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Author: Will Hay

Boating is a classic Kiwi pastime, but sometimes it’s not all smooth sailing. Accidents can happen, and when they do, they can be very costly. Last year Coastguard responded to 3,298 callouts relating to on-water boating accidents, however, many more happen on land than you think. In this article, we spoke with Tower, our preferred insurance partner, to discuss the 5 common boating claims they have seen over the past couple of summers.

1. Underwater Impact/Collision

One of the most common types of boating claims is for underwater impact/collision damage. This can happen when your boat collides with an underwater obstacle such as rocks, a submerged log, or even another boat. The damage can be costly, especially when your boat’s running gear is affected as the bill can easily mount up. Paying careful attention to your navigation equipment, especially during low light or night, is crucial. It’s important that you set the correct level of brightness as the glare from these screens can quickly reduce your visibility or cause a dazzling effect. Most modern units will have a ‘night mode’ that auto-dims the screen so make sure this is active and keep your cabin lighting low so that your eyes stay adjusted to the darkness. 

Many boat vs boat collisions could be avoided by knowing the ‘rules of the road’ (a good reason to complete a Day Skippers course) and simply paying attention at the helm. While many boats are now equipped with autopilot functionality, they aren’t going to stop you from crashing into a boat crossing your path. 

2. Out of Water Impacts

Boat accidents don't just happen on the water; they can also happen on land and on our roads to and from the ramp. Unfortunately, boats can also become second-hand casualties during vehicle accidents, especially when coming to a hard stop with the boat sliding forward on its trailer or even bouncing off during an impact. A simple way to mitigate this is to make sure the boat is secure on the trailer by using a combination of transom straps and bow tie-downs to reduce the lateral movement. 

Some other examples have been boats hitting sheds when people misjudge the height or forget to lower their bimini’s or T-tops, or hitting petrol station bollards as turning arcs can sometimes be misjudged. It’s crucial when towing to ensure you are not overloading the boat or towing vehicle and any weight on board is balanced out correctly to avoid fish-tailing. Check your trailer regularly to make sure it’s roadworthy and make sure the braking system is adequate for the weight of your rig.

3. Theft

Boats are valuable assets, and unfortunately, they can be easy targets for theft. Often it seems opportunistic, but many thefts are pre-meditated especially when boats are parked in driveways or visible to the road, giving the thief time to plan out their heist.

Make sure you have adequate security in place when parking your boat up or leaving it unattended. A good wheel clamp and coupling lock combo gives a 2-step protection. It may not prevent the theft entirely, but it could at least slow them down enough not to worry or alert someone nearby.

After launching don’t forget to lock your trailer at the ramp. It may seem like a hassle but it’s a right headache if you come back to the ramp after a good days fishing only to be stranded on the water as your trailers gone walkabout. Tower’s boat insurance policy waives the additional theft excess if you have a wheel clamp and/or coupling lock in place at the time of theft1, so it’s worth the extra few minutes to protect your boat.

4. Fire

Another potential hazard which usually ends catastrophically for boats is fire. Fires on boats can be caused by a variety of reasons, including fuel leaks, faulty wiring, or even improper use of flammable materials. Will at Tower says a common cause of fires is from ageing or improperly set up solar and battery systems, “We’ve seen several fire claims start from corroded wiring shorting or older flexible solar panels. These may be bendable but should only be used on a hard surface, they typically aren’t made for continuous flexing e.g., if it’s mounted on a Bimini, as the internal wires can fracture easily.”

To reduce the risk of a fire on your boat, make sure to regularly inspect your electrical and fuel systems and follow all safety guidelines for the use of flammable materials. In the event of a fire, have an up-to-date fire extinguisher readily available and know how to use it. On a larger craft with plumbed-in gas it’s crucial that these are installed correctly and meet the current gas certification, as passed by a registered gas fitter. There’s still a bit of a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude to gas and electrical on boats but incorrectly installed or poorly maintained systems can pose a deathly risk to boat owners. 

5. Window Glass Claims

Windows and windshields on boats can be damaged in several ways, including impact from debris, weather-related damage, or even theft. As boats get larger and cabin tops get more intricate, costs to replace window glass, especially curved or frameless installations, can get very expensive.

Preparation and prevention through adequate maintenance is the key to limiting the risk of having an accident or mishap. Boating does however come with certain risks and even the best skipper can find themselves in an unfortunate accident, therefore having insurance coverage can help protect you from unexpected expenses. Tower makes things easy by having an online quote tool. Thanks to our partnership, Coastguard members can also benefit from getting $30 off their individual Coastguard membership by having a current Tower boat policy.2 



Important things to know 

1Policy terms, conditions and exclusions apply, please read the full policy details here. 

2Tower customer $30 Coastguard membership discount terms and conditions apply, for more information visit: 

Boatie's Best Mate.

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