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DON'S LOG: stories, experience and advice

Insurance and the beginning of yachting in the Caribbean

INSURANCE and the beginning of yachting in the Caribbean, and its expansion to its present state, why it is now so difficult to obtain insurance coverage in the Caribbean, Don Street’s insurance experience, and advise as to how to obtain insurance coverage.

I arrived in St Thomas in 1956. I bought the engineless 46’ cutter Iolaire, built 1905. In Iolaire and then L’ll Iolaire, and other boats, for the next 63 years I cruised, raced, chartered ,explored, charted and wrote about the Caribbean.

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Underwriters are not properly evaluating yachting risks in the eastern Caribbean

My great grandfather Col.Hugh McQueen Street was in the insurance business in Vicksburg Mississippi. He sent his son Charles Richard Street at age about 18 north to Chicago to learn the insurance business. This he did and became one of the leaders in the industry. He was famous for the fact that he could smoke a cigar, have a conversation on the phone and with the man sitting at his desk all at the same time.

He was also famous for saying”there area few brilliant people in business who are from the south” stressing the word From!

Digging thru his papers I came across an letter that was sent out to all his agents. “all risks submitted do not have to be prime risks. Describe the proposed insured and the risks. I will evaluate and come up with a premium that the insured can afford and we on the long term basis can make a profit”.

Unfortunately at the present time this does not appear to be the situation in the yacht insurance industry in the Caribbean.

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HOW DON STREET ENTERED THE MARINE INSURANCE BUSINESS

Yachting in the Caribbean began as a trickle in the 50s, which was the beginning of the charter industry in ST Thomas and Antigua. It got rolling in the 60s, accelerated in the 70s, sky rocketed it in the 90, and has undergone an exponential yearly growth in the 21st century.

In the early years many of the boats were uninsured. Insured boats, some insured in the state, some with Lloyd's. Almost all English boats were insured in Lloyd's.

There was no one in the eastern Caribbean who specialize in marine insurance.

I arrived in the Caribbean in St Thomas the end of November 1956, and bought in March 1957, Iolaire a 46' engineless sloop, later converted to a yawl, built in England 1905.

After working at various jobs I ended up in the charter business skippering Iolaire.

While I was teaching sailing at City Island YC the summer of 1961 I felt that I might not want to spend the rest of my life as a charter skipper so I took a three night a week course in insurance brokerage that would lead to taking an exam for NY state insurance broker license.

I completed the course, passed the exam but did not stay for the NY State Insurance brokers exam. Rather I sailed Iolaire south to St Thomas.

I discovered in my absence that a newcomer had set up an insurance brokerage office, basically general insurance but also marine. I was quickly hired and combined chartering Iolaire and selling insurance, marine , but also house car and motor cycle!!!!

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EXPANSION OF YACHTING LLOYD'S AND INTERNATIONAL UNDERWRITERS NOT PROPERLY EVALUATING THEIR RISKS AND DOING LITTLE TO MINIMIZE THEIR LOSSES

When I arrived in St Thomas yachting had just barely begun in St. Thomas and Antigua. In St Thomas there were on more than a dozen and a half boat in the Charlotte Amalie anchorage. The industry was supported by the fact that the USVI court was a federal court. A divorce granted in a VI court could not be contested. Divorces could only be granted to VI residents. Six weeks and you became VI resident. Hotels catered to gals establishing residence, yachts entertained bored potential divorcees. Young unattached males had a field day.

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