Factors that Affect Catamaran Insurance Rates with William Coates

Diane interviews Bill Coates on the factors that affect catamaran insurance rates such as age, value, experience, cruising range. They also cover ways to prepare your resume for the best rates and how the process works. Please listen and learn about the knitty gritty on getting insurance for your catamaran.

You can contact Bill of​​​​ Offshore Risk Management at via phone at 305-743-7711 x2202 or email to ( wjc@offshorerisk.com ). Apply for insurance online here.

I’m with Bill Coates today from Offshore Risk Management. Thanks for spending time with us at CatamaranSite. Can you tell me a little bit about who you are and what Offshore Risk Management is?

Yes, my name is Bill Coates. I am a marine and aviation insurance broker. I’ve been in the business since 1972. So it’s been a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of very interesting things.

Our business was established at that time, and we tend to not turn away very many risks. We get thousands of applications a year and generally speaking we can cover pretty much any boat, anywhere, anytime. We have had clients on every continent including Antarctica. So we enjoy the business, and the more complex the risk the better it is for us to deal with.

Well then you sound fairly ideal for catamarans because they are notoriously hard to ensure these days. It seems like especially if you’ve got new owners. Can you talk a little bit about what’s happening in the insurance market these days? Why people are running into troubles and what some of the misconceptions are?

I think the first misconception is that catamarans are harder to insure than monohulls. We have not found that as a matter of fact.

For example in the hurricane area which is essentially the Caribbean from the Tropic of Cancer south to about the bottom of Grenada or the top of Grenada, those boats in the off season are usually hauled out and they don’t topple because they are stable on the ground.

We have found there is built-in safety of having two hulls. When if one hull is flooded, a catamaran has the backup of having an additional hull. We had a claim like that one time in the Mona passage. One hull was completely submerged, and we were able to rescue the people because the other hull kept them afloat.

We haven’t run into that catamarans are harder to insure. We do boats worldwide, and catamarans are welcome to our insurers just as much as any other boat.

Why are people under the misconception that it’s more difficult and more expensive to get insurance right now?

We have a presence on Facebook and a couple of times a week I go through the posts that people put down and I see commentls like “oh I can’t get insurance” or “last year it was ten dollars and now this year’s it’s 35” which that does happen, but generally speaking it’s people that are not really well informed. They are just not looking in the right place.

There are a number of companies say in the USA that will write policies for catamarans while they’re in the USA or in the US Waters. But once they venture further afield, then they don’t want to touch those catamarans and that could be a bad experience for insurance buyers.

They do not know where look for. They think “I’ll call Lloyd’s” and that sort of thing. That does not necessarily give them a good experience.

So of course blowing our own horn if they go to our website application, we’ll tell them pretty quickly what the situation is and whether we can insure them and 95 percent of the time we are able to generate a quote for people that apply online.

Is there a rule of thumb for pricing these days or is there any kind of ballpark that you can give people?


I’ll tell you why. There’s two factors. First of all, I have a lot of very able ladies in the office, and they give me stern looks and call me William instead of Bill when I talk to clients about rates.

Second, we just know we cannot possibly guess. What happens is we don’t have a lot of the information that is necessary just talking to somebody over the phone. Your boat might be the nicest boat in the world, but there’s things that are important to underwriters that you may not think are important.

That’s why we just can’t guess. And generally speaking, we can get a quote back to you in three or four days. That way, if we quote, we’re able to bind to risk and it’s not guessing and “hey you know when I spoke to you in August you told me it was going to be this much and now it’s twice as much.”

Tell me how people can best prepare for getting the best rate on insurance. Should they be taking classes? What are some of the ways to get the best rate?

There are a number of factors that are involved. To address each one of those.

The first thing is when we collect the information on our website, we have absolutely everything that we need to give a firm quotation because we ask for example (1) what your claims history, (2) what is your experience, (3) how much do you want to insure the boat for, (4) how much you paying for it, (5) do you have a survey, (6) where you’re going to be navigating, (7) is there going to be more than one person on board with you that is experienced.

It’s not dreary or onerous to fill this thing out, but it is important for us because lots of times we have seen there’s like a little cheat sheet and an agent will say “yeah just give us this little bit of information” and then they they have a guestimate and then when the time comes it’s “well oh yeah but you know you had a conviction in 1976 because you smoked some dope” and some underwriters if you’ve ever had a criminal conviction they’re just not interested. Unfortunately that haunts those people. But we have other markets that will be able to deal with that.

The other thing is experience is an important thing and whilst we see people that will come to us and say, “I’ve taken the ASA course or other courses.” This is good, but if they took it 15 or 20 years ago, that does not add to their experience because presumably since then they have used a boat and gone maybe renting a boat in the BVI or New Zealand or something like that.

But if they’re new to boating and it’s fairly recent training that they’ve had then that will help. Experience fairly recently for these new boaters helps a whole lot.

