Top Causes of Boat Damage

Damaged boat sinking in the water.

Taking your watercraft out on the open water is undoubtedly an exciting opportunity to discover the joys of being a boater. While the allure of adventure is apparent, there are many other factors to consider, including instances which may damage your boat. Navigating these potential hazards skillfully is a keen ability, especially since these dangers can inflict costly and catastrophic harm to your cherished vessel. 

Within this post, we’ll delve into the predominant culprits behind boat damage and shed some light on the risks that demand attention from all boat operators. Whether you boast years of experience or are a novice eager to explore the water, comprehending these recurring causes is pivotal for safeguarding your watercraft’s longevity and safety. Let’s get started:

Collision and Impact 

Collisions with docks, piers, submerged objects, and other boats are major contributors to boat damage. These kinds of accidents can cause issues cosmetically and mechanically. A ding or a scratch can be an easy fix, but serious structural issues often result from collisions. The extent of this damage depends on:

  • The objects involved
  • The speed at which the boat was moving
  • Your vessel’s preexisting structure and condition.

To avoid damage caused by collisions, it’s best to stay alert when boating and pay keen attention to navigational aids, like depth finders.

Improper Maintenance 

Keeping up with regular maintenance requirements for your boat can mean a unique to-do list. Cleaning, including wiping down seats and pressure washing the exterior, proper lubrication and oil checks, and 360 inspections for wear and tear are crucial to ensuring your watercraft is in top condition. Skipping over essential maintenance tasks can lead to various degrees of damage, including:

  • Electrical system failures
  • Engine and mechanical problems
  • Paint and gel coat damage
  • Plumbing and water system issues

Water Corrosion 

Many believe boats are immune to water damage since they’re designed to sit in the water for extended periods. However, this is a misconception. Constant water exposure, especially to salt water, can eventually cause corrosion in the metal components of your vessel. The result is a structural weakness that can quickly impact other parts of your boat.

As a best practice, regularly take your boat out of the water and wash it. Once done, allow it time to dry. This is an essential process when preparing to winterize your vessel. Corrosion-resistant coatings are also available to apply over the metal components of your boat, such as the fittings, cleats and fasteners, to prevent rusting.


Whether you’re adventurous about where you boat or prefer to stick to one body of water, knowing the water depths at all times is something you can’t afford to overlook. Shallow areas can be hazardous to navigate through, particularly when the boat’s hull comes into contact with the bottom of the water, which is known as running aground or grounding. Grounding can have severe consequences for the structure of your boat, such as:

  • Scrapes, cracks, and punctures in the hull
  • Damage to the keel and rudder
  • Propeller damage

Before heading out on the water, consult navigation charts to steer clear of shallow waters safely. Consider adding a depth finder to your vessel if you don’t already have one, which can provide real-time updates on how deep the water is.

Capsizing or Swamping

When there are sudden shifts in weight, extreme waves, wind, or cases when you exceed the boat’s weight capacity, your vessel may take on water quickly and without warning. This can result in capsizing or swamping.

  • Capsizing: When a boat is rolled on its side or upside down
  • Swamping: When a boat remains upright but is filled with water

When large amounts of water overtake a boat, the damage can be extensive. The boat’s equipment, engine, and electronic components can malfunction due to water exposure, and in the worst case, the vessel may sink altogether. To avoid capsizing or swamping, check weather conditions before you take your boat out on the water. Additionally, always pay attention to weight capacity and distribute it evenly on board.

Equipment or Engine Failures 

Engine and equipment failures pose significant risks to boats. When a boat’s engine malfunctions, it can leave you stranded or, worse, in dangerous waters. Routine maintenance is crucial to prevent engine damage resulting from neglected oil changes, overheating, or fuel system issues. 

Similarly, equipment failures, like faulty navigational instruments or electrical systems, compromise safety and functionality. These issues can lead to accidents, expensive repairs, and even sinking in extreme cases. Regular inspections, maintenance, and prompt repairs can ensure your boat stays afloat and operates safely on the water.

Extreme Weather 

Extreme weather can wreak havoc on boats, even when tied safely to a dock or marina. 

  • Heavy rain can lead to flooding, overwhelming bilge pumps. 
  • Hail can dent and damage boat surfaces. 
  • Freezing temperatures can harm engines and pipes, leading to costly repairs. 
  • Extreme heat can cause material deterioration. 
  • Sun exposure can fade and weaken paint and upholstery.

To safeguard boats from these elements, owners must follow proper mooring procedures, secure covers, and perform regular maintenance. Keeping an eye on weather forecasts and knowing when to stay ashore is equally crucial for safety.

