Record cold increases insurance claims by Chesapeake boaters

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Boat insurance claims are rising in the Chesapeake Bay area as frigid weather and ice have sunk some boats.

The yacht Just Hanging Out was one of the casualties of winter Tuesday afternoon when it sank at Pier 7 Marina in Edgewater, Md.

Mike Haskell, the owner of Harbor Diving & Salvage, told the (Annapolis) Capital Gazette that his business has been called to service three boats that have taken on water in the last week in Edgewater and Annapolis.

Beth Leonard, technical director at Alexandria, Va.-based BoatUS, which insures boats in all 50 states, predicted that the company will see more claims from the frigid Chesapeake Bay area this year.

"This year, I think, is going to be a particularly bad year," Leonard said. "The more days below freezing, the heavier the snowfall, the more the claims."

Tony Scrivener, owner of Fifty-Fifty Yacht Services, predicted that more boats will sink as the weather warms.

"Everybody's become complacent with these mild winters," Scrivener said. "More boats are sinking and will continue to sink as things thaw out."

In cold weather, hoses that bring water to the boat will freeze and burst. Once the ice thaws, water will seep into the boat, Scrivener said.

"It's similar to freezing pipes at a house," Haskell said. "Instead of water coming into a house, it goes into the boat."

"The No. 1 thing we see is engines damaged from freezing water that is often not picked up until the spring," Leonard said.

One step boaters can take to protect docks and vessels is to use de-icers — motorized devices equipped with propellers that keep river water circulating and prevent it from freezing.

Art Libby, owner of Annapolis-based Providence Marine Systems, sells Kasco de-icers for $500 to $600.

"We've done more repairs and sales the past two years with the weather being as cold as it's been," Libby said.

BoatUS recommends that boats be removed from the water and shrink-wrapped for winter storage. But if boaters opt to keep their vessels in the water, a tarp should be placed over the cockpit area to guard against ice and snow. Their sheer weight can cause a boat to sink.

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