It seems like if there’s something lurking in the water — a log, sunken boat, engine block, crab pots — chances are a boater will hit it. That’s the finding of an analysis of the BoatUS Marine Insurance claim files that looked at five years of striking a submerged object (SSO) claims.
If you have a depth sounder, know whether it’s reading from the transducer to the bottom or from the boat’s lowest point to the bottom. The difference could be up to a couple of feet depending on where the transducer is located.
Several years ago, when we analyzed the top 10 claims, SSO came in at No. 2 in frequency. There’s a lot of junk in the water. For our purposes, SSO means hitting something that is floating or lurks underwater. Grounding, on the other hand (something we’ll discuss in a future issue), is striking the bottom and getting stuck there.
The good news is that if you know how, when, and where these SSO claims happen, you have a better chance of staying out of the statistics. In the article “What To Do If Your Vessel Strikes A Submerged Object“, longtime marine surveyor and accident investigator Ron Alcus goes into detail about the kind of damage submerged objects can cause. He’ll also give you tips for how to avoid them and what to do if they’re unavoidable.
Our analysis looked at boat length and type, propulsion type, speed, geography, and more. If we had to paint a picture of the most frequent SSO claim, it would be this: A fiberglass bass boat in Texas, sometime in July. One surprise from the study: The most experienced boat owners had slightly more claims than those with only a couple of years’ experience. Seems like everyone can learn a little from this.
What to do: Be aware that your big boat draws a lot more than that little jon boat you’re following. Keep a sharp eye for floating branches; they might be connected to a big tree trunk.
Lesson 2: Boat Type
Bass boats are the third most prevalent type of boat in the study. While their drafts are typically less than a foot, they hit submerged objects twice as often as other types of boats. That’s because bass boats are typically used on inland lakes with lots of stumps, sandbars, and often extremely variable water levels. And they go fast, making it harder to avoid things in and under the water.