Boat insurance types and costs

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This page updated: October 2018



Insurance coverage types:
  • Total loss of boat.
  • Damage to boat hull and structure (including damage from running aground).
  • Damage to boat equipment (engine, transmission, genset, sails, bimini/dodger, liferaft, etc).
  • Damage to boat equipment when it is stored off the boat.
  • Damage to personal contents of boat (including storage locker on land).
  • Additional living expense (while boat is being repaired).
  • Boat liability/indemnity (damage done by you while boating).
  • Personal liability/indemnity (damage done by you while not boating, including driving a car).
  • All of the above, but crew-related.
  • "Green" coverage (liability for fuel/oil spills).
  • Salvage / wreck removal coverage (costs of removing your sunken boat from water).
  • Injuries to independent contractors working on your boat.
  • Towing costs.
  • Loss of Use reimbursement.
  • Investigative Services (who pays for damage surveyor ?).
  • Hurricane Haul-out protection.
Is coverage for total loss only, or is partial loss covered ?

Insurance value types:
  • Agreed Value (agree on value of items when policy is written).

  • Actual Cash Value (ACV; argue about value of items after damage; depreciation).

Insurance policy styles:
  • Named Peril (covered dangers are specified).

  • All Risk (excluded dangers are specified).

Policy categories (summarized from article in 2/1/2001 issue of Practical Sailor):
  • "Boat owner" policy: for boats up to 26 foot LOA; often addendum to house or car insurance; usually standard (unchangeable) limits and coverages.

  • "Yacht" policy: for larger boats; custom-designed limits and coverages.

LendEDU's "Best Boat Insurance: Compare Companies and Rates"

From Al Golden on The Live-Aboard List:
A "true liveaboard policy" covers those situations which are NOT covered by a typical yacht policy. Those include:

1. Personal Liability (i.e. slander, libel, your dog developing a taste for human legs, etc).

2. Personal Property located other than on the yacht (i.e. your digital camera being stolen from a car).

3. Additional Living Expense if you have to stay in a hotel, for instance, while your boat is being repaired.

4. There are others, but those are the highlights in my opinion.


From Jim and Diane:
Insurance for a cruising boat is determined by 4 things:
  1. Where you want to cruise.
  2. When you want to cruise.
  3. Your experience.
  4. The number of people in your crew.
... Most insurance companies will require an out-of-water survey. ... the older the boat the more difficult it will be to get insurance. Ten years seems to be the magic age. ...

From article by Scott Croft of BoatU.S. in 12/2005 issue of All At Sea magazine:
Insurance-buying tips:
  • Know Thy Insurer.
    You can "add on" to homeowner's policy, use an independent agent, or buy from a marine specialist. Adding on to homeowner's policy is convenient, but may limit coverage or omit things like salvage or wreck removal, and the company may not know much about claims-handling related to boats.

  • Agreed Value versus Actual Cash Value.
    Agreed Value costs more up front, but may pay more, and may replace damaged equipment with no deduction for depreciation. Actual Cash Value costs less, but pays less, and is better suited to less expensive boats, or where you care more about liability coverage than damage coverage.

  • Know The Salvage Truth.
    You want salvage coverage up to the same amount as the insured value. You shouldn't have to subtract salvage dollars from the total damage award dollars.

  • Understand The Language.
    Boat insurance is not as standardized as other insurance; understand your policy thoroughly.

  • One Size Doesn't Fit All.
    Depending on how you use your boat, you may or may not want coverage for fishing gear, hurricane damage, hurricane haul-out expenses, etc.

Are you required to have insurance ?
  • Many/most marinas require at least liability insurance to berth your boat there.

  • I've never heard of a marina requiring insurance for a stop at the fuel dock, which seems like a pretty high-risk activity to me.

  • Some boatyards require at least liability insurance (especially if you are going to DIY). I suspect insurance is usually required if you are going to store the boat on the hard for a while; probably not required if the boat is hauled to be worked on.

  • A few mooring fields require at least liability insurance. May be a growing trend.

  • If you finance your boat purchase, insurance almost certainly will be required.

  • If you operate your boat commercially (chartering, day-cruising, day-fishing, touring), insurance probably will be required, and you'd be a fool not to have it.

  • You usually don't need insurance to enter/cruise/exit countries. True about USA and Caribbean; I'm told Mexico requires "national insurance"; not sure about Europe.

Suzanne Finne's "Boating Insurance"
Rowland Stiteler's "Insurance Essentials"
SailNet - Michael J. Smith's "The Right Insurer And The Best Policy"
Where The Coconuts Grow's "What Marine Insurance Companies Don't Want You To Know"
Boat insurance articles in 2/1/2001 issue of Practical Sailor

Tell the insurance agent about every boating association you belong to, every certification you have, other insurance you have, other memberships you have. They might have an affiliate program with one of them, or some other special deal.

