Having recently posted our planned winter itinerary we find ourselves contemplating changing it, due to the headaches and costs associated with insuring our plans. As a great lakes boater, we were spoiled with what we are learning now seem like low rates. In the grand scheme of things, the rates really aren’t low, its just that in Canada hurricane damages are a low risk and we have a big long layup period due to winter, so the rates reflect the amount a typical Canadian boat gets used and risk of weather related damages. Our current company allows us to add an additional premium for extending our season and travelling south of New York City, where we only have to pay the additional premium for the months that we are south. Unfortunately they only cover the caribbean between Florida and Grenada, which worked fine last winter but now rules out Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. They also limit us to 100 nm from shore which is too restrictive, but they do allow us to go 500nm for the Salty Dawg Rally. For an additional premium of course.
We have met a few cruisers who go without insurance, but to be honest I think they are nuts. I can understand not having damage coverage, depending on what your boat is worth relative to what you have, but the Protection and Indemnity premiums are so small that the potential costs of an environmental cleanup (say your diesel tank springs a leak and the bilge pump kicks on or you sink and the boat needs to be recovered) or damage to a big yacht if you somehow hit one (perhaps your fuel filter plugs while docking among some nice yachts). Anyway, with that said we have been shopping for full coverage, as a full loss is a bit more than we would prefer to stomach at this time.
We have obtained 4 quotes for insurance, 2 UK underwriters (Not Lloyds they reportedly have a bad reputation for paying claims) and 2 US underwriters, each with their pros and cons. The US underwriters wont cover Cuba (the United Nations long ago claiming that the Cuban Embargo is illegal, but this no doubt has shaped the culture we want see) and the UK underwriters are of course covered by UK law, so in the event of a claim dispute we would find ourselves in court on the other side of the pond. Price wise the quotes are reasonable and amount to about the same as our current policy (factoring in the plummeting CAD) if we pay the additional ‘southern navigation’ year round on our current policy (although we don’t because we are north of NYC). They all have better offshore coverage, with the US Markel Jackline policy being the best allowing us to follow any typical route covered in Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Routes, with just the two of us sailing. No distance from shore requirement, no 3rd crew member required. Can you say hello world possibilities?
Unfortunately, the survey from when we bought Altera 3 years ago is too old, and each company wants us to get a new one before they will extend coverage. Our current company doesn’t need one for 3 more years. So, if we want to go to Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao we need to pay to lift the boat, survey it and address the surveyors recommendations. Perhaps because this would be our first time through the process, I’m overly concerned where I shouldn’t be, but the last survey flagged items that complied with the European standards in place when the boat was built but not the north american ABYC standards (which in my opinion are inferior in the electrical/bonding departments to the European standards). Even the surveyor told me, ‘I wouldn’t change it and don’t expect you to, but I have to note it in the survey’. The other small items from our last survey I have gradually worked though and think I only have 1 remaining (and already have the part), so in all likelihood it would be a non-event.
While we hear the ABC islands are nice, each one only has 1 or 2 permitted anchorages or mooring fields so we would only be there for 3-4 weeks maximum anyway. So the dilemna is whether it is worth the cost and potential aggravation. One of our travel itineraries we are considering for next summer is to return north, tour Newfoundland and then up the St. Lawrence on our way home to the great lakes. If we do this our current insurance is the cheaper option. If we go beyond this, then a change is necessary and we may as well get the survey this fall and make the switch.
Now, I will admit Europe and an atlantic crossing are on my bucket list for some reason I don’t fully understand (at least the atlantic crossing part, and my better half points out that we could buy a boat there one day and do the downwind crossing instead). To further complicate issues, the Schengen visa limitations in the EU do not work well with cruising right now so as much as we’d like to tour Europe, the idea of maybe looking for a work visa for a year or two might be a more viable alternative (sorry Mom, really I’m not looking for ways to complicate my taxes).
So, if we don’t do Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, what will we do instead? Well, we are thinking of returning to the BVI’s in February for a month instead (anyone interested in coming for a week? We’d be happy to have you. Just take a look at charter rates, and you’ll see this one helluva deal if the BVIs interest you), then quickly return to Culebra, before heading to San Juan (we would tour the north shore of Puerto Rico this time) and then on to Cuba, possibly choosing the north shore instead of the south shore.