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Old 05-16-2021, 10:23 AM   #1
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insurance - at what point is a boat too big?

At what point is a boat too big for a new cruiser to get insurance?

I was watching a youtube video...a family looking for boats to do the great american loop. They looked at a bigger one...62ft I believe it was.... and they mentioned maybe needing to hire a captain for a boat this big.
I am only "ass-u-ming" that this is insurance related.....

So this set me to wondering....
....and I realize there's probably a lot of "it depends..." in this.....
For a person with little to no big boat experience, is there a length or tonnage limit for insurers?

This is just a general question to apply to anyone.....
but for my perspective.... I'm not really intimidated at all by the thought of operating most any "couple sized" cruising trawlers.... although for most boats I'd want time with an experienced captain for shakedown training on systems and handling.... but I would think that would be only for a few days...or even a week or so maybe to go through all the systems, etc..... but not a very long term situation
I have grown up around boats my whole life and I'm a very good small boat handler but my experience has almost all been with smaller outboard powered boats. Experience on only one inboard powered boat, and it was a small one....
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Old 05-16-2021, 11:04 AM   #2
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I just had a conversation about this with a boat insurance agent. The answer changes and varies by carrier and market conditions, but the suggestion was that anything over a 10ft jump in boat size beyond your experience level will likely bring the requirement to hire a captain. The particulars can be argued but that gets you in the ballpark.
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Old 05-16-2021, 11:34 AM   #3
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hire a captain for how long? in what capacity?

anyway, thanks... seems like a reasonable rule of thumb....but nuanced.

So if I tell them I helmed a boat that was 180 ft once, does that count?
what if the boater has never owned a boat?
or if the largest owned was a 14ft skiff?

My guess would be a rule like that probably starts at something on the order of thirty something feet in length.....maybe 40ft

I've spent a lot of time on the water, and I've helmed a couple things >70ft but not enough to count for anything.... My experience actually operating boats has all be <30ft. Where does that leave me if buying say something in the 40 to 63ft range?...hire a captain to chauffeur me around till I'm qualified for a captain's license of my own? That can't be right.....
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Old 05-16-2021, 11:51 AM   #4
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I still recall a new boater buying a 40+ CB powerboat. First time boat owner. No problem being pushed off the purchase dock, no problem driving from A to B.
Now comes the landing into the assigned berth for the first time docking a boat.



HELP! Fortunately the docks were buzzing with people and the word went round. Human fenders made ready to hand over hand guide the vessel into the slip. I was not around when it left the dock, but he became good at handling the boat and could afford to pay for damages.

It was as easy as learning to fly a Cessna and getting a job to fly a cargo plane.
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Old 05-16-2021, 11:58 AM   #5
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I would bet they want you to hire a captain and keep him around until you can satisfy him that you do know how to handle the boat. That depends on you.
Could be a week, a month, two months, etc.

I had to do that when I moved from a 33' to the 56'. My check ride was with the owner of the boat yard that recommissioned the 56'er after I had her shipped from Detroit to Portland. My check ride lasted about an hour and it was only that short because I had many years experience handling the 33' and also had chartered a 45' for a week.
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Old 05-16-2021, 12:06 PM   #6
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So if I tell them I helmed a boat that was 180 ft once, does that count?
what if the boater has never owned a boat?
or if the largest owned was a 14ft skiff?
As @guy_with_a_boat mentioned, a 10 ft. jump from your previous boat size is about the standard, from what I've recently been told. We're in the market for a new boat, so we've been talking with our insurance broker and that's what we've been told.

One thing regarding your above comment: It doesn't matter how big of a boat you've operated; I am a retired Navy Surface Warfare Officer and Navy qualified offshore sailing skipper, so I've operated some big ships! It's about the size of the boats you've owned. Our insurance broker used to deliver 40+ foot catamarans and then train the new owners how to operate the vessels. But, he's only ever owned 20~ish ft boats. So he can only get insurance for a 30~ish footer.

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Old 05-16-2021, 12:36 PM   #7
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Boat/US told me if I went more than 15’ bigger I would have to have a captain do some training. But now the wife is trying to convince me to go smaller...
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Old 05-16-2021, 12:40 PM   #8
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Boat/US told me if I went more than 15’ bigger I would have to have a captain do some training. But now the wife is trying to convince me to go smaller...
Dave, I thought you explained why the wife wants you to go smaller. The big boat is blocking the view from the house.
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Old 05-16-2021, 01:04 PM   #9
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When I bought my 1st boat, a 42' Californian LRC, I started calling around for insurance. When I told them "no experience at all", they mostly found ways of telling me no. BoatUS/GEICO told me, "That doesn't fit our risk profile." My boat broker told me to cite boats I'd been aboard and my sea trial and claim 2+ years experience with that size.

I ended up getting insurance with State Farm, which was actually less expensive and better in many ways than coverage others had from other providers, largely due to the way it dovetailed with other policies and my years of history with them. But, of course, if there is ever a claim, all they will do is eventually send an adjuster and write a check. They don't have the machinery for broader support of marine clients others do.

