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Old 08-02-2018, 23:11   #1
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Building up sailing resume for insurance

My wife and I have a long-range (5 years or so) goal of sailing from our home in the SF Bay Area of CA down to Mexico, and then across to French Polynesia. We're starting from essentially zero sailing experience today, and want to spend our time in the intervening years building the experience and "sailing resume" that will help us be safe when we eventually undertake the cruise, and will help us get insurance in case the worst happens.

So, what steps can we take in a 5 year time frame to build up our sailing resume?
  • We're already working our way through the available ASA courses.
  • We have plenty of opportunity for day or weekend charters within SF bay. We'll undoubtedly do a lot of these to practice no matter what, but it's unclear if an insurance company would consider that.
  • What about longer charters? The closest charter ground to us is the Sea of Cortez.
  • Does years of ownership matter? We know we eventually want to sail a cruising catamaran, but they're uncommon and expensive on the west coast, plus slip prices are pretty crazy. All of that means we don't want to purchase our eventual boat earlier than we have to, but if it would help with the insurance maybe we should buy a small "starter" boat to build up accumulated years of boat ownership?
  • Given that we want to cross the Pacific, how can we gain enough blue water experience to satisfy an insurance company?
Any other tips?
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Old 09-02-2018, 04:29   #2
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Re: Building up sailing resume for insurance

I'm not an insurance expert, but I can just tell you what our experience was. We had never owned a boat before, and bought a 47' ketch. I grew up sailing with my dad, mostly on weekends in lakes and bays in boats up to 40'. My wife had no experience. Most insurance companies didn't want to touch us, but BoatUS (Geico) did.

It seems that unlike car insurance, boat insurance is very much limited to a specific use and area. Our insurance covered us down to the Bahamas and no more than 25 miles offshore. Beyond that, they wanted more offshore experience under our belts (which ironically can only be gained by going offshore). Courses help, but if you can crew on someone else's boat or do charter that helps more (I think they like real world experience better). In some cases they will also insure you for passages if you promise to hire a captain or crew.

My premium went down when I mentioned to Geico that I not only had sailing experience, but experience caring for and maintaining a boat as my dad was often out of the country and I would look after it. So owning any boat helps, as long as the jump isn't huge, for example going from a 15' sailing dinghy to a 40' catamaran!

Honestly I know people who have years upon years of hardcore offshore sailing experience, and still have trouble with the insurance companies. It seems to me they'll look for any reason to nitpick!
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Old 09-02-2018, 04:41   #3
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pirate Re: Building up sailing resume for insurance

Chartering is fine for maybe building some hours and boat handling experience.. however its really just day sailing.
What you need to try and get is some offshore sailing out of sight of land for a few days.. experience of night sailing and watch keeping.. get comfortable with those conditions.
I've known a few folk who've done the big farewell from Portuguese and Spanish marina's to head for the Canaries and onwards only to reappear a couple of weeks later, the boats lifted onto the hard and the 'For Sale' sign goes up.
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Old 09-02-2018, 06:22   #4
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Re: Building up sailing resume for insurance

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I've known a few folk who've done the big farewell from Portuguese and Spanish marina's to head for the Canaries and onwards only to reappear a couple of weeks later, the boats lifted onto the hard and the 'For Sale' sign goes up.
Yeah it's a pretty big jump from living in a marina to crossing the Atlantic!
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Old 09-02-2018, 06:33   #5
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Yeah it's a pretty big jump from living in a marina to crossing the Atlantic!
And from coast hopping from the UK down the Atlantic coast to a jump off point.
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Old 09-02-2018, 09:08   #6
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Re: Building up sailing resume for insurance

The insurance will work itself out over the next 5 years. Just do what you are planning.

I would add if you live in the Bay area RACE.

Crew in some PERF class that is not too hard core pressure but still going round the bouys on the weekends. Flying a chute all the better.

This will build the muscle memory you need to operate “automatically” when at sea on your own boat.

Chartering is good but little pressure. Doing what you don’t want to do when you don’t want to do it is what you’re goIng for by racing.