Want "Agreed Value" policy (you and insurer agree on value of boat when policy is written), instead of "Actual Cash Value" (ACV) policy (you and insurer argue about value of boat after it is totaled).

If ACV policy, find out at what rate they depreciate various kinds of equipment (engine, transmission, genset, sails, etc).

From Tom and Mel Neale: Check the insurance terms carefully: it may not cover "named storms", sailing below certain latitude during hurricane season, damage while boat is hauled or being transported or in boatyard. Also, conflicts between marina contract (liability waiver/release part) and insurance contract may allow insurance company to weasel out of coverage.

From Al Golden on The Live-Aboard List, 5/2003:
Here's a partial list of US yacht policies classified as to their treatment of an insured signing away their rights:

Policies which void your coverage if you sign a slip contract or any other contract containing a Hold Harmless Agreement:
  • Boat/US (CNA)
  • National Marine Underwriters (Hanover or American Family Home)
  • New Hampshire
  • Old United
  • Royal & Sun Alliance
  • Windsor-Mt Joy (new)
  • Zurich (Quartermaster)

Policies which do not necessarily void your policy if you sign that kind of contract:
  • Ace
  • Hagerty (CNA Classic)
  • Markel (Watercraft)
  • Progressive
  • St Paul (Seahorse & USPS)

Policies which specifically give you permission to sign such a contract:
  • Markel (Helmsman)
  • One Beacon
  • Zurich (Master Mariner)

Check to see if "named windstorm" coverage is actually "named and/or numbered windstorm coverage".

Make sure the dinghy is covered.

Don't skimp on personal effects coverage.

From Jim Jaeckel / Ganesha:
One minor point regarding insurance. I think you may have under estimated. This was one of the more difficult things to get, it took me three months of research until I found the right policy and a company willing to write it. Ended up with Zurich's Quartermaster policy. The difficult part was not insurance on the boat itself, or equipment and on-water liability. The problem was finding coverage for off the boat liability and adequate personal possessions coverage. Since we no longer own or rent a home, general liability insurance could not be obtained and none of the marine insurers, with the exception of Zurich, would write such a policy. (We had insurance through Boat US with on-water liability but it did not cover any liability ashore. That policy was less than $500 a year.) Our current policy does include general liability ashore, except auto, and coverage for personal possessions but it costs over $1600 and the replacement cost on the boat is only $50,000. In addition, they are not writing coverage for the Caribbean this year [2000] - I believe you will need to go to a European company for that - at least for this year. Neither are Boat US or West offering coverage in the Caribbean. (Coverage availability for a given area changes more then the wind.)

From Glenn on Cruising World message board:
Any boat over 10 years in age will need an out-of-the-water survey. Assuming your boat is over 10 years of age and if you have plans to haul her, get her surveyed then. The insurance companies like this done even if you get "liability only" and don't bother insuring the hull. Why? If the darn thing sinks, all of your passengers can sue you and the liability will kick in.

Higher deductible does lower the premium, until you get to about 5% of the hull value, there isn't much savings after that.

Many see insurance as a commodity. It really isn't. Every insurance company writes their own contract. Each one is different. Nothing is the same from one insurance company to the next. Many insurance companies expect to have a relationship with their insureds. That relationship includes longevity (are you hopping from company year to year shopping the best price? Many don't want a shopper, there's no commitment).


What type of policy limits? There are two primary ways to insure the hull, 1. Actual Cash Value and 2. Agreed Value. Actual Cash Value includes depreciation, anyone wish to argue what one J/24 is worth of the same model year vs. the next? This is a guaranteed hassle and I would never recommend it. In the Agreed Value policy, you and the insurance company agree to what it is worth (again the survey will be a big pointer to the value). If the boat is lost at any time during the policy period, you get the amount that was agreed on, no depreciation, no hassles.

In the liability section (Protection and Indemnity to us insurance geeks), you could meet your club's minimum, or you could imagine what things might hit the fan. Your boat cuts across the track of a cruise ship and knocks it out of service for a day (lost revenue will be above $1,000,000). I said your Boat, not you, so calm.

Your boat runs over a swimmer, cuts them up pretty good (even that Cuban beauty Gloria Estafan did this). Hospital bills, recovery, lost consortium (biggie), permanent disfigurement can add up quickly.

What if your boat beans some guest in the head with the boom? Concussion, coma or death?

It is up to you to pick an amount of liability. In today's hospitals it is not hard to burn through $300,000 for a goodly accident, $500,000 will cover almost all and $1,000,000 will take care of everything except the real worst case scenarios. By the way, you will find the difference in cost between $300,000 and $1,000,000 extremely cheap.

More from Glenn on Cruising World message board:
... [Does] it cover "Live Salvage," and "Wreck recovery when ordered to do so by CG in navigable waters?"

Ask if it automatically includes coverage for the U.S. Jones Act?

