Getting Insurance For Offshore Voyaging—Understanding The Problem

Getting insurance for offshore passages is one of the biggest challenges facing many of you working to get out there cruising.

And, if your experience is anything like mine, even those of you who have been insured for years are finding real voyaging insurance ever more difficult and expensive to renew, and ever more precarious to retain.

I wish I could tell you that I had some magic solution to the problem, but I don't. However I think I can make this problem easier to solve by:

  • Sharing our own insurance experience over the nearly 30 years we were out there, much of it cruising high-risk places short-handed.
  • Providing information on how marine insurance works and the current state of the market.
  • Sharing practical tips on how to secure offshore insurance and then maintain a good relationship with the covering company.
  • Acting as a repository in the comments for the experiences of, and tips from, the many AAC Members who are out there now or have been lately.

Yes, this is going to be long, and parts of it a bit boring, but it will also be worth your time if you really want to get out there.

And, of course, the alternative option to searching out and paying for full hull and rig insurance is to either go without any insurance at all or with liability only, but Colin has already explored that, See Further Reading.

Let's start with our experience:

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Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
Nice article, well presented.
I will work up the details of my insurance, but another consideration that we bumped into (and it was a surprise in the small print) was that our prior insurance demanded crew (3 people) for an offshore passage. This caused us to change companies, but it took awhile to find one that would allow Ginger and I to passage alone.
I think there is a lot to be said for buying liability alone and putting the amount boat insurance would cost every year into an acct. (that would earn some $$ sitting there) for repair/emergencies etc.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Marc Dacey

This is essentially our tactic, although to be honest we have a fair deal of privilege even within the cruising fraternity to be able to afford a self-financed contigency of this sort. We’ve met some significantly younger cruisers than ourselves in the last year and while it’s heartening to see people with their natural hair colour achieving their cruising dreams, it is the “peripheral costs” such as insurance that are making that dream harder to achieve.

Karl Coplan

We continue to have a good experience getting offshore coverage in the US from the Gowrie Group with their Jackline Policy underwritten by Markel.

https://gowrie.com/pdfs/JacklineInsuranceProgram-2021NewsUpdates.pdf

One comment mentioned getting liability coverage only – are there any insurers that write liability only policies?

Karl Coplan

we have done two RT transatlantics with this policy, and plan to take advantage of their global coverage for a circumnavigation starting next year. Our premium (with a $5k deductible) is about 3% or 4% of declared value. Northern hurricane season exclusion starts July 1. Two crew is allowed, Check out the link.

Matt

4% of declared value…. ouch indeed. Add one more point and you’re on par with the cost to insure a trip from French Guiana to geostationary orbit!

Our April Marine policy is 2.45% of declared value with a $1000 deductible. It is hugely dominated by the premium for the $2m liability component, as Maverick V is a relatively cheap boat. It’s my understanding that the premium-as-a-percentage-of-value tends to taper off with more expensive boats, as the liability component of a $300k boat’s policy is not significantly riskier than that of a $30k boat’s policy, but the hull-and-rig component could potentially have to pay out 10x more.

We have limits of 40°N to 52°N and 100 miles offshore, along with a Nov. 30 – Apr 1 winter layup requirement. Our broker hinted that April Marine may be willing to extend the geographic area, but we haven’t asked them to do so yet and I don’t know if they would offer true offshore coverage. Unlike many underwriters, they were willing to cover the newly-acquired boat while she was on the hard having her survey punchlist items dealt with.

Allan Gray

Hi

We used to be insured with IMIS from Maryland who were taken over by the Gowrie Group a couple of years ago. We live in Canada but we could use the address of our marina in Plattsburgh NY for billing purposes. However once Gowrie took over Markell would not accept an address only application, we had to either own property or show proof of US residency. The Jackline policy looks very good for those who can secure it but we felt it wasn’t worth the risk playing with the rules south of the border.

BTW very timely article as we plan on heading south this fall.

Thanks
Allan

Kevin Millett

Not if you happen to have lithium batteries. We were denied on that alone.

Chris Jacques

Following this one closely. With reference to the lithium comment… we were insured with the Jackline policy for two years on our last boat. During our present lengthy refit with a new (more valuable) vessel we’re limited to coastal cruising and just wanted to get some initial coverage. So when working out a new policy with the broker (Gowrie) we were told: 1. that our new LiFePo setup would not be allowed in any case. 2. they would only insure to the boat price we paid (pre-refit), regardless of the appraisal/ survey value, which varies by a very large amount. Arguing this aspect didn’t help, and we just accepted a sub-par policy for now. Looking forward to shopping again next year. Thanks for hosting this informative topic!

Stein Varjord

Hi John,

I’ve been hearing gradually more stories about companies denying insurance by hearing the word “lithium”, with zero interest for what chemistry or build type type they are. My impression is that they are on a knee jerk type reaction pattern, with very little or no thinking or knowledge behind it.

