With hurricane season set to begin on June 1, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies is urging boaters in hurricane-prone regions to start making plans now to protect their boats. Progressive, one of the country's leading watercraft insurance groups, says last year's record-setting Atlantic hurricane season proved that it's never too early to plan ahead.
"You can't control the weather, but there are definitely things you can do to protect yourself and the investment you've made in your boat," said Scott Hall, boat product manager, Progressive. "The key is to get started early so you have the supplies you need and you have a plan for what you're going to do with your boat."
Hall said one lesson from the last hurricane season, which saw 27 named storms including 15 hurricanes, is that boaters shouldn't assume they can predict exactly where a storm will hit. For example, many of Progressive customers' boat damage claims from Hurricane Wilma involved boats on the East coast of Florida, even though the storm made landfall on the state's West coast.
"Boaters told us they assumed the storm would weaken as it crossed the state, but that didn't happen. As a result, lots of boaters were caught off guard," said Hall.
Hall offers the following tips for boaters in hurricane-prone regions:
- Review insurance policy for your responsibilities, any named storm exclusions, and/or coverage alterations from a named storm.
- Pay close attention to weather reports and follow the advice of local authorities. If they tell you evacuate, leave the area immediately.
- Be sure to remove any portable personal effects from your boat, such as fishing gear and electronic equipment and keep all pertinent ownership and insurance documents in a safe place away from the boat.
If Your Boat Is In The Water
- Double up lines and double tie every knot.
- Tie dock lines high on pilings and rider poles to allow for rising water.
- If tying off on cleats, slack line as much as prudent.
- Disconnect shorepower and verify that batteries are fully charged to run bilge pump(s).
- Secure or remove all antennas, gear, chairs, and other loose deck items.
- Remove and secure canvasses, sails, and curtains.
- Secure all windows and hatches with duct tape.
- Check and double up spring lines and whip lines to ensure they will be able to handle the load of fending the boat away from mooring structure.
- Hang fenders from side of vessel.
If Your Boat Is Out Of The Water
- If the boat is in rack storage, make sure the structure can withstand hurricane force winds.
- If trailering the boat, store the boat and trailer near a house or other fixed structure.
- Ensure boat is secured to trailer.
- Lash trailer down with heavy rope and/or chain, block trailer tires and let some air out of the trailer tires to help prevent the trailer from floating or rolling away during strong wind and heavy rain
Hall said in addition to heeding warnings from officials and developing plans to protect their boats, boaters also should make sure they have adequate insurance coverage.
"One of the biggest insurance mistakes boat owners make is endorsing their boats onto their homeowners policies, which may not cover their losses from a major storm," Hall said. For example, homeowners policies may pay a boat owner the actual cash value of their boat if it's destroyed, but the amount may not be enough to cover the cost to replace the boat.
"Specialty boat insurers like Progressive offer options such as Total Loss Replacement, which means if your boat is destroyed within the first five model years, we'll buy you a brand new boat of the same make and model, no matter what it costs in today's dollars," said Hall. "That's just one example of the type of coverage you can't get with a homeowners policy."
Hall said another common insurance mistake boat owners make is only purchasing hull liability coverage to protect them if they are responsible for an accident, but failing to purchase hull coverage, which provides payment if their boat is damaged or stolen. In addition to hull coverage, Hall said boaters also may want to consider other specialty coverages for items such as personal effects and fishing equipment, and services such as wreckage removal and fuel spill cleanup.