When Injury Strikes

Going through the medical kit.

Well it’s June again, so it’s time for us to pull out our medical kit, discard the out of date items and order up their replacements—more expense! Happily we’ve never had to use anything from the kit yet, but we know it’s only a matter of time before we do, so even though we complain about shelling out once again, we know it makes sense.

How do we know that? Bitter experience. Those of you who follow Attainable Adventure will know that we were planning to cross the Atlantic last autumn, but may also be aware that we didn’t make it in the end. What happened? We craned out to antifoul and change anodes, only to find that a long running fault with our centreboard finally needed sorting out once and for all. As time was tight and no assistance was available, we threw ourselves into sorting this out only for yours truly to suffer an injury that required a return to the UK, an operation and months of convalescence. And so our plan went out of the window (as plans are inclined to do), and we’re still here.

Look After Yourselves

But it could have been worse – it might have happened somewhere far more remote, and where leaving the boat to fend for herself might have been far more problematical. Regular readers will know that all of us at AAC take health matters very seriously – John has endorsed the training he and Phyllis underwent, whilst we have commented on what to carry. Lou recently went on an excellent wilderness medical training course in the UK that impressed her. But there’s only so much you can do yourself.

Which is why many people carry additional travel or health insurance, although some policies combine the two, or elements thereof. Pantaenius offer a popular health insurance policy targeted at long term liveaboard crews, whilst others such as World Nomads have adventure type policies that cover adventure sports including offshore cruising. Naturally it pays to examine this type of policy very carefully indeed, to ensure it could meet your needs, not least because there are often differences in what is available to clients from different countries.

It’s also true that if your needs are less long-term than ours, you may find some coverage available via conventional travel insurance, or even via your VISA credit card if you use it for your travel.

National health support

For those of us from the European Union, we are lucky to have the backstop of our national health services, and there is a reciprocal arrangement between most countries that allows citizens from one country to reclaim medical costs incurred in another participating country. But repatriation costs and the like are not included, so if you need (or prefer) to get home, you’ll need to factor that in. It’s also the case that in the current difficult financial climate, some levels of service are becoming less available in some of the participating countries, as part of cost-cutting regimes. In my case, the standard remedial operation available within our National Health Service was inadequate for my future requirements, so I had to go private and pay for a more sophisticated and stronger long-term repair.

For US citizens it’s different again, related to the level of health care insurance that is carried—and it’s not cheap.

Is it worth it?

All in all, I’d estimate the overall cost of my injury at over $10,000 in direct costs (flights, hotels, consultations, surgery and support, including medicines). Suitable health insurance would cost something like $1,500 per year, so the premiums taken over the last four years would be less than the cost of the one serious injury I’ve had to pay for, so it may have paid me to carry health insurance.

So now, nearly recovered, and with a clean slate, maybe it’s time to look at those policies again. Does lightning strike in the same place twice? We’re just as committed to carrying on, and are slowly gearing ourselves up to think of the next legs, after the disappointment of this last winter. We still believe that self defense is the best method, but at the same time we now know that disaster can strike far closer to home, and (at the very least) can upset your plans.

What do you think – have you been in the same situation? Do you have any experience of long-term health care insurance for cruising, and have you had to use it? Do please leave a comment.

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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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