Excursion with the insurance agents

 March, 1987

I am in the office of the insurance company where I work. It is morning and the telephone rings. Nikos is on the line. “Good morning, Mirkaki. I’m calling to tell you that I bought a caïque. Of course, it is not new, but I am going to carry out the many necessary repairs at a boatyard, and I want to insure it …”

As a starting point, I inquired about the year when the boat was built and other information needed for insuring it. When Nikos told me that the caïque was built in 1945, I was taken aback. The age of any craft plays a big part in determining if it can be insured. Twenty years at most is the limit set for us by the underwriters.

“Niko,” I reply, “it’s not easy. A boat survey will be required because of her age, a detailed report by a specialized surveyor in order to find out if and to what degree the boat meets our requirements to be considered acceptable for an insurance contract.” Nikos explained to me that for approximately three years the boat would be under repair and would not be traveling. Hearing this, I was very guarded in my reply. Before the repairs were under way, I visited the caïque, and Nikos described the extent of the restoration work that he was intending to do. I then introduced him to a nautical surveyor who would keep track of the progress while the work was being done, until the completion of the restoration. For the duration of the period while repairs were in progress we could provide the coverage known as Builders Risk.

At the end of about three years, the repairs were finished, and NIkos now telephoned me to arrange regular insurance for the caique. When I had collected all the documentation I needed, including the surveyor’s report, I asked to see the caïque––with a view to forming my own assessment. I was speechless!! The caïque was unrecognizable. Nikos had done an amazing job, giving attention to every detail and selecting materials of the highest quality. I told him, “I would be proud, on behalf of the company I work for, to have this boat in the fleet we insure.” In spite of this, I was reticent about insurance for the caïque because I knew well the mind-set of our English underwriters and that they are not allowed to provide coverage for boats from 1945. In fact, in my attempt to find coverage for it, I had found that “the doors were closed.” And so with much regret I phoned Nikos to report to him that I am unable to insure the caïque.

“Faneromni” remained uninsured for quite a while seeing that no one in either the Greek or British insurance market would take the risk of covering such an old boat. This situation upset me. Although the boat was in excellent condition and was the pride of the Greek sea, no underwriter accepted it. This was bothering me . . .

In April 1999 our British co-workers paid a visit to our insurance organization in Athens for the customary renewal of our business contracts. It was then that I had a brilliant idea. Instead of inviting them for the customary meal at a good restaurant in Athens, it occurred to me that we could go instead on a one-day cruise to Aegina with the “Faneromeni.” I called Nikos and told him my idea. He happily agreed, and we made the arrangements. And so I suggested to our British partners that we take a day-trip to Aegina by boat and have luncheon there.

They greeted the idea with great enthusiasm but made one request—if there was no objection, could we also invite the president of Lloyds Underwriters who, by coincidence, happened to be in Athens at that very time? Naturally we had no objection . . . The rendez-vous was set for Saturday morning at the fourth marina in Glyfada, the caïque’s home port. As soon as we arrived and were out of the car, I observed glances of amazement and heard these words of admiration, “Ohhh––how beautiful she is!!” Nikos welcomes us warmly, as the good captain should, and we go on board for the first guided tour. They continue to marvel . . . Later, the captain turns on the engine . . . Since they were impressed by the excellent condition of the “Faneromeni,” they wanted to make a test. First they asked me for a 20-drachma coin, which they placed upright on the roof of the doghouse. As long as the engine was running the coin did not fall.

Another outburst of appreciation followed because our guests had confirmed the very smooth operation of the engine and they were impressed. Turning to me, they explained that this exact test by coin was difficult for even a brand new boat to pass. Following this, “Faneromeni” set sail with Aegina as her destination, where we had a lovely time.

On the return trip, our underwriter’s agent spoke to me privately: “I imagine that you have insured the caïque, Mirka.” And then I reminded him that, in spite of all my attempts to insure the “Faneromei” the previous year, he had refused to give her coverage because of her old age. He did recall the incident, as well as my particular insistence regarding the excellent condition of the boat and the experience and the capabilities of the owner as a yachtsman, and he also recalled that he had refused me.

Now he offered an apology because he had not trusted my opinion and he suggested a particularly favorable policy for wooden boats of this age. And he asked for my approval. Naturally, I agreed. This event (apart from the special benefit for Nikos regarding lower insurance rates) also reinforced the bond of trust between the agent and myself concerning my understanding of the insurance risks.

Moreover, he respected the fact that, although I was Nikos’ former wife, I did not make use of this fact for Nikos’ benefit yet I did not act against the interests of the underwriting company that was going to cover him. I remained entirely objective. It was during the trip that they learned that I had been married to Nikos.

Since that time the magnificent “Faneromeni” sails with assurance and with . . . insurance! Mirka N. Symeonidou Below, three letters of thanks from our guests and two photos from the memorable excursion to Aegina.

Mirka N. Symeonidou

Below there are three letters our guests sent to us a few days later as well as two photos taken during the excursion.