Since the same companies have absolutely no qualms about phones, tablets, laptops and rechargeable tools being loaded into the boat, while they don’t accept a LiFePo4 (LFP) type house bank with lots of safety systems integrated, it proves there is no actual logic or statistics behind their reaction.

The actual provable facts is that the batteries in household electronics and tools are at least 10 times as likely to have a critical fault and that such a fault in an LFP house bank is almost impossible to turn into a fire. The normal worst case is quite a lot of heat and (poisonous) smoke, but no actual fire. The far more normal critical reaction is just swelling of the cells and then it stops. Expensive, but not dangerous. The LiCo, LiMn and other batteries in household electronics will, if they do indeed have a critical failure, normally go into a white hot blazing fire that will ignite anything within reach.

Even though this type of event can indeed happen (not with LFP), it is of course extremely rare. If not, these battery types would not have been so much used. After having educating myself on this topic for several years, I have absolutely no worries about having these batteries aboard. It’s smart, of course, to treat them with respect and care. Perhaps it’s even good to have a specific place for them, but we shouldn’t be too paranoid, I think….

However, it would be great if it was possible to get some awareness into the insurance companies….

Hillary Horn

In my business we have begun to delve deeply into group insurance and insurance captives as a way to reduce costs and avoid getting locked out a market. Basically a group of businesses coming together to manage the float, the claims, share risk for smaller claims and buy reinsurance for larger claims. I wonder if that might be possible with like minded sailors. Think of what you have paid in premiums over the years and your claim history.

Matt

Absolutely. This is a pretty clear case of large players in a large market failing to understand a small specialized market segment. Even though the risk of offshore voyaging is statistically well understood, and amenable to insurance and reinsurance, we are lacking a global player with a sufficient concentration of expertise to make the product viable.

The obvious solution is to create that concentration of expertise, build a firm around it, and put an insurance product on the market that fills this niche.

Ted Simper

We have had very good service from Vera Yoing of Western Financial Group in Victoria. So far, touch wood, our coverage has been reasonably priced and allows Pam and I to do extensive offshore voyaging without additional crew.

Pierre Laplante

Same here with an additional issue.
Canadian flagged boat and resident. In Europe since 2010.
Covered by Pantaenius 2011 to 2019 when declined renewal due to licensing/flag issue.
Found last minute very good full coverage deal with Shomacker , Hamburg.
This last January, again declined renewal due to licensing/flag issue.
Thought post brexit UK brokers would have more freedom but all brokers seem to have routed our quest to same underwriters.
The point here is that in every attempt we were decline as ‘boat too old and too low value ‘ !
You would think that there would be a risk assessment considering the track record, skipper experience, boat model and survey, etc.
And possibly get a quote at the very least , even if unrealistically priced !
Not even.
Now on a Greek 3rd Party Liability only, quite cheap, limited to Greek waters only.
We now consider the market value of our boat as our deductible :/

Would still go for full coverage would it become available again .

Many thanks for bringing up this topic . We don’t feel alone anymore 😉

Pierre
S/Y Sibylline
Jeanneau Sunfizz DL 1983

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
As said earlier, we switched ins because we wished to sail with no crew: just the 2 of us. At that time IMIS (International Marine Insurance Services) with Al Golden (a cruiser himself) was the go-to ins co for many SSCA members and we felt that they would do right by any claims if only to forestall bad press that would end up in SSCA members laps. We had no claims in 20+ years and the few claims I know of were handled well by IMIS.
Well, the company evolved, I do not know if a Golden is still involved, and it is now owned by the Gowrie Group.
We now have a policy that does not include offshore passage making, but when we did, almost all passage making was just the 2 of us and there were few limits. The times we needed riders were when we were going somewhere unusual: Middle East countries of Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt needed a rider. Above 62 degrees latitude in Norway and the trip back to North America via Iceland and Greenland.
These riders were easy for us to obtain (write out a not-unreasonably expensive check) and I do not remember whether our good track record for claims played a part, but I suspect it did.
I never considered IMIS ins to be a bargain and almost pulled the plug to go to Pantaneous who gave quotes~~20% less expensive, but never was comfortable with the stability of Pantaneous and their policies.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

David McKay

John,
Thank you for a good first cut on a challenging subject. I do not have a background in marine insurance but was an aviation underwriter for close to forty years. The aviation market in fact grew out of the marine market and they remain remarkably similar today. I believe the market drivers to be the same for both with some variation, and in many cases the risk capital for each comes from several of the same sources. Here a few points of clarification to consider:

1.    Insurance is a cyclical business.

The insurance cycle is primarily driven by capacity and profitability. Despite global warming, I would suggest that there were likely few insurance complaints between 2009 and 2018. That period represented one of the deepest and most protracted “soft” markets in decades. Insurance capacity was plentiful, and those who had it wanted it deployed and were looking for a return. Insurance does not have a unique economic response to over-supply; underwriting terms loosen, and rates and premiums become more and more competitive. Eventually, though, rates get so low that they no longer support profitability. Add a catastrophe or two (witness Irma 2017), and insurers withdraw to focus on more profitable lines of insurance. As profitability returns to the market through proper underwriting and sustainable pricing, capacity returns and the cycle begins anew.

