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Is a Whale or a Tree Stump More Likely to Sink Your Boat?

State Farm® Lists Top Causes of Boat Damage

Thursday, May 21, 2015 Captain Ahab may have had his ship sunk by a mighty white whale but submerged objects such as trees and rocks cause more damage to boats than marine mammals. Before taking the crew out for leisurely days on the water, State Farm wants boat owners to know the common causes of boat damage, ways to avoid them, and tips on insuring boats before leaving the dock. Safety should always be a top priority when using any watercraft.

Claims data from State Farm, the nations' largest property insurer and a leading insurer of watercraft, indicates the most common cause of identifiable boat damage is striking a submerged or floating object, representing 31% of all losses submitted to State Farm in 2014 in the United States. Wind and hail damage is the second most common cause of claims, accounting for 13% of the State Farm total in 2014. Collision with a fixed object, such as a dock, was third with almost 8%. Collisions with another watercraft represent only a small percentage of losses.

Safety First

  • Take a boat safety education course. Many states require operators to take an approved boating safety course, so check before heading out for the first time.
  • Wear a life jacket. A life jacket should be available for each person aboard. Jackets should fit snugly and be the appropriate size. Check jackets regularly for wear and buoyancy.
  • Know the nautical "rules of the road," especially when meeting, crossing, or overtaking another boat. Maintain a safe speed and keep a watchful eye on the waters.

Help Prevent Boat Damage

  • Know the water - Research the area where you will be boating to familiarize yourself with possible hazards, such as submerged objects.
  • Maintenance - Ordinary wear can cause the bilge pump and bellows to fail and the boat to sink. If you removed the plug to store the boat for the winter, be sure to re-install it in the spring. Store the plug with or attached to the boat ignition key.
  • Careful on the launch - Some boat owners detach the boat from the trailer before backing the boat into the water, then hit the brakes and let the boat slide off the trailer into the water. Unfortunately, many boat ramps have a steep incline and the boat can slide off onto the cement.

Boat Insurance Tips

  • Notify your insurer when a boat, trailer or motor is replaced. Many boat insurance companies insure a specifically described boat, motor and trailer, listed by specific identification numbers. Provide identifying information in connection with any replacements.
  • Remember boating equipment and accessories when insuring your boat. Include the value of such items as life preservers, depth finders, canopies and covers, anchors, trolling motors, and fuel tanks when determining the amount of insurance you need.
  • Have a lot of personal property on your boat? If the answer is yes, don't forget to ask your insurance agent to endorse your policy with optional personal property coverage.

By taking steps to be safe and protect their property, new boat owners and experienced deckhands alike will be on the right course for smooth sailing.

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About State Farm®:

For over 100 years, the mission of State Farm has been to help people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected and realize their dreams. State Farm and its affiliates are the largest providers of auto and home insurance in the United States. Its more than 19,400 agents and 67,000 employees serve over 91 million policies and accounts – including auto, fire, lifehealth, commercial policies and financial services accounts. Commercial auto insurance, along with coverage for rentersbusiness ownersboats and motorcycles, is also available. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the parent of the State Farm family of companies. State Farm is ranked No. 44 on the 2023 Fortune 500 list of largest companies. For more information, please visit