How Boat Owners Just Float By

Larry Price
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Wednesday - November 02, 2005
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It’s interesting that in the state of Hawaii you need to have insurance to drive an automobile on our highways and byways, but not to sail or pilot a boat.

I’m not sure what the difference is between a ship and a boat, but in either case they should have insurance in case they sink, crash or run aground. If they don’t have insurance, then the taxpayers end up footing the bill - and that doesn’t make sense.

Two vessels ran aground recently on Oahu’s South Shore within a few days of each other or I wouldn’t be commenting on boat insurance. The owners of each vessel claimed they didn’t have insurance to salvage their vessels. If that was the case, then perhaps they shouldn’t have been allowed to enter the state’s harbor facilities. But it’s too late now.

Even more disconcerting is the fact that the monies used by the boating division for salvaging these kinds of disasters comes from taxes on marine fuel, rental income and fees paid by boaters, and not general taxpayers. Maybe that’s why we have so many boaters in the state of Hawaii. Not only are we surrounded by water, you don’t need insurance to sail around the islands.

It is true that a boat owner must have boat insurance to become a member of a yacht club, and you should have a slip to moor your boat before you buy it. Why isn’t there a law that says you have to know how to keep it from sinking or washing up on the reefs before you buy it?

There is a good possibility that we don’t have many elected officials who own boats or live aboard vessels floating on the water; surely they must realize how unfair this is to landlubbers who are envious of other human beings sailing around the Pacific without a care in the world.

In point of fact, I would think having insurance should include replacement of the vessels and any liability the vessel causes to other seagoing craft, reefs, surfers and volunteer members of the crew.

It is obviously very expensive to own any kind of seagoing vessel. It is equally obvious that there is great status in being rich enough to have a yacht at your beck and call. It’s a signal that you have financially climbed Mt. Everest. The sailors I have talked to say “Owning a boat is like owning a hole in the water to throw money into.” They require so much care and maintenance.

Don’t misunderstand - I have a lot of respect for people who have such an expensive and exhilarating hobby. I just think they should insure their expensive toys just like we landlubbers do with our automobiles, trucks and motorcycles.

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