Top tips to keep your launch stress- and claim-free!

UK pleasure craft insurer Navigators & General (N&G) is reminding boat owners to carry out a number of simple and straightforward checks before they get back on the water, following the winter lay-up period and therefore avoiding common claims.

N&G generally experiences an increase in claims notifications over March and April as boats are launched, or when owners return to find their boats have suffered damage during the winter. The increased risk of theft and break in associated with the economic climate, coupled with the sub zero temperatures this year are likely to have added to the risk.

Carrying out a number of simple pre-launch checks, and ensuring there is good communication with the yard or launching company can significantly help reduce the risk of potential accidents, breakdowns or worse still, sinking. These types of checks are particularly important after a harsh winter where skin fittings, pipes, engines and heaters may have been damaged or dislodged by ice.

Wherever possible, it is advisable for the owner to be present when the boat is launched to monitor the vessel for any unusual water ingress for at least a couple of hours after settling. In their absence, the yard should take on this responsibility but they will need full access to the boat.

Making sure that all parties know and agree the launch date should ensure that all works have been completed in time, leaving the vessel ready to be launched and seaworthy. N&G have seen a number of sinking claims caused by something as simple as failing to replace a through hull fitting or re-attach an internal hose.

Knowing where to place the slings to avoid damaging the boat when she is ready for launch, is much easier to do ashore. It’s important to note that the yard will often supply and apply stickers to help with this process.

Simple checks on machinery fluid levels, all through hull fittings, companionway
stairs and floorboards, as well as split pins, rigging and spreader attachment points can prevent major accidents and injury to you or your crew. When refitting your boat it is important to check that safety equipment is in date and adequate for your boat. Fire extinguishers in particular need to be kept in date and in proper working order, to comply with some policy conditions.

Even the experienced boat owner is still at risk from complacency. Taking a small amount of time to routinely go through a number of pre season checks can prove very worthwhile.

To avoid launch and pre-season problems, Navigators & General offers the following advice:
• have a yearly pre-season machinery maintenance check, by a boat engineer
• agree a launch date in advance and arrange access to boat for yard if you cannot be there in person
• do not start engines until all basic checks have been completed, including opening cooling water sea cocks
• check fuel or gas lines and cables have not been trapped whilst stowing gear
• do not assume anything will be checked or replaced, if in doubt ask
• check all hoses, skin fittings, through hull fittings & hose clips
• check, and tape rigging split pins or securing bolts
• ensure distress flares & lifejackets are still in date and adequate for your boat
• check sails for signs of vermin damage or rot
• ensure navigation equipment is on board, up to date and working

Common problems include:
• flooring, steps and handles not being properly re-attached after servicing, which can lead to injury
• forgetting to return crucial safety and navigation equipment to the boat
• through hull fittings not being replaced or hoses not properly re-connected,
which can lead to sinking through gradual ingress of water
• rigging not securely attached after the mast is put in or securing pins not fastened or taped over for security, potentially leading to a dismasting
• not checking engines are fully re-commissioned, which can let you down at a crucial moment or be damaged when started
• underwater gear or log may be damaged on slings or strops when lifted

“Whilst it is tempting to get out on the water at the first sign of a good spring day, spending time on these simple pre-season checks will be time well-spent as the rain, damp and storms over the winter can cause wear and tear to a boat and equipment. It’s also key to ensure there is no misunderstanding about who is to complete the maintenance – be it the boat owner or the boat yard. ” said James Roberts Head of Navigators & General

“Conducting maintenance checks before re-launching the boat onto the water, will reduce the risk of damage to the boat and possible injuries. The onus is on the boat owner to maintain their vessel to a seaworthy condition and ensure ongoing maintenance is completed. It is also important to remember that insurance cannot compensate for lack of maintenance and will not cover damage caused as a result of wear and tear.”