Buying Bluewater Insurance

Author:
Publish date:
Updated on
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

20190614_131026

Kiwi Spirit Takes Line Honors in Bermuda

Mark Riley’s Farr 63 Kiwi Spirit secured line honors yesterday in the Marion to Bermuda race, finishing off St. David’s Lighthouse at 0227 local time. Francis Seldorff’s Kinship, a Baltic 52, was second in the 40-boat fleet, crossing the line at around 0500. With 18-year-old ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com No cracked skulls please Modern boats with aft bathing ladders offer a big advantage when it comes to rescuing crew who have fallen overboard. Not all casualties are basket cases unable to help ...read more

01-Lead-show

France’s Annual Multihull Show

If a boat show could be described as intimate, the annual Salon International du Multicoque in La Grande Motte, on France’s Mediterranean coast, is it. Held in the latter part of April, the multihulls-only in-water show is a boon for builders, because the people who attend come ...read more

Furlex-Electric

Gear: Seldén’s Furlex Electric

Furl Power Seldén’s Furlex Electric offers an easy path into the world of sweat-free headsail furling. The compact unit can be retrofitted to an existing manual Furlex unit or installed as a replacement for whatever you’ve got now. Its DC-DC converter accepts your boat’s 12V or ...read more

11_DSC8423Tom-Zydler

Cruising: Nova Scotia

There’s a unique cruising ground that combines access to urban locations with easy escapes to wilderness and nature. Its native people may be the friendliest on the east coast of North America. Its coastline runs 250 nautical miles in a straight line, but that should be ...read more

01-LEAD-shutterstock_727849660

Boat Monitoring System

Boat Oversight In a world where you can track your friends’ locations in real time and stream yourself live on the internet, it should come as no surprise that you can also keep a close eye on your boat from the comfort of home. In fact, not only is there a plethora of options ...read more