To your point on global warming, some hard-won learning may influence the look and shape of the eventual recovery, however, like better managing aggregated exposure in catastrophe locations, such as the Caribbean, for example.

 
2.    Underwriting discipline vs. investment returns

The defining characteristic of one insurers’ profitability over another is generally not investment returns, but rather the company’s commitment to underwriting discipline. One an underwriter has complete control over, the other, not so much. As a friend in the business once told me, “Hope is not a good business plan.”
Underwriting profitability is measured in the business by an insurer’s Combined Ratio which is its Loss Ratio plus its Expense Ratio. Insurer’s can be more profitable, even in a lousy investment environment, by doing a better job of underwriting and pricing risks and reducing its underwriting expense.

3.    Regulation

In the United States the McCarren-Furguson Act of 1945 gives the states the authority to regulate the “business of insurance” without interference from federal regulation. Consequently, an “admitted” insurer, regardless of where they do business from, are necessarily licensed in each state where they conduct (insurance) business.
So likely it is less about where the insurer corporately resides and more likely about where and how the insurer in question decides to be licensed to sell insurance. This, as you suggest, is a much bigger subject than I represent here but the crux is that it’ is probably not a country thing.

4.    Managing General Agencies (MGAs) and Joint Underwriting Authorities (JUAs)

MGAs and JUA’s are similar, but not the same. I would suspect that Pantaenius America Ltd. was a Joint Underwriting Authority and not a broker. Basically, a JUA underwrites risks, manages claims, buys reinsurance, and functions like an actual insurance company, but the risks it assumes are on behalf of a group of otherwise unrelated insurance companies. A JUA may represent a specialty segment of the insurance market that the individual insurance companies would like to participate in, but not spend the time or resources to build-out on their own. It looks like the three insurance companies who provided risk capital to Pantaenius America Ltd. were:
 Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (Germany)               60%
 Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company           30%
 Markel American Insurance Company                               10%

Likely, the reason you though Pantaenius placed you with Berkshire Hathaway was that it may have been listed as the licensed “issuing” company for the policy, but all three members were still exposed to your risk to the extent they participated in Pantaenius; 60%, 30%, and 10%.

5.    Brokers and Agents – A distinction with a difference

Brokers are licensed insurance professionals who represent the insured, not the insurer. Brokers have access to the entire insurance marketplace and trade with, on behalf of their clients, those markets they have relationships with.
Agents, on the other hand, are generally employees of and only represent a singular insurance company – think Allstate.

6.    Quota-Share Insurance Placements and Lead Underwriters

Unlike a JUA, where a management company manages the underwriting on behalf of the (member) insurance companies, a licensed broker may place an individual risk with various insurance companies (or syndicates) by a quota-share of the total. Not all markets have the scope or capability to produce policy wording or handle claims, so the broker chooses one that does to act as the underwriting or claims “lead” to handle those things on behalf of the 100% placement. The following markets on the placement generally agree to follow the lead’s terms and support its claims decisions. Brokers may also create (quota-share) “schemes” (a British term that always seemed to me to only confirm how retail customers think all insurance is transacted) with a selection of underwriters to place a group of homogeneous risks. Such schemes of insurance generally do have an underwatering and claims lead and customer participation often relies upon a devise such as membership, but access is open to the broader broker community on behalf of their individual clients. I would suspect that Pantaenious America Ltd. was neither a broker nor an insurance scheme created by a broker, but instead a JUA or the like.

7.    A Good Broker

An underwriter generally commits itself to the first submitting broker and reports to other brokers who contact them after the initial contact that they are “blocked”. To do otherwise would be to ruin relationships that the business depends on to function. Ultimately, it is the insured’s decision on what broker they wish to represent them. Markets require a formal “broker of record” letter if they wish to make a change to make that intention clear. It may happen accidentally, but in the main, underwriters do not change their terms, even with new information, for the newly appointed broker. To do otherwise would be unfair, rightly or wrongly, to the original submitting broker.  Your point is a good one though – do some research to find the best broker fit the first time, understanding that once a market commits to terms, it most likely will take a policy year to undo.

Hope some of these are helpful clarifications and thanks again.

Cheers,
Dave

Marc Dacey

Very helpful, indeed, in that it covers off the somewhat opaque relationships and risk-sharing in the insurance industry and clarifies who is your “friend” in this transaction, which is important for those buying this product to understand. This is top-of-mind as I just switched policies for a currently distant rental property we own after an unreasonable 40% jump in cost. Like the more wide-ranging policies offshore cruisers seek, it’s a small market without a lot of choice to insure a house in which the owners have never lived, but in which many of their possessions are stored.

Steven Haver

Hi John-

We were with Markel through Gowrie Group for a number of years, but dropped that coverage in 2020 due their coverage restrictions in Grenada, where we chose to stay during Covid. We had to pay a rider for Grenada, plus have the boat hauled and strapped down. This made for a very expensive hurricane season living on land!

