A few recent events prompted me to write about boat insurance policies, and what you should know if you are a new or seasoned boat owner. Chip Merlin and the Merlin Yacht Racing team recently competed in an offshore race from St. Petersburg to Pensacola. My own recent sailing adventure took an exciting yet unexpected turn as we sailed downwind in 16-knot breeze. One of my close friends recently became the new sailboat owner of Melges 24, Firewater, owned by the late George Haynie – a sailing mentor, legend, and dear friend to all at Davis Island Yacht Club.

Sailboat racing is all about clean competitive fun. Being out on the water is supposed to be fun whether you are out cruising or racing in a regatta. But you need to be prepared on and off the boat if something goes awry on the water, or the boat sustains damage in a wet slip or on a trailer.

At Merlin Law Group, we practice property insurance law, and it is just as important to know your boatowners insurance policy as it is your homeowners or businessowners insurance policy. This blog is not a substitute for your responsibility to read your policy, but I will give you a quick cheat sheet on noteworthy coverages and exclusions.

Boatowners insurance policies generally cover any physical damage to equipment such as hull, sails, machinery, furnishings, on-board equipment such as a depth finder, fish finder, lights, bilge pump switch, radios, and the trailer if applicable.

Standard coverages generally include the following: accidental damage, including fire, theft and malicious damage; sinking, stranding, collisions, and salvage costs; damage to engines; transit risks up to 30 feet in length; lifting and launching risks; loss or damage caused by latent defects; frost; and personal effects.

If you race your sailboat then it is important to note that many boat insurance policies do not cover damage to masts and rigging while racing; but this coverage can be purchased for an additional premium. If your boat is registered for upcoming regattas, then you should review your policy and speak to your insurance agent to ensure your policy includes the proper endorsements.

Boatowner policies generally exclude coverage for damage caused by the following:

  • Wear and tear
  • Willful misconduct
  • Loss of value due to age of vessel
  • Losses caused by corrosion osmosis
  • Mast, spars and sails while racing unless the policy has been extended
  • Damage to machinery following breakdown
  • Theft unless the right security devises or locks are fitted

If you or someone you know is a new or seasoned boatowner and loss or damage to the boat occurs, one of our experienced Merlin Law Group attorneys can help.

Fair winds and following seas to our friend George Haynie