While we haven’t really been thinking about our sailing life, other than wanting to avoid the snow, I did receive a newsletter that brought me back to the fateful end to our first winter as live-aboards. It was an article on Boat Insurance from iNavx titled, “What Does Your Boat Insurance Cover?”
It is a decent article, and you should read it, but it is really just a primer. There are so many variables to consider, the subject is something that you’ll have to experience for yourself, including an actual claim, before you’re in a position to really know if you’ve covered all your bases. Even then, there’s likely something you haven’t thought of.
We did (what we thought) was a good deal of research, which you can read about through our posts on Boat Insurance and (More) Boat Insurance. Even after all our research, we encountered a couple of surprises during our claims process after a lightning strike; one was a pleasant surprise, while the other added some angst to an already stressful enough experience and almost led us to making a decision that would have placed the boat in more danger than it already was, sitting in Dania Beach during hurricane season. I suggest both of these as items to consider and could be added to our original list of 29 items, on our previous post on Boat Insurance.
1. Alternate Living Arrangements (ALE). The pleasant surprise was that shortly after calling our insurance company, we discovered that we had an ALE amount of $10K included with our policy. We either forgot about this or completely missed it during our review of the new policy and it wasn’t something we had discussed. In any case, we were happy to have it since the coverage allowed us to find a small apartment and stay close to the boat during the claims and repair process. In the end, we claimed for accommodations, meals, groceries and storage.
2. Repair or Replace Damaged Electronics. We were also surprised to learn our underwriter had a policy of sending damaged electronics back to manufacturer for “attempted” repair first, instead of automatically assuming they are critically damaged and replacing them. The latter was what we assumed was our case since that was how all examples of similar claims we had discussed and/or read about had proceeded. This one was a bit of a “gotcha” and in our opinion was an unnecessary stressor. It also added quite a bit of time to the already lengthy repair process.
Notwithstanding our opinion, and whatever it is worth, you are essentially at the whim of your underwriter and/or adjuster during the claims process. I’m not sure if knowing about this item up front would have made us choose a different underwriter, but we will be considering it next time.
Repairing lightning damage is typically a very long process, even if you are able to start the work right away. Our friends at Just Catamarans were the first people we called after the insurance company. They told us 2 things that day. First, they could absolutely helps us due to their experience with lightning strikes, and second, that it will take at least 3 months. Incredibly, if it wasn’t for this repair vs replace policy we would have been just under 3 months. As it was though, we were faced with some consequential decisions.
Dock talk, online reading, first hand accounts all seemed to agree that you replace electronic equipment that has been exposed to lightning up front on the speculation that there will be gremlins that appear later, even if equipment presents as fully functional for the time being. Well…our underwriter said that is not their policy and they will attempt repair first. The folks working on our boat recommended against doing this as a lot of our electronics were from Raymarine, and they had a history of taking up to 2 months (or more) to repair their items, and then did not typically warranty their repair. This will also cause you to end up with different generations of equipment, which sometimes don’t work well together.
In the end, this added another 6 weeks to our repair schedule and even then, some of the repaired items did not work correctly once returned so we ended up buying new replacement pieces anyways, adding another week again. What this meant was not only did we loose our slip in Hilton Head, South Carolina for hurricane season, we were now stuck in South Florida during hurricane season without named-storm insurance coverage on the boat. It was around this time that what was to become known as Hurricane Florence had started to form out in the Atlantic. We’ll cover how this situation affected our thinking and potential actions in a future post.
So in sum, if you are developing your own list of questions and/or topics to discuss with your potential insurance company, or even to discuss with your existing company, consider adding Alternate Living Arrangements (ALE) and Repair or Replace to your list as we have now done. These items won’t give you a magic bullet, but will give you more information to come up with your own best decision.