Sunday, March 29, 2015

Towing Insurance.

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

When Libby and started cruising, one thing that never occurred to us was to buy towing insurance.   After all, most of us get along without towing insurance for our cars; why not for boats also.

But within the first year, we did buy towing insurance and we have maintained it ever since.   At least here on the US East Coast, it is a bargain that you cannot afford to be without.

I'll write another post soon about running aground.  For today, let's just focus on the frequency, the consequences, and the costs of running aground.

Excepting Maine, East Coast cruising in the USA is done primarily in shallow waters with soft bottoms.  The waters are so shallow, and the depths vary so much year-to-year, that even the most cautious skipper will certainly run aground.   For Libby and I, my estimate is that we go aground three times per year, or about once every 1500-2000 nautical miles.   That's the bad part.

The good part is that running aground on a soft bottom is not so serious.  (The exception is grounding in heavy surf on a beach.)  It is unlikely that your life is in danger or that your boat will be sunk.

So, what are the remedies?

  1. Wait for high tide.  In many places there is enough tide to refloat you if you merely wait.   Of course that won't work if you ran aground at high tide, or in a place where there are no significant tides.
  2. Kedge yourself off.  Libby and I have learned to be quite expert at that.   We can launch the dinghy, put the CQR anchor and 100 feet of chain in the dinghy.  Row the anchor out as far as possible.  Drop it.  Use the anchor windlass to re-float the boat.  Retrieve the anchor and chain.  Retrieve the dinghy and put it on deck.  We have acccomplished all that in as little as 20 minutes.  But we have advantages I'll discuss in a later post.  For us, kedging works 50% of the time, maybe 65%.
  3. Get towed off by a friendly passer by, or by a towing company.

The cost of towing is major factor.  In our most recent incident, the invoice said that the fee was $841 for a 5 minute job (but with $0 due from us because we were insurance members.)  I can't say if that $841 is realistic or deliberately inflated.  But the $165/year current cost of that insurance makes it sound like a bargain   Our expected "return on investment" is on the order of $3 saved per $1 premium each year.  That makes the purchase a "no brainer."

I should also mention that every time we have called on the towing companies for assistance, the eperience has been very positive.  Their help is given ungrudgingly, rapidly and expertly.  Both we and the towing captain part with smiles.  I'm sure there must be horror stories of the opposite.  All, I can say is that the 10 times or so we called for towing, the experience was positive 9 times.  The 10th time, a Sea Tow captain at first refused to come because "the weather was too rough" in Boot Key Harbor, but he changed his mind a few hours later.  He also cut our anchor rode while towing us free.

Sea-Tow, and Tow-BoatUS are the two towing companies that compete for our business.  We have used both companies, and their prices and services are nearly identical.   The cost of unlimited towing insurance grew from $110 in 2005, to $165 in 2014.

Don't leave home without it.

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