Losses and Lessons: This Chris-Craft’s short story has an unhappy ending

Accidents happen. That’s why we work to ensure that our clients’ prized vessels are properly covered should disaster strike.

Most boats are filled with equipment designed to protect you and your vessel from loss. Smoke and vapor detectors, bilge pumps, blowers and fire suppression systems can all avert disaster, which is why we should be vigilant in maintaining them. However, the very act of preserving our boats can sometimes lead to calamity.

One Hagerty client discovered this the hard way earlier this summer after his Chris-Craft runabout wouldn’t start. Determining that his battery had been run down, he trailered his boat to a secure, fenced-in lot and attached a battery charger. Later that night, he received a call informing him that the boat had caught fire. By the time the flames were extinguished, the entire front half of the hull had been completely destroyed. The boat was declared a total loss, and the client was paid the policy’s full Agreed Value.

Although the boat was too heavily damaged to determine exactly where the short occurred, given that the battery was new and the boat was meticulously maintained it is likely that the fire started within the charger itself. While chargers are designed to be left for extended periods of time, accidents can happen, so there are some simple steps you can take to help minimize the risk. For example, avoid connecting your battery charger to an extension cord whenever possible. If you must use an extension cord, make sure it is a grounded 3-wire cord. Our policyholder kept his boat outdoors, which necessitated the use of an extension cord and also exposed both cord and charger to the elements. You may want to consider removing the battery from your boat for charging, provided you have a safe place to charge the battery.

Fires are a constant danger to wooden vessels, and while the risk usually comes from within, there are a number of perils that can result in a fire. Auxiliary equipment such as battery chargers, power tools and appliances should be periodically examined to ensure they are in good condition, and they should never be left plugged in longer than necessary.

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