Cruisers generally live a healthy lifestyle, but we have to be vigilant and be prepared especially when travelling in countries with issues like malaria, cholera, or hepatitis. You should have a basic knowledge of first aid and be able to do CPR. Below we share some resources for cruisers about medical emergencies, first aid, medical kits, and health insurance companies for travellers including cruisers.
< Debbie, a qualified nurse and favored crew aboard catamaran Zuri, checking the medical kit for our ocean passage.
First Things First
Take First Aid Courses
I recommend doing a first aid / CPR course with the Red Cross. You will learn what actions to take in an emergency situation and this immediate action could mean the difference between a good or very bad outcome. No need to be an expert, but know what to do when necessary. You will feel much calmer and in control during an emergency if you have knowledge and have practiced basic first aid.
Get a Medical Guide for Reference
Also, have a good medical guide on board that can help you diagnose illnesses, guide you through procedures, treat injuries, and administer medication. The Ship’s Captain Medical Guide from the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency is a really fantastic reference/guide book. I have personally used it many times with great results when a medical professional was not readily available. Here is how to get the medical guide:
- Download The Ship’s Captain Medical Guide for free
- Install the app for iOS or Android for a nominal fee
- Refer to the medical guide online
- Buy the medical guide hardcover book from Amazon
Get a Comprehensive Medical Kit
Get a good comprehensive emergency medical first aid kit. You can get these kits for vessels going offshore, complete with prescription pain medications, antibiotics, splints, burn treatments, and all the essentials. Our good friend and fellow sailor, Denny Emory from OceanMedix, developed custom kits for the coastal cruiser, ocean voyager, and commercial fisherman. These are really fantastic products, but there are several such companies that have similar products, so do the research and find something that will work for you.
Reach Out To Others
Make use of resources at hand, like other cruisers. Cruisers are very resourceful and helpful. Often one will find a doctor, nurse, or medic in the anchorage or a call on the SSB Radio will connect you to an emergency care professional to guide you through any medical situation.
Health insurance is something that concerns all cruisers. We have discovered all over the world that good medical services are available and affordable in most countries. However, in the USA, Canada, and Europe, healthcare can be cost-prohibitive so for that reason we need insurance.
Stephen has had surgery to fix his broken ankle in Sint Maarten by a great medical team for the same price of what we would usually pay on our insurance deductible if we were in the States. We have both used dental services in several different countries for next to nothing. Many other medical services are available for often as little as one’s co-pay in the USA. So do not panic, but be prepared for the big mishap. If for any reason one should have to be airlifted or some major medical issue arises, you should have the means to pay for it. We have used different companies over the years which I will list below, but do your own research. There are several companies out there that may fit your personal situation better.
Medical Insurance Companies For Cruisers
- BUPA International, based in the UK. In our experience, this is a great company. We used this insurance for years untill we moved to the USA. They do cover the USA, but at a huge premium. There is no limit to time spent in the USA. What I liked about them is that they cover exactly what they tell you they will. No hidden exceptions or surprises. They process and reimburse your health insurance claims really quickly. It is not particularly cheap, but easy to work with.
- IM Global (International Medical Group), based in Indiana, USA. When we moved part-time to the USA, we used this company. They will cover long-term travelers out of the country. They have a 6-month limit to time visiting in the United States which suited us perfectly at the time. Their premiums were quite reasonable.
- The SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Association) has several links to medical insurance companies, so check them out and choose what will work for you.
- See our Favorite Links & Resources page for additional medical insurance resources.
Safe Passage by DAN Boater
With more than 35 years of handling medical emergencies around the world, Divers Alert Network (DAN) is touted as the World’s Premier Safety Association on land and at sea. As a member, you enjoy several benefits everywhere you travel for around $60 – $100 / year for individuals or families. The coverage includes:
- $150,000 global medical evacuation
- $25,000 medical repatriation (to home country)
- $25,000 search and rescue expense coverage
- access to 24/7 medical emergency hotline
- online first-aid/medical reference guides
*** Catamaran Guru has not received and will not receive any compensation for the products and services discussed here.
We welcome your input, suggestions and comments and we would love to hear about your own experiences.