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Boat Insurance & PWC Insurance - Safe Coverage for the Safe Boater

I cannot say enough good things about how quickly SkiSafe acted on my claim. I faxed the paperwork and not 5 minutes later I received a call that my claim had been resolved and a check was being mailed. All I can say is Wow! Thank you so much for everything! Thank you!

Gene C.
Polk City, FL
I just wanted to say thank you for the prompt service and willingness to set my mind at ease about my boat repairs.

Brian B.
I wanted to let you know what a GREAT job my SkiSafe adjuster did in guiding me through a very difficult time with the sinking of our boat. I just wanted to say that we are fortunate to have SkiSafe for our boat insurance and will continue with SkiSafe for our Jet Ski and new boat.

Kam B.
I just wanted to say thank you for the prompt service and willingness to set my mind at ease about my boat repairs.

Brian B.
Thank you. We have been very impressed with the timeliness and quality of service we've received from SkiSafe. This is the first time we've ever had a claim, and we sincerely appreciate your help in making the process go smoothly. We will definitely recommend SkiSafe to our friends and family.

Best regards,
Sharon J.

Boat Maintenance

Objective: To give you a checklist of things you need to do to help maintain your boat as well as provide an insurance perspective of how eligibility for coverage is affected by maintenance of your craft.

There are lots of things you can do to keep your boat looking great and operating at peak efficiency, but we want to highlight some things that could result in damage that would not be covered by your marine insurance policy. You will see examples and pictures from actual claims. It is important to understand that your watercraft insurance policy does not provide an extended warranty or a maintenance agreement for your craft, but rather protects against damage to your watercraft caused by sudden accidents such as collision, vandalism, theft, lightning, a tornado, and so on. We pay for thousands of accidents every year and are always happy to help our customers following a loss, but there are certain cases where damage resulting from wear and tear, gradual deterioration or other causes are excluded by marine insurance policies. We hope that by paying attention to the maintenance your watercraft you can enjoy it, preserve its value and avoid the potential disappointment that comes from a lack of proper maintenance.

Marine insurance is the oldest form of insurance and many of its terms and conditions derive from the history of customs and practice developed over the centuries. We are all familiar with how a homeowners or auto policy works, but a boat policy is not the same. There are similarities to the comprehensive and collision coverage provided by an auto policy, but there are also significant differences. For example, under a homeowners policy the repair of a pipe that bursts due to normal wear and tear would not be covered, but the damage that results from the burst pipe would be covered. Similarly, if a tire on your car blows out due to wear and tear your insurance company would not pay to replace that tire but it would pay for comprehensive and collision damage to your car resulting from the blown out tire. Under a marine policy, wear and tear is not covered. A seemingly minor maintenance problem, when subjected to the severe conditions at sea, could result in major damage or even destruction.

It is vital to properly maintain a vessel in seaworthy condition. For commercial and larger recreational vessels the special requirements within the marine environment gave rise to the establishment of the marine surveyor as well as to marine architects and engineers. Surveyors are generally certified or accredited by either the National Association of Marine Surveyors ("NAMS") or the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors ("SAMS"). Full membership requires years of training and continuing education. A thorough survey will identify structural or maintenance conditions that require attention and will serve as a blueprint to keep a vessel seaworthy and insurable. Smaller vessels would also benefit from a marine survey, but the cost involved often leads owners to make do with inspections by marine repairers or self-inspection. This can also be very effective and we hope that the information and checklist that we provide will help you in maintaining your craft so that it will be fun and safe for you and your family. This list is not comprehensive and proper maintenance is not limited to this list, but it does encompass a large number of the problems we have encountered in handling our customers claims. We hope that you find it useful in preventing damage to your craft due to improper maintenance.



