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How to weather the insurance storm of a hurricane-damaged boat

If your boat was unfortunate enough to have suffered damage during the St Jude’s storm, you will want any subsequent insurance claim to be dealt with swiftly and efficiently. Here are some tips to maximise the chances of this happening.

Firstly your insurer will require that you take all reasonable measures after the storm to reduce the risk of any further damage from occurring. This might for example involve liaising with the boat yard or marina where your boat is kept in order to recover and secure it.

If your boat is blown ashore then looting could be a problem in some areas, particularly at a time when local emergency services will be at full stretch. You may therefore need to engage a private security company. Your insurance policy may cover the costs of doing so but you should check first.

Weather conditions may however be so extreme that you are unable to visit the boat in order to check that it is safe and take measures towards securing it. You should advise your insurer of this when you report the incident. If you can attend then be extremely careful of any hazards the storm has created.

If you are able to get to your boat, or can arrange for someone else to do so on your behalf, then take photographs of any damage and if you can make a list of any missing items by cross referencing with the boat’s inventory. Make sure you have your registration and insurance documents handy and always keep any damaged items and boat parts until after your claim has been processed.

Where damage has been caused by failure of a yacht cradle then take photographs of the type of cradles/supports used and prepare a sketch plan showing the precise location of the boat. Do not allow the boat yard to dispose of any broken items of support.

You will also need to show that you took reasonable steps in order to secure your boat before the storm. It will speed up the progress of your claim if you are able to show your insurer photographs or even a video of the way your boat was secured before the storm hit.

Storm ahead

While a storm like St Judes is unusual in the UK, forecasters have predicted as many as 11 North Atlantic hurricanes this season. Those who regularly sail in classic hurricane territory should formulate a storm preparation plan. This should include a detailed plan of action setting out how you intend to secure your boat in a marina or alternatively relocate it to a suitable hurricane refuge. It will also need to include how you will arrange for the removal of valuables, especially high ticket items like artwork and antiques.

You should consider delegating responsibility for carrying out the storm plan if you are unlikely to be in the area for extended periods of time. Review the marina or storage company’s storm policy so that you know precisely what steps both parties are expected to take in the event of a forecasted storm.

Before a storm strikes you should strip your boat of all moveable equipment. This is especially true of sailing yachts and you should remove items such as sails, spray hoods and dodgers. Anything you cannot remove like the tiller and boom should be securely lashed down. Deflate dinghies or store rigid ones on land. Inside the boat you should tape shut all drawers and cabinets and transfer breakables into storage boxes to be kept at floor level. Secure any loose furniture and make sure fridges are cleared of bottles and jars.

It is always worth checking how other boats in close proximity are secured. If you are moored up at a marina then a joined up approach to storm preparation with neighbouring boats is likely to be necessary.
Finally, never be tempted to stay on board your boat during a predicted storm. By taking the correct precautions most repair costs will be met by your insurance company.

Alex Penberthy is a consultant solicitor at Keystone Law who specialises in marine insurance claims in the yacht and super yacht industry

This article was written for and first featured in Spears.

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.

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