Last September, historic rainfall from numerous storm systems created high water levels in many central Texas reservoirs, releasing record volumes of water down the Colorado River. As water levels inundated marinas and other boat-storage locations, many watercraft across the state suffered catastrophic damage.
As the National Watercraft Claims Manager for Progressive Insurance, I worked closely with our Catastrophe Response Team, who mobilized to quickly resolve our customers’ claims and also helped recover and transport insured watercraft out of harm’s way.
I must have reviewed thousands of photos of damaged boats. Some were pushed from their lifts and up onto the roofs of their docks. Many that hadn’t been covered with a roof were basically carried away with the rising tide.
As a boat owner myself, it pains me to see photos like these. Especially when I notice that a few simple precautions may have prevented much of the damage. So, based on my own maritime experience and what I’ve seen over the years in my capacity with Progressive, here are a few ways you can keep your boats safe and secure this storm season and beyond.
If you store your boat on a trailer or blocked on land
If you must store your boat on the water
There are several types of docks—floating, fixed, lift-based—and each has their own challenges during a big storm. Your best option is not storing your boat on the water during any named storm, but if it’s absolutely necessary, here are some tips to ensure the least amount of damage:
Once the storm has left the area, it’s a good idea to return to your boat as soon as the roads are open so you can inspect any damage. Even if it hasn’t sustained any visible damage, you should dry any interior areas that took on water as soon as possible, especially if any water entered the bilge. The most expensive parts of any boat are the engine, outdrive, or other mechanical systems, and they’re all located at the boat’s lowest point. If you suspect any water got down there, get these systems inspected by a professional immediately to mitigate any damage.
Of course, the absolute best way to keep your boat safe when a storm’s approaching is to move it out of the storm’s path. As soon as you hear storm warnings or watches—or, better still, during fair weather when you have more time—talk directly with your marina’s management team and see what they advise for pre-storm preparation. They’ll know the water and the area very well, so it’s always best to consult with them first. If you plan ahead, you’ll thank yourself when the time comes to put your storm preparedness plan into action.