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March 2008

Pro-Active Insurance

A few months into our very first cruise, Larry and I were offered a chance to deliver a boat from La Paz in Mexico, to Long Beach, California. The money for that job was enough to let us keep on cruising for another six months – besides it would let us get up to a chandlery and buy another anchor we needed for Seraffyn. Right then we had to decide, who owns whom. Our decision affected the rest of our cruising life. We decided to do everything we possibly could to make sure “our baby” would be safe, then head off and do things away from the boat.  During more than four decades of voyaging, we have left Seraffyn and later Taleisin in 17 different countries, for periods ranging from a week to six months.  The two most important things we do are, spend the time to get to know the local area so we can choose the safest position for the boat. Then hire someone to look after her, someone with good recommendations from local folks, someone we’d carefully vetted who had the means to do something before things could go wrong. We do this in preference to normal insurance that only works after something goes wrong, and then only if the insurance company can’t find a way to wiggle out of paying. We call it prevention instead of cure. (Interesting aside, we figure the money we saved by eschewing formal boat insurance has paid for a few spare anchors-pro-active insurance in and of themselves – and also bought us our small, but tidy waterfront cottage here in New Zealand.)

In La Paz that time, we set a mooring in a well-protected bay ten miles north of La Paz and hired the man who lived and fished on the island protecting it. He rowed out each day and lit the anchor lamp. We came back to find Victor had washed the boat down almost daily, even slept on board, in the cockpit, on a few nights when it was particularly stormy. We left Victor a small deposit for his work, the rest we paid him when we returned. I think this was added incentive because the boat was in perfect and very clean condition when we returned.

In Ventura where we left Taleisin this winter, we again made sure she had a caretaker. And boy did it pay off. The man-made harbor suffered from some very strong surges. The cleats on Taleisin’s dock failed (we had re-bolted all of them before we left but according to Phillip Morgan, the surge was running back and forth at over seven knots with waves to two feet high) so the actual dock structure began to give out. At 3 AM Phillip was able to get Taleisin’s mooring lines around secure pilings. When things calmed down, he arranged to move Taleisin to a new secure dock where the surge was far less damaging. Thanks to very pro-active Phil!

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