1. Check the U-joint, shift cable and exhaust bellows on out drives and replace as needed. U-joints and the rubber bellows that protect the u-joint, shift cable and exhaust are subject to wear and tear. They will gradually deteriorate causing leaking and possible sinking. The rubber bellows can also be damaged by debris in the water and animals. Periodic inspection of the rubber parts could save your boat.
A Torn shift cable boot in the out drive. The deterioration of the rubber boot was caused by old age and wear and tear. The torn boot and the damage that was caused by it are not covered. In this case the boat sank and was a total loss. A very costly loss and one that was easily avoidable.
The exhaust bellows and the shift cable bellows on this boat were damaged by a muskrat. The boat sank before the damage was discovered.
2. On inboard boats, check the propeller shaft stuffing box for leakage. Leakage around the standard adjustable stuffing box can be caused by wear and tear or improper adjustment. The seals on drip less stuffing boxes can be damaged if the engine is not properly aligned. It is a good idea to check the stuffing boxes while the boat is at the dock and also while underway. If leakage is detected then consult a shop immediately so that the fitting can be properly adjusted. A leaking stuffing box can cause your boat to sink!
3. Check water pump impellers. On outboard motors and out drives this is a job that is more easily done by a shop. Over time the rubber impellers dry and crack. A small piece of rubber broken off of an impeller can cause major overheating problems.
This is a water pump impeller. Notice the broken impeller blades. A small problem with the impeller can cause a major engine problem.
4. Check for leakage around exhaust risers and manifolds on inboard engines. Leaking exhaust risers can allow water to seep into the engine. Look for rust stains and corrosion on the exhaust risers and exhaust manifolds. There is usually a small amount of leakage due to the metal parts expanding and shrinking when they heat and cool, but a lot of rust stains can spell trouble. All manufacturers recommend periodic placement of the exhaust risers and manifolds. Leakage around exhaust risers and manifolds can result in a very expensive repair and one that is not covered due to the fact that it is the result of wear and tear and gradual deterioration.
5. Freezing damage is not covered so winterize your boat early to avoid damage caused by an early freeze and keep a record of doing it.
The corrosion is around a hairline crack in the block. This type of damage can be caused by either not winterizing or improperly winterizing the engine.
The rust stains on the side of this engine indicate where the block was damaged by freezing.
6. All engine hoses should be checked periodically. If the hoses are starting to crack they should be replaced.
This water pump hose cracked while the engine was running. This caused the engine compartment to fill with water. The boat owner is pointing at the tape to show how high the water rose before they could return to the dock.
7. If your boat is equipped with an inboard engine that has a propeller shaft and a strut, you should check to see if the propeller shaft turns freely. This must be done when your boat is out of the water. If the shaft is very stiff to turn, it could be an indication that there is a problem with the alignment of your engine, strut, engine mounts or the possibility that your shaft is bent. A propeller shaft that does not turn easily should be checked by a competent shop and repaired as needed.
8. We all hope that we will never strike a submerged object but the fact of the matter is that many boaters will. While it may appear that the only damage is a slightly bent propeller, it is often the case that the propeller shaft is also bent and there may even be internal gear or bearing damage. Once a submerged object has been struck it is advisable to have a repair shop examine the running gear to assure that all of the damages have been repaired. Using an engine with damaged parts or alignment issues could lead to more complex problems.
9. The propeller, the propeller shaft and the strut should be cleaned periodically. Even a fine film of marine growth on the propeller and shaft can hurt the performance of a boat and keep the engine from functioning properly.
This is an extreme example of a fouled propeller, propeller shaft and strut. The performance of this boat was severely compromised and the engine could not function properly.
10. Visible rust stains can be evidence of a problem. Always check to see what caused the stain. The stains shown in the photograph below are around the strut bolts and are telling us that the bolts are leaking and need to be caulked. This is a minor problem but if small problems are neglected they can turn into big trouble.
11. Check your bilge pumps to make sure they are working properly. We often see claims where the cause of the sinking is described as "the bilge pump failed." The bilge pump will never cause a boat to sink--- a leak is what causes that to happen! However, the pump is there to try to keep the boat afloat if there is a problem, so it is vital that it be kept in working order.
12. If seawater is used to operate your marine toilet then it is important to close the seacock for the marine toilet when you leave the boat. A stuck or fouled valve in a toilet can cause water to continuously flow into the toilet bowl. Water overflowing the bowl can sink your boat. Closing the seacock is an ounce of prevention that may save you an expensive cure.
The stain on the back of the toilet bowl is where water was overflowing out of the bowl. Notice the waterline on the fiberglass seat.
13. Check for cracked plastic through hull fittings. The sun causes plastic through hull fittings to deteriorate and crack. This type of damage is the result of wear and tear and could cause the boat to sink.
The flange has completely broken off through hull fitting. These plastic fittings are usually located above the waterline. Over time the sun deteriorates the plastic causing it to crack and if left long enough the flange will break off as seen here. Although this fitting was located just above the waterline it caused the boat to sink and the boat was a total loss.
14. Check through hull hoses. Over time the hoses will deteriorate and crack. In most cases this is the result of wear and tear and gradual deterioration. Insurance does not cover the damaged hose or the damage resulting as a consequence of the cracked hose. Cracked hoses should be replaced.
15. Use your nose. If you have an inboard engine, open the engine compartment. There should be no fuel smell. If you smell fuel, there is a leak. Leakage can occur around fuel lines, fuel filters, carburetors and fuel tank fittings. If you smell fuel have a competent shop inspect for leaks immediately.
