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October 2014

January is the top month for boat claims and theft of outboards has risen 40% in the last 5 years

The clocks going back this weekend hails the end of the boating season for many, and the start of a vulnerable time of the year for boats. The winter lay-up is fundamental in helping to protect boats throughout the colder months, warns leading UK pleasure boat insurer Navigators & General (N&G).

Even though the majority of boats are not used in January, it remains one of the worst months of the year for boat insurance claims, with a 66% higher volume of claims than the monthly average over the last five full years*, according to N&G. The prolonged nature of last winter’s storms also meant that N&G saw 32% more claims for storm damage to boats at the end of 2013.

It is common for boat owners to check their vessel in the New Year, but the damage may well have been caused in the preceding few months while their craft was unattended. Key factors include:

  • Sub-zero temperatures which can cause frost damage to engines.
  • Prolonged heavy rain can not only damage electrics but combined with leaves blocking drain holes can also put boats at risk of flooding and sinking.
  • High-winds can rip sails and cause boats and trees to blow over, potentially crushing other vessels stored nearby.

With boats traditionally laid-up for the winter, damage can go unnoticed for longer than usual which can exacerbate any problems – for example, a small leak can cause significant damage to a boat’s interior and mechanics and, in extreme circumstances, lead to sinking.

The longer nights and cold weather mean fewer people are around at boat yards, potentially making them an easy target for theft and vandalism. N&G has seen an average 40% rise in the theft of outboard motors over the last five years.*

Paul Emery, Head of Navigators & General, said:

“The prolonged period of storms last winter resulted in a huge increase in the number of damaged boat claims."

“To ensure your boat is properly laid-up we recommend carrying out checks every couple of weeks, particularly when a bad spell of weather is expected. Spring may seem a long way off, but taking a few key measures to protect your boat during the winter period could help avoid a lot of unnecessary stress and inconvenience in the New Year."

“Over just a few months ropes can wear, fenders burst, bilge pump batteries run down, sails become unfurled, cockpit drains block with leaves, and lines work lose.

“While boat insurance is there for if the worst happens, most policies will not cover damage caused by leaks or vessels which have not been properly maintained.”

Navigators & General’s advice for protecting your boat this winter:

  • Remove all expensive equipment such as radios, GPS, navigation and electronic equipment, TV’s, CD players etc and store them in a safe place.
  • Remove the outboard, tender and life-raft.
  • Leave empty lockers and drawers ajar to ventilate and deter thieves.
  • Drain down water and heating systems.
  • Have engines professionally winterised or ensure that you carefully follow all of the manufacturer’s recommendations to avoid frost damage.
  • Remove berth cushions to a dry environment.
  • Remove furled headsails, mainsails, covers, dodgers and spray hoods.
  • Take out halyards leaving a mouse line and thoroughly wash and check for wear.
  • Check all backstays for wear at top batten point.
  • Check all standing rigging for broken strands and rigging screws for wear.
  • Ensure the yard use cross bracing if using wooden shores, for extra safety.
  • Ensure that whilst ashore the trim of the craft is correct, to allow cockpit drains to be effective and avoid rainwater building up on decks or within the craft.
  • Do not tie covers or tarpaulins to wooden shores or cross bracing.
  • Preferably use only close fitting covers to avoid additional windage.
  • Place tie-on labels on the wheel and engine controls to remind you to check all skin fittings, impellers, seacocks and transducers prior to launching/starting the engine.
  • Disconnect batteries and leave them fully charged.
  • Do check the craft periodically during the winter months unless you have made a specific arrangement for this to be done on your behalf. Do not assume that the rental of space will include this service.
  • Avoid running fuel tanks too low due to risk of sucking dirt into filters or condensation in the tank space.

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