I’m just back from holidays and, while away, I spent some time driving on the highways across three states. With a car full of kids, driving was dominated by the sound of Play School and High School Musical DVDs playing on rotation from the back seat in a vain attempt to keep them occupied, plus the endless stop-start of coastal highway driving. But throughout the trip, I was struck by just how many boats, caravans and other trailers were being dragged along behind a wide variety of vehicles.

Then, last week, I stuck my head into the Club Marine Recovery Centre in Melbourne’s outer suburbs. This is where we repair or refit a large number of boats each year that are recovered after having been stolen or damaged, and on which we have paid out a total loss claim.

The Recovery Centre is one of the unique aspects of Club Marine’s business, and allows us to reduce our claims costs (and, thereby, your insurance premiums) by repairing boats, rather than selling them for scrap value at salvage. Once repaired, the boats are wholesaled into our network of supporting boat dealers, to be on-sold to retail buyers.

What struck me on my visit was the large number of boats ­– everything from tinnies to cruisers, ski boats to jet skis ­– that have been damaged this summer in towing accidents.

It’s a sad sight seeing someone’s much-loved family boat after it has come off the trailer in a highway accident and gone skidding down the asphalt on its side. Typically, the damage speaks volumes about the structural integrity of most Australian-made hulls, in that the hull is often still intact, but badly grazed or, as our technicians say, “gravel-rashed” and in need of some fairly superficial fibreglass or welding work. The main casualties are usually anything that sits above the top deck, such as windshields, bimini frames, rod holders, engine cowlings and the like, or stern-drive legs and outboard engines.

Another consistent source of work for our claims team is the damage commonly caused in trailer vs kerb, bollard, boom gate, petrol bowser, garden shed, parked car or other stationary object incidents. Some people just don’t seem to understand that when towing, especially in tight turns, the line their trailer takes will be tighter than that of the tow vehicle itself.

And I’m speaking here from personal experience, having given myself a mighty fright backing a trailer into what I thought was a boat ramp one day last year. It turned out to be a slipway with a sheer drop of some five metres to the water, and probably another 10 below it. Luckily, I stopped just in time to avoid what could have been a very serious incident.

I guess my message here is pretty simple.

We have around 120,000 customers on our books, who tow their boat behind a vehicle. We know that they are, on average, around 30 per cent more likely to be involved in an accident on the road when they are towing their boat than when they are not. And in summer, there are more caravans, campers, and trailers carrying boats, jet skis, motor bikes, golf carts etc than at any other time of the year. So please take care. And be sure to have a good read of Mark Robinson’s excellent Water Wise article on this very topic, Towing the line, beginning on P131.

Coming up over the next few weeks, we see the start of the 2008 season of major boating events, with boat shows in Melbourne’s Docklands, SA’s Hindmarsh Island, Perth and Auckland, and the world’s largest ski race, the Club Marine Southern 80, on the Murray River, all taking place in February-March. As always, the Club Marine team will be out in force in support of all these events and you can read more about them in coming pages, or on our website: www.clubmarine.com.au.

Please feel free to come say hello if you find yourself at the Club Marine stand at these events, or drop me a line at: ceo@clubmarine.com.au.

Safe boating,

Mark Bradley
Publisher and CEO
Club Marine Limited

E-mail: ceo@clubmarine.com.au