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Bishop Skinner Marine’s top ten insurance claims - and how to avoid them

While to thousands of enthusiasts, sailing is one of the most enriching and enjoyable activities, sailors face a range of expensive hazards from water ingress to capsize to collision. However, many of these and other challenges are avoidable with a little care and proper preparation. To help ensure the maximum safe enjoyment of sailing, specialist insurance broker Bishop Skinner has compiled a list the top 10 claims from the past year (ranked from least to most common) with advice on how to avoid them. 

No 10 – Water ingress
Sometimes being a difficult problem to isolate, water ingress can cause huge damage to vessels and their contents. Cabin safe transmitters can help detect leaks using audio feedback and are simple to use. Ensuring a boat is well maintained will also help mitigate water ingress issues.

No 9 - Theft of outboard motors
Outboard motor theft continues to rise. Thieves are organised, undeterred by the sheer weight of higher value engines and are often one step ahead of the authorities trying to apprehend them.
Fitting one or more of the most secure anti-theft devices for a particular engine and boat is advisable. Insurance policy wordings about anti-theft devices should be complied with in full to avoid invalidating a policy in the event of a claim. Also record all outboard serial numbers as they will be required by insurers and the police in the event of a theft.

No 8 – Rigmast damage
Rig failure is usually due to misalignment, friction between hard and soft surfaces, a loose fixing, poor condition, age, excessive loads or insufficient lubrication. These problems are due to poor set-up, misalignment, design or maintenance, which a good rigger can help to eliminate by constructing a purpose built rig. It is also recommended a professional rigger inspect a rig annually. Regular inspection by owners should also be routine to ensure longevity and functionality.

No 7 – Striking underwater objects
There is nothing more disheartening than catching a propeller on an underwater hazard. Installing a GPS unit, talking to local fishermen and other boat users, especially when sailing through unfamiliar waterways, can help avoid hull and propeller damage. Where a boat has already has GPS ensure the most recent updates are installed. Monitoring the current in front of the boat also helps as a sharp change in the current’s direction may indicate that something lies just beneath the surface. Sandbars are often the culprits in this case.

No 6 – Machinery Damage
One of the most common machinery related claims is for damage to the raw water pump impeller, which cools the engine. When an engine does overheat owners rarely think to inspect and service the cooling system, often assuming it is blocked or obstructed by debris.
When checking your rig it is also prudent to check the machine parts of the vessel too. This comes back to the best general advice about having regular routine maintenance, which will save expense over the long term and extend the life of the boat.

No 5 – Grounding
There are many reasons why a ship can run aground from basic human error to changes in rotational tides. Even after a light grounding a proper inspection should be carried out as soon as the ship reaches the nearest port. If there is any doubt about how seaworthy it is it should be prevented from sailing until an engineer has carried out a thorough inspection.
More severe grounding can lead to heavy damage to the hull which can cause serious cracks, resulting in water ingress followed by serious damage to the vessel’s structural integrity causing major instability. A heavy impact can induce structural stresses and heavy loads, which can lead to a major incident.

No 3&4 Collision with objects and collision with a third party whilst racing
In the last year, Bishop Skinner has seen many claims during the racing season. Always follow the rules of the water to help avoid serious damage or injury.
The three rules to follow to avoid the most common types of collision claims are:
• When on the same tack as another boat, bear in mind the leeward boat always has the right-of-way.
• When on opposite tacks, the starboard tack boat has right-of-way.
• When overtaking another boat, or if one is overtaking you, the boat ahead has the right-of-way.

No 2 - Capsize
Capsizing is potentially life threatening and there are a number of rules to follow to help avoid it. If it is your boat you are responsible for the safety of it and any passengers on board.
• Everyone aboard, not just children, should be wearing a lifejacket, there are no excuses.
• Match the boat’s capabilities to the conditions. If in doubt, stay inshore. It is better to be at the dock wishing you were offshore than offshore wishing you were at the dock.
• Be vigilant and alert to any changes in weather. Storms usually give plenty of warning before they strike. Even the cheapest VHF radio has a weather button.
• All boat owners should have a VHF radio handy, not just a mobile. While you can write down the Coast Guard's number, will you know the number of the boat only half a mile away?
• File a float plan with a trustworthy friend.
• Remember the best time to head back to shore is when the thought first occurs to you.

No 1 – Collision with a third party
Collision with a third party under normal conditions is the most costly type of claim Bishop Skinner has dealt with this year. As with the third and fourth, collision with objects and collision with third parties in race conditions, collision under normal conditions has been the most common claim. Because collisions can be extremely serious and even life threatening it is essential to follow the rules of the water to help avoid collisions or injury, as outlined in the joint third and fourth entry. 

Being out on the water can be one of the most calming experiences or equally one of the most exhilarating. Observing these rules and techniques will help ensure the most enjoyment is had and the pitfalls are avoided.