Plan for the times when all may not be well in Paradise

As I sit here anchored off Lee Stocking Island in the Bahamas, I think back on the many experiences we have had since we sailed away from Youngstown, New York at the west end of Lake Ontario in September of 2016.  Cruising is a mixture of sheer heaven and sometimes sheer hell.  I’m sure you’ve all heard that the definition of cruising is “fixing boats in exotic places”, and sometimes that is true.  If you told my husband, Gary, eight years ago, about the jobs he would tackle and the problems he would fix, he wouldn’t have believed you.  Necessity is the mother of invention! 

Fortunately, for us, the benefits outweigh the problems that we have encountered along the way.  (You might want to ask our cat, Hobie, whether he agrees with that statement or not!).  The beauty of the Bahamas still astounds us every day.  It’s amazing to wake up in the morning and be on the aquamarine water, to snorkel and catch lobster and fish for dinner, and to sit in the cockpit to watch the sun set, to blow your conch horn and look for the green flash.  People constantly ask how much longer we will cruise for; we typically reply that we will do it as long as we are enjoying it and have the health to continue. 

Speaking of health, one of the smartest things we have done while cruising is to sign up for DAN Boater.  DAN, which stands for Divers’ Alert Network, was originally for scuba divers, but it has since expanded its reach to non-divers.  As one DAN representative said, DAN Boater should really be called DAN Traveler, because you don’t have to own a boat to sign up for it.  DAN is not medical insurance; it covers the cost of getting to the closest medical facility that can assist you when you are in an emergency situation. We personally have utilized DAN’s services, and we were so glad we had it!


It all unfolded one Sunday evening down in George Town in the southern part of the Exumas.  Gary was stricken with severe gastrointestinal pain, which started in the late evening and continued through the night.  Fortunately, I remembered that we had met an ER doctor at one of the cruisers’ get-togethers on the beach.  That morning, I raised him on the VHF and he agreed to stop by.  Because we used to help organize and race in the Level Regatta at Youngstown Yacht Club, I remembered what we were told to do so help can find you in case of an emergency in a sea of white-hulled boats – raise a brightly colored life jacket to the top of your mast.  Worked like a charm (there were about 300 boats anchored there at the time).  He made a preliminary diagnosis of either diverticulitis or colitis of some sort, but said we need to get to the local clinic for a cat scan.  Unfortunately, although they were nice at the clinic, at that time they really had no ability to diagnose anything at all – they had no X-ray machine, no cat scan, no MRI.  But they at least gave him pain medication and told him to get to Nassau or Fort Lauderdale (at that point, I was ready for a little Valium myself, but no such luck!).  Suddenly, one of the staff members said “Do you have DAN?” and we were happy to say “yes, we do”!


I called them and they were AMAZING.  They arranged for a private plane with two pilots and a paramedic (would have been a really cool adventure were it not for the fact that Gary was so sick!) to take us to Doctors Hospital in Nassau, along with ambulances to get us from the clinic to the George Town airport and from the Nassau airport to the hospital.  And I was allowed to fly with him.  We left the boat at anchor with a friend alerted to keep an eye on the boat for us.  (Hobie was not on board, since he was already at the veterinary clinic in Nassau – that’s yet another “joys of cruising” story for another day!)  I notified our medical insurance company back home, and they assured me that they would cover the medical cost because it was an emergency.  Phew.  They would not, however, have covered any of the travel costs to get us to medical care.


Long story short, DAN called us every day to check on Gary’s progress and to make sure he was getting the right care.  When they released Gary from the hospital three days later, they flew him back to George Town by commercial jet and covered the cost of that too.  The final statement for all was over $9,000 – they send you a statement so you can see what they covered on your behalf.  Considering the fact that a one-year policy costs $100 per family (single person is $60), I would say that it was not a bad return on a $100 investment!


I highly recommend joining DAN for anyone going cruising – we even tell our guests to buy it when they are coming to visit us.  It’s just one less thing to have to think about!

Check out some of Gary & Melanie's (+ Hobie the Cat's) Adventures in the Bahamas

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