage, Wreck Removal Coverage and Mechanical Breakdown Coverage.

Q: What’s the difference between Boat and Yacht Insurance?

A: Generally the difference is found in the liability section of the policy. The small boat policy will have watercraft liability; which is providing coverage for the physical damage or the bodily injury you may become legally responsible for, arising out of the use and operation of your boat. But, Aircraft-Marine Insurance both Boat and Yacht policies should have wreck removal and accidental fuel spill coverage.

A yacht policy generally adds coverage for US longshoreman and Harbor workers Act coverage and may also have coverage for a paid captain and paid crew. This is called Jones Act coverage, and this is insurance that is needed if you hire someone to captain your yacht or essentially be a paid employee on your yacht. It is much like workers compensation coverage. But, it is actually more broad and is a subject in itself. If you are paying someone to work on your boat and they sustain an injury while in the course of their duties aboard your boat, watch out. Big money. Medical payments, lost wages, pain and suffering; it can become extremely expensive.

Q: What common mistakes do you see when boaters buy coverage?

A: The most common mistake is when a boat own­er will go online and purchase boat insurance like it is a commodity. Trust me, it is not a commodity. There are huge and substantial differences in cov­erage from one company’s policy to another com­pany’s policy and you will never learn that when you shop for boat insurance on line. My experience is most people who shop for boat insurance on
line end up with an actual cash value policy and they rarely understand what that means. And, ironically, you could probably find better coverage at a better price through a knowledgeable boat insurance agent.

Q: What pitfalls should boater’s be aware of when shopping for coverage?

A: Don’t make the mistake of thinking boat insur­ance is boat insurance. As I mentioned earlier, the biggest mistake would be thinking boat insurance is a commodity.  Broccoli may be a commodity, but boat insurance policies certainly are not. And every company online is dumping your informa­tion into a comparative rating tool and telling you where the lowest price is. But, that does not mean the lowest price is the policy you should purchase.

For example, if you purchased a nice new boat with twin 250 horsepower outboard engines and you then went for a ride on the lake and the engines ingested debris and ruined the engines, you would discover most boat policies do not pay for mechanical damage to the engines. However, some do. What would not having a policy that provided mechanical breakdown coverage mean in this example. The answer is one company’s policy pays zero. But another company’s policy would pay for the cost of new engines. Maybe $30,000 each. Maybe $60,000 in total. I consider $60,000 to be a very significant difference. And, I view my job as making the customer aware of this very important information when they decide which boat insurance policy to purchase.

Q: What should a boater with coverage look for in an existing policy to make sure their coverage is adequate?

A: Everything already mentioned. Confirm if you have an agreed value policy. Confirm if the insured value is correct. Confirm if the navigation area is correctly addressed. Also confirm if you have all the critical coverage’s including wreck removal and salvage and mechanical breakdown. Did you correctly identify if you have any business use? Do you have a paid person working on your boat?. … and, is the LIMIT of LIABILITY coverage (or, Protection and Indemnity Coverage) adequate to protect all the rest of your assets including prop­erties, savings and investments and don’t forget to protect your future earnings because having your earnings and wages attached can be a dreadful reality. Also, review if you have an Umbrella policy. And if you do, check what the underlying coverage limit requirement is. The list is a pretty lengthy list. You really need to concentrate on just one thing. Get a knowledgeable marine insurance agent. One thing is for certain, it’s not about mak­ing sure you’ve received a “paid in full discount” or whatever the discount Du Jour is. It is, however, about purchasing the coverage’s that will protect your boat as well as all the other assets you have.

Contact: Kevin Gruys can be reached by phone at 952-890-1124 or by email: gruys@aircraft-ma­rine.com

Recreational Boating in the United States: An Infographic

Here are some facts and figures about recreational boating in the United States. Did you think the Midwest would be the top area for recreational boaters? These numbers are from the 2011 National Recreational Boating Survey done be the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division. For more numbers, check out their survey.

Recreational Boating in the U.S. Infographic

Note: Click the image for the full-size version.

Winter Activities for Boaters

Winter Activites for Boaters

Does putting away your boat for the winter season give you the blues? Unless you’re a snow and cold lover, you probably dream about getting your boat back out all winter long. Luckily, there are some things boaters can do in the wintertime to enjoy boats, even when yours is in storage. Here are our tips for feeding your love of boating throughout the off-season.