Live salvage is when you go to rescue someone and while doing so, you injure the victim. Say your prop cuts off the foot of the victim you are pulling out of the water. Now, normally in insurance policies, if you intentionally cause injury (intentional acts), they are not covered. So a policy needs to be modified to include injuries sustained while salvaging a life. Weird stuff, I know, don't shoot the messenger.

If your boat sinks in a navigable waterway and the insurance company determines it's a total, they can issue a check for $50,000 and walk away. Now if the USCG comes along and says that it is obstructing navigation, and it must be removed, your insurance company can say (if you bought a cheapo policy) that you pay for it, its not their responsibility. The better policies include this as part of the liability section, with no reduction for the loss of your boat.

The Jones Act is a real nest. It has been applied to paid crew, but volunteer crew on sailboats have sued under this and have been successful. The three lawful tests include, did the crew contribute to the journey? Yes, he was my main trimmer. Did this occur on federal waters? And this has been stretched to, if a canoe can make it from a federal body of water and not hit bottom, it will apply to that body of water that may not be considered federal waters. Was the injured crew under the direction of the captain? Duh, yes. Then this crewman is considered a Jones Act Seaman and can receive Care, Cure and Maintenance. What this means is, you pay his doctor bills, until he can no longer have his injuries cured any better and you pay a daily stipend to cover meals, housing, etc. These can be really expensive. The good yacht insurance companies include Jones Act (by not excluding it) while the cheapo's exclude it. Be vary wary, every personal umbrella I have read will exclude "injuries covered by Worker Compensation, Long Shoreman's and Harborworkers Act and all other similar acts." So while you might have a $300,000 liability limit on the boat, and a $1,000,000 umbrella, it is inadequate for a Jones Act claim. So what you do is have a liability limit (P&I) of $1,000,000 on your boat so you have enough to cover a Jones Act claim.

From letter from Charlie Todd and Barb Schmid in 6/2000 issue of Seven Seas Cruising Association bulletin:
... review hull insurance coverage to be certain it covers IN WRITING IN THE POLICY DECLARATIONS OR BY ENDORSEMENT every inch of the waters for which you believe you are insured. ... Similarly, if you are covered only for "coastal" cruising get in writing what that means ... If the agent says "Don't worry, you're covered", but you can't get an explicit endorsement - WORRY. ...

From Geres on Cruising World message board, 8/2000:
Preliminary quotes ... Annual premium for an agreed value of $40,000 (hull coverage), bodily injury and property liability at $300,000 medical at $5000 and with a deductible of $1,000:
BoatU.S.: $279
West Marine: $625
USAA: $1301

This is a 34'8" sailboat with outboard aux, primary cruising area Albermarle and Pamlico Sound with option of purchasing extra cost offshore and Caribbean rider. Owner has 34 years sail experience with clean driving record and zero past marine insurance claims. ...
From Steve G on Cruising World message board, 8/2000:
Read the fine print!!! BoatU.S. jacks their deductible up to 15% for hurricane damage which is really the one threat we're most worried about. On our $60k boat, that means if she were lost to a hurricane, we'd be out $9,000!!!!! All the other policies we've looked into have the standard 1-2% deductible no matter what the cause of the loss. IMHO, BoatU.S. insurance is a rip-off!!!
I talked to BoatU.S. on 11/6/2000 and got this info:
  • They've never had a different deductible for named storms (hurricanes).
  • They give a 10% credit for being an active member of USCG Auxiliary, and another 10% for getting Coxswain status. Or:
  • They give a 10% (I think) credit for being an active member of US Power Squadron.
  • Being ASA certified counts the same as taking a "safe boating" class.
  • No credit for other memberships such as Seven Seas Cruising Association.
  • The policy quote says "Premium includes credit for Lay-Up Period normal to your area". This means nothing for a Florida policy since Florida has a 12-month boating season.
  • A "liability-only" policy still requires a survey by a surveyor acceptable to BoatU.S.

Several people on Cruising World message board say BoatU.S. gave great service when they filed claims.

Check out the underwriter (from article in 2/1/2001 issue of Practical Sailor):
  • Are they an "admitted carrier" (regulated by your state's Department of Insurance) ?

  • What is their rating from A. M. Best Co. ?
Also, after getting policy through broker(s), call the fundamental underwriting company directly to confirm that your policy exists. A few criminal brokers collect the premiums and never create the actual policies.

From Frank G on Cruising World message board:
When your worst fears are realised, what then?

