Sunday, November 18, 2012


I pulled our old log book off the shelf just now to check my math. We didn't really spend six months in Costa Rica, did we? Holy geez, we did. Wow! Time sure flies when you're touring a gorgeous country and making unforeseen boat repairs.

But now, after an overnight passage from Golfito, we're anchored off a picture postcard beach, complete with swaying palm trees and white sands -- in Panama! I have a cinnamon-crumble banana bread baking in the oven, Aaron is napping and Bella Star is happily swinging on the hook once again. Tomorrow we'll head to shore, string up our hammock between two palm trees, have a couple cold beers and, well, and that's about it.

The only downside to being here? I can't get David Lee Roth's voice out of my head singing, "Pan-a-ma! Pan-a-ma-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah. Pan-a-ma!"

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lightning update: insurance

By Nicole

I remember watching the lightning storms roll through El Salvador. We would sit on Bella Star or Panache with our heads tilted upwards, transfixed by the bolts as they struck the hills surrounding the estuary. The power of the lightning was undeniable, but still we sat, oohing and ahhing like kids watching a 4th of July fireworks display. “Ohmygosh, look at that!” We’d yell to each other over cracks of thunder. “Dude! That hit the tower! Did you see that?” We couldn’t get enough of the nightly entertainment.

What they say about ignorance being bliss? It’s all true.

Fast-forward to Playas del Coco in Costa Rica. We’re ashore, enjoying our first Costa Rican beers—frosty Imperials—and watching the intense lightning storm that rolled in just seconds after we landed our dinghy on the beach. The rain was Biblical. The thunder was deafening. And the lightning was striking all around the restaurant. Awesome!! Or not.

You know the rest of the story. About how we dinked around town after the rain let up, not in any real hurry to get back to our boats. About how we had a hard time finding our boat in the dark anchorage because the anchor light wasn’t on (even though I knew I’d turned it on before we left). About how we climbed from the dinghy to the boat and knew something wasn’t right—the CO2 detector was chirping madly and the electrical panel was dark. And about how we hurriedly flipped on breakers and tested electronics with a sick, sinking feeling in our stomachs. Oh no. No, no, no, no, no. Struck by lightning.

Early the next morning, under vibrant blue skies (and with puffy, I-spent-a-good-portion-of-last-night-crying eyes) we went into town to call our insurance company. I had to call our car insurance company a few years back after someone crashed into our parked car on Halloween (long story; don’t ask), and while it wasn’t a terrible experience, it wasn’t super awesome either. So I was pleasantly surprised when I called Pantaenius Yacht Insurance and got a real person—one who could actually help me—straightaway. I got set up with a claims adjustor on the spot, and after talking with her for only a few seconds, I knew that everything was going to (eventually) be okay. She gave me all the details about the process, reassured me when my voice cracked and allowed me to take a deep breath for the first time since stepping aboard the night before.

Aaron limped Bella Star the seven miles from the anchorage at Playas del Coco to Marina Papagayo, where Pantaenius said we could keep the boat—at their expense—until this was all sorted out. Without working nav lights, a VHF or a way to charge our batteries, we were unfit to remain at anchor or to get underway. Almost before we knew it (just two days later), they flew a surveyor down from Florida to take stock of the situation. He spent the entire day performing a full survey on the boat and made a detailed assessment of what was damaged, what might be repaired and what needed to be replaced.

After the survey, the claims adjustor worked with the surveyor to verify the list of damaged gear and advanced us money to start purchasing replacements. Bing-bang-boom. Well, the approval process did take a little more time than we were expecting, but the extra time allowed us to go off exploring Monteverde, so all wasn’t lost. Once the bulk of our gear was delivered, we submitted our receipts, and the rest of the money was wired to our account. Just. Like. That.

So would we recommend Pantaenius? Yes. Definitely, yes. In our experience, they have excellent customer service, they handled our claim professionally yet compassionately and they got us sailing again. What more could we want? Well, I guess we’d want competitive rates and a generous cruising area. We got that, too.

They also include this cool sticker with your official paperwork:

PB100265Thanks, Pantaenius!

Got more questions about our insurance experience? Just ask.