I see them on the Facebook pages. Lots of people will say, “I want to do this. I want to do that. I want to sail the Caribbean and so on. I sailed my grandfather’s boat when I was a kid in Lake of the Ozarks.”

We suggest to these people that they go to yacht clubs or go to marinas and offer to crew on the weekends for people and then they can just get the feel of what it’s all about. What the lines are for. What the controls do. What the sails do.

Does reaching out to you when buyers are in the thinking stages make some sense?

Yes we encourage this. We have probably 10 to 15 percent of our clients will come and say, “I haven’t bought the boat, but I’m looking. I need to know how much it’s going to cost me to insure the boat or what should I do.”

We say go to our website. Tell us what boat that you’re looking at and if you’re looking at two or three give us the information on one and then in the remarks say, “I’ve got a couple of other ones I’m looking at. Can you give me a quote on those.” And that will trigger a phone call from our office.

We’ll quote the first one, say a Fountaine Pajot, and then, if the other ones are similar, we’ll be able to say it should be around this ballpark because we already have a guideline from what kind of a boat you’re going to have. We’re going to be pretty accurate. The quotes that we give generally speaking are good for 30 days.

It sounds sound like age, the brand of catamaran, and the condition are all going to affect the quote?

Yes, older boats are more expensive to repair. Age is a big factor. If you have a boat that was built in the 80s, it’s going to be looked at differently than if one that was built last month and for obvious reasons. Upgrades and stuff like that are important.

Also where you are operating is important. It can be more expensive or impossible to get repairs in exotic locations. If you have a claim you want somebody that’s going to be able to get that boat repaired. We had one in the Caribbean and ended up we took it to a repair yard in Malta because that was the only place they could fix this boat.

Value, experience of the operators, where you’re going to be operating are key factors got it so when comparing quotes.

Comparing insurance quotes can be really difficult. What is your role in helping people make sense of these quotes?

What we do is when we present a quotation we use the same format every time, and then it’s easy to look and see.

We can help tell people what the difference between this insurer and that insurer. Sometimes they end up talking to me or the ladies in the office know the answers depending on what the questions.

There is language in insurance documents that can be confusing. Do you guys use a plain language so people know whether they’re getting like replacement value or market value for example. People often don’t quite understand what they’re getting.

Marine insurance does not lend itself to plain language policies, and they don’t do it deliberately to be obscure. But there’s a lot of words in a marine policy that you don’t find in a homeowners or a flood policy or a car policy or even an airplane policy

We encourage people to get a copy of the policy language, and we’ll send it to you. Generally we asked clients to ask us for a copy of the policy because if we’re sending you a quote and you’re getting it on your phone and you get a policy on your phone you’re not going to like us. We get people say, “I’m driving and I’m trying to look at this.”

We encourage them to take a look at it and then if they have specific questions to call. They’ll probably end up talking to me or again one of the ladies in the office depending on the complexity. We always encourage people to play what if this happens. What do I do because that’s the time that you need to know not when your boat is sinking.

And who do I call. “Oh I’m insured with Lloyd’s. I’ll call them.” You’re not going to get anybody named Lloyd there.

Clients can call us and discuss policy language anytime. We don’t use double talk, and generally speaking if there are questions, we put the answers in writing after we’ve discussed it with the client.

When it comes to hurricane season, special regional requirements, and that sort of thing, do you talk people through on how to prepare in advance?

On our website, there are hurricane preparedness tips. In addition to that if we know that they’re going to be in a storm area, we get them to provide us with what they plan to do when their boat is in that area.

That falls into two different categories.

One is they’re absent, and they’re in Iowa and their boat is in Grenada or St Martin. We get them to put in writing this is what I’m going to do. It allows them to say, “If there’s a storm, this is what I’m going to do.” Maybe their boat will be strapped down to the ground and all the sails and that good stuff is taken off and stored below or in a building.

Two if they’re using their boat and they don’t know where they will be or are going, we get a hurricane plan from them that says, “Let’s pretend that you’re going to be someplace and what would you do? Will you run from the storm or go in a Hurricane Hole or find some mangroves?”

That sounds like you’re very hands on company. We’ll finish up with just final question. Is there anything else Bill that you think people should know before they go shopping for marine insurance?

Remember that we can help you.

Even if you do not want to get insurance because you can’t afford it or do not care to insure your boat, many marinas require insurance if you’re going to be in there whether it’s overnight or for an extended stay.

And speak to somebody that speaks the language of boaters not someone that insured five boats in their lifetime.

Thank you so much Bill. I really appreciate you taking the time to speak to us.

Diane Selkirk

By Diane Selkirk

I love to travel and have spent the past seven years sailing with my family aboard our 40 Woods Meander catamaran - traveling from B.C.'s north coast, to the west coast of the US, Mexico, the South Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia, across the Indian Ocean to South Africa and on to St Helena, South America, the Caribbean and Central America.

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