Marine Insurance - Why Should you Insure your Cruising Sailboat and which Marine Insurance Should you Choose?

These days we have insurance for pretty much every part of our lives, it protects our homes, our health, our vacations and of course our possessions. When we bought our first boat, Empress, one of the biggest things on our to-do list was to find a marine and yacht insurance provider to protect the long-term investment we had made in our sailing lifestyle - our 1971 Finnrose 37 sailing yacht.

We looked into many marine insurance providers, both in the USA and abroad, but we eventually settled on Edward William Marine Insurance, based in the United Kingdom and Europe. 

Marine Insurance - Why Should you Insure your Cruising Sailboat and which Marine Insurance Should you Choose?

After spending almost 8 months refitting and upgrading our sailboat in Marathon, Florida Keys in 2017, we were ready to hire a certified marine surveyor to carry out a detailed inspection and valuation of the boat, which a marine insurance company could then use to create an insurance policy for that exact value. We honestly would have preferred to have an insurance policy on our sailboat right from the beginning, but we needed to finish all of the refit work first in order to get the best valuation possible. 

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Something that puts off many sailboat owners from taking out insurance policies is that for many older or lower value boats, the annual cost of a marine insurance policy can feel like a false economy compared to the overall value of the boat. Obviously this was a major consideration for us as well, however after almost losing our sailboat to Hurricane Irma in September 2017, we realized that we were doing more than protecting our boat and our home, we were protecting our ability to start again if the worst should happen. You only have to look at the huge amount of fund raising campaigns online for people who lost their boat due to hurricane damage to get a clear idea of how many boat owners decided that the cost of marine insurance ‘wasn’t justifiable.

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The other benefit of insuring your boat, yacht or any kind of vessel, is that marine insurance covers damage to any third parties, like other boats. For example, should your boat come loose from its anchor or mooring in strong winds and collide with another boat or private property, your marine insurance policy will pay for any damages caused to the other persons property, up to the value agreed in the policy. Our insurance policy with Edward William covers third party damages up to the value of $300,000 USD. We have also found that most marinas require proof that you have third party coverage of at least $100,000 USD, with some being much higher than that. Having experienced first hand how much replacement boat parts and labor cost, we sleep much better at night knowing we have our boat insurance policy in place. 

Of course, that’s not to say we rely on insurance rather than taking practical precautions against accidents or damage. We always inspect our boat to make sure that it is in the best condition possible and we use the best anchoring equipment and techniques possible to ensure that our boat stays where we put it!

As an example, we anchor our 37 foot, 17,000 lb sailboat using a 35lb Mantus Anchor, full chain rode (5/16 G4 HT), a Mantus Swivel and a shock absorbing Mantus Anchor Bridle/snubber. (We also have a 35lb CQR secondary anchor at the bow, with 50 feet chain and 100 feet nylon rode, plus a 65lb Mantus storm anchor dismantled in a locker.) Once the anchor is firmly set, we dive the anchor to check its setting and stay with the boat on ‘anchor watch’ until we have fully observed our swing pattern in relation to any other nearby boats. Until we have completed this process, the length of which depends on conditions and the bottom we are anchored in, we don’t leave the boat. Some conditions are much easier and quicker to ensure a solid anchor setting than others!

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While searching for the right marine insurer for our sailboat, we had many factors to consider, first of which was cost. When requesting quotes from US-based insurance companies in the wake of Hurricane Irma, it became very clear that all of these companies covered a vast number of boats within the US portion of the ‘hurricane belt’ and in many parts of the Caribbean. A chance conversation with some good friends led us to look at marine insurance companies in Europe, namely Edward William. Mark and Charlotte were insured with them during Hurricane Irma, which caused substantial damage to their monohull sailboat. Considering that most of the boats insured by them were more likely to be European and based on Marks and Charlottes first-hand testimony of how quickly and easily their damage claim was dealt with, we decided to get a quote from them and start the process of taking out an insurance policy. 

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The process was incredibly simple - Commission an insurance valuation survey from a certified marine surveyor, send it to Edward William for review, fill out and sign two forms detailing the level of coverage, make the payment for the agreed annual premium, then receive formal confirmation of coverage and our Marine Insurance Certificate. That’s it, we are fully insured for the valuation amount stated by the marine surveyor, plus up to $300,000 USD in potential third party damages! The whole process was completed within a week and only a small handful of emails. It could have been settled and completed in a day or two if not for the time we took choosing  a surveyor for the valuation. 

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We pay around $1700 USD annually for our full coverage policy, which is obviously determined by the valuation of the vessel, as well as our age, level of experience and training, plus our stated cruising areas. This is actually extremely reasonable due to the fact that we required a marine insurance policy that would cover us for damages and/or total loss due to hurricane/named storm damage, with what is known as ‘The Hurricane Belt’ during ‘Hurricane Season.’ Cruising within this area during the months when tropical storms and hurricanes occur always adds a substantial amount to the cost of a marine insurance policy. Having experienced a very close call in a location where our sailboat was one of only 60 surviving vessels out of 300+ moored in the same harbor, then having spent the next three months watching FEMA, FWC and various salvage cleanup contractors removing hundreds of wrecks, we have a very good understanding of why!

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We have now been sailing the Caribbean for almost a year, enjoying every moment whilst feeling secure in the knowledge that such an important part of our life and lifestyle is protected! 

You can contact Edward William here to get a quotation. You can also mention that S/V Empress or Jonathan Howe referred you and just like what happened to us, we got a great deal being referred by our sailing friends.

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