By Sky Smith
Boating Tips and Observations with Sky Smith
Animals Gone Wild
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I like animals. Over the years we’ve had horses, chickens, geese and more and we’ve always had dogs (and cats) until the last few years. Now all we have are Maine Coon, 20-pound cats—as close to a bobcat as I could find. They are great house cats and they never get out unless it’s in a totally fenced “Catio” area. I have also found that we don’t have any mice in the house. Wait, that is not quite true: we do get the occasional small snake or mouse, but the cats make sure to catch them and bring them to us for removal as soon as they are located. And the cats are fully house trained.

Like your house, when you store a vehicle (boats, cars or even aircraft) you run the risk of pest infestation. I once bought a Cessna aircraft that was stored in a hangar for a number of years. The engine intake system was a mouse apartment complex. Then there was the aircraft I was asked to try and sell, which was a mouse habitat. The owner had poured a full bottle of High Karate aftershave (guess that dates me) throughout the interior in an attempt to mask the smell. You couldn’t even get in the plane.

cat laying on a striped rug
There is a group of local boaters I know who store their boats in a warehouse. The warehouse owner pitched the area as rodent-free. In fact, he hired a couple of semi-wild felines to patrol the warehouse 24/7 and take care of any intruders. They were effective and did their jobs; no rodents bothered the boats. But… the furry security was not well trained and ended up using many of the boats’ seats as scratch trees and cabin areas as litter boxes.

Which begs the question: If you have rodent damage or animal trouble, will your insurance pay for the repairs? Well, the answer is maybe, but probably not. And you probably won’t know until you attempt to turn in the claim.

Since I insure boats, aircraft, and cars, I have seen a number of different animal losses. A loss that should be covered is “impacts.” As you can guess, if a deer/cow/bear runs in front of the car, it is a collision and should be covered. If a deer jumps out of the ditch and hits your pontoon on the trailer, it should be covered. Those are the typical things the insurance companies expect.

Happens with aircraft too: we had a pilot landing his aircraft when two elk ran onto the runway. He almost missed the first one (but the propeller didn’t) and then he collided with the second elk. Total loss to the aircraft and his insurance paid, no questions asked.

A boat racing across the water and hitting a submerged creature? Loss should be covered. Of course, depending on what you hit (whale, shark, sea lion), it could be big enough to damage the pontoon, and you might be in trouble in another way.

But sea lions climbing onto your boat and chewing through the interior? Probably not covered. Mice in your boat eating through the interior or the wiring on the engine? Yeah, still not covered.

There are other things that are treated the same way and not covered during storage. Insurance typically will not cover items such as frozen and cracked engine blocks, or even the failure of the bellows on a stern drive. The cause would be considered more of a maintenance issue (poor service, lack of antifreeze, etc.) Maintenance issues won’t necessarily be covered but the resulting sinking or fire may be.

This is where animal damage fits in for most companies. If you look into the exclusions on your policy, it usually has language about normal wear and tear and maintenance. Surprisingly, if an animal gets in your boat and eats your seats or your wiring, you didn’t seal the boat well enough. And that means it will be considered a maintenance issue and excluded.

Guess the issue is, this stuff happens. It is up to the owner to look at the policy exclusions and ask your agent if you have coverage. Whatever the answer, you need to secure and protect your boat, or get out your checkbook for the repairs.

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