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Insured Against What?

It is not, currently, hurricane season.

It is however, nearing the anniversary of our departure from California.

Our tried-and-true insurance company, Boat U.S., refused to insure us through the Canal, forcing us to obtain coverage from another company. We went back to Mariner’s, who had insured this boat for her initial passage (with us) from Puerto Rico to California (we should never have left. That’s a whole other story…).

Big-risk insurance isn’t cheap, and Mariner’s bill for this year left me gasping. So I called Boat U.S. again, with the intent of shopping around. We chatted pleasantly while they were going over the details of my boat and desired coverage, and the agent said, “you do understand that there in the Gulf, insurance is more than you’re used to.”

That kind of stopped me.

“While we were bringing the boat south, from Emeryville to San Diego, we stopped off in Santa Cruz, which got demolished by the tsunami”

“Oh, yeah,” the agent laughed, “we paid out a lot of claims for that tsunami.”

“So,” I continued, “we don’t get tsunamis here in the Gulf, so really, why is Gulf insurance any more than Pacific insurance is? In the time we’ve owned this boat, it’s been near no hurricanes, but two tsunamis, so for the planet right now, the tsunami is really the bigger risk, right?”

Silence. Then an abrupt change of topic, and an assurance that they’d get back to me with a quote in the next few days.

Obviously, I’m still pondering this.

Hurricanes are A Big Deal here in the Gulf. And the level of preparedness is super high. One of the things that impressed me thoroughly about Texas in general and about this area in particular is that there are no derelict boats here; you’re either hurricane-ready, or you’re evicted. There’s a hurricane-response team here that preps boats that need help if a storm’s incoming (or even vaguely predicted to possibly be incoming… they are super on top of it here.). The marina we’re in is oriented specifically to be hurricane-resistant, and the pilings are something like 6 feet higher than highest recorded storm surge. Everyone around me, in every way possible, has done everything possible, to protect and prepare against storm conditions.

California was absolutely not that way.

The last marina we were in gave classes, for free, for how not to have your boat sink at the dock (it was a basic maintenance course. I was absolutely appalled. The slip fees there were more than house payments are here, and yet people just let perfectly good boats rot into the sea). The marina before that has boats chained to the dock, sails disintegrating into floppy shreds, and yes, the emergency middle-of-the-night sinking response crew. Maintenance isn’t all that big a deal, because… what? No hurricanes, so it’s all bueno? But the tsunami wreaked havoc at marinas all up and down the coast that happened to be oriented the wrong way.

It’s also becoming common knowledge amongst anyone who is at all meteorologically literate, that hurricanes are no longer following the laws about when and where they show up. So if that’s changing, if the world is changing, if the welfare of your boat depends more on how well you’ve paid attention rather than random chance and location, I think that insurance should stop penalizing people for location based on no longer accurate historical data, and start rewarding people for paying attention.

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