Mid-Life Cruising Sabbatical

Questions and Answers
Part 7

At one time some of our Q&A pages had email address with the intent being that you could contact these people directly.  However, there are email harvesters that scan web pages for email address so we have deleted the ones that were here.


In one of your mid-life articles you mentioned that one should not rely on plotting waypoints from charts when cruising in the Caribbean. How does one get accurate waypoints (other than saving them when you hit your destination)? Are there published lists for accurate waypoints?


I assume that there are compiled lists of actual GPS waypoints, however I don't know of any. You do see them quoted in cruising guides and in the SSCA bulletin. You also get them from your fellow cruisers as you go.

Be wary of commercially produced list or electronic directories of GPS waypoints. I had a rather heated discussion of this with a sales rep for one here at the boat show a year ago. He was selling a small pda (like the ones that store phone numbers or are dictionaries for foreign languages) that contained GPS waypoints. However these waypoints were simple read from charts, not actually measured at the location. When I pointed out the problems with this his response was that I was interested in "surveying", not navigation. You be the judge.


One question I have is a source of health insurance - I can have access to insurance with CORBA, yet it seem expensive. Do you know of a source for health insurance which is basically major hospital care with a high deductible.

I am in good health and have had few visit to the doctor, yet I would like some kind of safety net for a major problem.


As you probably already know, it is extremely difficult to get medical insurance for cruising. Most American policies I have seen are void if you spend a total of 90 days outside the US in a calendar year. I suspect people who rely on COBRA coverage from a former employer are not really covered while they are cruising because of some such clause in their policy.

People talk of getting policies through UK providers, but these seem to me to not cover persons whose permanent address is the US. Well, even while you are cruising, even if it is for years, your permanent address is the US.

Buying any policy on some false pretense would surely be a waste of money. If you actually had a big claim I am sure the company would check and refuse to pay. I would get in writing that the policy covered me on my cruise.

I presently have a catastrophic policy through John Alden. I cannot see that it excludes out of country coverage, but as I said, I would want it in writing that it did provide such coverage before I relied on it. Mine has a $2500 deductible. It then pays 80% of the next $2500 and 100% after that. Costs about $90 per month.


In your interesting "Q&A-06" you mentioned insurance for an air ambulance back to the States. What services did you investigate, which did you choose and why? Many thanks. As we will be retiring to our boat this time next year, we have found your articles quite interesting. Keep up the good work. Cheers.


We did not do any investigation. Somehow we stumbled across the DAN air ambulance insurance and at $ 80 per year for both it sounded too good to pass up.


Any trepidations about leaving your boat/home/refuge/sanctuary on the hook unattended for days as you explored the interior of the country?


We never actually did this. When we went inland or back to the states, we put the boat in a marina and had friends keep an eye on her. Many of our friends did leave their boat on the hook and go inland, but they always had someone on a neighboring boat watch theirs.

Most marinas have a non-livaboard storage rate that we thought reasonable so that is what we did.


One option I have been looking towards when my day comes is to supplement my cruising budget through marine electronic repair. Did you see any particular need for this service (i.e. radios, autohelms, etc) while out and about? In addition to my EE degree I have a background in marine electronics and am hoping to put it to use.


You bet. You are ready to go! People are always looking for someone to fix their electronics. However, how much is really possible without specific spares? My understanding was that most electronic repair these days was on a board swap basis. How about radar? We knew several people who spent lots of time and money trying to get radars repaired.

If you could add refrigeration and diesel repair you would really be set.


I just pulled your information about Electronics and communications. I would like to correct only one statement you said. It used to be illegal for a ham to conduct business over the air. Personal business can now be conducted over the air ( check FCC rules to see what is construed as personal business). You can even order a pizza over a phone patch if you are in port. You can now have someone get that part you need and have it sent to you. The rules by the FCC have been relaxed and you might recommend to any one that is interested to pick up a copy of the FCC rules and regs put out by the ARRL. It is about fifteen dollars but covers everything a ham needs to know about what is legal and not. My wife and I are starting to sail and hope to take off in a few years to circumnavigate the world. See you on the air.


Maybe you can help me on that one. I want to use my Mac Duo on my boat. Can I use an auto adapter (that you connect to a lighter in a car) to supply energy to my computer? Congratulations for your page(s)! It has been very helpful. I intend to cruise for a few months in the South Pacific, starting in May. Thanks!


Sure you can. It should work just fine. Our laptop was an old Toshiba 3100 with a gas plasma display. These only run on 110v AC. Our solution was to use a small inverter which plugged into a lighter socket. If you have an auto connection kit for your Mac, it will be more efficient than our method.


Hi there. Liked your articles about your sabbatical. I am planning the same, only I plan to start from Virgin Gorda where I own a 27 foot Swedish sloop (Maxi 7.7). Did you come across any other cruisers in that size boat? And, of greater interest to me, how did you fare in the Anegada passage (if you did it at all)? Pilot charts show adverse current, and of course the wind is also adverse, both of which have a more significant impact when your upwind hull speed is 4 to 5 knots. Any thoughts or suggestions? (Other than don't go). Thanks, Michael


As we have said, most boats we saw were in the 35 - 42 foot range. We did meet a British couple who had crossed the Atlantic in a 29 foot boat.