Attend Boat Shows

Even though going to a boat show isn’t quite as glorious as going out on the water, it can still satisfy your boat junkie cravings. Go to a boat show and drool over the shiny new boats and futuristic new technology while hanging out and chatting with other boat lovers. Here’s a pretty comprehensive list of boat shows:
http://www.boatshows.com/calendar.aspx

Get a Magazine Subscription

If you don’t already subscribe to a boating magazine or two, winter is a good time to do so. You can pine over the pretty pictures of new boats, learn about emerging technology, brush up on boating news, read intriguing boating stories and more. Here are some of the most popular ones:
http://www.boatingmag.com/
http://www.yachtingmagazine.com/
http://www.sailingworld.com/

Browse Boats for Sale

A boater can dream, right? Winter is actually a fairly good time to shop for a new boat if you’re in the market for one, as you can take your time shopping and getting boat insurance it before boating season starts. Of course, even if you aren’t in the market for a new boat, it’s still fun to look, right? Head to a local showroom or shop online:
http://www.boattrader.com/browse

Go on a Boating Vacation

This one requires a bit of cash, but if you were already planning on a vacation, you might as well go somewhere where you can go boating! There are many, many possibilities for boating vacations in warmer climates. Try searching for them online in the place you’d most like to go. Here’s an example of a site that suggests boating vacations:
http://www.moorings.com/

Watch Boat Videos

There are thousands of boating videos on YouTube, waiting to be enjoyed. Sit down with your computer and get lost in them:
http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=boating&sm=3
Or, if you’re the more adventurous type, try watching GoPro videos. No, they’re not all about boating, but they’re awesome:
http://www.youtube.com/user/GoProCamera

Catch Up on Boating News

There’s always news about the boating industry being published online. Find a site and subscribe or visit often. Here’s an example we found:
http://www.tradeonlytoday.com/

Shop for New or Better Insurance

Looking for a better boat insurance policy from a company you can trust? Let us give you a quote!
Get a Boat Insurance Quote

Ways to Winterize Your Boat

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With winter on the horizon, for many of us, it’s that time of year when we need to prepare our boats for winter storage. Hibernation sets in, and we begin the long wait for spring, warm weather, and another boating season.

Taking the initiative now to protect your boat will assure that it will be ready to get back on the water in a few months when you are. Winterizing your boat doesn’t have to be difficult. Aircraft Marine and Insurance has put together a checklist to keep your marine craft in good condition during the winter months.

Exterior

  • Thoroughly wash the motor and boat hull removing all stains, dirt, or debris.
  • Coat the boat and painted motor surfaces with a fresh coating of wax.
  • Cover boat with a high-quality, breathable cover.
  • Remove the propeller and check thoroughly for damage. If you have a damaged propeller, now is the time to replace or service it — not at the start of the next season.
  • Clean the propeller shaft and apply a protective coating of grease.
  • If your boat will be kept in the water, install a de-icing device.
Interior
  • Make sure bilges are clean and dry.
  • Remove bilge drain plug and make a note of where you have placed it. Consider attaching the plug to the steering wheel or other conspicuous location with a piece of string so you don’t forget to reinstall it in the spring.
  • Install a dehumidifier in cabins and enclosed areas to help prevent mildew growth.
Electrical
  • Check and repair all electrical wiring and connections. Make sure nothing was damaged during the season.
  • Remove boat batteries and store in a cool dry place. Place batteries on a smart charger or charge them approximately once a month.

Engine

  • Change crankcase and gearcase oil while engine is warm and run the motor afterwards to distribute fresh oil throughout the power head.
  • Change oil filters.
  • Flush the engine with fresh water and drain.
  • Circulate antifreeze through engine block and manifolds.
  • Drain vapor separator tank of fuel by drain screw.
  • On carbureted outboard motors, drain the carburetor float bowls.
  • Change transmission fluid.
  • Fog the engine by spraying fogging fluid into each of the carburetors or throttle body throats.
  • Remove hoses from raw water pump.
  • Replace spark plugs and spray fogging fluid into spark plug ports.
  • Perform a complete lubrication service on the boat and motor.
  • Apply grease to all external engine fittings.
  • Apply protective anti-corrosion film to engine’s external parts.
  • Check the motor for loose, broken or missing fasteners. Tighten fasteners and make necessary repairs.
Fuel Systems
  • Fill permanently installed fuel tanks with fuel to prevent the formation of condensation.
  • Add appropriate amount of fuel stabilizer to fuel tanks.
  • Remove portable fuel tanks to safe, well-ventilated area. Drain plastic tanks and top-off metal tanks. Drain attached fuel lines.
Boat Trailer
  • Place the trailer on stands or blocks so the wheels are supported off the ground. Raise the bow higher than the stern to promote draining of rainwater or snow.
  • Remove trailer wheels to clean and repack the wheel bearings.

Please note: as with all boat repairs and maintenance, follow the instructions in your boat owner’s manual.

Fall Boating: Why You Should Try It

Fall Baoting

As the first official day of fall approaches, depending on where you live, you might be debating about taking your boat out of the water and getting it winterized. We’ve found a couple pretty compelling reasons as to why you should enjoy it for just another couple weeks into the cooler fall season. We’ll give you some reasons to embrace fall boating, but the decision is up to you!

