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Old 06-24-2010, 01:20 PM   #1
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This story saddens me; it will be interesting to watch developments. Tar Baby II dismasted

It is always risky and a bit presumptuous to second-guess somebody out there, yet how else do the rest of us learn without going through it themselves? For this reason, I think that we should revisit the issue of dismastings in the middle of a huge ocean.

I am guessing that the trawler that picked up this couple chose not to drop them off in Niue because there is no safe harbor or anchorage there. Fishing boats full of catch can't afford to spend a day or more hanging around waiting for the seas to calm enough that they can offload two people.

I don't understand, though, why they didn't try to make it to port someplace on their own. As you see from the photos, and the comments made in the above article, the boat seems to be in pretty good shape except for no mast. I don't see much of a way to jury-rig a mast - no whisker pole or spinnaker pole in evidence, but what looks like the boom lying on deck. With a little fuel (see those 6 or 8 5-gallon diesel jerry jugs on deck?) they could have motored easily to Niue, picked up a mooring and jury-rigged a sail to get them to Tonga or Fiji. Long, slow, but they would still have their boat.

There is no question that a sailboat without a mast is an uncomfortable place to be in the middle of an ocean. However, there are ways to minimize the discomfort until a sail can be jury-rigged. Trailing a drogue, which could be anything, including an old sail and line, would help to keep the boat stern-to the seas and swells, thus minimizing the roll that is so uncomfortable in a sailboat without sails and mast.

Did they lose everything overboard and that made it more difficult? Losing their bowsprit and with it their anchor and rode would have been scary and disheartening. Seeing how high the boat is riding, they don't seem to have any water in their bilge.

I don't think that they lost the rig in bad weather. If they had, I would have expected the decks to have been swept clean of all those jerry jugs tied to the rail. All that junk on deck would have been, for us, an unacceptable hazard, but would have stood them in good stead if they had to motor to someplace, including Niue or Tonga.

As an aside, that Westsail 32 has a displacement of 10 tons. Our Jeanneau Sun Fizz, 8 feet longer, had a displacement of 7.5 tons.

We have a little experience with others' dismastings, and how they did.

Wannago, Lowell North's Tayana, was dismasted between California and French Polynesia. They jury-rigged a sail, got some extra fuel along the way, and made it to Tahiti where they were able to have a new mast shipped in.

We befriended a couple on their Moody 42 (? might have been bigger - long time ago), Songlines, who were dismasted between Fiji and Vanuatu, motored it to Vanuatu where they jury-rigged a mast and a borrowed staysail and continued on to Australia, 1028 nm away. Peter found his purpose in life helping this couple. They got a piece of galvanized pipe and some galvanized wire from the local electric utility company (this was discarded stuff - wire drum ends too short for anything on land, for example), they did a great job of setting it up. Not particularly attractive perhaps, but it worked.

In the Gambier Islands of French Polynesia we met a German single-hander who lost his rudder halfway to Cape Horn. No EPIRB, little fuel, and a long way from any shipping lanes or cruising routes, he jury-rigged a rudder and spent several months sailing himself back to the Gambiers where he could build a new rudder. This was, to me, the scariest of the stories we heard.

I do believe that Tar Baby II might have been brought to safety with little aid, but I don't have all the information. Were they without VHF radio communication? Did they have backup GPS and paper charts? What do you think would have helped here?
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Old 06-24-2010, 11:48 PM   #2
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Hi, J,

You're right that it is difficult to know what was going on unless one is on the vessel. My first thoughts are that some very lucky person is going to go out there and salvage that abandoned vessel--and get a nice cruising boat in the deal. Sorry for the Praag crew who abandoned Tar Baby II, but, that's the reality unless a very kind person happens along to assist them-as Peter did for that other couple.

Perhaps something could not be jury-rigged, though they were lucky enough to have a stub of mast left which, in theory, gave them something to work with. Not to mention that all those jugs (six yellow ones being diesel of at least 5 gallons each...that 30 gallons of fuel) seem like they'd represent fuel to take them a little ways...I don't think they'd put empty fuel jugs on deck, but maybe...

