High Latitude Expedition Insurance

14th March 2022 – London

There are probably going to be two essential parts to insuring an expedition yachting trip heading for the high latitudes. Firstly, insuring the boat, and secondly insuring the crew for any potential search and rescue costs. Generally, this will involve two separate policies. Let’s start with the yacht.

High Latitude Sailing Yacht Insurance

I wasn’t too sure if I would ever get insurance for Sumara to cover the Greenland part of her trip, but I was very keen to have some cover for Iceland. My concern was that an Icelandic Harbour Master may ask to see your insurance cover and I didn’t want that worry hanging around me.

I am currently insured with Pantaenius so obviously I asked them to extend my cover to Iceland, but sadly they have refused. Their decision was a bit strange as they had insured me for a single-handed Trans-Atlantic trip a while ago. I have heard that Pantaenius UK are no longer insuring smaller yachts with a value under £80k. It may have just been a vicious rumour, but perhaps there has been a genuine change of policy. They do have a good reputation, so if you own a smaller yacht, and are already insured with them, its probably best to stick with them until you need to extend your sailing range. Pantaenius have offices in other counties which seem to take a different view of these things.

So, the search was on for a new insurance broker.

I put an insurance value of £30k on my boat, but to me it is worth the world. I have cared for the boat for over 30 years and the recent refit cost over £30k. The boatbuilders said that to rebuild the boat to the same standard as Sumara would cost around £200k! It would, of course, be pointless insuring her for that sum as the insurance value is based on “Market Value” and £30k is the top end for a 26ft Vertue of any quality.

So if I were to lose the boat, I would hardly be compensated by an insurance pay-out of £30k. I think a good broker can sense these things which can help to secure some cover. They know that you will do everything you can not to endanger the yacht and everything to ensure she arrives safely at her destination.

It is highly unlikely that an inexperienced skipper with no qualifications would be able to get cover to sail into high latitude areas. The RYA Ocean Yachtmaster qualification and Tilman Medal, coupled with a decent sailing history and no claims, all really help to secure some cover. It’s worth getting those RYA exams under your belt as soon as you can as they will be of most benefit to a young enthusiastic sailor rather than an Old Sea Dog taking them just to get insured.

One problem sometimes encountered when you change insurance companies is that they may ask for a survey. Not such a bad thing if you are buying the boat, but maybe a bit pointless it you have an intimate knowledge of your boat which has recently had a full refit. So it’s best to keep a record of everything. Don’t loose the invoice covering that new rigging. Show them your annual maintenance check list and any reports from engineers etc.

My insurers to-be are Howden Fastnet who did not insist on a new survey and were happy to accept my 2015 survey, coupled with the knowledge that my rigging has all been renewed and the boat had a major refit a few years ago. Richard Power was very helpful and secured cover for my entire voyage including the Greenland section. Obviously, the premium for extending the range to cover Greenland was quite a bit more than the normal “Elbe to Brest” insurance but it will reduce back to a very reasonable amount when I revert to pottering on the East Coast.

Richard Power, Managing Director, Howden Fastnet Insurance +44 (0)23 8063 6677

Search and Rescue Insurance

There are all sorts of wheezes with SAR Insurance but sadly none of them seem to work in Greenland.

I don’t know who discovered it, but some bright spark found out that the annual membership subscription for the Austrian Alpine Club which included SAR insurance was cheaper than just getting insurance cover. So, thousands of canny Brits joined the Austrian Alpine Club! The Austrians must have been very proud of the keen interest in their region from all the Brits, not realising that it was not entirely due to their love of the Austrian Alps.

Another wheeze that I have used in the past is “Adventure Holiday Insurance”. These policies are primarily designed for gap year students going white water rafting in Thailand type of thing. Generally, the adventurous activities are actually rather safe so the premiums can be very reasonable. I asked all my crew on my voyages to Svalbard and Jan Mayen to take out insurance with P J Hayman & Company Ltd. It cost about £50.00 each and saved me putting up a security bond of tens of thousands of pounds. However, as usual, Greenland is now excluded!

I went uninsured on my last trip to Greenland and would have been willing to take the risk again but my crew couldn’t risk the consequences of needing to fork out £60k to be rescued. It is the high cost of SAR in Greenland which makes most insurance companies exclude it. So I had a dilemma, how could I find SAR insurance for my crew.

As I am a member of the Arctic Club I decided to ask them. If anyone should know, they should. I was the first person to use the Arctic Club forum and it prompted this response from the Danish Ex-President of the Arctic Club – Peter Schmidt Mikkelsen

Hi Alasdair,

I would recommend to get a SAR insurance at IERCC https://www.iercc.com/en-US/

They also cover Greenland and their prices are very reasonable.

Kind regards

Peter Schmidt Mikkelsen

And that was a great piece of advice!

So who are IERCC?


The IERCC is the world leader in emergency response coordination services and is a global Search and Rescue Coordination Centre for supported Satellite Emergency Notification Devices with an active satellite service plan.

