Recreational Boating Coverage: The Insurance Lifesaver Your Clients Need to stay afloat

As winter transitions into spring, your boating clients will be itching to get back on the water for days full of fishing, swimming and water sports. Help them make the most of the season by ensuring they have the right coverages in place.

Whether your insureds own a small, personal watercraft, or a yacht or charter boat, recreational marine vehicles have a unique set of risks and require highly specialized coverage. According to Erin Deaton, senior underwriter at the Burns & Wilcox Marine Center of Excellence, marine policies are very diverse. She warns brokers and agents that unless they are prepared to thoroughly read each policy, they may leave their clients with coverage gaps.

Like all comprehensive insurance policies, proper marine coverage starts with asking the right questions and establishing lines that fit your client’s needs.

“Over the years, I’ve had many agents come to me after their clients’ claims are denied,” says Deaton. “The agent elected what they believed was a good policy and that their insureds were covered, but they weren’t. That’s a terrible feeling for an insured, and for an agent. Not all boat policies provide equal coverage. A marine specialist can help brokers and agents provide proper coverages for their clients’ marine needs so they can feel confident throughout boating season.

Many boat owners are tempted to roll their small boat into their homeowners policy because it is easy and may offer a reasonable rate. However, this coverage is typically subpar to what they likely need. Coverages may exclude items like losses under the waterline, such as damage sustained during groundings or from submerged objects which is typically the number one cause of claims leaving the insured bare. The details are what makes all the difference.

Deaton cautions that many recreational boat owners fail to understand that even good policies may not offer sufficient liability coverage, and it is up to their agents to educate them. Bundling pleasure policies with a personal umbrella can be advantageous for a number of reasons – it can save money, cut down on paperwork and, when written with a good carrier, provide strong and consistent coverage. However, standard personal umbrella policies typically exclude watercrafts, leaving a gap. A marine specialist can help you secure an excess policy for your boat to close that gap.

Specialty and niche markets provide solutions to:

  • Occasional Charter. Watercrafts are often used for both recreation and commercial purposes. For example, a client may decide to get a captain’s license and use their boat for his own personal pleasure as well as the occasional charter. If the policy is strictly pleasure-oriented, the insured’s charter fishing trips would not be covered, even if they’re on an occasional basis.
  • Extended Navigation & Cruising. The average boater never travels more than 25 miles from their mooring location; but for the adventurous, extended navigation policies can cover global excursions. “Exploring the world by boat can let you see sights you could never see from land. For experienced and motivated boaters, off the beaten path may be exactly where they want to go, and we can help them get there,” Deaton says.
  • Professional Angler. Individuals who participate in professional fishing tournaments need diversified coverage that includes tournament reimbursement, additional mileage offshore, increased fishing equipment coverage and protection for corporately sponsored boats.

By being attentive and adapting policies to your client’s specific needs, you’ll keep their boats, and your business, afloat