We switched to Netherlands Grenada, who I believe is both the broker and underwriter. We pay a 2% annual premium for full coverage, plus personal effects, dinghy, etc.; it is based on agreed value.

We have worldwide coverage with no navigation or crew restrictions (no chartering), and the 2% deductible doubles for a named storm. When we were getting quotes last year, Anjou in Jolly Harbour has a similar policy and price point. USA flagged vessel. I would be happy to send you the policy documents.

We’ll be shopping again this fall, so very much appreciate the in-depth coverage of the subject.

Steve Haver
S/V SoulShine
St. George’s, Grenada

Rodney Morris

Hi John, great article and lots of interesting comments. As per Ted Simpers comments, I too have had tremendous service from Vera Young at Western Financial in Victoria BC. I met her on a chance walk in to their offices in 2014 just before buying Oh! my Leopard 40 Catamaran. The service has been excellent ever since. Premium this season was 2.5% of agreed hull value for East Coast USA and Bahamas. Included is a charter rider so I could run skippered “experience the cruising lifestyle charters”, 50 % of which are open ocean passages; plus extended periods of solo offshore sailing ( deductible doubles when solo). The big one is the 20% deductible for named/ numbered windstorm damage…needless to say Oh! is north of Cape Hatteras June 1-Dec. 1 each year.

From what I have learned from other owners and competing quotes, my coverage is great- especially WRT solo coverage. So far Oh! and I have done 5 significant solos 600 -1800 nmi., mostly from Caribbean back to the USA but also a trans-Atlantic 3 years ago. So it has been well used.

One note re-solo coverage. Vera explained that the risk that most concerned the underwriters was my age. I was 61 when it was first granted. Their concern was exposure to possible health emergencies while at sea. What helped her convince the underwriters was that she and I had met in person each year over the previous 3 years and she could personally convey her confidence in my apparent health. The point is – get to know your broker and try hard to meet them in person. Also, keep your broker informed throughout the year regarding conducting your sailing adventures and conduct within the limits of the policy terms – overtime that relationship can yield huge benefits
I am looking forward to Part 2!
Cheers
Rod Morris
SV Oh!
http://www.cloudstocoral.com

Rodney Morris

HI, The policy indicates it is Global Yacht Cover effected through Alwen Hough Johnson Limited on behalf of ERGO Versicherung AG. Also, a side note to the solo coverage; I was in Bermuda thinking about the passage to the Azores and asked what the premium was for solo insurance – she indicated she doubted she could get it. So I left without insurance. Four days later while communicating via IridiumGo! she was surprised to learn I had left without coverage. Two days after that she informed me she had obtained coverage, the only change was a doubling of the deductible – no additional premium was required but I was required to have a AIS transponder operating, which I had – now that is service! The remainder of the voyage was covered and I have not had any issues getting solo insurance with Global Yacht Cover since.

By the way as a comparison, 4 out of 5 other quotes I have obtained over the past years have all required at least 4 crew (including myself), all with prior offshore experience and their sailing resume’s submitted for the underwriters approval before they would grant offshore coverage. That just doesn’t work for me. Too many crew and far to much hassle to deal with.
Cheers

Alan Sexton

Hi John,
Here is some perspective from NZ.
I insure through Baileys who one of the best known brokers in NZ for marine insurance – Neil Bailey is an experienced yachtie. They have placed my yacht’s insurance with Vero(an Australian insurer) over the last few years.
In preparation for my 2019 Sth Pacific cruise I asked Bailey’s to arrange offshore insurance. Coverage on top of my coastal policy comprised:
top up premium of ~1% insured value
$17k excess
Boat builder’s out of water inspection
Rig inspection
seasonal coverage only, departing early May, back in NZ by mid Nov
Minimum 3 crew for passages to/from NZ, with sailing CV’s to be submitted for review. Interestingly this did not apply to interisland passages, I sailed from Vanuatu to New Cal single handed and had prior confirmation coverage was maintained
On top of the above, being a NZ vessel we have to obtain a Cat 1 safety certificate as a prerequisite to depart.
Since then the local market has tightened up significantly. Club Marine, an Australian group (not sure who their underwriter is) has exited the NZ market. I have seen my premium and excess for my coastal cover bumped due to the boat being over 30 yrs old and value changed from agreed to market value (unless I get a formal valuation and pay an additional premium). Bailey’s have further advised that, while existing policies will be honoured, Vero is not writing any new policies for boats over 30yrs old. It all comes back to the companies not making any profit, in part due to their own negligence of not doing proper due diligence on what they are insuring – been quite a few claims in the past on grossly over valued boats.
We can still get offshore cover but it is becoming much tougher.
Also I understand that the big change is that Lloyds are no longer underwriting pleasure boat insurance.
NZ boats seem to have a bit of a stigma in the international market, unsure why. A friend bought a yacht in Spain 2 yrs ago to sail back to NZ. Had a great deal of difficulty getting coverage, he said as soon as he said NZ registered vessels most companies did not want to know. He did eventually obtain cover but it was a real mission