I tried hiring captains to teach me, but they, well, were either a mess or not teachers. Eventually I learned by experience -- and with the generous help of neighbors.

My boat got hit in the slip a few weeks ago by a licensed captain running charters out of the recreational marina (picks up and drops off at a local public dock). He forgot to untie a spring line before departing hot on the throttle. It happens. Even to those with experience. Wish it didn't. But, people are human.

I guess what I'm saying is to call around before buying a boat, but, for a reasonable 1st boat.....someone will insure you. I suspect.
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Old 05-16-2021, 01:22 PM   #10
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so is the general idea that a hired captain will sign something for the insurance company after a time. (whatever it takes....after a commissioning cruise, or a week or so of lessons, or a month, or...)
or that if you can't find insurance, that you get it insured for owning it with a professional crew...then after a time of ownership get it re-insured based on your ownership history of the boat?
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Old 05-16-2021, 01:27 PM   #11
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Dave, I thought you explained why the wife wants you to go smaller. The big boat is blocking the view from the house.
No, she wants less work on the boat. My mom is the one that likes it when the boat isn’t at the dock. She sits at the dining room table and the boat blocks her view of the river and boats going up and down. But at 101 I guess she should get what she wants...
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Old 05-16-2021, 01:28 PM   #12
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The answer changes and varies by carrier and market conditions, but the suggestion was that anything over a 10ft jump in boat size beyond your experience level will likely bring the requirement to hire a captain.
In my experience over numerous boats, including at least 2 with 10'+ jumps, an increase in size will trigger scrutiny of the insured's experience, but not necessarily the requirement to hire a captain. But, insuring a boat for $500K + will also draw scrutiny. In my case, with the first jump in size, my application brought questions about my experience, and my answer brought more questions. In the end, no captain required. With my current boat, different insurer, which is >10' LOA bigger than last boat, and over 4x the insured value, I had a similar experience -- lots of questions about my prior experience, and a soft proposal that I get checked out by one of their approved captains (at their expense), but partially due to logistics (boat was being delivered off shore then going straight to Mexico), they were persuaded that no captain and no check out was necessary. And, I am happy to report, no claims ever.

Similarly, a buddy bought a new 38' fishing boat as his first boat. That drew lots of scrutiny, but he was also not required to hire a captain. It may have helped that he was using my broker and could truthfully report that he had spent many hours at the helm of my boat during long passages.
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Old 05-16-2021, 01:39 PM   #13
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so is the general idea that a hired captain will sign something for the insurance company after a time. (whatever it takes....after a commissioning cruise, or a week or so of lessons, or a month, or...)
or that if you can't find insurance, that you get it insured for owning it with a professional crew...then after a time of ownership get it re-insured based on your ownership history of the boat?
My experience is not personal (yet) but through friends and acquaintances - yes to the first, there is usually a checkout sheet of sorts with different areas of training listed and the training captain signs off on it when they are comfortable putting their name on the line.

As to the second part, no, short of a super yacht. Though if you are in a hurry to voyage, then the training captain and maybe mate become your professional crew as you travel and learn as you go, until insurance is satisfied. My understanding is this happens semi-often.

I’ll be having an insurance conversation this week about my personal situation, which like others is a decent boating resume for work vessels of all sorts (though not warship-sized lol) but the longest I’ve ever owned is under 30 feet. I’m looking at something fairly long and heavy so I’m sure the insurance-driven training requirements will be interesting, and will be a line item in our budget. You should call one of the independent insurance brokers others have recommended in other threads here and talk to them about hypotheticals (and then reward them with your business when the time comes.)
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Old 05-16-2021, 01:55 PM   #14
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I was just watching a 28' twin Sea Ray type express boat trying to get into his cross-wind slip. Wind speed has been fairly high. The boat was like an air hocky puck. The poor guy (and wife with boat hook) struggled mightily. No question at all that a larger, heavier boat would have been far, far easier to dock. I'd tell the insurance company what they want to hear and take my chances. If you feel the need to have someone with experience on board for the first hour or two, do so....but not because someone sitting at a desk says you have to. Practice during the week when noone is around.
Our first ever boat was the current 44. I told the insurer I'd been in the Coast Guard (not that it was an aviator), and had spent time at the helm of a large cutter (not that it was for about ten minutes). Or just go with liability if that works to get a slip in a marina.
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Old 05-16-2021, 02:01 PM   #15
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On the other hand, I would embrace professional training if it is eventually required of you, especially if you’ve never benefitted from it. No use grousing about it. I continue to learn something new from ‘most everyone I boat with, sometimes from negative examples but mostly from good ones.

My two decades history as a small boat instructor might have something to do with this opinion
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Old 05-16-2021, 03:40 PM   #16
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Insurance appears to insure the primary owner/operator more so than the actual boat.

Suppose #1. I went away from the helm and my partner/or guest with basic steering knowledge finds that elusive deadhead, is the boat covered or is there small print that expects the owner/primary operator be in charge at all times away from the dock.

Suppose #2. My friend cannot get insurance so we put the boat in my name as owner for insurance purposes. would this be considered a charter operation, probably.
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Old 05-16-2021, 03:48 PM   #17
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My thoughts exactly rufus!