You have a great opportunity in your part of the world for this!

Enjoy!
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Old 09-02-2018, 09:11   #7
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Re: Building up sailing resume for insurance

As anyone knows who has done any offshore sailing, sailing coastwise is far more difficult than crossing an ocean. The voyaging community consists primarily of folks who're in their 50s, who've taken early retirement, sold their mid 30s boat that they sailed coastwise, and bought a mid 40s boat for live-aboard comfort.

That was the reality when we established our Jackline program years ago. We had a hard time convincing any US carrier to step up to the plate and insure those couples for their long-range, long-term cruising, but Markel finally did. They've been very successful so far.

For you, with 5 years to plan and prepare, that's a great advantage. Definitely buy a boat similar to what you want to move aboard, and within 10' or so of its size. Try to arrange a instructional charter with John & Amanda Neal.

Try to own the final boat for at least 2 years before taking off.

Our job is not to sell you an insurance policy, but to sell you to the underwriters. So, the more you can show, the better.
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Old 09-02-2018, 09:14   #8
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Re: Building up sailing resume for insurance

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As anyone knows who has done any offshore sailing, sailing coastwise is far more difficult than crossing an ocean. The voyaging community consists primarily of folks who're in their 50s, who've taken early retirement, sold their mid 30s boat that they sailed coastwise, and bought a mid 40s boat for live-aboard comfort.

That was the reality when we established our Jackline program years ago. We had a hard time convincing any US carrier to step up to the plate and insure those couples for their long-range, long-term cruising, but Markel finally did. They've been very successful so far.

For you, with 5 years to plan and prepare, that's a great advantage. Definitely buy a boat similar to what you want to move aboard, and within 10' or so of its size. Try to arrange a instructional charter with John & Amanda Neal.

Try to own the final boat for at least 2 years before taking off.

Our job is not to sell you an insurance policy, but to sell you to the underwriters. So, the more you can show, the better.
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Old 09-02-2018, 09:32   #9
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Re: Building up sailing resume for insurance

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The insurance will work itself out over the next 5 years. Just do what you are planning.

I would add if you live in the Bay area RACE.

Crew in some PERF class that is not too hard core pressure but still going round the bouys on the weekends. Flying a chute all the better.

This will build the muscle memory you need to operate “automatically” when at sea on your own boat.

Chartering is good but little pressure. Doing what you don’t want to do when you don’t want to do it is what you’re goIng for by racing.

You have a great opportunity in your part of the world for this!

Enjoy!
I've been told that I should be racing a few times, but the honest answer is that I haven't enjoyed it when I tried it, so it's going to be hard to push myself to do it frequently.
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Old 09-02-2018, 09:47   #10
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Re: Building up sailing resume for insurance

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Originally Posted by Al Golden View Post
As anyone knows who has done any offshore sailing, sailing coastwise is far more difficult than crossing an ocean. The voyaging community consists primarily of folks who're in their 50s, who've taken early retirement, sold their mid 30s boat that they sailed coastwise, and bought a mid 40s boat for live-aboard comfort.

That was the reality when we established our Jackline program years ago. We had a hard time convincing any US carrier to step up to the plate and insure those couples for their long-range, long-term cruising, but Markel finally did. They've been very successful so far.

For you, with 5 years to plan and prepare, that's a great advantage. Definitely buy a boat similar to what you want to move aboard, and within 10' or so of its size. Try to arrange a instructional charter with John & Amanda Neal.

Try to own the final boat for at least 2 years before taking off.

Our job is not to sell you an insurance policy, but to sell you to the underwriters. So, the more you can show, the better.
Thanks for the pointers, this is exactly the kind of info I was hoping for!

