Going Without Insurance For Offshore Cruising?

Accidents can happen, wherever you are

The legendary Bill Tilman wasn’t afraid of many things. Having survived the slaughter in the trenches of WWI, fighting with Tito’s partisans in WWII, establishing the route by which Everest was finally conquered and then late in life sailing a succession of elderly Bristol Channel pilot cutters to climb remote peaks in the polar regions, he proved that again and again. His life of adventure was a model of simplicity, frugality and self-sufficiency – ‘every herring should hang by its own tail’ was a favourite dictum. He only admitted to one fear when planning his latter day voyages to the ends of the earth, the short trip down the Lymington river through the moorings to the open seas and freedom, and claimed to have insured his boats for that stretch alone.

Few of us could emulate his exploits, and not just because Bill Tilman possessed more courage in his little finger than most of us possess in our entire bodies, but would we agree with his views of  the need for insurance? Sailing our craft anywhere these days almost certainly demands insurance, at third party level at the very least. It is now very difficult to navigate in European waters without insurance, and one of the first things that officials will want to inspect on arrival in a new port is the certificate of insurance.

To Insure Or Not?

On our voyage so far we’ve met a few crews traveling without insurance. Generally they have been in rugged steel boats, or elderly wooden craft, either too hard up to insure them, or they espouse the philosophy that self-preservation is more important, pointing to belt and braces rigging and heavy ground tackle with multiple anchors.

Most have flown under the wire by anchoring everywhere, and avoiding any harbour where papers are likely to be inspected. ‘Sailing without insurance is a frame of mind’ as one German skipper put it to me.

But Not For Us

Whilst it’s hard not to admire such nerve, and we heartily agree with the need to be ready for anything, sailing Pèlerin without insurance was never going to be an option for us.

She is our home and most of everything we possess, and although the insurance premiums are hefty they are definitely a price worth paying, not just for our peace of mind concerning our investment, but also in terms of our responsibility to others in the event of an accident.

Less Practical

It’s also true that it is becoming harder to sail a yacht to some of the most remote places without insurance or permits. Entering the national parks in Greenland or the Antarctic now demands substantial insurance as part of a permit, not just to cover the cost of rescue, but also to cover any environmental damage caused.

Failure to obtain the relevant permit and insurance for such places leaves the crew open to prosecution in their home country, and may even result in more draconian legislation or restrictions on yachts wishing to visit in the future.

It’s A Changed World

What Bill Tilman would have made of such pathetic concerns is debatable, but equally what he would have made of his old country in these times perhaps even more so.

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Colin, European Correspondent here at AAC, is a deeply experienced offshore sailor who holds a Yachtmaster licence, and a gifted photographer and talented writer who has added a whole new dimension to Attainable Adventure Cruising. In addition, since Colin and Louise are from England and had their OVNI 435, Pèlerin built in France, they bring a European perspective to our site. You can read more about Colin and Louise and their business at their website.

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