Maryland is a small state with an outsized boating population. The Chesapeake Bay Watershed comprises most of the state’s waterways, including the Patapsco and Potomac rivers. In total, Maryland is 21% water, and has boating to match. Maryland is home to a vibrant fishing industry that operates both in the Chesapeake Bay and out in the Atlantic Ocean.Maryland’s Capital, Annapolis, is also known as “The Sailing Capital of the World“, and is home to the Naval Academy. Even a cursory visit of Annapolis will lead you past hundreds of sail boats, power boats, rowing shells.

There were 176,200 registered boats in the state of Maryland in 2016. That means a state with .25% of the country’s landmass is home to 1.5% of its boats. That’s an extraordinarily high density of boats and is reflective of boating’s importance to Maryland. In all, roughly 25% of Maryland residents participate in boating each year, and 18% own boats. Furthermore, tens of thousands of visitors flock to Maryland each year, for sailing courses, fishing trips, and ocean cruises. Hunters also come to visit Maryland’s waterways, as many varieties of northern waterfowl winter around the Chesapeake. Whatever boating activity you’re looking for, you can find it in Maryland.

Maryland Boat Insurance

So, does Maryland require boat insurance? Much like most other states in the U.S., Maryland does not require boat insurance. However, you may still need to buy Maryland boat insurance in certain circumstances.

  • Loans:If you use a loan to buy a boat, and plan to keep it in Maryland, you will need to purchase Maryland boat insurance. Your bank or other lender will require it. If your lender does not oblige you to get boat insurance, you should likely find another lender. The bank wants you to have insurance because it protects their investment much like it protects yours. Your lender is several thousand (or hundred thousand) dollars in the hole until you pay your loan off. Your boat is their collateral. If your boat is in an accident or sinks, your lender doesn’t want to lose that money. As a result, many lenders will include specific language in your loan policy to call in the full remaining price of the boat if you let your insurance lapse. Your bank or other lender should appear on your insurance policy as the lien-holder. Your insurance check will therefore list your lender as the co-payee if you need to file a claim.
  • Marinas: Most marinas, yacht clubs, and dockyards in Maryland require insurance as well. Marinas, like lenders, want to shield themselves financially in the case of an accident. If your vessel collides with another in the marina, the establishment doesn’t want any part of it. They would much rather your respective insurance companies take care of any accident.

Small Boat Insurance

Obviously you don’t need to worry about marina requirements if you keep your boat on a trailer or in a garage. The Chesapeake Bay may draw cruising and racing yachts from all over the world, but plenty of Maryland residents are perfectly content with their speed boats, pontoon boats, Jet Skis, or kayaks. You may keep your power boat at a local yacht club or marina. If so, you probably already know whether you need insurance. However, many Maryland residents prefer to keep their boat on a trailer, either at home or in a garage.

So, should you still consider Maryland boat insurance? It’s a reasonable question. 16% of Maryland residents primarily use a canoe or kayak. In addition, plenty of Maryland residents have paid off their pontoon or speed boat, and keep them at home. Nevertheless, we highly recommend insurance for everyone. Boat insurance can still be vital for many small boats.

Liability Coverage

Liability insurance on your power boat is an absolute necessity. Open motorboats get into more accidents and fatalities every year than any other boat type. Even if you’ve paid off your boat, you should at least buy property damage and personal injury liability insurance. Any boat with an engine can go too fast, and accidents on the water can be catastrophic. Liability coverage can save you thousands in damages, and it is usually affordable.

You should also buy liability insurance on any boat, of any kind, you lend out. If a person outside of your immediate family injures themselves or another person on your boat, you can be held liable, even if you were not present. In addition, speed boats, Jet Ski’s, and pontoon boats are often expensive. If your vessel suffers any sort of collision, you want a policy that will help you recoup the damages. You can read more about pontoon boat insurance here, and power boat insurance here if you remain unconvinced.

Self-Propelled Boats

You should also think about Maryland boat insurance for canoes and kayaks. Now, obviously it’s difficult to paddle a kayak into something hard enough to cause real damage. You may therefore feel that liability insurance isn’t worth it. Nevertheless, if you lend your kayak out, you should absolutely buy liability insurance for the reasons we’ve outlined above. You may also find it worthwhile to insure your kayak itself to protect it from theft or vandalism. Fishing kayaks and canoes can cost $1-2k, new.  Hull insurance, by contrast, is likely under $100. If someone steals your kayak out of your garage or off your car, you should be able to replace it. Click Here for more information on kayak insurance.

The Stats

Maryland’s accident rate, sadly, is quite high. With 1.5% of America’s boats, Maryland sees nearly 3.5 % of its accidents. A high accident rate is understandable, given the density of boat traffic in the Chesapeake. During peak summer boating season on the Chesapeake you can hardly throw a rock in any direction without hitting another boat. And I wouldn’t recommend it because those boats are expensive. In 2016, Maryland’s accidents totaled 3,738,300 in damages. That averages to a whopping $24,922 per accident. That is the type of accident that can clean out your savings if you don’t have insurance. If you’re out on a boat in Maryland, you want it to be insured.

Maryland boating accident staistics

Maryland’s fatality rate was also nearly double the national rate in 2016, at 9.1 per 100,000 boaters. 2.3% of fatal accidents in the U.S. last year occurred in Maryland. To an extent, higher fatality rates do occur in states with more active fishing fleets. Such boaters leave safe harbor in all kinds of weather and engage in a taxing, technical, and dangerous job. Nevertheless, it is incumbent on every boater to be attentive whenever they leave port. Our enjoyment of the nation’s waterways carries with it an inherent risk.

The presence of alcohol enhances this danger. Alcohol contributed to 8% of the accidents in Maryland in 2016, but nearly 18% of the fatalities. Any time you head out on the water you must designate an operator who doesn’t drink.

Having insurance is not a cure-all. We know that it can’t protect you from getting into an accident, but we nevertheless strongly recommend insurance on every vessel. It can, at the very least help protect you and your family financially if an accident occurs.