Tidal Fish Forum banner
1 - 20 of 50 Posts

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
26,271 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I read Reeltor's report about needing a tow and some of the replies.

My father taught me that when towing another boat-ALWAYS use their line.He said this was an old maritime law and protected us from any lawsuit.Once my dad "sold" a boater his line for a dollar - until we got back to the ramp.We never took money for the tows - figured we might need help one day ourselves.

We often towed in 10-12 boats each year in the 1980'-90's and even now I still tow in 2-3 each season - guess helping people is ingrained in me.

It seems nowadays everyone is sue happy so I was wondering what the actual law is ? I know some maritime laws date way back.
 

·
Tidal Fish Subscriber - I'm cool
Joined
·
6,372 Posts
Skip you are right about the line. I towed a MOM and her 4 kids in a couple of months ago BUT did ask for HER line. She offered $ at the end BUT I refused and felt much better than if I had accepted.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
26,271 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I know when the Sea Tow companies first started up -there were stories of people being sued after trying to help another boater.I think this lead to people being less willing to help out.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,399 Posts
I know when the Sea Tow companies first started up -there were stories of people being sued after trying to help another boater.I think this lead to people being less willing to help out.
--That is why if you got a USCG licence the Towing endorsementis Required to protect you --
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
19 Posts
Im not sure about the laws of towing and being sued, but i wouldnt hesitate to help a fellow boater out weather he threw me the line or i threw it to him or her. But on a side note we were towed a month ago, and the tow boat had a long stick that cradles the hook to hook to the bow eye.I may pick one one up to keep on the boat just in case. I think cabelas and bass pro sell them. I know i cant reach my bow eye from the boat. Happy late thanksgiving to all of you who have shared your tips and secrets.........Chris
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
67 Posts
As soon as you hook up to the boat that you are towing, you are liable for that boat and any one on board. Better use a comerical tower. I have tow boat us . A lot of guys will stay on hand till a tower get on scene. Better to be safe then sorry. Hate to say it but alot of people are sue crazy
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,852 Posts
Great question Skip!

I always do same thing. I always ask for their line, and, I always keep a line in the boat in case I break down. I would be curious if that really protected me or not.

FWIW I was also always told that any time a coast guard or DNR policeman asks to board your boat, you always say "at your own risk." That way, if he falls and injurs himself, he cannot sue you.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,911 Posts
Hope this clears up the liability issue for everyone :wacko: :D


Excerpts from Admiralty and Maritime Law by Professor Robert Force (Federal Judicial Center 2004).


Towage contracts are governed by the general maritime law. Under U.S. towage law a tower does not become the bailee of the towed vessel or its cargo. Further, a tower (often a tug boat operator) may not contract out of liability for its own negligence. The formation of a towage contract, either written or oral is subject to the common law of contracts. A maritime lien will arise against a towed vessel whose owner does not pay for services rendered under a towage contract.

If a tug damages its tow, its liability is determined under tort law. Towage law imposes duties on the tug beyond any specific undertaking stated in the towage contract. Foremost among these duties is "the duty to exercise reasonable care and maritime skill as prudent navigators employ for the performance of similar service." However, there is no presumption of negligence against a tug that receives a tow in good condition and later delivers it in damaged condition. On the contrary, the owner of the towed vessel has the burden of proving that the damage was caused by the breach of the tug's duty of reasonable care.
A vessel owner that contracts to have its vessel towed has the duty of providing a seaworthy vessel. The tow must be structurally sound and properly equipped. Further, it must be properly manned, if it has a crew, and properly loaded. The tug has duty to visually inspect the tow before the voyage, but does not have to perform a detailed inspection of the tow to ensure its seaworthiness. However, if the tug knows that the tow is unseaworthy and fails "to use reasonable care under the circumstances," then the tug may be held liable for the loss. Generally, there is a presumption of unseaworthiness against a tow that sinks in calm water for no apparent reason. To overcome the presumption, the tow must prove that the loss resulted from the tug's negligence.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,295 Posts
I always ask for their line. Additionally, never help attach the line to their boat in case whatever you tie it to pulls out. I'll often strongly request they tie to their bow eye. It's much less likely to pull out and come flying inth the back of your boat or head. I'll never take a dime-just a promise to return the favor to either me or another fellow boater in trouble.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
14,400 Posts
I'll take my chances towing some one in. I am not discouraged by frivolous law suits. I believe that 99 out of 100 times you will be fine. It would make me feel worse leaving some one stranded than dealing with 1% chance of being sued.......Gary
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,568 Posts
Skip, I'm not going to offer a legal opinion because (a) you're not my client :D :pp and (b) I'm not sure what the answer is. Whenever you offer assistance, however, be it a doctor offering medical assistance to a victim of a car crash that he comes across, or a boater offering assistance to a disabled vessel, you do run the risk that you will later be held liable if something goes wrong. If you're not a professional, the risk of something going wrong, and making the situation even worse, is greater. As others have correctly pointed out, the ancient law of admiralty can sometimes toss some unexpected curveballs into the respective obligations of parties at sea.

