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Preparing boaters for active storm season

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Dire storm warnings for 2013, just a year after Hurricane Sandy caused a record $650 million in damage to recreational boats in North America, has brokers in Canada advising clients not to wait until it's too late to purchase boat insurance.

"I remember specifically last year, before Sandy hit, we got a lot of calls from people who did not already have insurance on their watercraft wanting to insure them," said Colleen McShane of Anderson McTague Insurance Brokers. "Of course then we can't, because we know there is an impending storm. People need to be proactive."

Canada and the United States could potentially be seeing many more hurricanes in 2013, according to the department of atmospheric science at Colorado State University. The department is forecasting four major (Category 3-5) hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin in 2013, compared to the median of two in the baseline period of between 1981 and 2010.

There is a 72% chance that an Atlantic hurricane could make landfall in the United States (the average chance over the past century is 52%). The university team is predicting 18 named storms in 2013, compared to the median of 12 named storms between 1981 and 2010.

Hurricanes along the U.S. eastern seaboard do not always make it all the way up the coast to Canada, brokers in Canada point out.

For example, most of the damage Sandy caused to boats occurred along the eastern U.S. seaboard.

"I don't think we really had any claims at all," said Shaun Keyes of Keyes Insurance Brokerage in Halifax, Nova Scotia. "Most of it ended up missing us in the east, and went up towards northern New Brunswick/Quebec."

Canadian boaters often have a little bit more lead time to prepare for hurricanes travelling northward up the eastern U.S. seaboard.

"A lot of people were prepared," McShane said of Hurricane Sandy. "Either they had their boats out of the water, or they were secured at a dock, but it was far worse down there than it was here in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. We're kind of like the end of the tailpipe: When storms come up the seaboard, we are usually the last to get them."

Nevertheless, citing Sandy's damage last year, B.C.'s broker association is encouraging its members to be vigilant at the outset of the boating season in Canada. Although the Pacific Coast is not as prone to hurricanes as in the Atlantic basin, windstorms on the West Coast can cause damage to boats, marinas, boat yards and yacht clubs.

In an article for B.C. Broker magazine, author Laurie Jones says brokers can give the following advice to boat owners to prevent their property from getting damaged in storms.

• Use rope ties strong enough to withstand storms.
• Ensure batteries on a boat are charged and the bilge pump is working properly.
• Perform regular boat maintenance.
• Use correct extension cords for electrical feeds to boats.
• Remove snow from boats.
• When taking boats out of the water, make sure it is secured on land.
• Increase liability limits (most B.C. marinas require coverage of at least $2 million).

Source: Insurance Business

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