No matter how frequently you take your yacht out for a spin, the chance of an accident is out there. To help you avoid risky situations, we’ve gathered up the most common sorts of damages and claims that yacht owners face. Minimizing your risk and having the proper insurance cover in place can help you help protect your investment, your assets, and your wallet when yachting.
What are the most common yacht insurance claims, and what can you do to avoid having to file one?
1. Collision with underwater object
It’s what you can’t see that often does the greatest damage. The most common cause of damaged yachts is a collision with an underwater object. This could be rocks or rock beds, coral, buoys, floating debris like branches, or other submerged objects.
Collision is most often caused by unfamiliar surroundings, murky water, or post-storm debris. To prevent this, make sure your captain is familiar with the route your yacht is taking. If not, he should consult local boat owners and captains who are familiar with the area. He could even go out beforehand in a smaller boat to get a better sense of the zone.
You should also consider taking a different route if there aren’t a lot of other yachts that go through those waters. If it’s not a commonly used path, it could be that there are a lot of obstacles or mismarked channels that could end up causing damage to your boat.
Try to avoid yachting after a storm. Storms and severe weather can create wreckage floating through the waters. Let the debris and waves make their way out to sea before you set sail.
2. Storm damage
That brings us to weather losses. Storm-related damage is the second most common yacht insurance claim. Hurricanes and windstorms can knock your boat around and cause seriously expensive damage.
You can’t stop the storm, but you can prep for it. Make sure your boat is secured properly and is unable to shift or rock with the waves. This will help prevent it from repeatedly crashing into the docks or shore. You might want to consider a boat lift or suspension system so the boat is less exposed to violent waves and wind brought up from the water, especially during intense storms.
Installing bumpers on the side of your yacht can also protect against chafe. Although bumpers aren’t always the “sexiest,” they’re the first line of defense against crashes.
If you’re aware that a heavy storm is coming, you might want to consider pulling your yacht from the water and storing it in a safe place on land until the storm passes. A few hours spent moving the boat can save you from thousands (or hundreds of thousands) in damages.
Vandalism is all too common for yacht owners. You likely don’t use your yacht as much as your home or car, so vandals know that you aren’t around as much to catch them in the act. But even a small amount of vandalism can cause costly damage to your vessel.
To protect against vandalism, make sure you cover your boat when not in use. This ensures people can’t get on your boat freely and easily. If you’re leaving your boat uncovered (because it looks so beautiful sitting in the water), consider getting a security system that sounds an alarm when someone steps on your boat. This typically scares off any vandals or thieves. You can also consider installing live stream video cameras so you can always see what’s happening on your boat.
Make sure you store your boat in a warehouse that has full-time security and strong locking procedures in place. Vandalism is most common in the winter, so you’ll want to keep your yacht under tight lock and key.
4. Collision with another boat
Your yacht and another vessel might collide while in water or in the marina, which can cause a lot of property damage and liability concerns. Liability can especially complicate the claims process.
Often, the cause of collisions is because one boat is moving too fast or the captain isn’t paying attention. Thus, it’s important that your yacht captain understands the rules of the road and reduces yachting speed when other boats are around. Whether you or someone else, the captain of the yacht should take a boating safety course particularly designed for larger vessels.
The most common collisions occur with jet skis and motorboats due to their speed and because they often hide in blind spots. Thus, captains want to be especially on the lookout for the wakes of smaller vessels to get a sense of any other watercrafts that are nearby.
Did you know that if the wake from your boat causes damage to another vessel or causes that other vessel to crash, you could hold some liability?
5. Fire and explosion
Fire and explosion can happen due to faulty wiring, fueling issues, or corrosion. Often, explosions result in the total loss of the boat or at the very least loss of mechanical equipment. You might also have to pay for liability and a tow removal, which can add to the expense.
Make sure you inspect your boat regularly for chafing wires, corrosion of inlets, and gas gauges.
Sinking isn’t the most common claim for yachts, but it is one of the priciest. It usually results in a total loss of vessel and contents, and you’d also have to pay to dredge it up and tow it away. Altogether, this can be one of the more costly claims you could run into.
Your boat can sink for a number of reasons. Most often, it’s due to a collision (either with a stationary object or another boat) or mechanical failure. It can also sink due to fire, explosion, storms, or construction mistakes. Water can find its way through even the smallest underwater holes, creating major disasters.
The best way to prevent sinking is to consistently perform inspections on your boat. You’ll want to look for any holes or cracks that could allow water in. You’ll also want to run frequent updates of your mechanics, especially your engine, to ensure they’re in working order.
7. Onboard injury
In most cases, you’re taking your yacht out for recreational purposes. This likely means you have a lot of friends and family onboard. Slips, trips, and falls are bound to happen on slippery decks and rocking waves. If someone gets hurt while on your yacht, you could be liable for their medical and associated costs.
Try to encourage passengers to sit towards the back of the boat as opposed to the bow (front). Even larger vessels like yachts slightly rise in the front, which means individuals are more likely to get tossed around than in the middle or back of the boat.
You’ll also want to have safety measures on board that include a mop for water or spills, life jackets, life rafts, and a first aid kit. Learn what else to have on board your vessel here.
Note: If you own a yacht and rent it out to others, you need to talk about the specifics of your liability policy with an insurance agent.
8. Boat theft
Yachts are harder to steal because they’re bigger and tend to be more secure. However, theft does happen, and the boats are often not recovered without damage.
Most boats are stolen while in transit. So, if your yacht is attached to a trailer, the thief might slip in and drive away with both the trailer and yacht. Make sure you lock the trailer or hitch, and don’t travel too far with your boat. If traveling long distances, you’ll want to keep it covered and under strong surveillance.
You should consider installing an anti-theft device, like a DESS. You should also mark your watercraft’s hull number and take pictures of your boat (with your boat name) for identification purposes. Even installing a few locks can make it more challenging for thieves, so they’ll be less inclined to take your yacht.
9. Theft from boat
More common than boat theft itself is theft of contents on your boat, especially expensive contents that are often found on a yacht. This could include boating equipment like navigation systems, fishing gear, rafts, safety equipment, motors, and generators. But it could also include any personal property on your boat like jewelry, art, bedding, televisions, watersports equipment, and more.
Some of these contents might fall under your homeowners insurance, but some might not. Make sure you work with an insurance agent to create a full inventory and contents list of the goods on your yacht to fully protect against property loss. You should also take pictures and consider installing a video security system.