Do your cruising plans have you traveling in the hurricane zone? Then your insurance company will want you to file a hurricane plan.
Laura Lindstrom-Croop shares the information you’ll need to include to keep your insurance company happy and your boat safe. This is the fourth in her series on understanding insurance when you live on a boat.
Check out her previous posts:
- Are You Insured for Strangers on Your Boat?
- Insurance When You Live on a Boat: Where To Start
- Boat Insurance: Hull Values and Premiums.)
Twenty years ago, insurance companies did not ask cruisers to fill out hurricane plans. What information will you need to provide in yours? And why are they requiring them now?
What is a Hurricane Plan?
If you plan to cruise in an area where hurricanes strike, your insurance company will want to know you have a plan in place to keep your boat safe. They may give you a form to complete.
Whatever format you use, you’ll need to detail where you’ll take your boat in case of a storm and how you’ll secure it.
Why Insurance Companies Require Hurricane Plans Now
Several things have changed during the last decade or two.
There are many more boats, and boats are much more expensive. Most cruising boats used to be under $100,000. Now the average is probably closer to $250,000. This increased financial risk has resulted in larger and larger losses when a hurricane strikes a populated area.
As actuaries study the data gathered after a hurricane, insurance companies realize that the way an owner prepares their boat makes a huge difference in the amount of damage it sustains. So, it follows that companies want to know what your plans are in the event of a hurricane, thus the “Hurricane Plan” form.
Since no two harbors are alike, the hurricane plan allows you to convey to the insurance company your plan based on where you will be.
Securing Your Boat
If you choose to leave your boat in a hurricane zone there are two main ways to secure your boat in the event of a named storm.
One is to haul it out and store it “on the hard.”
This has proven to be the safest method of storage if the jack stands are chained together and the stands are on sheets of ¾ inch plywood or on concrete. You must also strap your boat down either to eyes in the concrete or to helical anchors. The straps should not have any stretch to them.
The second method is tying to a dock.
This method can lead to damage if you don’t tie your boat up properly. Data show that up to 50% of damage to boats at the dock during a storm could have been prevented with better dock line placement, larger lines, and chafe protection.
You need to double your lines and add chafe guards before the hurricane arrives. You can determine the appropriate diameter and number of lines based on the size of your boat.
For example, one company recommends:
Boats 31-45 feet use 12 lines at a minimum of 5/8 inch diameter.
Boats 45-60 feet use 16 lines at a minimum of 3/4 inch line.
Form a spider web of lines with some long and some short. Tie around a piling instead of to a cleat that could pull loose from the dock. Fire hose works great as chafe protection.
In addition to knowing how you plan to secure your boat, your insurance company will need additional information on your hurricane plan.
Information to Add to Your Hurricane Plan
Your insurance company will also require the name, address and phone number of a person you make responsible for communication after the hurricane.
If you are not going to be on the island, or near your boat, it helps to have a person near your boat who can be your contact after the storm. He or she can report to you and the company about how the boat came through the storm, provide pictures, and if need be, arrange for getting repair estimates.
If you are away from your boat and it suddenly needs to be moved it is also good to authorize someone you trust to move your boat. You might choose a dock master or another cruiser who lives in the marina or nearby.
Regardless of who you choose, you want to make your choice in advance of a storm.
Depending on your area some companies may want to know your back up plan. When a hurricane is approaching your area your local yard may be full. So what would you do then?
Or what happens if your marina says you must leave! Can you get to a hurricane hole? It is best to have a plan ahead of time so you don’t have any last-minute surprises.
Last Hurricane Prep Tasks
Don’t forget common sense things like removing all canvas and sails and any other loose items on the deck. Most companies will not cover sails or canvas left out so take it all down and store down below.
Some companies recommend sealing all ports, windows, and hatches with tape to prevent driving rain from entering and causing water damage down below.
One other good idea is once you have secured your boat take pictures of all your preparations so you can prove that you complied with everything as you said you would.
Submit Your Hurricane Plan to Your Insurer
So, to wrap this up, don’t be afraid of the hurricane form.
Fill it out as best you can. Don’t say you are going to do something that you can’t do. Be honest about what your plans are.
If the company is not happy with your plan they will say so, and you can revise it till both parties agree.
This form becomes part of your policy so it’s legal and binding. It is a good way to prepare calmly for an event you hope will never happen. But if the worst happens, you can get your plan out and use it to get ready for the storm.
I hope this helps you understand why the company wants the hurricane plan. And why it’s a good thing for you also to use as a guide when the storm is headed your way. Let’s hope we all have a quiet hurricane season!
Laura Lindstrom-Croop has worked as a Claims Adjuster and as an Insurance Agent for over 35 years. She brings a unique perspective to the insurance business as a liveaboard cruising sailor with an Atlantic crossing and over 20,000 miles under her keel over the last 12 years. Her current cruising grounds are from New England to Trinidad. Laura currently works for International Waters Insurance Services, an independent broker that specializes in marine coverages. If you have questions you’d like Laura to address in future posts, leave a comment below or email her at [email protected].
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Learn the best practices to give your boat a fighting chance against a hurricane with Comprehensive Hurricane Preparation for Boaters: