You've struck an unknown object out at sea, maybe a container that fell from a ship. You made it safely back to port and submitted all the right notices: the Coast Guard, your insurance agent, and a shipyard to assess the damage.

Next come the questions. When will the insurance claims person contact me? Can I choose the repair yard? Can I start the repair before the insurance company sees the damage? Is this type of thing covered by my vessel insurance? Is a surveyor coming to see the damage? Do I have to hire my own surveyor? Should I call my lawyer? Will the insurer cancel my policy because of this claim?

To stop the questions, you need to get busy.

First, call your insurance agent. He or she should be able to answer most of your questions and be your front line claim advocate. A good insurance agent knows the local surveyors and can recommend which surveyor the insurance company should hire to oversee your claim.

The second question is whether you can start making repairs. Take good photos of the damage, and keep handy anything that's removed from your vessel. Be sure to document your every move as well as keep track of all of the time you and your crew spend working on the damage. This time will be reimbursed or will go directly toward your vessel's damage deductible. Make sure the repair yard has a written work order that outlines the tear down, damage assessment and repair including areas that might be damaged but can't be seen yet because they're hidden from view.

As for the claim process, it's your vessel so you can move things along as fast as you wish. There's always something that slows down the process, like parts being made or shipped by rail or truck from across the nation or ocean. But even then see if your repair yard can work on something else that got broken while they await the new parts.

So, will your policy be cancelled? Maybe, but it's not likely. Usually a non-at-fault claim (even if it's huge) won't trigger a cancellation.

A collection of stories from guest authors.