The top photo shows an aluminum fuel tank that was leaking. The bottom photo shows one of the holes in that tank. The white substance is foam used to mount the tank in the hull. The foam held the moisture around the tank and the aluminum deteriorated because of corrosion. The tank was mounted under the deck and therefore inaccessible so the leak could not have been found with just a quick visual inspection. In this case the smell of fuel in the boat would be the clue that alerts you to the problem.
16. Improper storage of a vessel or keeping it covered without proper ventilation will invite mold formation. So the vessel should be periodically inspected throughout the winter, or any other storage period, to determine that there are no problems. Insurance does not cover damage resulting from mold.
The vinyl used around the electrical panel and the surface around the hatch should be white. This boat was covered and stored for the winter, but the boat cover leaked and the entire interior was covered by mold.
17. Unless you have a maintenance free battery you should check the electrolyte (fluid) level in the battery. Maintaining the proper electrolyte level in a wet cell battery can save you a day of boating.
18. Don't forget to service the trailer. Worn trailer parts can make it difficult to launch and retrieve the boat and may damage the hull.
Cracked rollers on the trailer.
19. A boat lift is a convenient way to store and use your boat; however a boat on a lift during a significant squall or windstorm is very vulnerable. The wind can get under the boat and damage both the boat and its lift. It is recommended that the boat be removed from its lift and stored out of harms way during significant weather events.
20. Monitoring the vessel for leakage around the deck hardware should not be limited to an annual inspection. It should be done every time the boat is used. Once a leak is discovered its source should be identified and the fitting should be removed, cleaned and caulked.
Small leaks can lead to big problems. The laminate on the side of this deck house is rotten. Caulking the deck fittings may have prevented the problem.
21. The rigging on a sailboat should be inspected at regular intervals to make sure it is properly tuned and that the fittings are in good condition. The swage fittings (end fittings on the shrouds and stays) are the most vulnerable of the fittings. Over time the swage fitting scan crack. Once a fitting is cracked it must be replaced. A crack may often be obscured by corrosion. The corrosion can be polished away with a scotch brite pad or very fine sandpaper and then the fitting can be inspected for cracks.
Swage fitting
Crack in the swage fitting. The boat should not be used until the fitting is replaced.
22. Many sailboats are equipped with a roller furling system for the jib. Most of the roller furling systems require little to no maintenance. However, if the system is not operating smoothly it should be inspected and adjusted or repaired as needed. A system that is not working properly can cause a problem with the forestay. It is possible for a furling system to twist the forestay. If a twist is found in the stay then the stay should be replaced.
This stay came off of a 40’ sailboat .The roller furling system was the cause of the problem. A forestay that is twisted, no matter how slight the twist, must be replaced.
23. The halyards and sheets on your sailboat should be periodically inspected for wear. The lines can chafe on sheaves and other hardware. Breaking a halyard or sheet that is under load could hurt someone or at the very least ruin a good day of boating.
24. Check to be sure that the boat is equipped with the required United States Coast Guard safety equipment before leaving the dock. Flares have expiration dates. Check the flares to be sure they have not expired.
25. In many areas of the country boats are hauled out of the water and stored for the winter. A checklist for decommissioning (hauling out)and re-commissioning (launching) is below. Even if your boat is located in an area where it can be used all year long many of the items in the list are tasks that should be done at periodic intervals to keep your boat operating properly.
Checklist for Lay-up Decommissioning
Before Hauling Take an Inventory of your equipment:
 1.  Inventory fenders, dock lines,cushions, covers etc.
 2.   Review boat’s condition and report findings
 3.  Check electrical and mechanical systems
Decommission Mechanically:
 1.  Change engine oil & filters (including fuel)
 2.  Change engine coolant
 3.  Check & adjust belts
 4.  Pressure test the cooling system
 5.  Change transmission fluid & filter or clean the screen
 6.  Winterize the fresh water system and all appliances
 7.  Winterize head, including the holding tank & add deodorizer
 8.  Pump holding tank
 9.  Disconnect cables and clean all battery terminals
 10.  Winterize refrigeration
 11.  Winterize Air Conditioning
 12.  Winterize Salt Water Wash-Down Pump
 13.  Check and clean shower sump and filter
 14.  Check discharge pump and filter
 15.  Remove exterior cushions and canvas
Re-Commissioning (Mechanical Service after Lay-up):
 1.  Replace raw water pump impellers and gasket
 2.  Replace engine and transmission cooler zincs
 3.  Replace engine belts
 4.  Inspect & clean raw water strainer(s)
 5.  Check hoses and clamps - check clamps for corrosion
 6.  Inspect exhaust elbow(s)
 7.  Check all engine electrical connections
 8.  Check engine mounts
 9.  Adjust windshield wipers & replace blades
 10.  Replace engine heater plugs
 11.  Service sea cocks: remove barnacles and growth, lubricate all sea cocks and check proper operation
 12.  Replace holding tank filter
 13.  Replace engine air filter
 14.  Bearing and shaft lubrication
 15.  Inspect steering controls & linkage; lubricate and adjust
 16.  Inspect wear ring & impeller
 17.  Check oil cooler for leaks
 18.  Check condition of shaft and boots
 19.  Clean propeller of growth or barnacles and check for damage to blades
 20.  Install new zinc
 21.  Check level of the oil reservoir
 22.  Prep and paint lower unit as needed
 23.  Inspect & certify fire extinguishers
 24.  Before launch, clean all connections, hook up all terminals
 25.  Apply anti-corrosive product to all connections
 26.  Test & charge batteries as needed
 27.  Clean and paint strainers
 28.  Prep and paint bottom
 29.  Commission engine at dock; check fluids, cooling and oil pressure
 30.  Commission fresh water system and fill water tank
 31.  Test all water systems and remove all non-toxic antifreeze: to include head, shower sump, deck faucet and all spigots in head and galley.
 32.  Test all mechanical systems for proper operation
 33.  Check that all electronics function
 34.  Clean swim platform, boarding ladder and boarding step
 35.  Soap and scrub bilges and engine pan and replace oil absorbent pads.
 36.  Re-install exterior cushions and canvas
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