Mark Outerbridge, senior underwriter at Freisenbruch details the ins-and-outs of boating insurance and how to properly protect your vessel

The benefits of having a boat in Bermuda are many but having one that isn’t properly insured is a sure-fire way to stress and financial pain.

With hurricane season starting on June 1, there is no time like the present to research the coverage options available or dust off the policy you already have to ensure you understand your obligations. “You are safeguarding your asset,” explains Mark Outerbridge, senior underwriter at Freisenbruch Insurance Services Ltd. “A boat is, for a lot of people … it’s their pride and joy, and therefore, among other things like your home and family, worth protecting, especially during hurricane season.

“The majority of claims we encounter occur when there is a storm locally.” He recommends contacting all the local insurance firms for a quote for a comprehensive policy – just as if seeking cover for a car or bike – to cover loss and damage to the vessel, as well as liability. Next, check the small print. Outerbridge says: “The biggest thing for you to be aware of with any policy is to see if there are any exclusions.

“That would be principally looking at your mooring location. “Some moorings, such as in Harrington Sound, will not be accepted as an all-weather location by insurers so it’s important to be clear on where you can and can’t leave your boat in a storm. Outerbridge cautions mariners not to assume a location is “fine” and to check if their policy has a mooring warranty.

That means being able to prove the mooring was inspected and found to be in good condition before any storm damage happened. You need to know how frequently the inspections should take place for the policy to remain in force. “Most people have the inspection done on an annual basis,” says Outerbridge, adding that it must be checked by a qualified industry person.

“That’s probably the biggest thing [to consider] when it comes to a permanent mooring spot.”

If you have a small boat that can be pulled ashore in bad weather or you are on a haulage plan, that can be the safest option and should satisfy your insurer.

Arthur Bean Photo: Hurricane Fabian east

As well as asking about your mooring, insurers will ask the age of your boat and your experience level on the water. These factors will affect the premium, just as with a car or bike.

“If it’s really advanced in years then we have a requirement that the vessel needs to be surveyed,” says Outerbridge. He adds that it will benefit anyone considering buying an older boat to have it thoroughly checked by an approved, independent boat surveyor, citing a recent client who opted not to buy a 20+-year-old boat after a compromised transom was found. “The survey will give a value range,” he says. “We require them for vessels that are ten years and older.

“Our policy is an agreed value policy. If you have a survey … that says your boat is worth approximately x and that is the sum insured in a valid claim.”

Outerbridge says comprehensive cover will usually include the cost of salvaging a boat in the “worst case scenario,” in addition to the sum insured. He reminds mariners to thoroughly check their deductibles – the agreed excess paid by the policyholder in the event of a claim – and to know what to do ahead of a “pending blow.” Covers, sails and biminis will likely be excluded from wind storm damage cover so must be removed and secured, and ropes need to be protected from chafing. “You want to secure any loose items,” Outerbridge advises. “You want to make sure you have gone out and run your batteries, just make sure everything is charged up.”

He says plenty of boats in Bermuda probably aren’t insured but for those who want peace of mind, it makes sense. “If you want to protect the asset and not be in a position where, heaven forbid, it breaks free and is a total loss or even if it’s just a case of damage, you want to know that you’ve got coverage.”

To learn more, please email or call 296-3600.