Buying Bluewater Insurance - Sail Magazine

Buying Bluewater Insurance

Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
3
The birthplace of modern marine insurance: the inside of Edward Lloyd’s famous coffee house. By William Holland

The birthplace of modern marine insurance: the inside of Edward Lloyd’s famous coffee house. By William Holland

Marine insurance, of course, is how the whole concept of insurance first got started. Hedging against the potential loss of a vessel and its cargo is a financial game that dates back to the ancient Greeks and was institutionalized in its modern form in the 17th century in Edward Lloyd’s famous coffee house in London, where skippers and merchants gathered together to mull the perils of the sea while getting hopped up on caffeine. As such, marine insurance played an important role in the development of our global economy, but in the context of bluewater cruising it is another animal entirely.

After all, what is it exactly that an insurance company sells you? The answer, plain and simple, is fear. When you buy a policy what you’re doing is making a bet that your own vessel will sink, because you’re afraid it will. This may be a smart move when you need to protect a big commercial investment, but when you’re talking about a boat you sail with friends and family, it has to me always seemed inappropriate. Bad luck. Almost evil, frankly.

When I first went offshore in my old yawl, Crazy Horse, I looked into buying some bluewater insurance and the only quote I got was ludicrously high—$3,600 a year to cover a boat I’d bought for only $28,000. This was in the mid-1990s, back when I could live on my boat and cruise full-time for only $10,000 a year. I did just that for over two years without any insurance at all and earned enough not paying premiums to stay out cruising for many extra months.

Back in those days, however, no one ever asked if you had insurance. Now most marinas and boatyards require it and often insist on seeing proof of coverage. Some people I know solve this problem by simply forging insurance certificates, which isn’t hard to do. All you need is a computer and a printer. Others I’ve met buy common coastal policies, so they have an honest piece of paper to display, but then “self-insure” when they go offshore, which they neglect to mention to the foreign marinas and boatyards they visit.

When I first bought Lunacy 10 years ago I purchased a policy that cost $2,000 a year, this for a boat for which I’d paid $115,000, which seemed reasonable. When I took her south for the winter they wrote me an endorsement for the Caribbean, for which they charged an extra $1,300, and also pestered me with forms and spurious requirements regarding the passage there. Over the years these premiums steadily increased, though the pestering never decreased, and when my annual “fear payment” (as I think of it) topped $5,000 before any offshore endorsements were factored in, I knew it was time to go shopping.

I soon realized how badly I was being gouged. Friends with boats similar to mine were paying less than $2,000 a year for coastal coverage. But getting a new policy that would allow for a trip to the Caribbean wasn’t easy. As was the case with Crazy Horse, it seems Lunacy is too old and cheap to be of interest to many bluewater insurers.

For a while, I was thinking I’d have to become a forger myself. I told one broker all I really wanted was coastal coverage while in New England and the Caribbean, with exclusions for the passages back and forth. He told me no insurer would ever agree to that. Which seemed crazy to me. I started thinking maybe I should cancel my policy, sail down south, buy another policy in the Caribbean and then cancel that before sailing north again.

In the end, however, I found a fantastic policy from a small company, Seaworthy Insurance, for just $2,700 a year, including offshore and Caribbean coverage, with no hoops to jump through when making passages. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The only problem is my dream insurer just got bought by a much bigger one, Geico, and now I’m crossing my fingers hoping my fear-factor nightmare isn’t about to start all over again. 

SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane, sails his Tanton 39 on the Maine coast and down in the West Indies whenever he gets the chance. He is the author of The Modern Cruising Sailboat, published by International Marine, and is a contributing blogger at SAILfeed.com

July 2016

Related

180521-Lead2048x

Volvo Fleet Heads to Europe

After days of rain, calms and fog, the Volvo Ocean Race Race fleet enjoyed perfect sailing conditions for the start of Leg 9 in Newport, Rhode Island, on Sunday. It then promptly plunged back into yet more fog as it headed offshore toward the finish in Cardiff, Wales, a little ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comImpeller Practice Engine raw-water pump impellers don’t last forever. Even if they are not destroyed by running the engine dry following a blockage, they still deteriorate with the years. If you’ve never ...read more

Waves1(1)

Know how: Weather 101, Basics

OverviewThe first thing to know is that “Weather 101, Basics” is a science course. Its goal is to prepare boaters for a second course launching later this year called “Weather 202, Advanced.” Taken together, these classes are designed to teach boaters to become their own weather ...read more

05-Close-reaching

Light-Air Sailing

Some of the best times aboard a cruising boat are in light airs—those quiet, relaxed sunny days with gentle sailing that just wouldn’t be the same if you were motoring. However, many cruising yachts are not set up to truly fullfill their potential in these kinds of conditions.One ...read more

VOR-BoatYard

Volvo Ocean Race: the Boatyard

The Volvo Ocean Race stopovers are a chance for sailors to rest between grueling legs of the race and for fans to enjoy seeing their favorite boats in person. Behind the scenes of the festivities, however, Nick Bice and his team of expert riggers, boatbuilders, sailmakers and ...read more

20160711_Klampe_Alu_013

Nomen: Folding Cleats

Springtime for CleatsIt’s not every day you see a new take on the humble cleat. There are two problems with these essential items: lines tend to get snagged in them when you least want them to and they attract bare toes with painful accuracy. German company Nomen, maker of the ...read more