Chartering the waters of the Pacific NorthwestRe: Chartering the waters of the Pacific Northwest

There are several reasons people may contemplate chartering their boats in the greater Seattle and Tacoma area, and the most common is to “help cover the expenses.” It sounds like a good idea, but there are many factors to consider.

There are two common types of charters that one can do with a pleasure vessel. First is the “bare boat charter,” where someone pays you money and then drives off with your boat for a day, a week, or longer. These charters are usually handled through a commercial charter company that manages a fleet of charter boats and does the guest check-outs and check-ins. They also handle the vessel insurance on a “fleet” basis, meaning that you must buy into their insurance program.

The second and most common charter is the “skippered charter,” in which you, the boat owner, take people out for a day, a week, or longer. You are the captain, your partner or spouse is the cook, or maybe it’s the other way around.  Perhaps you perform both functions yourself. You are also required to have a United States Coast Guard captain’s license to take people out “for hire.” You buy the extra charter insurance on your own, from an agency like us that specializes in marine insurance.

Insurance costs do increase for boats that are chartered, since you now have people who are paying you money to take them boating and the insurance policy now has to cover the potential injury and risk of lawsuits from more people, as well as the increased usage of your boat.

As a U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain, you are held to a higher standard of knowledge and seamanship. You are legally responsible for the safety of your charter guests, as well as for the maintenance of your vessel. If the boat sinks or burns, a lot of people can be injured, and your insurance policy will pay all the bills up to the limit of liability.

Not all boats are suitable for charter, particularly those smaller boats with gasoline engines or those that are under say 30’ feet in length.

Most boats that do well in charter service are diesel powered, in the 35’-50’ size range, and have several clearly defined staterooms with more than one marine head (toilet) in separate compartments. Privacy is a valued commodity on a charter boat.

The successful charter captain is a competent seaman and navigator, a good story teller, and someone who enjoys spending time getting to know a variety of people in mostly pleasant circumstances, sometimes spiced up a bit with discomfort and sheer terror.

If you have any questions about your current charter or marine insurance, or are interested in getting a quote, please e-mail us or call Homer Smith Insurance directly at 888-433-0031. We are an independent insurance agency serving Washington state, and are also licensed in Oregon, California, Nevada, and Arizona.

Jim Maupin, Homer Smith Insurance

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