cheers
Alan

Alan Sexton

Hi John,
I came across this column by Neil Bailey, it’s a year old but still very pertinent.
https://www.sailsouthpacific.com/news/insurance-update-the-new-norm/
Re your closing comments, in general it is the getting back to NZ that is typically more problematic. Leaving you wait for the right weather scenario and go as fast as you can to get north, eg the group of yachts that left NZ for Fiji last Tuesday did. The Youtubing Wynn’s are experiencing the challenges of the passage to NZ right now, see
https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Curiosity
(I would not want to be out in the current conditions in their cat with all its maintenance issues)
As for “bad reputation for losses”, although we have of course had our losses from time to time, the most recent being the tragic loss of Essence in 2019, I think you will find the actual numbers are no worse than say for Atlantic crossings.
cheers
Alan

Murray Fitzgerald

Alan mentioned Club Marine – owned by Alianz who are the underwriters. We use Club Marine and are very happy with them. Had a claim about 12 years ago with no problems however they may have recovered their costs. We are insured for the total boat – i.e. hull & rigging, tender etc and solo sailing to 250nm off shore. They required my experience, quals. etc plus a survey at the time of purchase. Cost is 0.94% of agreed value. I have discussed my planned NZ cruise with them and there will be additional costs if I want cover for the ditch but I am already covered when within NZ waters. Sounds like I should be happy.

Wilson Fitt

Hi John

Thanks for taking on an important and difficult topic.

Back in 1999 when we were finishing construction of our boat here in Nova Scotia and planning a trip south, I enquired about insurance through a local broker. I think I could hear the laughter fifty kilometers away. “You have never built a boat or sailed offshore before, yet you want us to insure a wooden boat that you just finished for a trip to the Caribbean!!!”

We ended up taking our chances, went without, and with care and a lot of luck did not damage ourselves, our boat or anyone else’s.

On arrival back home we arranged coverage through the same local broker underwritten by Royal Sun Alliance that covers roughly from New York to Cape Bauld and a modest distance offshore.

A few years later when I headed translatlantic singlehanded, I decided that the risks were mostly near the rocky bits at the edges and did not seek insurance while at sea. Pantaneous seemed very willing to offer insurance for the three years we were in Scotland and Ireland. No damage done and no claims made so, apart from cost, it was a painless experience. local coverage was resumed when we got home.

In 2020 we were planning to head across again and found that Pantaneous was uninterested. I received a quote from Dolphin Insurance at a premium of $3,075 for $150,000 hull and equipment coverage, $1M liability, $2,500 deductible. This comes to 2% according to my calculator. The underwriter was ERGO Versicherung AG. Again, this did not include losses at sea but provided coverage for coastal Nova Scotia, Ireland, UK, Norway to 60 north, Baltic, France and points in between.

That voyage was cancelled by Covid so we are still sailing home waters and planning a trip to Newfoundland this summer, reasonably content in the knowledge that most people would give their eye teeth to be able to do what we can.

Rob Ramsey

Great discussion John, thanks. I am a little puzzled though. I would have thought the risky bits are near the hard parts, not so much the open ocean. And yet, I get insurance for Europe till 10 miles out of the coast for som 0.6% of agreed value – dirt cheap, so I gather. Going to the UK (from The Netherlands) the most risky part are the UK banks, well within the 10 NM range. The middle part is easy (busy, but easy) and a collision with a tanker while sailing would not fall on my insurer.

Guess I’m asking: why not cover coastal en do oceanic passages without insurance? Not much risk there …

Brian Russell

We got our 44′ alloy sloop insured through Gowrie/ Markel.Unlimited offshore between Bergen and Falklands latitudes, 2 handed okay, named storm exclusion 7/1-11/15 between 10˙N and 31˙ N, however boat is still covered for other incidents in this time and area, just not named storms. Agreed Value, looks like 1.5% premium, 3% deductible except named storms higher. Glad to have it, seems very reasonable to us.

Mike Evans

We have had some luck getting quotes for our 2006 Najad 405 to cross from Newfoundland to the Azores and UK/EU. Most required that we replace the standing rigging which is original to the boat. One broker is willing to exclude cover on the Selden mast and rig, we plan to replace the standing rig in Sweden. Another we found would cover us once we arrived in the UK, no Azores or crossing cover. Today we’re sitting her in NL waiting for updated quotes to come from the brokers, we think we’ll go either with no crossing insurance or no rig cover. They seem to be our best options at the moment. Both of these brokers have quoted $C which is nice too.