Yes we did cross the Anegada Passage. We actually had a wonderful trip. We left North Sound, Virgin Gorda at about 4:00pm planning to arrive in St. Martin about dawn. By midnight I knew we were going way too fast and we started shortening sail. We actually got to St. Martin about 3:00am and had to stand off until daylight. We and the cruise ships were sailing around in circles in rain squalls! However, we were rewarded with the most beautiful dawn I have ever seen. The whole sky was the color of the flesh of a cantaloupe!

I hope your trip does as well.


My wife and I are finally in the planning stages of cruising. Our daughter is off to college shortly and we are ready. We have taken 2- 3 week vacations sailing the West Coast of Florida, but never anything longer.

We know two couples that live aboard, one on a 43' Gulfstar Trawler and the other on a 40' Albin. We have made up our minds a Trawler is how we would like to do it.

I am now looking for any source on Trawlers, which are the best for this or that, etc. It has been suggested Albin or Marine Trader might be in our price range of < $75K. Any comments.

I have my USCG Captains License, Will this help with work along the way, I have been told the pay and the work required is not even.


The first thing you have to decide is what type of cruising you are going to do. If you intend to cruise the rivers and ICW in the US and maybe do the Bahamas one type of boat will do. If you intend to cross oceans, you will need something entirely different.

All the boats you mention (Gulfstar, Albin, Marine Trader) are capable of doing the coast and Bahamas. They would be fine on the trip we took, providing you watched the weather. The big thing is how long is your longest passage? Given short passages (a few days) and being willing to wait for weather, there are many places these boats could take you.

I am certainly not an expert on trawlers. I think the Albins and Marine Traders hold up quite well when they are taken care of. The opposite seems to be true as well. Of course these boats are much cheaper than Nordhvens, Krogens, and Grand Banks. The only trawlers I remember in charter were Grand Banks. Maybe they hold up better.

You may find getting one for $ 75K tough. Most I have seen for that price were pretty well shot. I would look for something in fresh water with little if any electronics. Maybe even one that needs an engine. Assuming you could do the work yourself you could probably come in under your budget.

You say you have a CG license. I assume it is a six pack or an inland 100 ton. You will meet a lot of people with the same license all looking for the same work. There is not much casual work for people with these licenses. However, The Moorings hires (at least they did in the early 90s in Tortola) couples to skipper (and cook and clean and maintain) their 50 foot boats. I remember they paid about $ 20K per year. Most of their crews are young and do not last very long. Hard work and not my cup of tea, but maybe yours. Their requirement was a USCG six pack. Other things you could consider are deliveries and working with boat brokers to be an on board captain for sea trials.

Good luck.


I have just purchased a Westsail 43 and my sabbatical will start next year. Could you please provide info on the insurance.


Insurance for a cruising boat is determined by 4 things:

1.      Where you want to cruise.

2.      When you want to cruise.

3.      Your experience

4.      The number of people in your crew.

Where You Want To Cruise

Also called navigation limits. If you do not plan to go to the South China Sea, then do not pay for insurance coverage there. All marine insurance policies I have seen have some navigational limits. When I kept "Down Time" on Lake Erie, the limits on my Boat US policy were the Great Lakes. When I moved her to Miami I added the US East Coast and the Bahamas. When we got ready to go cruising I had to look for other insurance since Boat US would not provide coverage south of Grand Turk Island. I got a Lloyds policy through a broker in Ft. Lauderdale (Hull I think it was). This provided world wide coverage. When SSCA (AW Lawrence) offered their insurance I switched to that.

When You Want To Cruise

If you want to cruise storm prone areas in storm season expect to (1) have no insurance; (2) pay high premiums; or (3) have a high deductible. I have seen policies that encourage cruisers not to be "in harms way" using all three methods. I don't remember what the Lloyd's policy did but I do remember the SSCA one had accelerated deductibles if you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Your Experience

This one tends to be binary. If you have adequate (in the company's mind) experience you get covered; if not, you don't.

The Number Of People In Your Crew

Some policies require more than two people for certain passages. Obviously this would be a pain for cruising couples.


Most insurance companies will require an out-of- water survey. This is reasonable. However there are surveys and there are surveys. Pick your own surveyor and make it clear what type of cruising you are going to do and ask the surveyor's opinion on what you need to do to your boat to make her capable of such a trip. If you ask for an "insurance survey" you'll get something that will make the insurance company happy but will not help you at all. A good test in looking for a surveyor is to ask if he intends to go up the mast. If he says "no", then you say "no thanks". How could you possibly do a sailboat survey without checking the rigging on the mast? Beats me.

You should also be aware that the older the boat the more difficult it will be to get insurance. Ten years seems to be the magic age. Some companies will require standing rigging over 10 years old to be replaced regardless of whether it needs to be or not. This could be very expensive, particularly if you have rod rigging or a backstay used as an HF antenna.

Other items to consider are the deductible (just like on your car), coverage for your personal items in the boat, and your dingy and outboard. Dingys and outboards are probably the items which cruisers are most likely to have stolen.

Jim & Diane

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