Having said all of that, coming up with a hard and fast rule dictating when one should render towing assistance is pretty difficult. Part of the equation is moral. Part of it is more pragmatic (does my insurance cover it?, do the people in the disabled boat look shady?, etc.).

As for me, I've had two bad towing experiences and know of one person who was sued, so these are not simply urban legends. Still, I would render assistance to anyone (even if with my own tow line, if needed), if I judged the people on the vessel to be in immediate peril. If they were not in immediate peril but the situation was still a little iffy, then I would stay (and have stayed) on station until professional help arrived or the situation changed. I also consider distance...I towed a couple a few years ago who were only 300 yards from their pier...it was in a calm creek and I decided that the short distance minimized the risk.

I just read Reeltor's post. Without having more information, I'm not sure exactly what I would have done, but it's somewhere between rendering immediate assistance and staying on station. The deciding factor would have been how close to the channel edge they were and whether the people on board had shelter, warm clothing and appeared to not be overly chilled. Another factor would be the ETA of professional towing. Given that it's now almost winter and that kids were onboard, I'd probably lean more towards rendering immediate assistance.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,283 Posts
I don't think Towing would fall under the Good Samartin law but, even with the Good Sam laws it doesn't mean you can't be sued either.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,197 Posts
I just don't buy the lawsuit thing. I think there is a moral obligation to render assistance in most situations and I doubt there's ever been a successful lawsuit for towing someone in. Can anyone prove that? Otherwise, I say urban myth.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,147 Posts
I've learned some things over the last few days, but still wouldn't shy away from helping those in need. I'd be smart about it but I'd always do my part to help.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
492 Posts
As Shawn said, there is a moral obligation to render assistance in most situations! I do not know all the details of reeltor's situation nor was I out that day, but I do know the man had children on board and he was in need of help...period! Be smart but do the right thing.

As a father of four, I pray to the good lord that if I am ever in a similar situation one of you guys will help me.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,911 Posts
I've helped folks stranded on the water on many occasions in the past and will continue to do so. Because of the 1% of the population looking for any excuse to sue someone and make a quick buck - guess we'll all have to start carrying Waiver of Liability and Hold Harmless forms and get them signed before we render assistance :rolleyes:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,197 Posts
On another note, if you decide to come out and just "stand by," I'd give my crew permission to throw sinkers while we're waiting for somebody with balls enough to tow us in. That's the silliest thing I've ever heard of.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
26,271 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
This summer- a sailboat got stuck under the bay bridge.The mast was caught by about 1 foot.we saw them get stuck and went over to help.

The owner thanked us but said he had called the Coast Guard - who in turn called Sea Tow.

I offered again but he said he had towing insurance and it was best to let the pros handle it.We stayed close and saw Sea Tow hook a line to the mast and this pulled the sailboat on a slight angle and freed the boat.The mast had some damage near the top from hitting the steel I beams.

Sea Tow towed the sailboat about 1/2 mile from the bridge then got on board.We left and went fishing.

Read a few weeks later in I think "Nor'Easter" magazine that the bill was over $3,500.00 :eek:. Seems it was a salavage- not a tow and guess what-they were not covered by the towing insurance.It only took them 10 minutes to free the boat.
 
1 - 20 of 50 Posts
Top