Terence Thatcher

For our 2016-2017 trip to Central America and home to Oregon through Hawaii, we got a Jackline Policy, agreed value, using broker International Marine Insurance, underwritten by Markel American Insurance. When we decided to go to Polynesia, they agreed to that, as I recall, without a price increase. Hull Insurance was 3.3% of agreed value, 10% deductible, with value based on the required survey. No personal liability, since I have a sizeable liability policy from another firm for all risks. Tropical storms exclusion in certain latitudes and dates, altho curiously, not if you are in Hawaii. Exclusion for sailing below 50 degrees south and above 61 degrees north and near the east horn of
Africa. Many countries excluded (eg. Nicaragua, Cuba, Philippine, several in west Africa), but I got the impression one could get coverage in some of those places on request and for some money.No solo sailing; at least two persons aboard. $500,000 coverage for environmental damage, which is only half of my current BoatUS coverage for US and Canada cruising. IMIS was easy to deal with and helpful. I think many members of Seven Seas Cruising Club use their services.

Wim Vandenbossche

In response to your e-mail requesting input.

  1. Insured with Panteanius UK – underwriters are a consortiom of German underwriters.
  2. Premium is 1.25% of insured value. Though I did opt for various additional policies (travel, legal, health) which are extra.
  3. Full rig insurance
  4. The policy is for an agreed/fixed value. I did have to provide a surveyor valuation report in evidence as the boat’s 44 years old.
  5. Cruising area suits my needs at the moment (North Sea, North Atlantice, Norwegian and Baltic Sea). This can be altered by prior arrangement as and when required.
  6. They inquired about qualifications/experience and what I could submit seemed to satisfy them (Retired naval officer, RYA YM, 25+ years as a boat owner).
  7. Pantaenius were the only company I could find that did not place restrictions on singlehanded sailing. As 90% of my sailing is singlehanded this was the deciding factor for me. Other brokers I contacted were able to come up with cheaper quotes but placed an 18-24 hour limit on singlehanded passages, which would have severly restricted my sailing.
Wim Vandenbossche

Hi John,
Apologies for the lateness of my reply – I’ve been away.
North Atlantic to 28W.

Ernest Godshalk

John, this is a timely topic. I have been considering a similar discussion at The CCA but perhaps I should simply refer members to Attainable Adventure?

I have heard that GEICO is non-renewing clients that come to them via brokers but not those who go directly to GEICO.

The idea of an insurance “club” is interesting although I agree with your sense that the market may be too small. A good friend is chair of a marine insurance “club” – I will explore the idea. There may be a more practical way to accomplish the same thing without setting up a new “club”, e.g. by helping a broker build a dominant position in the yacht market?

My coverage is:
Agent: Marsh
Underwriter: Chubb/Ace
Price: 0.7% ins value (Agreed Value) + $281 for $500K liability (I have a separate umbrella policy)
Deductible: 2% – windstorm deductible “Not Applicable”, $250 for electronics-only loss
Nav limits: coastwise Atlantic from St. John’s NB to Bahamas, exc not south of Georgia 1 July-1 Nov
Layup 1 Nov – 1 May

I had to have a survey before coverage last year. Rig is <10 years old.

I understand that I may extend the nav limit to include Newfoundland but I will need to provide a sailing resume for one experienced crew in addition to me.

I formerly insured via Pantaenius which was otherwise fine until 2018 but they wouldn’t cover St. Petersburg, Russia so I switched to Global Yacht Cover/ERGO via Topsail which was also fine but, when my boat returned to the US they couldn’t cover here.

Dan Perrott

A useful article, I have a better understanding than before on how the game works.

Currently we don’t have true offshore insurance since we are in the Caribbean but maybe this is still helpful.
Our insurance was arranged through offshore risk management. It is with London Marine, their name on the policy.
Underwriters are: Selecta insurance and reinsurance company (Carribbean)
Cost is 3.7% hull value. (Agreed)
Covers Caribbean and we must be out of the box to be covered by a named storm in hurricane season.
Single handing possible with an extra add on. No more than 250 miles offshore. Although I think this can also be modified changed if required.

We started with pantanius UK, who then decided our boat was too cheap, then Topsail, who 12 months later decided the same.
Too cheap was I think about sub £90k.
We are well under this.
The UK brokers we tried first couldn’t find us anything and we were close to going liability only.

Andre Langevin

Disclaimer: Canadian boat and canadian captain. Others are lucky with boat insurance (for the moment)

Great article in line with my knowledge (i worked many years in insurances companies) and with my experience trying to get boat insurance in the last 30 years. But it was easy and reasonable up to a few years ago. As John said everything crumbled 2 years ago..but especially for Canadians. Not enough boating population and the brokers can live with 99% of the people keeping their boat in marina.

Up to now our boat has been insured for local waters for about .5% of the agreed value. All Canadians waters up to NY, USA and 150 nm of coast.

From September 2020 to March 2021 in preparation for ocean navigation going to Antilles i contacted nearly all brokers on the planet to try to get insurance for the voyage later this autumn and staying in the Antilles for the winter. The only one responding was Skipper Plans in Ontario where I could get a policy with Aviva for 15000 $CAD (3% of agreed value) but requirement for 3 persons aboard. Dolphin declined also but offered us a 2 M$ liability only (500 k$ in US) for about 991 $CAD.