We were planning an early start on saturday for a day sail to test out some new equipment so camped onboard. I woke during the night to clanging and gurgling coming from the boat in the next dock, so I got up and poked my head out of the hatch into the arctic night to have a looksee and to my horror the pretty little ketch next to us was no longer there but replaced with a mast sticking out of the water at a very contorted angle twisting the whole dock pontoon with it. I quickly dressed and rang the marina after hours number who in turn contacted the owners. In the morning it was a sad sight to see a full grown man in his fifties on his knees crying like a baby with tears streaming down his cheeks. We brought him on board for a hot drink before a discussion with the marina management on the best course of action to take next. Divers positioned slings around the hull as a 60 ton crane reached over precariously from the carpark and plucked the boat from its fate to flush deck waterline. Then fire pumps emptied the water until the crane lifted her out into a cradle. He had no insurance with nearly his entire life savings invested on this boat. All the electronics on board, wiring, fittings, galley, timber veneer were ruined. The whole boat needs to be gutted and rebuilt. The poor man is broken in pocket and spirit just staring blankly at his boat as I write this. The sinking was attributed to a cracked seacock and faulty auto bilge pump. To add insault to injury the marina is charging him for the clean up of an oil slick from the sinking, which fouled other boats. I know many cruisers who don't have insurance and are prepared to "risk it" but after seeing this incident my view on insurance has changed, also to include the incidentals like the spillage which looking like costing thousands.

From Mark Mech on The Live-Aboard List:
I got a good quote from Allstate, it was around $240/year for over $80K coverage with a $500 deductible. I have Allstate for my home owners and just had a claim, I was rudely awakened to find out that there are charges for having a claim! I had a $500 deductible, but the policy will go up by $130/year for 3 years and also lose a 10% claim-free discount for 5 years. This effectively brings the deductible to over $1000. This is false representation in my mind and a form of fraud. This was the first time I have had a claim with a home owners policy and I have had policies for over 18 years! Call your agent and find out how much it will REALLY cost to have a claim.

From 'bella on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
ahhh ... the rub there.
you gotta have a drivers license. how stupid.
since I do NOT have one, getting insurance on my ericson 27 has been impossible.
it is why i may end up being tossed from my marina.
one of the arguments i get, is that i need insurance to own a car ...
but since i do not own a car i do not need vehicle insurance.
i cannot get a drivers license for a lot of reasons ...
all of which have nothing to do with my driving ability.
one company would do it, then realized my boat was worth under 30k and 30 yrs old ...
back to square one.
From Jared Sherman on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
Insurers are using more factors to make their decisions these days, including factors designed to see who is "conventional" and "responsible". Could be they have decided that if you can't get licensed -- there's a reason they don't want to insure you. Among other things, a license lets them see if you have an accident and claim history. They don't want people who have "claims" paid out, at all, for anything. But Florida and most other states will issue a non-driver's ID, and many places that say "Drivers license?" will accept that instead.
From Radar House on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
As for the Driver's license problem causing insurance problems ... When you get your new license after you haven't had one for a year [in Florida at least] the insurance companies put you in the same risk category as a 16 year old with a lotta tickets [usually the highest risk category]. If you go to buy a car and need insurance ... well, take a BIG checkbook along. It's usually cheaper in the long run [and short] in Florida to keep your license. You don't need insurance as long as you don't own a vehicle, and you'll save on boat insurance, too. ...

From Erik Andersen on Great-loop mailing list:
Be accurate in your insurance amount, particularly if you have an AGREED VALUE POLICY.

I had an 8 year old boat originally insured as AGREED VALUE at its purchase price, $300,000.

As the years went by, I never reduced the coverage amount. In case of a total loss I would actually have received $300,000, even though the Market Value might not be more than $250,000.

So why do the Insurance Companies go along with excess insurance ?

Simple: there are probably 100 fractional losses for each total loss, and for fractional losses the DEDUCTIBLE is the secret.

I had a fractional loss, and with 2% deductible (not on the loss, on the insured amount) my deductible was $6,000.

Had I changed the Agreed Value to the more proper $250,000, my deductible would only have been $5,000.

So for fractional losses, your most likely loss, I have paid extra premiums only to have higher deductible.

That is why insurance companies have all the money: they are smarter than we are.

From "Voyaging on a Small Income" by Annie Hill:
... Although it is possible to get insurance for just about anyone to go anywhere, in whatever way they choose, you'll have to dig even more deeply into your pockets for the privilege. ...

... Even before they consider taking on your vessel, the insurers will start to influence your decisions and therefore, your freedom. ...

... Having told you what type of boat you are permitted to sail and whom to take with you, the insurers will then start hedging their bets by telling you at what time of year you must sail and how far you may go. ... your insurance may actually force you to leave before you are fully ready or on a dubious forecast, because you are being pushed by the provisions of the policy. On arriving at your destination, you may then find on checking the small print, that you need to be based at a marina. ...

... the first thing to do is to ask yourself what would happen if you lost your boat. Will you be destitute ? ... you have to be able to afford to lose your boat. ...

[Putting aside money yourself and self-insuring, you earn interest on the money, and the same money insures against other problems such as medical bills.]

If you have a boat that you can't realistically afford to lose, there are only two alternatives: you insure her and take all the drawbacks that come with that, or you sell her for something cheaper and probably smaller ...

