Top Boat Insurance Claims…And How To Avoid Them

Top Boat Insurance Claims…And How To Avoid Them

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Sailing is one of life’s most enriching and enjoyable activities, but sailors face a range of hazards that can be costly or even life-threatening. Luckily, many of these challenges are avoidable with a little care and proper preparation. So, to help maximise your safe enjoyment of sailing, we’ve teamed up with specialist insurance broker Bishop Skinner who are here to reveal their list of top boat insurance claims, and show you how to avoid them…

Water ingress

Often a difficult problem to isolate, water ingress can cause huge damage to vessels and their contents. While new technology can help to find the source of a leak, ensuring your boat is well maintained will also help mitigate water ingress issues.

Top Insurance Claims - Outboard Motors
Take note of all the serial numbers on your outboard motors today – © RYA

Theft of outboard motors

Outboard motor theft continues to rise. Thieves are organised, undeterred by the sheer weight of higher value engines and are often one step ahead of the authorities trying to apprehend them.

Fitting one or more of the most secure anti-theft devices for a particular engine and boat is advisable. Your policy wording around anti-theft devices should be complied with to avoid invalidating a policy in the event of a claim. Also make sure that you record all outboard serial numbers as they will be required by insurers and the police in the event of a theft.

Rigmast damage

Rig failure is usually due to misalignment, friction between hard and soft surfaces, a loose fixing, poor condition, age, excessive loads or insufficient lubrication. While a good rigger can help to eliminate issues by constructing a purpose built rig, an annual inspection is also recommended to ensure longevity and functionality.

Top Insurance Claims - Rig Inspections
Annual rig inspections are a must to help protect against failure – © RYA

Striking underwater objects

There is nothing more disheartening than catching a propeller on an underwater hazard. Installing a GPS unit, talking to local fishermen and other boat users can help avoid hull and propeller damage. Where a boat already has GPS, ensure the most recent updates are installed. Monitoring the current in front of the boat also helps. A sharp change in the current’s direction may indicate that something lies just beneath the surface. Sandbars are often the culprits in this case.

Machinery Damage

One of the most common machinery claims is for damage to the raw water pump impeller, which cools the engine. When an engine does overheat owners rarely think to inspect and service the cooling system, often assuming it is blocked or obstructed by debris.

When checking your rig it is also prudent to check the machine parts of the vessel, too. Regular routine maintenance will save expense in the long term and extend the life of the boat.


There are many reasons why a ship can run aground from basic human error to changes in rotational tides. Even after a light grounding a proper inspection should be carried out as soon as you reach the nearest port.

More severe grounding can lead to heavy damage to the hull which can cause serious cracks, resulting in water ingress followed by serious damage to the vessel’s structural integrity causing major instability. A heavy impact can induce structural stresses and heavy loads, which can lead to a major incident. If there is any doubt about seaworthiness, you should avoid sailing until an engineer has carried out a thorough inspection.

Top Insurance Claims - Capsize
Match your boat’s capabilities to the conditions to avoid capsizing – © RYA


Capsizing is potentially life threatening and there are a number of rules to follow to help avoid it. If it is your boat, you are responsible for the safety of it and any passengers on board. Everyone aboard, not just children, should be wearing a lifejacket, there are no excuses.

Match the boat’s capabilities to the conditions. If in doubt, stay inshore. It is better to be at the dock wishing you were offshore than offshore wishing you were at the dock.

Be vigilant and alert to any changes in weather. Storms usually give plenty of warning before they strike. Even the cheapest VHF radio has a weather button. All boat owners should have a VHF radio handy, not just a mobile. While you can write down the Coast Guard’s number, will you know the number of the boat only half a mile away? File a float plan with a trustworthy friend.

And, finally, remember the best time to head back to shore is when the thought first occurs to you.

Collision with a third party

Collision with a third party under normal or racing conditions are the most costly type of claims Bishop Skinner has dealt with over the last year. Collisions can be extremely serious and even life threatening, so it is essential to follow these rules to help avoid them… When on the same tack as another boat, bear in mind the leeward boat always has the right-of-way; When on opposite tacks, the starboard tack boat has right-of-way; When overtaking another boat, or if one is overtaking you, the boat ahead has the right-of-way.

Top Insurance Claims - Collision
Potentially life-threatening collisions make up the most costly claims – © RYA

Observing these rules and techniques will help you avoid the common pitfalls while enjoying your time on the water.

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