David and I have discussed all the various things we could do if we lost the rig or part of it. Certainly, until you're in that situation, you don't know exactly what you'd do. But we have agreed that between the two of us, we'd never abandon our disabled boat if help came along--one of us would stay with the vessel unless she were sinking without hope or we had a serious life-threatening emergency (in which case, decision to scuttle the boat or not would have to be made quickly). Certainly, abandoning a boat doesn't seem to be the right move on anyone's part. Can't second guess though, so it will be interesting to learn what really happened and why they chose to abandon Tar Baby II.
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Old 06-25-2010, 12:55 AM   #3
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So I am Brandspankin new to sailing. If some one just abandons there ship like this, is it up for grabs?
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Old 06-25-2010, 03:08 AM   #4
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Sadly, it is my understanding that yes it is up for grabs. Some folks here know a lot more about salvage law/maritime law as it applies to this than I do. Hopefully some more knowledgeable soul will be along shortly.
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Old 06-25-2010, 04:12 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by MissD' date='24 June 2010 - 08:55 PM View Post

So I am Brandspankin new to sailing. If some one just abandons there ship like this, is it up for grabs?
No.

However, the cost for of salvage might be high enough that the salvor gets to keep it if the owner can't pay the price, or doesn't feel it's worth it. Generally, though, taking a boat in tow and sailing with it someplace (as has been done several times) doesn't provide the finder with the boat.

A memorable story from many years ago was written for one of the sailing magazines about a salvaged sailboat. A couple sailing in the (? it's been a while since I read this, so some details are fuzzy) South Pacific found a sailboat floating derelict. It had been floating for quite some time from the amount of bird guano on it. They were able via HF radio to learn that the boat had been abandoned when its owner and his crew were medevac'ed off the boat when they called for help because they were suffering from botulism food poisoning. The boat was left to its own devices, and the owner died of the toxin. The sailors put a line on the derelict and then, right there in the middle of the ocean, entered into a discussion with the owner's heirs on their salvage rights/release/value. When the heirs agreed to abandon any claim on the vessel, they towed this boat for (I believe) more than 1,000 miles to safe harbor where they were able to fix it up and sell it. We were not cruising at the time, but I was still impressed with their accomplishment. In hindsight, when you have a well-provisioned boat and no pressing deadline to be anyplace, the amount of time it took to bring the boat to harbor was something that a cruiser could do profitably, but a professional salvor wouldn't even consider - their time could not have been adequately compensated by the sale of the vessel.

The article was quite clear in explaining that the difficulty of the success of salvage and the consent of the owner of the vessel are factors in the compensation to the salvor. A maritime law expert would be better at explaining what is a complicated legal issue.

However, a fellow who was returning to Trinidad found a boat drifting a few days from Trinidad and brought it in. He was quite disappointed when he learned that he couldn't keep the boat.

No "finders keepers, ..." without extenuating circumstances.
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Old 06-25-2010, 08:11 PM   #6
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Thanks for clarifying that salvage issue, JeanneP. I knew that the risk and level of difficulty of rescuing/salvaging the boat played into it all. Depending on the value of the boat, I would think it wouldn't take much for a salvager to own this vessel, depending on value placed on rig and whether the boat has anything in the way of electronics aboard, so forth. Hopefully they'll get some more diesel and get back out to the boat and motor her in quickly themselves.
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Old 06-26-2010, 06:17 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by JeanneP' date='25 June 2010 - 06:12 AM View Post

The article was quite clear in explaining that the difficulty of the success of salvage and the consent of the owner of the vessel are factors in the compensation to the salvor. A maritime law expert would be better at explaining what is a complicated legal issue.
Can of worms this one.

Basicaly, salvage is awarded according to the effort required and the risk taken in salvaging a vessel or its cargo. In contracting salvage, both the owner of the vessel in distress and the owner of the salvage vessel(s) will perform a little dance. As long as there is little chance of success, the owner of the distressed vessel will opt for Lloyd's Open Salvage Agreement - the "no cure, no pay" agreement. In other words, the would be salvors are offered the contract of salvaging the vessel and/or cargo but their payment will be dependent upon their success tempered by the risk they take in the salvage. This will frequently end up in court with the salvor being awarded a percentage of the total value of the vessel and/or the cargo.