The fatal flaw in the above argument is third party liability [damaging someone else's boat] ... [avoid/minimize use of docks, marinas, crowded unsafe anchorages] ...

... At the end of the day, it's a personal decision and depends on how much sense of security insurance will give you. ... Freedom is never very safe. ...

From Norm on The Live-Aboard List:
The one time I did damage to another boat, in an 85-knot microburst during a thunderstorm here in St Augustine, I sent the other boat owner the $3K she requested but apparently she smelled money and took me to court. The judge determined that I did everything I should have done and she did not (she neglected to make fast the bitter end of her anchor line resulting in beaching against a seawall). He ruled that I was not negligent and she must return my check.

From what I understand about the liability situation, one must be found negligent in order to be found responsible for damages, so that if one does everything expected of a reasonable and prudent seaman liablity insurance is not needed, and at the same time, if one does not do this, the insurance company may not pay for damages.

I was told this story:
After having damage and filing a claim, a couple repaired their boat, saving money wherever possible by doing lots of work themselves, scrambling to get good deals on equipment, etc. Then the insurance company paid them only for actual money expended, which means all of their hard work was on behalf of the insurance company, not to their own benefit.

From Skip Gundlach on SailNet's Morgan mailing list 2/2007:
[Boat grounded and hull breached in Keys; towed to yard]
... it appears that my insurance doesn't have a separate salvage provision, which means that whatever it costs to salvage will be taken out of the total value, severely limiting my options WRT repair or replacement, as, if it's totaled, the remaining mortgage will eat most if not all of it, and certainly will reduce the funds available to make her whole again. ...


So far, Allstate is paying the entirety of the policy other than portable equipment, as it's described, and they've continuously asked us for the list of those items. That is, they're already agreed to the amount of the face value on the decs, plus 5% for salvage, plus $1000 for personal effects, $100 emergency money, plus, if it turns up, up to $2k of medical (no bill [yet] from the USCG, but there was an ambulance ride and my checkout at the ER), and the "portable equipment" stuff.

I've just sent off a list of what we know of that I don't consider part of hull coverage; we'll see if there's any fussitation on those items (I expect not, from what I've seen so far). Things like sails, anchors, some separate electrical items, wind and solar generators, etc., which we'll see how they play.

At this point in the game, I believe they may just say that's enough to not bother with itemization, and pay us that total, too. However, I'll wait to see what they say. At this point they've already cut the salvor's check, and are anxious to pay off the bank - all with no written commitments from us.

So far I have no complaints ...

[And more later:]

Many have wondered about our end results with the insurance side of things. I had an entire message to a couple of the mailing lists and forums on which I'm active about the subject but the short story of it is that Allstate gets my vote. However, the good news/bad news stuff is a bit more telling:

* As expected, our boat adjuster's coverage decision totaled the boat (the boat was determined to be a total loss, and they would not attempt arranging repairs). Normally that would mean that we would have to give up the boat, or, perhaps, accept a negotiated, lowered settlement, or, have to buy back the boat as salvage, leaving little or nothing with which to rebuild (after pre-existing commitment costs). However, in the course of many email and telephone contacts, the adjuster became aware of all the work we'd done in the last 3 years on our home, increasing the value of the boat. The decision came down: we were under-insured. Bad news, right? No ... Because we were under-valued (the boat was worth more than it was insured for), they had no salvage rights. Instead, the entire value of the policy would be paid, and we'd retain ownership.

* That means: The salvors - those many folks who got Flying Pig off the dry rock it was banging around on - were paid off. The mortgage was paid off. And there's enough left over to provide a boating kitty against future disasters.

So, in the end, it's about as good as it can get. We're being paid for sail repairs, but none of the external gear which took off/wrecked, other than the MOB pole, which broke, and the anchor, which self-launched and was gone before I could figure out the sound (not that I'd have wanted to go topsides to do anything about it in the middle of the night and a storm) of the chain rattling out of the hawse hole. So, there will be a few hundred more than already paid out.

As mentioned elsewhere, we're very happy with Allstate. Given that it was not a "true marine" policy, we got the very best we could have other than a bunch of miscellaneous stuff which they considered part of the hull (electrical/electronic stuff).

True, had we been paying the more-than-$3k-higher true marine policy, for the last three years we've had the boat before the accident, we'd have had the salvage covered separately, and have had more money in the end. However, there might not have been the instant decision to consider us undervalued, and a salvage position taken where we wouldn't have retained the boat. Unless we knew we were going to wreck, and that it would require a salvage operation to extract what turned out to be a substantially whole boat, we'd still do the same again (other than not run aground in such a fashion, of course!).

Of course, we're currently uninsured/uninsurable, but have the confidence that short of a whale getting upset at us and sinking in deep water, we're able to fix anything which happens, and still survive.