Protect Your Vessel with Boat Insurance

With the excitement of owning and operating a watercraft also comes the responsibility of addressing various possible scenarios in which damage can occur. Vigilance and proactive measures are essential to ensure your vessel is safe and operable, but in some cases, unforeseen circumstances can still happen.

At Portside Insurance, we understand this better than anyone. Boat insurance provides the peace of mind that no matter your level of experience, nor the type or age of the watercraft, your boat is adequately protected in numerous instances and events. Our policies can be customized to suit your vessel’s unique needs, making you feel secure in whatever waters you choose to explore. Contact us today to learn more about the types of policies we offer.

Safety Tips for Boating in the Summer

Safety Tips for Boating in the Summer

Summer is a great time to get outdoors, and many people love taking to the water to enjoy the warm weather. It’s important to take precautions when going out on the water just in case things don’t go as planned. From unexpected weather to encountering other boats or hazards on the water, you should plan ahead. This guide offers some important summer boating safety tips.

Preparing for the Trip

Whenever you’re planning a summer boating trip, you should be prepared for the worst while hoping for the best. What you do before you take off from shore can decrease your risk of encountering any problems, to begin with. Here are some summer boating safety tips for planning your trip:

  • Always check the weather before you leave so that you’re not caught in hazardous conditions.
  • Inspect your boat before every trip so that you’re aware of any mechanical or structural problems.
  • Create a float plan and give it to someone you trust so that they can give it to authorities if something happens. A float plan should include vital information such as your boat description and license, where you plan to be and your intended return time. 

Essential Safety Equipment

If you don’t already have safety equipment, you should invest in it to prepare for unexpected situations. You should have the following gear whenever you’re on the water:

  • Personal flotation devices to reduce the risk of drowning.
  • Visual distress signals such as lights and flares to alert others during an emergency.
  • Sound devices that you can use to get the attention of other boats or people on the shore.

Safe Navigation Practices

Read the Safe Boating Guide before the start of boating season so that you’re aware of what regulations and laws you need to follow. When you’re operating your watercraft, keep in mind that it takes time for a boat to gain and lose speed. Don’t pilot your boat at unsafe speeds, or you may risk a collision or accident.

Stay on the lookout for any potential hazards in the water and use navigational aids to keep yourself aware of your location, surroundings and way back home.

Alcohol and Boating

It’s a popular pastime for people to enjoy alcohol on boating trips, but you shouldn’t ever operate a boat while under the influence. Before you leave, decide on a designated driver who knows how to operate the vessel.

This step won’t just protect you from potential accidents. It’s also the law. There is a zero-tolerance policy for boat operators who navigate while intoxicated, so choosing not to drink while operating a boat will protect you legally.

Passenger Safety

Your passengers may not have as much experience boating as you do, so it’s important to review boating safety procedures with them, such as wearing a life jacket and how to distribute weight across the vessel. For example, having too many passengers on one side of your boat could cause it to flip.

One way to prevent this is to make sure that you don’t bring more people along than you have seats available on your boat. Having people remain in their seats whenever possible can ensure even weight distribution.

Safe Water Activities

Regardless of what activities you plan to participate in, make sure you read the appropriate safety guides so that you take the right precautions. Swimming, diving and waterskiing are all activities that many people enjoy without incident, but you need to educate yourself on how to reduce your risk of danger and what to do if someone gets hurt on the water.

Make sure to review the guidelines on how to anchor and moor your boat correctly. Not doing so can result in you or your passengers becoming stranded if your boat drifts after you’ve departed it.

Emergency Preparedness

Even though you don’t want to imagine things going wrong, it’s important to be prepared. Make sure that your boat is equipped with a first aid kit, radio and distress signals so that you can perform first aid, signal other vessels when you’re in distress and make it to safety.

Another essential part of your emergency plan is making sure that you stick with your float plan. If you don’t arrive back at shore when you’ve told your contact you would, they should immediately alert authorities and have them search for your vessel. This greatly increases your chance of being found.

Weather and Environment

The weather is always changing, and even the best weather predictions can fall short. Even if you plan your trip using the latest weather reports, things can change. Take notice if you see dark clouds or lightning on the horizon and have a plan in place for how you can ride out a storm on the water.

You should also educate yourself on what environmental hazards are common in the area you plan to boat through. This helps you stay on the watch for physical hazards in the water that could capsize your boat or leave you stranded.

Have Boat Insurance in Place

Having boat insurance protects you while you’re out on the water. It doesn’t just help you pay for damage to your boat or another vessel but can cover you if you’re required to pay for someone else’s medical bills. If you ever need to file a claim, showing your insurance company that you’ve followed the other tips in this guide can help your case

Don’t have boat insurance yet? Contact us today at Portside Insurance so we can help you find a policy that suits your needs and keeps you covered this summer.