  • Fall foliage. Oftentimes, shorelines are popping with fall color: reds, yellows, and oranges. The water is often the best view you can get of beautiful shoreline foliage. In some northern states, people even pay for trips out onto the water just to see the foliage! Duluth’s Vista Fleet, for instance, offers fall foliage tours on Lake Superior.
  • Less traffic. During the summer, everyone and their brother is out on the water, including tourists and out-of-towners. In the fall, some won’t go out in the cooler temperatures, and tourism to the waterfront is often abated. More space and peace and quiet for you to enjoy!
  • Cooler weather. What? Isn’t that a con to boating in the fall? Not if you embrace it! Cooler weather out on the boat can make the perfect ambiance for things like snuggling up to someone special, sipping coffee or hot chocolate, and bringing a hot lunch. Just make sure to wear appropriate clothing.

Well, there it is! Did we convince you? If you do decide to try some fall boating, just remember to watch the weather. Fall storms can come on quickly, and have a tendency to include stronger winds. Also, read this article on fall boating safety from NRS.com.

If you’re looking to insure your boat so that you can take part in fall boating, request a boat insurance quote today!

The 9/11 Band of Boats

Have you seen this story of how boat captains and crew members came to the rescue of so many people on the island of Manhattan on September 11, 2001? On this twelfth anniversary of the attack, watch the harrowing story of how boats played a roll in the rescue of many. To read the story, visit Reuters.com.

Top Boat Maintenance Resources

When you’re a boat owner, you know it’s important to protect your investment by maintaining your boat. Comprehensive boat maintenance means much more that just cleaning it, however. Especially if you’re a first-time boat owner and you’re looking around the web at boat maintenance tips and articles, it can get overwhelming. There are a lot of articles and tips out there! So, we’ve found 3 of the best resources out there for boat owners concerning taking care of their investments.

Boat Maintenance & Cleaning Tips

Discover Boating: Boat Maintenance Tips & Safety Rules

From a general maintenance overview to a semi-annual checklist and a winterizing section, Discover Boating has a pretty comprehensive section about boat upkeep and maintenance. A part we liked:

You should also remove the propeller several times during the season to make sure discarded fishing line hasn’t become wrapped around the propeller shaft. If it has, have your dealer inspect the gear case, because fishing line can cause gear case leaks and gear case service is NOT a do-it-yourself job.

Bass Pro Shops: Cleaning Your Boat from Top to Bottom

While this article is specifically geared toward simple fishing boats, it can be applied to many larger boats as well. The list is very comprehensive, and tells you how to clean everything from livewells to consoles to the hull and your trailer. Of course, since it’s from Bass Pro Shops, it recommends various Bass Pro Shop cleaning products.  A part we liked:

For graphs or electronic gauges, a water-vinegar solution used in conjunction with a soft cloth will keep them fresh and clean. Wiping in a circular motion on electronic screens can leave grit marks or fine scratches, so pay close attention to work the cloth in one side-to-side direction only.

Boating Magazine: Top Boat Maintenance Tips

We really like this one for the pictures. For instance, it shoes you a pictures\ of rusted fasteners instead of just telling you to replace rusted fasteners. It shows you pictures of various problems, so that you can decide if you should be replacing parts without just guessing. A part we liked:

Batteries must withstand a force of 90 pounds, or twice their weight, without moving more than one inch in any direction, according to the American Boat and Yacht Council. Eschew strap hold-downs in favor of those using threaded rods and locknuts.

Boatgating: A New Alternative to Tailgating

Boatgating

As the fall season approaches a little bit quicker than some of us would like. it’s time to start thinking about the best part of fall: football season. If you’re a football fan, you’re familiar with pre-game excitement and get-togethers. Are you a tailgater? Do you have access to a boat? If so, you might just have to try the new craze that’s sweeping the nation: boatgating.

According to Discover Boating, more and more Americans are taking to the water: “Of the 232.3 million adults in the US in 2012, 37.8%, or 88 million, went boating—the largest number on record by the National Marine Manufacturers Association.” So, maybe it’s time for us to all try boatgating!

Discover Boating has created a list of the best stadiums for boatgating in the U.S. Find it here: http://www.discoverboating.com/resources/article.aspx?id=654.

 

Carbon Monoxide is an Invisible Boating Danger

A scary story out of Minneapolis, MN reminds us of the boating safety tips that we should all keep in mind, beyond just wearing a life vest and driving carefully and uninhibited. In this story by CBS Minnesota, David Schuester, father to his young daughter, Sierra, explains how his daughter became poisoned by carbon monoxide, even though they were on an open-air boat. Watch the video below, or read the full story here.

A Creative Public Service Announcement

The words “public service announcement” probably don’t make you feel very excited. That’s why the Safe Boating Campaign got creative about their life jacket campaign, and we like it! Nothing like a little humor to remind you to be safe on the water.

What do you think?