BoatUS estimates vessel damage at $500 million


Hurricane Irene likely caused an estimated $500 million in damage to boats, according to Jim Holler, senior vice president of underwriting for BoatUS.


That figure, he said, does not include damage to boating facilities, and includes all boats, whether insured or not, in all states affected by the storm. What made Irene so powerful, he said, was not the wind, but the large geographic area it affected, the rain, the flooding and the storm surge.

Despite the losses incurred up and down the East Coast, inland areas of New York and New England and in the Bahamas, BoatUS officials said boaters and marina owners seemed to take heed of the storm warnings and take precautions to protect their boats.

“Our members and our insurers who took advantage of our named storm haul-out provision of the policy, where we will reimburse them 50 percent of the cost of hauling their boat out up to $1,000 … have fared much, much better and in most cases had no damage. The boats that are damaged, almost exclusively, are boats that were left in the water and boats that were left in the water on moorings,” Carroll Robertson, senior vice president of claims for BoatUS, told Soundings Trade Only this morning.

So far, Boat US has received about 1,000 calls from those it insures letting it know that they are taking advantage of this provision. Robertson said she expects that number to grow.

Some of the most significant pockets of calls are coming from the Hudson River Valley and Lake George, N.Y., as well as Cape Cod, Mass., she added.

 “I think not only did our members take heed in protecting their boats, I think the marinas to a large extent up and down the East Coast took heed of these warnings and prepared their facilities well, as well,” Holler said.

“The [Chesapeake] Bay did not see the surge and the high waters that it saw during Isobel, and I think that’s one of the things that saved a lot of the boats on the bay, and we don’t see the damage on the Chesapeake Bay like we did with [Hurricane] Isobel [in 2003],” he added. “There was not the high surge.”

Jerry Cardarelli, vice president of BoatUS Towing Services, said the least amount of damage was reported by TowBoatUS locations where there were mandatory evacuations, such as along the Jersey shore and North Carolina.

The worst damage reported so far has come from New Bedford, Mass., he said. A new hurricane barrier had recently been built there, and it’s believed that many boaters thought that would protect them from the storm.

Only about 50 boats were hauled out prior to the storm. TowBoat US has since done 15 salvages in the area, and an estimated 50 to 100 boats sustained damage, Cardarelli said.

“They said it was crazy,” he added. “They had such high exposure, and people just didn’t move their boats. It seemed the Northeast, especially Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, seemed to be the least prepared and so far has reported the most damage.”

Cardarelli estimated that TowBoatUS had a 10 percent surge in calls for haulouts last week before the storm and, although it’s quiet now, he expects to get a lot of calls this weekend.

“We expect a high surge of towing breakdown cases this weekend because people are going to go back to their boats in the Carolinas and the Jersey coastline and Long Island,” he said. “They’ve been inland, but they have their boats on the coast, and they’re either going to launch them on their trailers or go back to the marinas to survey what happened and then take them out, and there’s a good chance they’re going to break down this weekend – and it’s Labor Day weekend, the third-highest towing weekend of the summer.”

- Beth Rosenberg


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