Not So Fine Print

By Steve Chaconas

Not So Fine Print

Boaters would never intentionally go up a creek without a paddle. But they might be setting a course without proper insurance coverage.

As an avid boater who also uses a boat for business, complete coverage is essential to my business and peace of mind. But sifting through coverages with insurance agents, aka salespeople, is like speaking Greek. Not understanding what you need or what you want could end up with incomplete coverage. Cost should not be the sole determining factor.

First thing to do, according to Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS), is to pull out previous policies and read them. Thanks to BoatUS founder Richard Schwartz, policies are a bit easier to comprehend, but there are still ambiguous areas and boating specific coverages.

Surprisingly half of all boat sinkings occur when some small part below the waterline fails. On bass boats it could be as simple as a faulty or lost drain plug or drains or intakes for livewell systems. If a boat sinks it’s likely a total loss. “Consequential damage” coverage pays for losses that often start with a failed part that may be excluded under the policy, but most importantly, the rest of the repairs or total loss will be.

After reading the policy, you might notice fuel-spill liability fine print.  Fuel-spill liability protects from claims for cleanup or third-party damage due to the accidental discharge of oil or fuel that can occur in a sinking, fire, collision, or grounding. This is where many policies specifically state they only pay costs associated with a fuel spill up to the policy’s set limit of boating liability coverage. While many boaters might find this acceptable, better policies separate out fuel-spill liability and provide coverage up to the maximum amount you can be held liable for under federal law, which is $939,800. Check this out as the policy cost difference is rather small.

If you own a boat, at some point an on the water tow will be in your future. You never know. But know this, they can be very expensive! Make sure you find this fine print in your policy and see what you are really paying for. A lot of boat insurance policies offer an on-water towing endorsement that provides a level of towing and assistance for routine breakdowns or soft groundings. Here’s the issue. You must find out how this coverage will be enabled. Who will you call? When will they respond? Where will they come from and how soon? A 24-hour dispatch service to call for assistance is essential as you are likely stranded. An on-water towing endorsement or a stand-alone on-water towing membership plan could allow you to receive free towing with priority towboat service.

Salvage coverage is very specific and is often a point of contention with boaters and insurance companies.  Damage from fires, sinkings, shed-roof collapses, or running up on a shoal end up in a “salvage” situation. If not a total loss, the boat still needs to be recovered and brought to a repair facility. These costs can escalate quickly and dramatically and are deducted from the insured value of the boat, reducing the funds available to repair the boat or the amount paid in the event of a total loss. Unfortunately, many boaters assume the cost of raising or moving the boat to a safe location is covered, and they aren’t.

In a total loss, the check you receive for the boat’s insured value, may not cover the salvage bill. You might have to pay out of pocket and end up with nothing for your boat loss. Better policies provide salvage coverage that is separate but equal to the boat’s hull value coverage.

Bass boaters continually use their boat trailers, but not all boat insurance policies automatically provide boat trailer coverage. Look for this specific coverage.  Further complicating trailer coverage, some policies have geographic limits on where you may trailer the boat. Boat policies pay to repair or replace trailers damaged in an accident while towing, however any third-party damage your trailer causes to property or injuries to people is covered under your auto policy.

Opting for a liability-only policy, make sure that it provides not only coverage for property damage and bodily injury to others but also coverage for salvage and removal of the wreck, and that separate coverage is available for fuel-spill incidents.

Insurance policies for boats are just as important as wearing a PFD. But you have to read the fine print and be properly insured. The cost differentials for the best coverage isn’t that much. Pay now, or pay a lot more later.

Potomac River Bassing in AUGUST

Hollow body Mann’s Super frogs work now! Tie to 60-pound test GAMMA braid and fish over grass, under docks or near any cover. Use a 7’2” Quantum Medium heavy rod and a fast Quantum Smoke reel.

Pitch Mann’s Stone jigs with HardNose craw trailers to grass, docks and pads on 16-pound test GAMMA Edge fluorocarbon line. Swim over and around cover. Mizmo tubes soaked in garlic Jack’s Juice will produce. Same line with a 3/0 Mustad Ultra Point Mega Bite hook and a 3/16-ounce weight. Mann’s 5-inch HardNose Freefall weightless stickworms on 10-pound test GAMMA Edge Fluorocarbon line can also be fished around cover.

Crank Mann’s Baby 1-Minus crankbaits in craw and baitfish patterns over wood and grass with 12-14 pound test Edge on a KVD Quantum cranking rod. Use faster Quantum Smoke reels.

Mann’s Classic ¼ ounce spinnerbaits and chatterbaits with white skirts are effective close to grass, wood and rock, bumping cover or snapping free from grass. With high clear water, cloudy skies and some chop, try 3/8-ounce double willow spinnerbaits with firetiger skirts.

Seeing grass or submerged wood is important for finding fish. Maui Jim HT lenses cut the glare and highlight cover.

Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide & contributing writer for BoatU.S. (BoatUS.com) Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. Book trips/purchase gift certificates: info@NationalBass.com.

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