Medical Care at Sea & How to Get Mail

Overseas Radio Network – Medical Care at Sea, How to Get Mail

doctor at seaTopics in Overseas Radio Network Show 8, Segment 2:

  • Medical insurance
  • Quality of medical care in ports
  • Cruisers supporting each other
  • How to get mail when cruising

GARY FRETZ: Welcome back to our show. I am Gary Fretz and I am here with my co-hosts, Stephen and Estelle Cockcroft. And we are talking about getting off the grid. What about medical insurance?

For a transcript of this podcast, click “read more” below. (More details on sailors’ health and medical insurance.)

Medical Insurance at Sea

ESTELLE COCKCROFT: That is a very important issue. First of all, I think cruisers, in general, are healthy people. We take care of ourselves. We eat well. We exercise a lot. The very first thing I would do…I would recommend for anybody is the first thing we did. We purchased the “Ship Captain’s Medical Guide”.  I believe nowadays it is free you can download it. It’s UK Maritime and Coast Guard Agency put together is a fantastic book. The references are great. []

Stephen, I got sick when we were in the Canaries. Once in the Canary Island in anchorage we were you know very far from any doctors any towns. I gave him my symptoms he looked it up in the “Ship Captain’s Medical Guide” and diagnosed it correctly went on the VHF radio.

STEPHEN: Dr. Stephen.

ESTELLE:  He went on the VHF radio and asked if there was any doctors or nurses in the anchorage. And pretty soon there were 3 or 4 people racing to our boat to come and administer some medicine to me. And I was fixed the very next day. But anyway that’s a very, very important thing to have. You can get health insurance. The ones that we have used is:

  • IMG, the International Medical Group. They are based in Indiana and apparently they have no limit to time in the States which is new, I am sorry…they do, they have
    6-month limit of the time that you spend in the States.
  • IHI, The International Health Insurance, it covers you and they have no limit. They are based in Denmark.
  • And then there is Bupa International. They are based in the UK. But they also, I think, their limit may be 3 months in the States.

So there are various health insurance companies that will cover you. I believe I did not know about this one, but I was told that the Divers Alert Network for SCUBA divers also covers medical evacuation for non-divers.

So go on all the cruisers networks. They have all this information available. I will also have it available on So it is available it is not very expensive and anyone can get it.

GARY: I have heard about these policies and especially the ones available through the UK carriers. And they are like $200 a month per person right something like that?

ESTELLE:  Yes it’s not very expensive. But it has a higher deductible. Some of them have $2,500, some $5,000 depending on your situation. But not very expensive at all. But it is for major medical only. So you would still have to cover your visits to the local doctor and dentist and so forth. And, or to the witch doctor or Dr. Stephen Cockcroft.

Quality of Medical Care in Ports

But, again, if you are in places like Costa Rica or the Bahamas, any of these other places, the medical is really good. They are as good as anywhere in the States. A lot of them get trained in the United States and England and so you know it is very, very cheap and so doing that out of pocket is really not a problem.

GARY: When I was cruising the Caribbean I was not covered by any medical insurance and I and my crew probably visited the doctor maybe I don’t know 3, 4 times. And I remember every time we went, they were British-trained doctors and the service was very good. I mean is that your experience, too?

ESTELLE: I definitely agree. You know, I have had dental work done. Stephen’s ankle broke when we went to St Martin. On a passage he broke his ankle. We went to the local Dutch hospital there on the Dutch side of St Martin. He was in the hospital for a day. They operated on him. Put a steel plate in his ankle, fixed him up. It cost us $2,000 dollars.
He is walking today he has no pain, no issues with the ankle. So these people are very well trained. And I think if you have to have work done go and have it done somewhere else.

GARY: Now you made reference to the yachting community as being supportive. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

STEPHEN:   The sailing community…you have heard that saying “we are all in the same boat” well that really does apply to the cruising community. If someone has a problem everyone rushes to their aid. If something breaks down, you go on your VHF and speak to boats in anchorage, you will find, for sure, that there is somebody that has an answer or a spare part or something. And they will come to your aid.

Like when Estelle was sick we were looking for a specific type of medicine and about 3 boats came rushing over with the same kind of medicine. You know security wise especially when we were down in Venezuela, the crime rate was extremely high. We had to watch each other and so we would take turns and stay on board and watching the other boats.

So as far as personal security and, you know, a secure group this is as close as you can get. I mean, you’re never alone.

Cruiser “Nets” Support Each Other

GARY:   You mentioned in another segment that they have these cruisers nets in some of the cruising areas. I remember in the Abacos in the northern Bahamas every morning there would be somebody on the radio. And they…it’s like a radio show they would have for 20 minutes. And they would talk about the weather and if here were any weird weather system moving in and parties going on and other things.
Do you see these cruisers nets in a lot of different places?

STEPHEN: Just about everywhere you go, where there are cruisers, there is a cruisers’ net. Sometimes its formal, sometimes it is informal. But there is always some sort of cruisers’ net announcing social events. Very important because you need to gather on the beach every afternoon for sunsets. So all your social events come over the cruisers net. If you have problems, people looking for parts. Some people have stuff that they don’t need that they are selling for a bargain. Yes, cruisers’ nets are a global thing we found them in the Indian ocean, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, the Caribbean, and we yet to do the Pacific, but I am sure they are there as well.

How to Get Mail When Cruising

GARY: Okay and how do you deal with mail when you cruising around the world?

ESTELLE:  Mail is an important thing for all of us. We want to stay in touch with our family and friends. But no only that, you know, we have important business to do sometimes. There are mail forwarding services you can use and the SSCA the Seven Seas Cruising Association maintains a list of mail forwarding services on their resource links page. So you can go to them and check it out. And then of course we found in the Bahamas any of the cruiser flew back home here they would always ask if anybody needs to send mail so we would send mail with them open mail that is we send it with them back to the states.

STEPHEN: You always, if you every going to carry mail, make sure that whomever gives it to you gives it to you open so you can look inside and make sure it is just a letter before you carry it through customs for them.

GARY: That’s some good advice. Okay, well we are going to take a short break. We will be right back to continue this discussion. You are listening to “Yachts: The Perfect Escape Vehicle”.


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