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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The ABCs of Boat Insurance

By Catherine Powell
Image courtesy Pixabay

It may only be early March, but already the temperatures in northeast Florida are in the mid to upper seventies.  That’ means it won’t be long before boaters take to the water.  If you own a boat or are thinking of purchasing a boat, there are a few things you need to know about boat insurance, especially if you don’t want your weekend hobby to interfere with your full-time profession.  Like it or not, every time you go out on the water you are taking a risk that you could find yourself in a situation where your boat either sinks or has a run-in with another watercraft.  Even the most experienced boaters can have an incident on the water that causes either they or their passengers to get injured or even killed.  Should worst come to worst, you want to make sure that you’re covered for any liability.  If not, you could find your boat has gotten you into hot water.

A is for Alcohol

Thar she blows! While you may not spy a white whale while on the water in Florida, what you will see are boats of every make and size zipping past your vessel.  What you don’t know is how much on-the-water experience any skipper has or whether Bud Weiser is at the helm.  While it’s rare for you to see someone nursing a brew as they drive down the interstate, it’s all too common to see boaters imbibing as they sail or motor along the intercoastal waterway.  What many skippers don’t realize is that virtually the same rules that apply to drinking and driving apply on the water.  Should the Coast Guard or Marine Patrol pull your boat over and detect alcohol on your breath, they can require you to take a breathalyzer test on the spot.  If you blow .08 or over, you’ll find your boat impounded and yourself in jail.  What’s even worse is if you are involved in a collision while on the water only to later be found to be intoxicated, you could wind up paying thousands of dollars in fines and spending up to six months in jail.  You could also lose your driver’s license for up to one year. Since drinking and boating seem to go hand in hand, even if you don’t drink while afloat, you may find yourself in court after an impaired skipper collides with your vessel. Having boating insurance may entitle you to the following: (check with your insurance agent to see which of these applies to your policy)

1.      Court costs and legal representation paid for a covered claim.

2.      Cost to repair or replace your vessel, even if it is damaged at the dock or in storage.

3.      Coverage that pays for any damage your vessel did to another vessel.

4.      Salvage costs and environmental cleanup from any covered incident.

5.      Nearly half of all boaters are uninsured.  That means it could be a long time before you see one red cent from them if they hit your vessel.

6.      Towing can cost you up to $400 per hour if you don’t have coverage. 

B is for Bodily Injury
Image courtesy Pixabay

While it’s great to have your vessel covered in case of an accident on the water, of much greater concern for any skipper is the potential for injury or death of a crewmember or passenger. Like it or not, once anyone sets foot on your vessel, you are responsible for their well-being.  Should harm come to them while the boat is underway or docked and you could find yourself liable for their medical costs.  If anyone aboard is killed, you could find yourself defending yourself I a wrongful death suit.  While you may think of your boat as a way to enjoy fun in the sun, you could quickly find yourself in the dark about your liability on the water.  Boating insurance can help protect your assets should anyone aboard be injured or killed.  Here’s what a standard boat insurance policy provides: (additional coverage is available upon request)

1.      Up to $5,000 in medical payments

2.      Up to $1,000 in personal effects

3.      Uninsured boater’s liability protection of between $300,000 and $500,000

4.      $500-$1,000 limit on towing coverage

5.      $1,000 limit on fishing tackle

6.      $1,000 limit hurricane haul out

C is for Cost
Image courtesy Pixabay

The reason so many skippers forego boat insurance is that they think it costs too much.  While insuring a mega yacht isn’t cheap, insuring the average watercraft can be as little as a dollar a day.  On the other hand, the out-of-pocket costs for those boaters who have no insurance can be rather steep:

1.      The cost to repair or replace any vessel you collide with is on you.  Even if you had the right of way, the judge may assign a portion of the blame to you.

2.      Medical expenses for any crewmembers or passengers injured while on your vessel is yours to bear.

3.      If your boat is damaged or destroyed by a storm, your investment in it just went down with the ship.

4.      Should an uninsured boater damage your vessel, you’ll have to sue him or her in court if you hope to seek any compensation.

5.      If you are found at fault in a boating accident, the cost to defend yourself in court is going to be entirely paid by you along with court costs.

6.      If your vessel sinks, the cost to salvage the vessel and clean up any environmental degradation could run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at


  1. There are no brakes on boats. Slow down to stay safe out there.

  2. If you own a boat, protect it with the right insurance. This article is a great guide.


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