The Garmin Inreach Mini

In order to use their rescue service you must use one of their supported devices to alert their rescue service. There are lots of approved devices:


I chose the Garmin Inreach Mini which irritatingly was superseded by the Garmin Inreach Mini 2 two days after my purchase!

You can then choose to purchase a rescue plan to cover up to $50k or $100k for just £29.99 or £39.99 each person per year which is most definitely a bargain even taking into account the cost of the Garmin Inreach.

Full details of the Inreach are featured on my other blog;

Other Insurance

The above insurance policies will not cover medical costs, loss of baggage, flight cancellations and all that jazz. You can buy holiday Medical Insurance for a reasonable price from many companies. The problem with standard Medical Insurance is that it will normally exclude the very activity that you want to do. Here are a couple of extracts from Aviva’s Medical Insurance:

Leisure activities You are automatically covered for claims arising from your participation in most leisure activities on an incidental and recreational basis. See “Leisure Activities” section. There is no cover at all where the main purpose of your trip is to take part in a leisure activity.

Exclusions You taking part in exploration or scientific expeditions or being a crew member on a vessel travelling from one country to another;

Even then, I was getting a quote of over £600 for two months in the high latitudes.

Don’t confuse Holiday Insurance with Medical Insurance as most holiday insurance is aimed at flight cancellation, baggage loss etc and will exclude medical costs. If you are of a cautious disposition you may feel you need both.

7 responses to “High Latitude Expedition Insurance”

  1. I am really impressed with the SAR insurance. It’s always a minefield boating and crew insurance for long adventurous sailing expeditions. This is gold information. Thanks

    1. Hi Selma, I was being told that the normal premium for expedition insurance was IRO £4k so this option was a huge relief. The Garmin Inreach gizmo has other useful features too. One job ticked off the list!

  2. I am still a little bit confused as to whether we can get travel medical insurance for sailing on east coast of Greenland. I am also a member of the Alpine Club and Arctic Club. I have made 13 visits to west Greenland, sailing and climbing

    1. Hello Bob, You are, of course, a legend! I was walking my dog in Bermondsey and I met a man who asked for the dog’s name. “Tilman” I replied. That means nothing to most dog walkers, but he said “Ah after the famous Bill Tilman”. I asked him how he knew of Bill Tilman and he told me “Bob Shepton, used to run the Bermondsey Boys Club and introduced him to sailing and Bill Tilman as a young lad!” He had fond memories of the club.
      As far as medical insurance goes, I am trying to arrange cover to transit the North west Passage with Will Stirling. I have received a quote from P J Hayman for about £2,400 to cover about two months. The cost was considerably less for younger sailors. I believe their age cut off was 69. I tried to get a comparative quote from Dogtag but they couldn’t arrange any cover. They suggested that I try a group called “M.A.P.S” but I haven’t approached them yet. These quotes were for the NWP not Greenland. I know Greenland is often excluded from policies. SAR insurance via the Garmin Inreach seems good value but it will only get you to the nearest hospital. I suppose getting cover for Iceland and then forking out for medical evacuation may be an option. Perhaps we should ask the Arctic Club and the Alpine Club to join forces and set up an insurance co-op?

      1. Well, thanks. I suppose you didn’t get the name of the lad from the Tilman connection? Funnily enough I have just been preparing a lecture entitled ‘Tilman’s Legacy in the Modern Age’, which gives me an excuse to show some great pictures collected over the years of sailing in Greenland and Baffin and of the Wild Bunch’s amazing climbing there! If you happen to be in Glasgow on 8 Feb come along and tune in…!
        Please keep me informed of any progress you make with regard to S&R and insurance generally. I am hoping to get to east Greenland this summer, with a couple of the Wild Bunch, on someone else’s boat. Though familiar with the west coast I have never been to the east side. It used to be tricky with the arctic ice coming down south on the current.
        Good to be in touch. What is the Weymouth connection? I did my curacy at St. John’s, Weymouth, and we had an old cottage on Portland when I was in Bermondsey.

        1. Sadly, I can’t remember his name, but if I meet him again I’ll make sure to take note and contact you. It is a shame, I’ll be in Oban next week but I need to return to London on 3rd February so I wont be able to attend your lecture in Glasgow.
          If I get any good leads regarding insurance I’ll make sure I keep you in touch. I have tried getting to Scoresby Sund three times now but I did get to East Greenland a couple of years ago:
          Notes from my Expedition Journal – East Greenland 2019 – in the yacht Integrity
          The link to Weymouth is simply because the boat was built in Weymouth and I retained the name. Terry Newman who built the yacht sadly died a couple of years ago but I am still in touch with his wife – Sally. She is a regular church goer so maybe your paths have crossed! Terry loved walking around Portland Bill, and indeed sailing around it.

          Best regards,


  3. […] can read more about this here. Don’t forget that Search and Rescue insurance covers just that, you will need to pick up any […]

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