From BoaterEd forum 11/2008:
Yes, this is 'kind' of an "I told you so" post, but it's also meant to reinforce what I expressed about USING your insurance when you need it.

Some of you may recall that I blew my port engine last January. It was 20 years old, so did not feel bad about it whatsoever. Anyway, on a whim, I decided to check with my insurance company (policy was about 45 days old). They said they would send a surveyor to investigate. Well, we all already knew that the engine threw a rod and that a new replacement was called for, but the surveyor persuaded me to move forward with the investigation and that I would be pleasantly surprised. Here's the net - EVERYTHING done PRIOR to the blown engine sitting on the engine stand was covered. At $10/ft haulout, that's $450, and then the labor to remove the engine (and related components, settee, etc) came to about another $1200. So add those two together and that's the amount of the check I received.

Because the surveyor did what we already knew he would do, deny the claim, it was a 'no-claim' situation, but hey, $1600 is nothing to sneeze at.

So anyway, I took a lot of grief from some salts around here about making the claim, insisting that I would be dropped, or that my rates would skyrocket. I even talked to the surveyor about that and he was so irritated at that notion. He assured me that nothing would happen.

So -- here I am at renewal time with Boat U.S. and lo and behold, I received a 20% 'no-claim' discount on my policy; not dropped, no increase, nothing but a discount. Yes Virginia, Paul knows what he's talking about every once in a while.

Don't mean to come off as a jerk to anyone, it was just the talking down to me at the time that I did not appreciate from a few members of the Peanut Gallery! :-)

So -- the other point is that you should not necessarily 'fear' your insurance company. They're not always the bad guys.


Same deal here when I blew a tranny. The shop that pulled the tranny encouraged me to call my insurance company (United Marine Underwriters, underwritten by ACE). Result was the insurance company surveyor found evidence of "impact" (his words) although I was very upfront with him when I told him I never felt any indication of such. Result, $12,000+ covered by the insurance, $2,000 out of pocket. Not dropped at renewal and no increase in premiums. You pay those premiums for a reason ... use it but don't abuse it.


My insurance company, ACE, reimbursed me $17,000 for a transmission. They didn't raise my rates.

From Charles Badoian on the World-Cruising mailing list 3/2010:
Got a guy living aboard in the marina I am at that actually had to file a claim with Lloyds recently, and they found every single loophole to get out of paying him a fair amount. He ended up getting 50% of what his policy was worth.

Secondhand knowledge, but the guy is pretty solid.
From Larry McNeil on the World-Cruising mailing list 3/2010:
WOW! Sounds interesting to investigate - however - my wife spent several years as an insurance adjuster - and you can take it as FACT that adjusters are provided corporate guidance to basically deny, deny, deny. That places his experience with Lloyds as a perfect example of ALL insurance companies. It also provides some pretty good input from my wife on things we can do to protect ourselves at least a little bit. First, take pictures of everything, even a video is much more 'proof' than most customers have to offer. When I say take pictures, I mean BEFORE any loss, as well as AFTER any loss. Second KEEP ALL RECEIPTS! ASSUME you are going to have a loss, and be ready to prove you had a loss. The last bit of advice in dealing with insurance companies who continually say no, is to keep saying NO to their offers of settlement. There DOES come a point where it is cheaper for them to pay you than to keep using their time and resources in trying to NOT pay you. Just a word from an experienced person. You gotta look out for yourself - NO insurance company is going to.
From Don Cochrane on the World-Cruising mailing list 3/2010:
Yep, said the same thing about a year ago on this board. DO NOT trust your insurance company. Photo's, video's, receipts, appraisals are all mandatory. Every 6 months take new photo's and video's. Get independent appraisals.

From Mike on the World-Cruising mailing list 4/2010:
Filing a claim:

Read your insurance policy. Especially the fine print.

Take statements/addresses/phone numbers if there were witnesses.

Photograph everything before, during and after.

Keep a diary of all occurrences noting time, date, of every phone call, visits, delivery of equipment for repair or installation, etc. Organize all your paperwork for easy access.

Obtain your own surveyor if the damage is significant. We found it a good idea to have both the insurance company's surveyor and ours onsite at the same time. Made it easier solving some sticky wickets that cropped up later in the process.

Seek reputable yard for estimates to do the work. Ask the insurance company for their recommendations. Sometimes it helps to use a yard the insurance company has used before.

Clarify/document any grey areas that could turn into a claim addition.

Don't take any check or financial instrument that provides settlement for the whole claim until the job is finished and the boat is sea-trialed. READ THE FINE PRINT.

And last, if you are going to do the work yourself, have some professionals give you estimates. Those estimates include their parts and labor. In our experience, many claims are settled for less than they would normally cost due to DIY's forgetting or underestimating their labor contributions.