If conditions are good and there is an almost certain chance of success and, maybe, other potential salvors can be found then the distressed vessel's owners would look for a standard time agreement whereby the salvors would be paid a fixed sum per day for their efforts.

Of course, there are other charter agreements and a compromise can always be found.

For a yacht abandoned at sea, the value of the yacht is relatively low and so the insurance company or owner (if uninsured) may well judge a salvage operation to be more costly than the value of the yacht and so no contract would be agreed other than Lloyd's open which is always restricted to the value of the vessel and its cargo. Any salvors interested would want a fixed price or a daily rate otherwise they would loose money on the operation.

An important point to remember is that just because a vessel is abandoned it does not mean that the vessel has no owner. Another consideration is that there is a requirement to rescue people in distress but non at all to salvage a vessel. A state on whose shores a vessel has stranded may require the owner to remove the wreck but there is no obligation upon a state or anyone else to salvage a vessel. Salvage, although emotional, is entirely governed by business concepts.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 06-26-2010, 09:51 AM   #8
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Thanks, Stephen - well written, clear without the obfuscating legalese. It is unfortunate that so many people are unaware of the legal rights of the owner of a vessel, even one that has run aground on a beach.

a fellow we know lost his classic wooden boat when it broke from its mooring during an early Fall/Winter storm in northern Massachusetts and came up on the beach. He stood by helplessly while people clambered all over the boat and took whatever they fancied while local police looked on, even to ripping out winches and instruments. He could not get the police officer to stop the looters, who claimed the boat was derelict. It made a big impression on me.
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Old 06-26-2010, 07:58 PM   #9
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The liabilities of a drifting yacht seem to stay with the owner and that's a fearful thing if one is near other boats/shipping lanes or an environmental preserve, etc. But yet, there is the very real possibility of someone claiming "finders keepers" and requiring you to pay a large percentage of the value of your yacht if they recover it. I don't know how a yacht owner can actually negotiate with folks who are salvaging a vessel adrift. Didn't realize that the salvager would be required to try and do this up front. I don't know the outcome of this vessel adrift but here's an article about a high value race yacht and salvage "finders keepers" if it were to be found. I wonder how the owners of many vessels adrift can show whether they've called off the active search (of the owners of the boat). That seems to be a part of this whole "finders keepers" thing.

About the fellow who lost his classic wooden boat--why did he stand by rather than try and protect his yacht? call 911? Yell at the police for help? Call the local news station? Radio the US Coast Guard? Do something/anything? The story makes a big impression but was he in the equivalent of an inner city ghetto where he was afraid to do anything (as were the police?). Did he sue the city/police department for standing by? That whole thing sounds terrible and so strange (for the United States!) compared what we've seen which are yachts blown ashore (derelict or in tip-top shape) and people who stand by and look on but don't go near the boat unless to help the sailor. We have heard many stories of cruisers in far away lands lured away from their vessel...and then the vessel is stripped. But not here in the USA.
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Old 06-26-2010, 08:51 PM   #10
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That poor fellow was in either Marblehead, Massachusetts or Gloucester, Mass. Not inner city, not ghetto. Gleeful people ripping things off the boat. He went to the policeman standing watching the looters and asked him to stop them, and the cop just shrugged his shoulders and commented something to the effect of "it's not illegal". The owner was beside himself, but when the local constabulary seems to think (wrongly, of course) that there was nothing illegal about it, what could the owner do besides cry? I don't know if he ever brought suit against the cops, but I would guess not - he just watched his boat be ripped apart for the gear and the boat pounded itself to death on the beach. The boat had broken from its mooring in the first winter norther (the owner admitted that he had waited too long to have her hauled, but he was still sailing her on good days). That first winter storm was a big one, apparently, and the boat probably could not have been saved, but he could at least have had all the gear if it hadn't all been stolen.