Finally i got covered with Edward Williams capable of going to Bermuda and Antilles up to 500 nm from coast and farther if we wish. Single handed supported, deductible going up if named stormed, a no sue clause that force negotiation if there is a claim etc… About 1% of the agreed value of the boat. But i added the Dolphin liability, better two than one. I can lose the boat, but losing all my earnings is another thing.

ONLY CONCERN is that EdwardWilliams is underwritten by ION and these are Costa Rica insurers. I live in Canada and barely knows all the commercial laws of my own country, less the Costa Rica commercial laws. So if there is a problem we are stuck. This seems though a serious company that insures airplanes and boats and other high risk activity.

But we are in 2021 and i don’t see the market getting better it will only get worse for years to come so i have to get used to this.

David Savage

You are right to be concerned about Edward Williams. A quick google will find many less than confidence inspiring stories. They do market in the uk but are not registered with the UK financial conduct Authority which is a legal requirement to sell financial products in the uk.

John Cobb

There is an article over at Cruising World https://www.cruisingworld.com/story/how-to/marine-insurance-in-2021/ that paints a slightly more optimistic view. FWIW…

Fabian Fernandez

HI John and AAC members,
I am a Malaysian and my vessel is Malaysian flagged. but for some reason all these companies you mentioned , incl Pantaenneus do not insure Malaysian boats. Not sure why, but whatever reasoning sounds stupid….to say the least like there is no offices here, asking me for a UK address etc
I am planning to start circumnavigating, yes .. from what I hear Malaysians cant sail, hence no insurance. HAHAHAHA
i would love to hear from others and how they over come this.
my email is moc.liamg@21ynitsedlarolf
Appreciate any assistance.
My boat is currently insured by a local insurance company but doubt they would do large oceans!
have spoken to edward Williams and they appear able to.

Feedback and comments are welcome.

Ralph Keitel

Hi John,

Thanks for this very helpful article. After reading this, and several other similar articles, I’ve now come to conclusion that, as a new cruiser (with limited offshore experience and having never owned my own boat) I may as well give up on the idea of obtaining hull insurance for the boat that I plan to buy next year as I’ll never be able to meet the requirements (esp. as crew is just me+1). So instead of spending $300K for boat, I’ll downsize to $150K and keep the rest as reserve in case first one ends up on the rocks…

Which brings me to the question: what is the alternative here? I read a lot about only obtaining liability insurance. When I spoke to Geico and Allstate (both of which agree to underwrite but only coastal cruising policy, i.e. not offshore) they said they don’t do liability-only. I gather this is not representative, i.e. others do?

And secondly: IF I can obtain liability-only insurance, what does that mean for me in terms of limitations i.e. what I can do/where I can go? I understand liability insurance is must have for most, or all, marinas as well as some (or all?) foreign countries I would wish to visit. Or is hull insurance required for either of these? Any other limitations when sailing with liability insurance only?

Thanks, Ralph

Marc Dacey

In my research, I have found to date that “liability-only” is not restrictive to most locales, as the typically $2 million in coverage will cover a lot of diesel spillage and hull hoisting should the worst case occur.

Of course, in high latitudes,even that may be harder to obtain.

But it does mean for liveaboards a total loss of home and possessions and suggests that such cruisers would be more cautious about what they bring aboard if they cannot afford to lose it. This makes cruising a less egalitarian pursuit if it starts with the assumption that you have to have a spare boat’s worth of cash around to cross an ocean. Most of the inspirational sailors of my acquaintance have been far from rich.

Lawrence Green

Hi John,
We crossed the Pacific in 2017 the premium was approximately 1.5% of hull value (agreed value) with a deductible of 2% of hull value. The broker was Novamar in Sarasota FL, They currently list 14 firms as underwriters, however I believe in the past they were using a Berkshire Hathaway underwriter. They were able to accommodate a need to increase the liability coverage to $4,000,000 in order to meet New Zealand requirements.

“Permission is hereby granted for navigation in Pacific waters including the waters of the South Pacific
Islands including Australia, and New Zealand. The insured boat must remain between 10 degrees
north latitude and 50 degrees South Latitude and between 135 degrees West Longitude and 130
degrees East Longitude at all times. It is warranted the insured boat must remain between 25 degrees
South Latitude and 50 degrees South Latitude or between 10 degrees north latitude and 10 degrees
south latitude from 15 November to 1 April, while between 180 degrees Longitude and 130 degrees
East Longitude” m

The bad news was they could not meet the Australian requirements of $10 million AUD (about $7 million US) so we ended up shopping like crazy people in June of 2019. Many things were learned, the most significant of which is many companies are limited in the cover they can write based on the flag of the vessel (US) and the passport of the owners (also US)

The folks at Topsail AU were the most helpful, referring us the their British office for help. Topsail in London is now our broker and the underwriter is a German company through a Lloyds syndicate. In 2020 our premium was 1.4% of agreed value hull cover and the deductible was 2% of the hull cover. The nav limits were Australian waters, including Tasmania (650 miles south of Sydney) The deductible is doubled for either a lightning strike or rig failure, and is 20% of the claim for damage related to a cyclone. A significant incentive to avoid such storms.

