Navigators and General Issue Severe Weather Warning

Issue date: 6 May 2011  

With a forecast of heavy thundery showers across the UK over the next few days Navigators and General have issued a warning, together with some advice aimed at boats seen as vulnerable to flooding or sinking in heavy rain.

With torrential downpours courtesy of the “Spanish Plume” forecast this weekend, Navigators & General (N&G) wants to alert owners to the potential risk of flooding or sinking claims, if no preparations are taken in advance.

Wooden boats will be particularly at risk following the recent dry weather, as deck and hull seams (above the waterline) open up. A sudden heavy downpour that cockpit drains or automatic bilge pumps cannot cope with may be enough to put open seams under the water, with potentially devastating consequences.

Any open craft boats relying on automatic bilge pumps to deal with water ingress, especially rain, can be at risk should the pump or battery fail; for that reason these should not be depended on. Ribs with large outboard motors are at risk of sinking or total immersion of the outboard, should the transom get dangerously close to the water line.

Yachts with keel stepped masts normally take water onboard during heavy rain. Aside from the cosmetic damage caused by excessive water in the bilge, if the boat has not been checked for many months the gradual build up of water can damage low lying machinery or electrics. This can lead to sinking, if open skin fittings, water outlets, or anti siphon loops go below the waterline.

N&G has seen a number of claims over the years for sinking of motorboats, where exhaust outlets are submerged under the waterline and leak into the boat or engine bay. Cockpit lockers and engine covers that leak can send water into the bilges, especially if drains are blocked by debris. If not pumped out over prolonged periods it can lead to serious damage and even sinking.

In terms of insurance, it’s not straightforward either. Policies generally exclude claims due to gradual ingress of water into a boat and motors & electrical machinery are normally specifically excluded. How a claim is treated will depend a great deal on the experience of both your insurer’s claims team and the appointed surveyor. Particular attention will be paid to how the owner has maintained or safeguarded the vessel.

In the event of a loss, the prudent owner who can demonstrate that the vessel has been regularly maintained and inspected, is more likely to receive a favourable response if caught out by a sudden or unforeseen event.

It is generally a condition of a boat insurance policy that the craft kept in a seaworthy condition. Therefore, there is an obligation on the policy holder, or someone acting on their behalf, to regularly check the vessel and take action should she be at risk. For example: wearing mooring lines, blocked cockpit drains, tearing covers or canopies, and especially checking on heaters or de humidifiers.

A small amount of effort spent looking after your boat will pay dividends in the long term and prevent damage occurring, that your insurance may not cover.