Thursday, May 8, 2014

Insurance Woes

Pic origin
Don't make the same mistakes we did!

If I can save one person the drama we've gone through, it will have been worth it...  Getting the right coverage for your needs is not as easy as it would seem if you're Cruising.  This I KNOW!

We left home last year with a policy through Foremost Insurance.  Bruce found the policy through our agent G.G. Nunez in Corpus Christi.  She really seemed to know her business and could answer our boating insurance questions.  If she didn't know the answer, she would find out!  At least that's what we thought.

When it got close to time to renew, I knew that we would have some decisions to make.  Would Foremost have a policy that would cover us while we lived full time on the boat and travelled outside the US? If so, would it cover us in the "zone" during storm season?  And if not, would we need to have our boat surveyed in order to obtain a policy with a new carrier who would?

Being the meticulous person that I am, we started the process of securing adequate insurance back in February, while we had the boat hauled in St. Petersburg for some repairs.  If we needed a survey, it would be convenient to have it done while the boat was already out of the water so that we wouldn't have to pay for a second haul out.  Smart, right?

After over a week of increasingly desperate unanswered phone calls to our agent, we splashed the boat...  Only to find out from Foremost... after being told we would not need a survey because we already had a Foremost policy... that OOPS!  Yes, we WILL need a survey because it's a different line of business within the company.

Fastforward through the drama, phone calls, tears, threats and moments of clarity... Foremost decides we do NOT need a survey because the original survey they have on file is (just) less than two years old and they will let us slide.  Whew!  Thank goodness for that.  We're covered now for the Bahamas and Mexico.

It was a great policy.  Very cheap and the perfect coverage area.  And we will be covered even if we ARE in the storm zone during the season.  Just at a higher deductible... we can stay as long as we dare!

And then we received the actual policy... dun dun dun dun....  Who actually really reads this stuff after all?  Well that would be ME.  What!?  We can only be in the Bahamas for 30 DAYS!!!  Nobody goes to the expense of getting to the Bahamas on a sailboat to be there for only 30 days!

More phone calls to Foremost, I get Josh, a very nice man who feels my pain.  He sounds like he knows what he's talking about, but "I'm sorry, the bottom line is that this is a new line of business for us, and although I feel that it is an oversight on our part... there is no way we can change the wording of the policy in time to help you".  Oh, but they WILL use this as a training example for their phone bank people and their agents!  ...  GREAT!  We ditched our Bahamas plans in despair...

Fast forward again to mid April.  I decide to take a stab at it once again in hopes of reviving our lifeless Bahamas plans...  I got some advice from the Women Who Sail Facebook group.  These are women who are actually out here living this life and have the same insurance needs as we do.  If THEY can't help me, nobody can!

So I followed a few leads and finally ended up with Casey Heer of Casey Insurance Group.  Casey has been so good in getting us through this.  He knows his business and has made it possible for us to get the right policy for us.

The sticking points were frightening.  First of all... coverage for "Liveaboards".  Now I know that the term is controversial in our world.  There are people who say that Cruisers are not Liveaboards.  Semantics aside... if an insurance company is going to find a way to wiggle out of paying a claim because we cruise our boat (while we live on it) vs live aboard our boat... I'm going with whatever term they want to use.

Foremost TOLD me on multiple occasions that they would cover us while we Live Aboard our boat and travel... because we still have a home address.  I'm thinking that our intentions never to return to that home and the fact that the utilities are no longer in our name, would give them a bit of wiggle room should there be a big claim.  So when I ran this story by Casey, he TOLD me that Foremost DOES NOT insure Liveaboards.  He went further than telling me... he produced an email forwarded to me from a Foremost underwriter stating definitively that Foremost does NOT insure Liveaboards.

When I brought this to Josh's attention at Foremost, he said "well, it would probably have been OK for this year, but they probably wouldn't have renewed"...  And THIS conversation is why we are receiving a FULL refund of our premium back to March 6th from Foremost without an argument...

What will you need to be insured as a Cruiser?

You will need to find a policy that will cover you as a Liveaboard, in the area you wish to Cruise.  For us, it was the US Coastal and offshore Waters, and Bahamas.  Next year if we wish to cruise the Caribbean, we can add that to our policy for a couple hundred bucks!  Additionally, when we travel outside of the storm "box", we can drop the coverage for that part of the world and decrease our premium prorated by about $1,200 per year.  How COOL is that!?

The two forerunners for us were Seaworthy and Pantaenius.  We ended up with Pantaenius because Seaworthy jacked us around on our hull value.  We asked for an amount that was higher than our two year old survey and purchase price placed us.  Seaworthy came back and said if we get a NEW survey (to the tune of $550 because they agreed to take our recent haul out photos and receipt into consideration) to support the additional value, they would increase it.

So, we got a survey, it did INDEED value our boat at the higher amount due to increased health in the boating market AND the fact that we had put so much into our boat that was not there when we bought her... but Seaworthy STILL refused to increase our hull value!  Buggers!  So basically the fact that we got a good deal in our purchase price... we're penalized.  They only wanted to insure us for the PURCHASE price and not the actual current VALUE!

So, Pantaenius it is!  In the end, the coverage was better with them than with Seaworthy anyway!  The Storm "box" is larger and the Season (dates you need to be out of the box) are more lenient.

But the coverage is only as good as their claims payment record you might say... Well, I can say that my contacts through Women Who Sail, have provided me with confidence that should we ever need to use the coverage... it should not be a problem...  So, I can happily say, that our Insurance Woes have come to an end.  We have a policy that I understand and am confident in, and it hasn't cost us as much as you would think.

If you're heading out to Cruise, I can highly recommend that you call Casey.  He will get it done with diligence.  And tell him Dos Libras sent you.  It will pay him back in some small way for his endless patience in getting us through the ordeal.

Update:  Oh, and now the kicker!  We have decided (after all of this) NOT to go to the Bahamas this season after all....


  1. We too have Pantaenius. They are a darn good company and really understand the needs for cruiser/liveaboards and world travelers. Several people on the Amel group use them and some have had to file claims. The good news is they are also there when you need them most. Sleep easy at night - you made a wise choice.

    We plan to keep Cream Puff in the zone this year and they worked with us to formulate an H Plan while ate the same time keeping our premium down.


    Mark and Cindy
    s/v Cream Puff

  2. Thanks for the great info! Hopefully we'll be needing this by the end of the year. It's scary to think of what those policies say ... that most folks don't read! Now we know to check with Pantaenius ,,,

  3. I'm glad to hear that your insurance woes quickly came to an end. There are so many insurance companies that can offer you services you can afford and find to be the most reliable. It's hard to come across them, so I'm glad you found exactly what you've always needed. Thanks for sharing that! I wish you all the best! :)

    Modesto Culbertson @ D&Z Law Group