How insurance is affected by being in boatyard:
Sail World article by Danielle J. Butler
Sail World article by Des Ryan

Some companies:


As of 2004, apparently insurance rates have gone up dramatically, and insurance is getting harder to get, and with more restrictions. (See article by Todd Scantlebury in 3/2004 issue of Cruising World magazine.) More and more people are going uninsured; I dropped my insurance in middle of 2003.

Costs go up every year; any numbers given were valid at the times specified.

During 2001 and 2002, I had insurance for my 1973 Gulfstar 44 with National Marine Underwriters: hull and liability cost $868/year for $70K boat and $4K dinghy with 2% deductible and $500K liability, for single-hander living aboard, USA and Bahamas to 100 miles out. Rate raised to $1058 for 2003 (I had no claims). I decided to go uninsured.

From Gene Gruender on The Live-Aboard List 7/2006:
I was just [7/2006] notified by my insurance company, National Marine Underwriters, that they will not renew either of my policies when they come due. In fact, they are not renewing any for boats over 30 ft and 15 years old or older that are near the coast.

I think, as a group, we have a big problem coming. Last year they cut back the coverage area and raised the price. ... Since NMU generally was the cheapest and had broader coverage than most, it's bound to cost more elsewhere. I'll probably just go without when my policy expires ...

I think the whole world, as we know it (boating and otherwise) is beginning to have some profound changes.

From Robert Doty on The Live-Aboard List 8/2006:
I just [8/2006] got some bad news from my current insurance provider (Inamar). They want $5,586 to insure my 1985 Hans Christian Traditional. This is up from $2,817 last year! I have been calling every insurance company I can think of to get a better quote. I have been turned down by all of them for the following reasons:

1. The boat is in Florida (Orange Park, near Jacksonville).
2. There is a hurricane in the Atlantic (Chris).
3. The boat is now 21 years old.

So far, I've been rejected by Pantaenius, Progressive, United Marine Underwriters, World Marine Underwriters, Allstate, National Boat Owner's Association, Geico, Empower Solutions, and Admiralty Insurance Agency. I have a perfect driving record, and have never had an insurance claim in the 8 years I've owned this boat.

From Bill Kranidis on Cruising World message board:
I tried getting insurance for myself, and no one would touch any singlehanding. So I did the next best thing (in my opinion). I got coverage for within 15 nm from land. That's where you need coverage for.

From Chris and Robin Blair on SailNet's Morgan mailing list 1/2007:
I got dropped last year mid hurricane season by my underwriter. They sent us a form letter that stated they were no longer insuring boats older than 5 years. Almost everyone else we know had the same problem here in the Kemah TX area. We knew we were planning to leave to go cruising so we went out to all the usual companies Boat US, Blue Water and a few others for and expanded sailing area but we needed coverage for the named storms since we would be in the hurricane box for at least the remainder of 2006. All of the quotes we got back more than doubled in price and excluded damage from all named storms. So we went to IMSI. They offer the Jackline policy that you see advertised in sailing magazines. Our agent was Pat who is a former cruiser and licensed captain. She was a pleasure to deal with and we have several other cruiser friends that have used her as well. For comparison our declared value is $108,000 and the previous policy cost about $1500/year. It covered up to 15 miles offshore and Texas/Louisiana gulf coast with no storm exclusion. The new policy covers 250 miles offshore Gulf Coast US and all of the Caribbean except Haiti and one other country. It costs us about $3200/year and has no storm exclusion. The new policy offered by Boat US was $3600 and covered Gulf Coast only and excluded all named storms. When we questioned why the price was so high they said it was because we are live aboards! Other companies offered a little lower cost but all excluded named storms.

When we recently asked others about their coverage level and cost we seem to find a huge variation in the price. I don't know if that's because insurance companies are in transition after the hurricane disasters of 2004/5 or that people aren't really telling us the whole story (like they live aboard but haven't disclosed this to the insurance company). It's probably a little of both.

From Judy Rouse on the World-Cruising mailing list:
... April 2005 I obtained a quote from BOAT/US for a 20 yr old Amel Mango that we were considering. BOAT/US quoted a premium of $4965 for $235k agreed hull value and $300k liability, with cruising grounds limited to Texas Gulf coast. We did not buy that boat.

We later purchased the 2003 Amel SM2 and obtained insurance quotes from three companies, all comparable. Ended up with IMIS Jackline policy covering all of Caribbean down to South America (except Cuba and Haiti) with agreed hull value of $430k and $1M liability for a premium of $4949. ...

From ddfleming on the World-Cruising mailing list 10/2010:
I'm ready to cry. We have an incredibly seaworthy 1979 Mariner Mayflower 48 that we purchased in SF Bay 4 years ago. We've been sailing in SoCal for the last 4 years and been insured with Boat US for $1200 annual premium, and pay it at a rate of $113 per month. We are doing the Baja-Haha on Oct. 25, then continuing South and relocating to Panama City, FL.

