Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Boat Insurance

One of the most well-known UK brokers of yacht insurances is St Margarets Insurance Ltd., and perhaps Newton Crum would come a close second. When I have insured boats it’s always been a tossup between the two. If a survey were undertaken regarding loyalty to insurers I suppose the results would be similar to the loyalty of customers to banks. It seems that people are exceptionally loyal to their bank, although increasingly, with free information available via the Internet, more customers are changing their habitual allegiances. By being able to objectively compare costs and benefits, customers are able to make informed choices about value for money.

The Hiscocks, famous for cruising around the world in a series of yachts all bearing the name ‘Wanderer’, never insured their vessels – that was before the advent of marinas. The intrepid couple were self-reliant, believing that because they lived aboard their waterborne home they would be in control of situations so as not to incur insurance claims. Their greatest asset was substantial ground tackle, in the form of several anchors and chains. Immediate to hand they had fire extinguishers, large fenders and ample warps. Later in life when they became more prosperous through the sale of books and lecturing they equipped their yachts with reliable diesel engines, believing them to be a safety feature.

Apart from a few stalwarts most sailors will insure their second-most expensive asset - the boat in their life. Indeed, boat yard owners, marina owners, local authorities and harbour commissioners have regulations or bylaws requiring boat owners to insure their vessels for third-party indemnity. In any case if a boat is worth several thousands of pounds it makes sense to have her comprehensively insured. After all, if the boat is to be craned in and out of the water, who knows what legal costs may be incurred as result of an accident? Insurance firms sometime settle bump for bump, but claims can be contested.

Better deals can sometime be had by choosing a broker who specialises in a particular type of craft, e.g., dinghies, sailboards, or catamarans. Quite a few insurance firms give an option to pay in monthly instalments at very little extra cost.

My advice would be shop around for a good deal; don’t follow my example of being loyal to a particular insurance agent. Bear in mind that if your boat is over 20 years old it’s likely your underwriter will require you to have the boat professionally surveyed for soundness and value. All recommendations will need to be carried out before the insurance becomes valid.

Those who sail single-handed will probably not be insured for night sailing. Look very carefully at the small print for ‘exclusions’ and what factors make a policy invalid. In the end, it’s up to you to choose whether to insure your boat.

Links – these are provided for information, not as a recommendation on my part:

St. Margarets Yacht Insurance. http://www.stminsurance.co.uk

Newton Crum. http://www.newtoncrum.co.uk/

Noble Marine Insurance. http://www.noblemarine.co.uk/

Yachtmaster Insurance. http://www.yachtmasterinsurance.co.uk/

Yacht Insurance UK. http://www.yachtinsurance.uk.com/

Bishop Skinner. http://www.bishopskinner.com/boat_insurance.html

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