Rhode Island

“The Ocean State” is the smallest state in the country, and most of it is not actually an island. Nevertheless, it holds a position as one of the primary boating capitals in the nation, due to its location. Rhode Island is about 14% water, given its large bays and inlets from the Atlantic Ocean. Despite a total area that most would fairly call “minuscule”, Rhode Island has about 384 miles of tidal shoreline. Numerous islands provide myriad opportunities for recreational boaters, anglers, and cruisers. Both Providence and Newport cater to cruisers, with visitors flocking from all over the world for both the Providence Boat Show and the Newport Boat Show, staples in the cruising world. We have, in fact, visited Newport while cruising and found the local boating culture immensely helpful when our boat nearly sank in harbor.

While Rhode Island built its modern reputation with yachts, Rhode Islanders happily engage in other boating activities. Rhode Island’s 40,178 registered boats may rank it 4th fewest in the nation, but that has more to do with population size than enthusiasm. Rhode island sees 27% household participation in boating, and 23% of Rhode islanders own their own boat. Both percentages beat the national average. Many Rhode Islanders kayak to the islands in Narragansett bay, while others go offshore to fish. In fact, Rhode Island brings in over $100 million every year from commercial fishing alone. The Ocean State is aptly named and Rhode Island residents take advantage of all that the ocean has to offer.

Rhode Island Boat Insurance

So, does the Rhode Island state government require boat insurance? No, it does not. Rhode Island is much like most other states and does not require boat insurance on any watercraft. However, you may need to buy Rhode Island boat insurance anyway.

  • Loans: If you buy a vessel in Rhode Island with a loan, you will need to purchase Rhode Island boat insurance. Your lender will require it. In fact, if your lender does not require boat insurance of some sort, you may want to find another lender. Your lender should require insurance because it protects their investment as much as it protects yours. They are several thousand dollars in the hole until you pay your loan off. The boat functions as collateral to ensure that you pay. If your boat is in an accident or sinks, it loses its value as collateral. Your lender doesn’t want to lose that money. The bank or other lender will appear on the insurance policy as the lien-holder. Your insurance check will then list your lender as the co-payee if you need to file a claim.
  • Marinas: Most marinas, yacht clubs, and dockyards in Rhode Island require insurance to dock there. Marinas, like lenders, want to shield themselves financially in the case of an accident. If your vessel damages another, the marina doesn’t want any part of it. They would vastly prefer that your respective insurance companies take care of the fallout.

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. Rhode Island’s substantial coastline is a haven for yachters, who benefit from the myriad marinas and yacht clubs on the Narragansett Bay.  Nevertheless, plenty of Rhode Islanders eschew their state’s yachting reputation in favor of speed boats, pontoon boats, Jet Skis, and kayaks. Sure, you can often keep your power boat at a local yacht club or marina, but most Rhode Island residents either dock at home, or keep their boat on a trailer.

So, should you still consider Rhode island boat insurance? It’s a reasonable question. 18% of Rhode Island residents use a canoe or kayak, well above the average for the rest of the country, though roughly on par with the rest of the Northeast. In addition, plenty of Rhode Island residents have paid off their pontoon or speed boat, and keep them at home. Even so, we highly recommend boat insurance for everyone.  Insurance is extremely important, even on small boats.

Liability Coverage

You should always have insurance on your power boat. Open motorboats are involved in more accidents and fatalities every year than any other boat type. That includes Jet Skis, which people generally perceive as more dangerous. Even if you’ve paid your boat off, you should at least buy property damage and personal injury liability insurance. Any power boat is capable of going too fast, and accidents on the water can be catastrophic. Liability coverage can wind up saving you thousands, and it is is usually affordable.

You need liability insurance especially on any boat you lend out. If someone 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 is involved in an accident, 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 Rhode Island boat insurance for canoes and kayaks. Now, we know that it is difficult to paddle a kayak into something hard enough to cause real damage, so you may feel that liability insurance isn’t worth the money. Nevertheless, if you lend your kayak out, you should buy liability insurance for the same reasons outlined above. Furthermore, you may find it worthwhile to insure your kayak itself in order to protect it from theft or vandalism. New fishing kayaks and canoes can cost $1-2k, which is a real amount of money.  Hull insurance, by contrast, is likely under $100. If someone steals it out of your garage or off your car, you want to be able to replace it. Click Here for more information on kayak insurance.

The Stats

Rhode Island has seen accidents decrease by about 14% from 2013. Alone in the United States, Rhode Island did not suffer a single boating fatality in 2016. Their accidents did have a heavy financial cost, however. Due to Rhode island’s large supply of sailing and power yachts, it may not surprise you to hear that accidents in RI tend to be extraordinarily expensive. Last year, accidents totaled $875,688 in damages, averaging a whopping $24,300 per accident. It turns out it’s extremely expensive to crash a yacht into another yacht. For the vast majority of us, insurance premiums don’t even begin to approach that figure. A loss like that can absolutely destroy your savings. We truly can’t recommend insurance highly enough to protect you from such an eventuality.

Rhode Island boating accident statistics 2016

Although Rhode island didn’t suffer any fatalities, there were 3 accidents attributed to alcohol, which were undoubtedly the most expensive nights of drinking those individuals ever had. Any time we head out on the water, we face certain risks. We can’t prevent everything from happening, but drinking vastly increases your odds of having an accident. Please, whenever you leave shore, designate a non-drinking operator. Doing so saves both money and, more importantly, lives.

We know that insurance can’t protect you from everything. It won’t keep your vessel out of a storm or prevent accidents. It can protect your finances, however, if an accident occurs. It’s no fun to pay a premium on something you hope you’ll never need, but trust us, it is important.