Watercraft Safety

What You Should Know About:

Protecting Your Boat - And Your "Crew"

Common-sense boating safety and the right insurance will help keep you afloat

What you should know:

  1. Carelessness and inexperience are the leading causes of boating accidents and fatalities in the United States.
  2. Nearly 4,500 watercraft/boat thefts were reported in 2018 according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).
  3. Small boats (like kayaks, canoes and dingies) can typically be covered against theft or damage under your homeowners or renters policy. But if you own a large boat, like a motor- or sailing-yacht or a speed boat, a separate insurance policy is needed to cover theft of or damage to the boat as well as liability for damage caused to others.

Practicing water safety and having the appropriate insurance for your personal watercraft or boat will help reduce your personal and financial risk while you enjoy time on the water with family or friends.

The size, type and the value of a watercraft, as well as the type of water in which you’ll use it, all factor in to what type of insurance you need and how much you’ll pay for coverage. Be sure to talk with your insurance representative to confirm you have the right type and amount of insurance to recover from a loss, if your vessel is damaged or stolen, or if an accident involving your boat causes injuries or damage to others.

Small Craft Coverage

Homeowners and Renters insurance protection typically extends to small vessels, such as canoes, kayaks and small power boats with less than 25 horsepower, and offers limited coverage – typically between $1,000 and $2,000 – for damage to the watercraft. While liability coverage typically is not included, it can be added as an endorsement to a Homeowners policy.

Personal Watercraft
Personal watercraft such as Jet Skis, Sea-Doos or WaveRunners are generally not covered by Homeowners insurance. In the rare cases that they are covered, the coverage limits are typically low. However, a Personal Watercraft insurance policy is specifically designed to cover personal watercraft like Jet Skis or Wave Runners. Your insurance company or agent can give you more information about Personal Watercraft coverage options.

A Bigger Boat = Boat Insurance Policy
If you own a larger, more expensive vessel, it will be wise to consider buying a separate policy to provide adequate loss and liability coverage. Boaters should also ask their agent or insurance company about coverage for special equipment on the boat, such as fishing gear or expensive electronics equipment, and make sure towing and boat trailer coverage is included.

Boating Safety

Now that you have the best coverage for your boat, it’s time to consider safety while you’re out on the water. Carelessness and inexperience are the leading causes of boating accidents and fatalities in the United States, and most deaths are the result of two major safety failures: the lack of required personal flotation devices and uneducated boaters, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Here are a few important tips to help you stay safe and enjoy your time on the water:

  • Always wear a life jacket.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol while boating.
  • Take water safety classes before venturing out on to the water.
  • Always operate at safe speeds.
  • Have a passenger serve as a lookout in addition to the operator.
  • Watch out for low-water areas or submerged objects.
  • Maintain at least 50 feet of distance from other boats and personal watercraft.
  • Check weather forecasts before heading out onto the water.
  • Always obey all marine traffic laws and understand distress signals.
  • Be sure your boat’s fuel, lights and electrical and exhaust systems are working properly before launching. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary offers free boat safety inspections. Us the following link to get to the nearest inspector: http://www.safetyseal.net/
  • Keep a first-aid kit, additional food and water in case you are stranded.

Boat Theft

Methods of protecting your boat from thieves include marking and identifying both your boat and equipment. This identification will help police in the recovery effort if your boat and equipment are stolen. Insurers recommend that boaters:

  • Mark your boat and equipment with the vessel’s Hull Identification Number (HIN), a 12-character serial number that identifies your boat.
  • Engrave your driver’s license number in a hidden location on the boat as well as on its engine, ship-to-shore radio, depth sounder, compass stereo, trailer and other expensive components.
  • Take photos or videotape your boat, its HIN and equipment for documentation and identification.

The following tips also will help protect your boat from theft:

  • When docking your watercraft, lock and secure it to the dock with a steel cable.
  • Remove expensive equipment when your boat is not in use.
  • Chain and lock detachable motors to the boat.
  • Keep title or registration papers somewhere safe - not in your boat - when docked.
  • Disable your boat by shutting off fuel lines or removing batteries.
  • Use a trailer hitch lock after parking a boat on its trailer.
  • Install a “kill switch” in the ignition system.

Buying? Avoid stolen vessel scams

Be aware that stolen boats are often sold to unsuspecting consumers. You can avoid being victimized by recognizing common fraud indicators. Before purchasing a boat, make sure its HIN exactly matches the HIN listed on the registration and/or title. Also, carefully inspect the boat and review its ownership paperwork.  Be alert for these potential fraud indicators:

  • The boat has been rebuilt, previously reported stolen, sunk or recovered.
  • The title or proof of ownership is a duplicate issue or from out of state.
  • Registration numbers appear altered or are not uniform.
  • The asking price is well below the market value.

To find boater education classes in your state, visit the links below:

*Some information provided by Insurance Information Institute and National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Watercraft Safety