Among the things boaters enjoy about their lives on the water is thefreedom and independence. It's exhilarating, they will say, to be thrown back upon yourself, with only your ingenuity and whatever you have on board to deal with whatever comes your way.
But then comes the failure of a crucial piece of equipment. Or a small medical emergency, like a dislocated shoulder or a bout of appendicitis. Or anything a boater hasn't foreseen. Any one of which takes all the fun out ofbeing on your own.
At times like that, it'd be nice to have someone to call for help. Perhaps someone like Cruisenet, a new company developed by longtimeboaters Karin Lipe of Shady Side and Richard M. Andrews of New York City.
After more than three years of development and planning, thecompany made its official debut at the just-concluded Annapolis boatshows -- although some people have been customers since at least 1988. With offices in Annapolis and New York City, plus others being planned for Florida, the Caribbean and the Pacific, the company hopes toprove itself to be for boats what AAA is for cars.
Cruisenet intends to provide 24-hour access to a "myriad, very diverse, group of services for boaters, whether they be on the bay or are sailing offshore -- going to the islands, that type of thing," Andrews said.
A small company, with a staff of only seven, Cruisenet relies on an extensive network of its creators' own contacts. Coupled with recent advances in communication technologies, that network supports a membershipof about 350 people nationwide, with international expansion plannedin about a year.
Their list of services, for a basic annual fee of $50, includes parts location and worldwide delivery, specialized medical cruising assistance and insurance, handling the mail, bill payment, expediting legal and insurance information and yacht delivery and recovery.
"I've been in the boating community professionally for21 years, and Dick's been in it for a very long time," Lipe said. "We know all the key players -- and who the best guys are and who are not so good. We work with these people, as associates, so we have resources far greater than one company can possible supply."
One typical part of the network is Jack Martin and Associates Inc. of Annapolis, a marine insurance firm.
"We're considered the experts, especially in offshore insurance,"said Dawn M. Speros, a new-accounts underwriter for the company. "We gear our programs toward the cruising group of insured, locally and up and down the coast. We're connected withLloyd's of London, so worldwide coverage is available through our agency."
Whether a client is large or small, Lipe said, Cruisenet isready to handle "all of the different things that you have to keep track of, the different phone numbers for different sources, for different items, from parts to medical assistance to charts. If you're missing your favorite soap, we can find it and ship it to you in the islands.
"Both Dick and I have spent a lot of time at sea," she continued, "and when we did that, none of this was available. So if you had a problem, you were totally independent, which is part of the allure of going sailing.
"But on the other hand, that's also the big fear."
Both partners say their business fills a need long recognizedby sailors but never met.
"It came basically from being out on the water, cruising out to Bermuda, getting there and having some broken engine parts," Andrews said. "No one could find or locate the parts. Even calling back home, it was very difficult to get someone to spend the time that it took to find the part and send it out so that we had it for the return trip. That was in 1986, so I've been dealing with the development of Cruisenet since."
Lipe, an active member of the area boating community for almost 15 years, joined the company "about six months after the original concept. I was referred to Dick by(French naval architect) Claude Graf, who told him about my ability to get things done and the number of contacts that I've built up in the industry."
One of the earliest situations handled by Cruisenet took place in 1988, during a trip Graf took through the Greek Islands.
A persistent parts failure threatened to affect his plans seriously. But, as he wrote to the company earlier this year, "I did receive the parts in time for my return journey to France, and this saved me from having to fly to England especially for the purpose. Cruisenetperformed a service that has been needed for a long time."