29 Tips To Get Insurance For Offshore Voyaging—Us and Our Boat

First off, thanks to all of you members who shared their offshore insurance buying experiences in the comments to my last article on the subject. Much of what follows is based on that invaluable real world knowledge and the rest is based on my experience and that of friends.

Three more points before we dig in:

  • All of the following is about getting insurance for ocean crossings. Coastal insurance is much easier to get and way less expensive, and therefore not relevant to this article, although many of the tips still apply.
  • I'm assuming we are shopping for full hull and rig insurance, not just liability cover, although I do have some thoughts on that option at the end.
  • If you have not yet read the first article, please do so now, otherwise this one will make a lot less sense to you.

Us

Let's start this with tips on things we can do to make ourselves better-looking risks to insurance underwriters and then move on to doing the same for our boats. Then in Part 2 I will wind this up with some negotiating tips.

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Matt

I’ve been hearing that some insurers now insist on seeing ownership experience, not just crew experience, when issuing coverage for larger boats. Someone who’s trying to insure a 45-footer as their first boat will, even if they have plenty of logged charter and crew experience, have a much harder time getting coverage than someone who’s owned a 35-footer for at least a couple of years and is stepping up to the 45′.
I suspect the pencil-pushers are starting to get wise that experience on deck, or as a skipper, does not necessarily imply the skills and mindset necessary to maintain and care for such a boat, which is something that only ownership experience or professional/trade training can bring.
That was certainly a factor, for us, in choosing our current C&C 35; she’s about as big as we could comfortably own given our prior experience, and the time spent owning and maintaining her should (we hope) be viewed favourably by the underwriters and bureaucrats whose job it will be to make our lives hell when we’re ready to go farther afield in something larger.

Robert Hellier

I can confirm this. Out of the 6 insurers I’ve contacted about our expedition sailboat, 4 have required information about sailing experience and 2 have required info on ownership experience

Javier Carrasco

Thanks for these interesting tips…. they will be really useful to try to get insurance for our under construction aluminum sailboat. We plan coastal navigation during the 1rst year around England to become familiar with the boat and and have a debugging period… so I hope the insurance will be easer to obtain for this 1rst period.
Concerning the monitoring boat systems, it will be indeed very useful to have your opinion and advice on this subject.
Thanks in advance

Bruce Bayne

John,

Speaking of the Sirens system, the link in the article goes to the members page and not Sirens.

Alan Bradley

That’s good news, John. I was just about to request more info on the Sirens system.
Thanks,
Alan

Ben Hollister

Sirens system review: yes please

Reed Erskine

One of the most informative articles I’ve ever read about the business of cruising yacht ownership in this or any other forum. My boat is turning twenty next year, and I am painfully aware that both my vessel and my body are at the threshold of old age, and need increasing levels of maintenance. Right now I’m in the Adriatic and in need of replacing my rod rigging. Any suggestions from this forum would be most welcome.

Ernest E Vogelsinger

Hi Reed, as you’re in the Adriatic you might try this company: http://sajla-com.hr/en/about-us – I got their contact from my surveyor. Didn’t do business with them myself yet, though.

Michael Lambert

Thanks John, I’ll be coming back to this I’m sure. Btw the sirens marine link goes to the list of recent articles.

William Lee Edwards

John,
I experienced two situations that you described above. When I stepped up from a Bristol 40 and purchased my 75 foot cold molded (wood and epoxy) schooner, the insurer said I would need to hire a licensed captain for the first year of ownership. I explained (and sent proof) that I had a USCG 100 Masters License and they signed me up without any problems. A few years later when the boat turned 25 years old my insurance company sent me a notice of non renewal. I never had a claim or any problems. Luckily, I was able to find someone else to insure me. For all boats that I have owned I have had to move them above the Florida/Georgia “hurricane” line between July 1 and November 1. Luckily I live in South Carolina, but this does affect my cruising schedule.
I look forward to your comments on the Sirens system.
Lee

Robert Strickland

Hi John,
We owned our previous boat 25 years and sailed it between Panama and Newfoundland during that time. The last 15 years , we were insured with Markel through IMIS and had a good relationship, although no claims. We never had to submit a survey, but did show photographic evidence of maintenance and submitted completed questionnaires when requested. We are taking ownership of a new boat now in France and were refused by Markel because of a Victron Lithium battery system onboard. After checking around, we found coverage through Topsail and Global Yacht Cover ( Great Lakes Insurance SE) which this year is covering us for Northern France, Great Britain and Norway, although it doesn’t look like we’ll get north of GB this year. The cost is a little less than .1% with deductables doubling north of 60 degrees. They seemed to respond positively to a good resume of experience and a Master100 ton CC license.
We plan to go off shore back to and through the Caribbean in a couple of years so hopefully we can stay with the same company with good experience.
I would definitely be interested in your experience with the Sirens system.
Thanks,
Dee Strickland

Harold Breuninger

John. While we are not crossing oceans, we purchased our 1990 Morgan cc 4 yrs ago. Insured through Gieco for usa east coast and bahamas. Geico is not renewing any policy issued through independent agents. They will now insure directly with customer, but , as I understand, only boats less than 30yrs old and under 40’. So, now we are attempting to get coverage again. So far one quote was $2000 more than last year with enormous deductibles. We have pulled mast and inspected all new standing rigging, sails, hoses etc. We are not sure what we are gonna do at this point. $4500 a year for $140000 in hull coverage coupled with huge deductibles, seems extremely expensive

John Cobb

Might try Russell Jamieson at 321-459-1471. His brokerage office is in Hollywood FL and he might be able to help you. Got what seems like a fairly reasonable policy with Progressive on a 25 year old Caliber 40 covering the East coast and Bahamas.

