It happens every spring. Eager to get out on the water after being cooped up all winter, boating enthusiasts from coast to coast uncover their favourite vessel and set sail. Then the unexpected throws a wrench in their fun.
Shawn Mckone, Senior Manager in Specialty Claims at Aviva, says that three of the most common boating claims are often preventable. Here’s his advice for a stress-free boating season.
Common claim #1: Hitting an object in the water
Shallow water, logs, rocks and other partially submerged objects are the culprits behind most insurance claims for scraped boat hulls or damaged propellers.
“This is the claim we see the most when it comes to watercraft. The damage is very consistent so it’s a straightforward claim,” said Mckone.
He says even the most experienced and alert boaters can come across unexpected objects in the water, and recommends three ways to prevent this problem:
- Avoid known areas where there is a lot of debris. “We get a lot of claims from the Fraser River in British Columbia, for example, because there are a lot of logs in the water. We had a customer who destroyed two jet skis two years in a row in that area. Our advice is to steer clear of places where you or other boaters have had problems in the past.”
- Be cautious in unfamiliar water. It’s fun to boat in new waterways, but it can be risky, too. Mckone suggests reading charts in advance and taking care to follow marked channels and navigation markers in the water and on shore. “Going slow is a good practice. It gives you more time to react and there will certainly be less damage if you do hit something.”
- Bring a spotter, if possible. It’s always helpful to have another set of eyes on the water as you’re cruising. They can help point out possible hazards and help the driver observe navigational markers.
Common claim #2: Theft out of the water
Boating theft has always been a common claim, but between 2020 and 2021, Aviva had a 9% uptick to these robberies. The key to protecting your boat from theft is to carefully consider how you store it out of the water – and implement security measures.
“We often see thefts that occur when the boat is left on a trailer in the driveway. Someone can pull up, hitch it up and drive away with the boat pretty quickly,” said Mckone.
If you want to store your watercraft at home instead of in a secure facility, consider these measures:
- Blocking the boat trailer in your driveway with another vehicle.
- Detaching outboard engines and storing them separately.
- Installing good lighting, motion detectors and other security measures.
- Putting a good-quality lock on your trailer. “Even better, there are removal hitch assemblies for trailers that allow you to take the whole hitch off. Most thieves aren’t driving around with spare hitches for your particular type of trailer,” said Mckone.
- Stowing personal watercrafts out of sight in a garage or shed.
If you’re really concerned about theft, Mckone advises installing a GPS tracking device. “If worst come to worst and the boat is stolen, it’s more likely to be recovered.”
Common claim #3: Winter-related damage
You can help prevent a spring disaster by preparing properly in the fall, says Mckone.
“We see frozen engine blocks and other winter-related damage every year. The reality is that boats need to be winterized in Canada to prevent serious damage. There’s no way around that.”
Some of the most important maintenance activities at the end of the season include:
- Draining the engine of water. And add antifreeze to dilute any remaining water. “If you don’t do this correctly, you’ll have a frozen, cracked engine block,” said Mckone.
- Storing your boat out of the water during winter. When boats are left in partially or fully frozen water, you can expect serious damage from the ice buckling and heaving. Some boats are even pushed up on land, sink or capsize during winter storms.
- Wrapping your boat for the winter. “If you leave your boat exposed to the elements, you’ll likely get snow build-up that may cause the boat to tip over or create issues like mold, ongoing moisture problems and damage to electronics,” said Mckone.
Here’s an important incentive to do your end-of-season boat maintenance: damage due to no or poor winterization is typically not covered under your insurance policy.
“Every spring, we get an influx of boating claims that stem from boat owners failing to do proper maintenance in the fall that would have prevented the problem,” said Mckone.
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