Neither of the described policies had any crew requirements, the current policy does require a bilge pump capable of 25 imperial gallons per minute to be installed and functioning.

Finally, I agree whole heartedly with your comments about dealing with brokers and not pissing them off. In my experience I have been offered either a 1% or 2% deductible and have always gone for the higher number. I beleive that does a couple of things that help, it actually lowers the risk to the underwriter and tells all involved they are not going to be nickeled and dimed by claims for ever mishap. My view is this sort of insurance is to protect against the big things, and I will protect against the small things. Incidentally, this is a very timely topic, my wife, Charlene is admin on a foreign cruisers page in Australia, and literally dozens of people with no claims are getting non renewal notices.

Randy C Tonkin

Years ago my wife and I anticipated that insurance was going to be an expensive unavoidable obstacle and we set about talking to brokers and trying to figure out how to position ourselves to be more easily insured. We pursued off-shore and transoceanic experience and we assembled maritime credentials and certificates of pertinent training. I would be curious to learn what more would ease the risk concern with actuaries. In the boating world, we tend to think that experience counts for almost everything, and yet experienced people can still exhibit poor decision-making and make dumb mistakes.

This year we are commissioning a new Boreal 44 (The last of the 44s actually) . We shopped with many different recommended brokers, some of which are mentioned in this article, but found ourselves mostly getting jerked around, ignored, or denied. Finally we were able to engage a Global Yacht Cover policy (Alwen Hough Johnson Limited which is a Lloyd’s Broker) through Topsail in the UK. They have provided coverage for vessels similar to ours. This is hull, rig and $1M liability for a US flagged vessel, coming in for around 1.4% of agreed value. The coverage includes Europe to Western Mexico excluding Venezuela, which meets our needs.

Happily, GYC did not impart burdensome restrictions on crew number, qualification or experience, which I choose to understand that we have met their expectations in this regard. There is a single-handed clause which allows for one of us to operate solo for 24 of a given 36 hour period. Similar to Lawrence Green’s experience, there was the weird 25 GPM bilge pump requirement, doubling of the deductible for lightning strikes and 10% of agreed value for all damage arising from named or numbered windstorms.

Pursuant to the discussion in this article, we will look to bumping up both the liability coverage and the deductible in our future policy shopping.

Hopefully this information is helpful for others;)

Randy

Chuck Batson

Moments ago spoke with Gowrie Group and they will not even offer liability-only coverage unless the vessel surveys to a value of at least $100K, which mine will not. This was a complete shock to me, that a valuation limit might apply to liability-only! This is quite a predicament, because as you all know many places require liability coverage.

Any other tips on obtaining liability-only insurance? I read the comments, but only one gave specific information about liability-only (Dolphin) which I’m now exploring. If I can’t get liability-only that is going to be a real problem. 🙁

Jeffrey Pernick

Hi John,

I have an attractive proposal from Global Yacht Cover. I’m not smart enough to read the wording a figure out shortcomings.

I see in the 2022 wording that rigging is not covered if racing and this is acceptable to me.

What other types of exclusions should worry me?

Dick Stevenson

Hi Jeffrey,
Way back, it was a very bored moment when I looked at my policy details which had just arrived in the mail (not then in any way a habit) and saw that the insurance precluded coverage for Ginger and I to do offshore passages on our own (unsure now what their definition was, perhaps overnights of some now forgotten duration). Since we were planning just that, we scrambled for a new carrier.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick Stevenson

Woops, Pardon. Repeating myself it seems. D

John Lubimir

John-
Want to make your other subscribers aware of our coverage. I have a US flagged boat (1996 Able Apogee 58) lying Cowes on the Isle of Wight and which has an approved cruising area of UK, Ireland and coasts of France, Spain and Portugal. (It is on the hard for 6 mos./ yr.)
Policy Form:
Ded. 5% of stated value (US$ 850,000)
P& I Liab: US$500,000 ( (I also carry a separate $5MM personal umbrella policy)
No crew reqmts (its just my wife and myself); single-handed cover avail for addit premium; rig is covered; coverage is replacement cost, not depreciated value; tender limit is US$2,500; Personal Property limit $5,000;
mast is carbon fiber (we have had prior claims).

I do have over 20,000nm offshore, including nearly 5,000nm single-handed, which may help the pricing.

Underwriter is ION, based in Costa Rica ($200MM surplus), placed thru London Marine Ins Services. They are effectively an MGA and have the pen. Will write UK and EU boats. Boats over 30 years old may have additional underwriting reqmts (survey, etc.)

Premium is .95% of stated value ($1MM or $2MM liab limits will of course be more). I may need such limits this summer in EU.

Agent is Don Spink @ Bluewater Insurance in Jupiter, FL
(561) 743-3442. He has been great, despite our prior claims history.

Hope this helps some of your other subscribers.

John Lubimir
Apogee 58
s/v Patriot