We're eventually planning to cruise in a low 40s catamaran (probably in the 41-43 range). In the near term, would you recommend getting a smaller cat (fairly expensive, but more comparable to what we want to cruise on) or getting a monohull (much cheaper) as a starter? Does the additional 2-3 years of boat ownership make a big difference for insurance?
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Old 09-02-2018, 10:30   #11
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Re: Building up sailing resume for insurance

You didn’t elaborate on your financial situation. I know a guy with zero sailing experience who bought a $500,000 cruising cat and sent his girlfriend, his kids (teens) and himself to Steve Colgate’s Sailing School, then after graduation, he hired a professional captain for an entire cruising year. They sailed throughout the Caribbean, through the Panama Cannel, to the Galapagos, the Marquesas, the Society Islands to Tahiti and up to Hawaii. With fat sailing resumes like that he and his family will likely have no insurance problems anywhere in the world. I know his captain if you’re interested, he operates out of Grenada but will meet you anywhere.

But if you are like most of us, and not that well healed, you’ll have to do it yourself. As for chartering, the charter companies will probably not take you without a professional mariner onboard, usually one on their own payroll.

Your five-year plan encompasses 1,825 days. If you sail one hour a day that’s nearly twice the sea time you would need for a USCG Master’s ticket, not that you need one or even want one, but insurance companies love a well-padded resume.

So here’s my advice: Race, Race, Race, Crew, Crew and Crew. Nearly all club racing skippers like me, who will never make the America’s Cup, are continually looking for new blood, experienced or not. Usually we have to put up with “not” but most will take on a greenhorn or two if they already have a cadre of experienced guys as well. Go to every yacht club and ask around, you’ll probably have more offers than you can handle. Document your sea time on the USCG form even if you never apply for the license.

ASA courses are fine but there is no substitute for experience.
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Old 09-02-2018, 10:39   #12
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Re: Building up sailing resume for insurance

Racing is like broccoli, might not like it but you know it’s good for you :-)

We had put a new set of sails on our 50’ cat including a code zero on a sprit. Long story short the loft had made a mistake on the tack (secured it with a little bit of shock cord) and it let go just outside of Port Everglades in a bit of a blow. Was a mess.

Foredeck Paul showed up and had that baby down and secured in seconds. Wife was wide eyed at the speed. Years of chutes up and down and packed and up and down and packed. Just can’t get that chartering.

That being said there are a million other details that racing brings out that may save your life or at least your vessel one day. In addition if you race you’ll challenge your liver and get it prepared for the rigors of full time cruising :-)
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Old 09-02-2018, 10:44   #13
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Re: Building up sailing resume for insurance

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I've been told that I should be racing a few times, but the honest answer is that I haven't enjoyed it when I tried it, so it's going to be hard to push myself to do it frequently.
Racing isn't for everyone. My brother loved it; it just made me nervous and frankly, I saw people taking what I thought were some pretty big chances at times. Sailing must be enjoyable, or why bother? Do the kind of sailing YOU love.
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Old 09-02-2018, 12:24   #14
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Re: Building up sailing resume for insurance

The Latitude 38 crew list has categories of interest, including cruising and casual day sailing. This should be your go to source if not interested in racing.

However, in your place I'd definitely buy some sort of boat for yourself. IMO it doesn't need to be a cat... most cat owners for years started out in monohulls, and that seemed to work ok. As others have said, the first thing is to get sea miles. The second thing is to be in command for as many of those miles as possible,for crewing and commanding are very different experiences. The third thing is to get experience in maintenance and repair of your own boat. I've seen more cruises die from boat issues than from sailing issues.

We all started somewhere, and with zero experience. Some of us become fulll time cruisers.

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Old 09-02-2018, 13:08   #15
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Re: Building up sailing resume for insurance

all good advice so far, but there's nothing like owning a boat to know what's it's like to cruise a boat.
buy a boat, something you can afford to keep in a slip or mooring in SF Bay. There is no way to know what it's like to own a boat until you do. The boat will teach you things you have no idea you need to learn.
Insurance is important but more important is the idea that you will enjoy, or at least not mind, taking care of a boat. you must handle your own water/electric/sewage/engine systems. I think it's fun but many people hate it.
you've probably heard the saying: Cruising is fixing stuff in exotic places.

Make sure YOU like it before you go. Buy a boat now.
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