Hurricanes and insurance

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 6, 2005

This past week has been a watershed even for the United States. It didn’t matter where you lived, as long as you’re near a TV, especially with cable, you witnessed the raw power that nature, in the form of a hurricane, can produce. All of us witnessed unmatched devastation. We all saw some extraordinary acts of heroism under incredibly dangerous conditions.

As a retired Coast Guard officer I felt a true sense of pride in the missions and rescues that my service and the other services were accomplishing. In fact, this past Wednesday, while walking through the Providence, R.I. airport, I looked over on the newsstand and saw that all five major daily newspapers had color pictures of a Coast Guard helicopter on the front page making a dramatic rescue off a roof top.

There are also other things to consider when developing &uot;Lessons Learned&uot; from this horrific storm.

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Hurricane Katrina provides an important series of considerations for recreational boat owners, around the country, regarding insurance. Visual images on all the major networks and within the newspaper showed recreational boats on their sides, crushed together like peanut shells, and in one visual image, which I really can’t forget, the cabin cruiser was stuck within a tree. Since I am focusing on hurricanes over the next few weeks this topic seemed perfect for our reading audience.

Before I go any further on insurance, however, I want to provide a quick disclaimer. I am not an insurance agent. I don’t work for any insurance agency, or even own stock in an insurance agency. Insurance professionals are your best source for specific information regarding your personal situation and your individual needs. Seek them out! Here in Suffolk, we have a number of insurance professionals that will take the time to carefully assess a situation and provide sound advice.

Even though I am not an insurance professional I do want to provide some over-arching practical tips on how to approach the issue of insurance and its relationship to your boat. Doesn’t matter if you own a 22-foot Boston Whaler, or a 62-foot offshore racing vessel insurance is one of the most critical decisions you make before you ever leave the dock.

Let’s start with some good initial places to look for material to read. The Travelers Insurance company has developed a web site called &uot;Yacht Insurance 101.&uot; This easy to read and navigate site provides not only the basics of insurance, but also looks at touchy subjects such as how marine surveys play into the process or discussions on hull damage and what type of insurance needs to be obtained. The Travelers site is:

Other insurance companies have similar sites, but I would recommend a visit here first.

Are there other insurance &uot;preps&uot; you can take, especially well before a major storm approaches. Consider the following:

-Take pictures of EVERYTHING. Take good digital pictures of everything above and below decks.

If you have an expensive GPS, get a picture.

-Once you have taken the pictures get two copies made and mail one to a relative or friend who lives away from Virginia. If the unthinkable occurs and the first set of pictures are lost, you have backup.

-Along the same lines, write down serial and model numbers. Have a good running list of all the equipment you have onboard, especially radios and ELTs.

-Look carefully at &uot;uninsured boater coverage.&uot; As motor vehicle operators most people know their state’s requirements for insurance. Some still drive without it. If an accident occurs you need to be protected. The same holds true on the water.

-Finally, if you are an avid fisherman, and have invested a considerable chunk of money in rods, tackles, lures, etc, discuss with your insurance professional about fishing equipment coverage.

These are a few items to consider when looking at the difficult issue of buying and maintaining boating insurance. There are many more issues. Before you ever step foot in an agent’s office or pick up the phone to call one of the big national agencies do three things:

-Read all you can about the types of insurance and their coverage.

-Have all the information you can on your boat, not just its length and model

-Finally ask questions this is your investment and you want to ensure it is protected.

In conclusion, many of our fellow Americans have suffered greatly in the last week. Images from Gulfport and New Orleans pull at your heart, especially when you consider this is America and not a foreign land. I ask each of you to consider helping. There are many agencies providing help especially the Red Cross, who have been miracle workers! I ask you to personally consider helping. More information can be obtained by calling the Suffolk office of the Red Cross or by visiting:, then click on &uot;Donate Now.&uot; Together we will do what Americans do best – come together and help each other through a crisis, regardless of the magnitude!

Until next week….Boat Safe, Boat Smart!!

Joe DiRenzo is a retired Coast Officer and former cutter Commanding Officer. Currently a civilian with the Coast Guard he has written the Times-Record Boating column for nearly five years.