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On the other hand, I would embrace professional training if it is eventually required of you, especially if you’ve never benefited from it. No use grousing about it. I continue to learn something new from ‘most everyone I boat with, sometimes from negative examples but mostly from good ones.

My two decades history as a small boat instructor might have something to do with this opinion
I personally would embrace training if needed. I kinda think I would need a good few days anyway.....but like rufus said, I too am none too excited about some extremely big and expensive hurdle to jump through just to check a box if it's not truly necessary. Regardless, I started this thread just to find out generally what is typically required....not to complain so much, but to plan and budget for it.
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Old 05-16-2021, 04:45 PM   #18
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Insurance appears to insure the primary owner/operator more so than the actual boat.

Suppose #1. I went away from the helm and my partner/or guest with basic steering knowledge finds that elusive deadhead, is the boat covered or is there small print that expects the owner/primary operator be in charge at all times away from the dock.

Suppose #2. My friend cannot get insurance so we put the boat in my name as owner for insurance purposes. would this be considered a charter operation, probably.
I suspect the answer to #1 will depend on the language of the policy in question, but my policy, for example, provides coverage. Its only limitation is that I, or a licensed captain pre-approved by the insurance company, must be the master.

As to #2, if it comes out that you don't have an insurable interest (because you are only nominally the owner), you won't have coverage. At that point, the purpose of the subterfuge will become clear and it's insurance fraud.
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Old 05-16-2021, 06:23 PM   #19
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At what point is a boat too big for a new cruiser to get insurance?

I was watching a youtube video...a family looking for boats to do the great american loop. They looked at a bigger one...62ft I believe it was.... and they mentioned maybe needing to hire a captain for a boat this big.
I am only "ass-u-ming" that this is insurance related.....

So this set me to wondering....
....and I realize there's probably a lot of "it depends..." in this.....
For a person with little to no big boat experience, is there a length or tonnage limit for insurers?

This is just a general question to apply to anyone.....
but for my perspective.... I'm not really intimidated at all by the thought of operating most any "couple sized" cruising trawlers.... although for most boats I'd want time with an experienced captain for shakedown training on systems and handling.... but I would think that would be only for a few days...or even a week or so maybe to go through all the systems, etc..... but not a very long term situation
I have grown up around boats my whole life and I'm a very good small boat handler but my experience has almost all been with smaller outboard powered boats. Experience on only one inboard powered boat, and it was a small one....
The very fact you're not at all intimidated and the views you've expressed in this thread give me all the more comfort in the need for the insurers to require training or the use of a captain for a while. Being around boats your whole live if not around the type and size on the waters you're talking about means little. Thinking a few days, talking about a captain as a chauffeur concerns me although not nearly as much as those talking about ways to circumvent insurers which is the sure way to pay for insurance but have none.

I had 30 years of small boat experience, enough time to qualify for a captain's license, but all was on 30' and under and I was an excellent operator as was my wife with her 11 years. The amount I had to learn was huge. I'd strongly encourage you to approach this as a learning experience and the insurer as your partner, as the one protecting you.

Most of the time it's 10'-15' depending on sizes. Generally the requirement is a licensed captain for a certain period or until they're willing to sign they feel you are capable. There are many excellent teaching captains available. Look at it as the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience.

Boating isn't about being able to dock safely although that's what many look at. It's about handling all situations, using all the equipment on board a larger boat, dealing with situations that arise. You go to areas that are new, into waters further off shore, you face new conditions. I've known people to use a captain for six months and others to be deemed ready to move on in 6 to 10 days of full time learning. If, with your background as it is, you were looking at a 40' boat, I'd see 6 to 10 days as adequate, but if it was a 60' boat, I'd definitely go for extensive boating over 6 months.

You spend a few days with captains who have done this for 20 years and really try to learn and you'll be amazed at how much they know that you can learn. It will be an amazing experience. The few hundred dollars a day will be the best expenditure of your life. From the insurer's standpoint, I can tell you that they know it will save them some "new driver's" payouts. Look at what auto insurers charge for those under 25 years old. You know a lot less than you seem to believe and have a lot more to learn than you realize. We were all there one time. Please look at this as a means to assist you in safely transitioning. It's not just your property, but it's your life.

We're both licensed captains, but the on the water training we received was incredible and I'm so thankful for it.

I'll give you an analogy. Someone has driven cars all their life. What do you think about giving them the keys to a tractor trailer and saying go drive? I don't worry about the damage to the trailer the first time they try backing it into a tight space, but I worry about the first time they face a situation on the road they aren't prepared for and lives are at stake with their handling of it.
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Old 05-21-2021, 01:27 PM   #20
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I went from a 27’ SeaRay I/O to a 64’ Grand Banks MY. The insurance company required me to have a qualified approved (by them) for a minimum of 100 hours and submit a letter from the Captain I was now qualified to handle the boat as an owner/operator.

Insurance runs from 1% to 2% of the boat’s value per year. Depending on coverage and assessed risk. For the Grand Banks that ran from $8,000 (US) to $11,000 (Caribbean) to $19,000 (US but within the hurricane belt).
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