Alastair Currie

Good tip on the maintenance logging and maintenance details for the insurance renewal. A question on the difficulty insuring boats over 30 years old. Is this an absolute position from your enquiries or just in the very difficult space? The reason I ask, is I may have to sell my 1974 Rival 41C and buy newer if it is guaranteed that I can’t get insurance. I have ocean crossing experience as mate and skipper as well as being an RYA Yachtmaster Instructor, with Commercial Endorsement, boat is GRP and refitted but more can be done before ocean crossing. The boat age restriction is freaking me out, best laid plans of mice and men and all that.

Michael Benjamin

I was an early adopter of a Siren Marine system 10 years ago. Have used it from Northern Maine to Panama. Only positive things to say. Looking forward to reading about your experiences. And I was told that it was a factor in calculating my premium with Geico.

Alan Sexton

Hi John,
I wrote quite alot about my insurance experience in your prior post so will not repeat it here except to emphasize a couple of points that affect Kiwi’s obtaining insurance.
A NZ vessel departing NZ must have a Cat 1 certificate, the rules are set by Yachting NZ and are based upon the World Sailing safety rules with some local flavour and additional/alternative requirements for multihulls and motorboats. Can be downloaded from here
https://www.yachtingnz.org.nz/resources/yachting-new-zealand-safety-regulations-2021-24
and the safety inspector’s check list is here, a good list for anyone to reference
https://www.yachtingnz.org.nz/resources/ynz-safety-inspectors-checklist
To get insurance we must have a Cat 1 cert. There are a few local characters who have decided they do not like Cat 1 and have registered their boats offshore. I do not know if they are able to get insurance from a local provider
Apart from all the vessel integrity items you have listed, we have 2 others which insurers look for.
If the boat is to be connected to shore power then we must have an Electrical Safety Certificate per AS/NZS 3004.2. Boats built after 2008 and 2014 must also have their DC system compliant with the respective revisions of the standard
LPG Installations must have a Gas Certificate per AS/NZS 5601.2
Now it does get a bit tricky because neither standard is retrospective, so there are some interesting discussions as to what constitutes “safe” for those of us who have boats that are “grandfathered”.
These standards are sufficiently rigorous that European production imports need the complete gas system replacing and electrical system upgraded.
Good article by Mike Telleria from Nordhavn on standards here
https://www.passagemaker.com/technical/boatbuilding-standards-made-easy
I expect RCD compliance is essential for UK/European boats to obtain insurance

Robert Hellier

Hi John,

Your points #3 and #4 really suck, as we purchased a steel expedition sailboat last year that’s just turned 30 years. Ouch and double ouch!

Forget offshore, we’re having a hard enough time getting it insured at a decent price for just the Great Lakes and St Lawrence. Several insurers just said “No thanks” while the remaining doubled their normal premium. In other words, around $CAD 2,000 for a $100K replacement value and $2M liability.

I’m a natural documenter but with these ongoing insurance troubles, I’ve redoubled my efforts to record every stage of the various jobs in progress, as (I’m assuming) this will greatly assist my next surveyor and insurer to confirm the vessel’s integrity. While I’m at it I’m replacing anything that’s at all questionable. For example, while down in the bilges I found copper lines and fittings as part of the propane system so out it all came and being replaced by a single propane hose.

Another concern I have is the fact that I’m doing most of the work myself. I’m sure I’m not an oddity in this fact, especially among your readership that still subscribe to AAC’s “offshore for under $100K” mantra. I’ve heard that this is something many insurers will balk at. Is that true and what do you recommend as a strategy? I’m a marine engineer and have experience in doing said work on commercial vessels I’ve sailed in, but I haven’t approached the insurers yet to see if that will allay their fears of shoddy DIY.

Thanks for these very timely articles. I’m glued to them.

Marc Dacey

Contact Andrew Robinson of Skipper’s Plan in Toronto. His firm’s been insuring our now 33-year-old steel pilothouse cutter for the last 15 years for under $1,500/year. I submit fresh surveys, update them with RYA grades and additional sea miles and also document my work/fixes/improvements done by myself and others. For instance, all the hull nipples and the standpipe have been replaced with new SS versions and we’ve gone all Marelon ball cocks. We are insured to 150 NM off the Canadian coastline. After that, I’m in “liability only” territory, and Dolphin Insurance in Victoria offered to insure us on that basis for $990/year. I believe Skipper’s Plan has us covered for $150,000 with a $2000 deductible.

It helps if you’ve never made a claim, too, although it’s clear fewer and fewer insurers want this business at all.