I knew we needed Mex. Ins., at a cost of about $500. I called Boat US thinking we'd just purchase a Rider to cover the 3 months in transit. They said they would drop us like a hot potato as soon as we left CA, provide NO coverage outside the US AND we'd have to REAPPLY and get a NEW SURVEY once we get to FL and the premium would be triple what we pay in CA! OK, we get that part - hurricanes. They gave me two referrals. I contacted AMIS and another Dutch company I found online - The Quotes: $5000 up front (no credit cards at all with the Dutch outfit, a nasty surcharge with AMIS), plus an (out of water) survey and of course we still have to buy Mex. liability ins on top of that! I asked about a short-term transit policy and the answer I got was "they used to do that, but don't any more". WHOA!

We are shell-shocked, but way too committed at this point not to go. We've been working so hard on preparing the boat, investing in upgrades and the cost of the trip (Panama Canal fee, etc), paying for movers, making sure we have the funds for the transit, etc. Looks like we may be forced to take our chances and go bare because the cost is SO PROHIBITIVE, even though we do have a loan on the boat. There's always bankruptcy if something major happens, I guess :(

Getting just liability insurance, so you can stay in a marina:
From Felton on Cruising World message board, 8/2000:
State Farm was willing to sell me a boatowner's liability policy. It cost me $50 for $100K liability coverage and my umbrella liability policy carried my coverage up to $1 million. I furnished a modified survey for insurance purposes, which did not require the boat to be out of the water. The cost was about $175. Liability insurance is cheap. I can't imagine not having it, whether the marina required it or not. State Farm carries all my insurance; homeowners and automobile. I doubt they would have been interested in writing *only* a liability policy for $50. Check with your insurance provider. On my current boat, I am going with full coverage because the boat is more valuable and BoatU.S. is actually quite reasonable for full coverage.

From Charles M on Cruising World message board, 8/2000:
BoatU.S. had me do a self-survey which was pictures of the hull from four angles. That and a background form was all that was required for that boat.

Blue Water Insurance and NMU do not do liability-only.

I looked for liability-only insurance in 5/2003 for 1973 Gulfstar 44 motor-sailer:
NMU doesn't do liability-only.
State Farm doesn't do it for big boats.
BoatU.S. wouldn't write it, because I anchor instead of mooring or docking. They transferred me to an affiliate who would write liability-only for $2300/year !

Someone said that Progressive offers liability-only policies, but does not cover liveaboards.

Towing insurance:
From anonymous in Florida, 12/2000:
My research into towing companies was intended to pinpoint my local area only.

The big three, Sea Tow, Tow Boat U.S., and Vessel Assist all have marketing agreements with the big three marine retailers, although Boat U.S. / Tow Boat U.S. can be thought of as one company. Sea Tow is hooked up with Boaters World, Vessel Assist is hooked up with West Marine. They all have web sites.

The three companies have similar but different policies that are very difficult to quantify, and the local operators seem to have great latitude as to how they interpret the contract rules.

Soft ungroundings:
Boat U.S. can spend 15 minutes at idle, pulling on a grounded boat. If it does not come loose in 15 minutes, they shift to salvage mode, the price skyrockets, and your towing coverage won't cover it.
Vessel Assist can "work at getting a grounded boat free" for 30 minutes before shifting to a salvage mode.
The local Sea Tow operator has "never charged his members for a soft ungrounding".
Why is that? Boat U.S. operators get paid big bucks for soft ungrounding work while Sea Tow operators don't. I don't know about Vessel Assist.

Towing in general:
Vessel Assist has a towing service area that follows the boat around. Customers can choose either a 50NM or 30NM radius. If the home port, or a repair facility is within that radius, they will tow the boat at no charge. Beyond that, they will tow to the nearest repair facility at a per hour rate.
Tow Boat U.S. also has service area limits but the local tower will go just about anywhere to get a customer. It's a long ride home at 5 knots and $125/hr. The problem with that is that their "unlimited coverage" is limited to about $1,000.
Sea Tow has geographical boundaries on service areas, but they seem to be a bit flexible and the operators will work together to help the customer.

From the trenches: Every corporate representative and every tower that I have talked to tells a different story about what their policies are. In my area, the Tow Boat U.S. operator is brand new, not yet licensed or qualified to tow. Two employees from the previous owner are trying to do it all until the new owner gets up to speed, he has an accounting background not a boating background. Vessel Assist does not yet have an operator here, but the gentleman who is planning to buy it was fired by Sea Tow due to lack of skills. The Sea Tow operator is a pro and has a good reputation.

Bottom Line: There are many other issues to consider here, but the basic towing, ungrounding, and salvage are near the top of the importance list. What to buy? For me it's a no-brainer. While I stay close to home it's Sea Tow, when I finally head up the coast I'll add Tow Boat U.S. so that I can choose which one to call.

Vader buying insurance for the Death Star