By Scott Grassie, Progressive National Watercraft Claims Manager

Boats “live” in the water most of the time, but even after years of advances in marine technology and boat building expertise, the thing that led to their existence is also the one thing that can be their undoing if not properly cared for. Even though boats are built to be used and kept on the water, the rigors of the lake or marine environment and exposure to constant weather and water require full attention to protect your valuable investment.

For the months during boating season, many vessels are kept in the water, which is when imperfections in manufacturing, care and maintenance often come to light. Think about all the points in which water could enter a boat while resting in its slip. Each of these entries a reason to have your boat thoroughly inspected and professionally serviced to fend off damage of water intrusion. Most fiberglass boats are created by encapsulating wood and foam within a fiberglass shell, any water seeping through hull fittings, transom seals, or driveshaft seals can, and will, eventually seep into places where rot and other damages can occur.

“Customers often assume since their boat was designed for use on the water that having some water in the bilge is acceptable, but the fact of the matter is that any water gathering in the hull should be examined and dealt with immediately,” says Scott Grassie, Progressive National Watercraft Claims Manager. “This prevents water from seeping into the structure of the hull and reduces the more immediate danger of a boat sinking from water intrusion.”

Aside from monitoring any water gathering in the hull, other key measures of protection are ensuring all deck drains are kept clear of debris for proper drainage, as well as checking the operation of any and all bilge pumps. Keep in mind that a working bilge pump is really only as good as how well it operates when you’re not around. The poor operation of an automatic bilge float switches can be the weak link in many boats, which can eventually cause hull damage and or sinking from water build up.

Aside from water damage that occurs while your boat is stored in the water, there is also risk of water damage while it’s stored on shore. Most boats are stored in an owner’s side yard, on a trailer in a storage facility, or at the marina in a rack. Even stored away from the water, unless you’re lucky enough to have indoor storage, your boat is impacted by water from rain, snow, and other weather related influences that can eventually damage your hull if proper precautions aren’t taken.

It’s extremely important to cover your boat when in storage, and at all times of the year, to protect it from damaging rain, snow and other natural elements. Think of your boat as a giant bowl that is catching everything falling from the sky, all the things you’re trying to keep out. A properly fitted boat cover helps to stop or lessen water from accumulating in your boat, wards off the damaging rays of the sun from getting to your gelcoat and interior vinyl, and help keep your boat clean. Debris, dirt and leaves don’t just make a mess in your boat they can also obstruct your drainage system which is imperative in keeping your stored boat free of water. Creating a covering system to shed water and that allows water to drain from the hull while on land is really important, especially since the most expensive part on your boat – the engine – is sitting at the lowest point of the hull and can be easily damaged from standing water or accumulated moisture.

“Even if you have your boat covered, if it’s out of the water be sure to remove the hull drain plug and check that all drain passages are clear of obstructions and debris,” said Grassie. “If your boat is stored in the water, maintain an operating battery charge at all times, as well as a functioning automatic bilge pump to remove any water that enters the bilge.”

Knowing the ways water can damage a boat and what to look out for will help keep your prized possession in tip-top shape. When your boat is well cared for it not only makes your vessel safer, but you will enjoy more time out on the water doing what you love instead of waiting for a tow or repairs to be made. Plus, not only will it be less costly to maintain, it may be worth more when you move up to your next boat purchase! Progressive Insurance knows from insuring more than a million boats that through preventative maintenance, routine cleaning and keeping the rain out, you’ll protect your boat from all kinds of service issues and stay smooth sailing.