This was before cell phones, so the guy would have had to leave the boat in order to call for help, and nobody else was interested in helping him. The story made quite an impression on me.
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Old 06-26-2010, 09:09 PM   #11
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Yes, quite an impression on me, too. However, I could not possibly stand by and watch my boat have things taken from it--I would be hailing the Coast Guard on the radio and threatening the gleeful crowd with my flare gun/ fire extinguishers/ anything aboard that I could use against such ravages. Or, if ashore, my tire-iron. I just could not stand by. I'd likely be totally ineffective, but I'd certainly try to save my property from thieves.
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Old 06-27-2010, 04:52 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by redbopeep' date='26 June 2010 - 09:58 PM View Post

The liabilities of a drifting yacht seem to stay with the owner and that's a fearful thing if one is near other boats/shipping lanes or an environmental preserve, etc.

But yet, there is the very real possibility of someone claiming "finders keepers" and requiring you to pay a large percentage of the value of your yacht if they recover it. I don't know how a yacht owner can actually negotiate with folks who are salvaging a vessel adrift. Didn't realize that the salvager would be required to try and do this up front.

I wonder how the owners of many vessels adrift can show whether they've called off the active search (of the owners of the boat). That seems to be a part of this whole "finders keepers" thing.
A few clarifications.....

The liabilities do stay with the owner/operator but a yacht adrift in a shipping lane poses no threat to merchant shipping unless it is a big one indeed. A 30-40 yacht would do no damage to a merchant ship if they collided. The more realistic problem is that you mentioned of a nature reserve where fines may be issued and compensation requirements demanded for any damage caused. God reasons to have third party insurance.

A salvage vessel is required to negotiate up front providing the vessel in distress has not been abandoned. If the vessel has been abandoned, he is free to salvage the vessel to the best of his ability. He can, once the vessel is safely i port, claim salvage. He may claim the entire value of the vessel to return it to the owner but the owner has a right to dispute this and the claim would end up in court with the court deciding on the value of the salvage. If they owner cannot or will not pay then the salvaged vessel will, in all probability, be awarded to those who salvaged it.

In terms of a rescue, the boat has no value attached to it at all. Rescue is solely for people in distress at sea. On many occasions, it is simpler and safer for the rescue services to tow a yacht into port rather than transfer people at sea however there is no requirement to do this. Therefore, there is no official search for a vessel after it has been abandoned unless it were to pose a hazard in which case it would be a sovereign state which took this initiative and not anything required by international agreement.

The whole salvage bit is a jungle, albeit an interesting one. It frequently ends up like two farmers disputing the ownership of a cow; one farmer at one end puling his way, the other farmer at the other end pulling the opposite way and the lawyers in the middle, milking the cow!

Aye // Stephen
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Old 06-27-2010, 06:47 PM   #13
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Let me add a few paragraphs from my seamanship text book from the 1970:s, when I took my mates and masters tickets. This is a better explination than I could give. As will be seen from the text, the book is of British origin but the situation is similar in most countries. Note the underlined sentence.

"Wreck as a term also includes flotsam, i.e. goods which have been lost overboard or jettisoned and which are recovered because they remain afloat; jetsam, i.e. similar goods which are washed ashore; ligan or lagan, i.e. goods which are jettisoned and buoyed for later recovery; and derelict. All wreck must, if found by a person other than the owner, be delivered to the Receiver of Wreck.. ...... If found by an owner a full report must be made by him. Wreck is usually kept for a period of up to one year, but smaller goods which are not of sufficient value to be stored may be sold. Unclaimed wreck will become the property of the Crown.

The Receiver of Wreck must proceed to any vessel which is stranded or in distress, on or near the United Kingdom coasts, and take charge of rescue operations. He can interfere between a Master and his crew only if the former so requests. The Master can prevent by force any person from boarding his ship without his permission unless it is the Receiver of Wreck, or his representative.

Salvage



If a ship, lives or cargo on board are saved from danger, voluntarily and successfully, the person so doing carries out a salvage service and is entitled to a reward.

In spite of the fact that a Master must, by law, assist any vessel that collides with him or which is in distress, he is still regarded as a volunteer for the purposes of salvage. A passenger cannot claim salvage unless he chooses to remain aboard and assist, in spite of the offer of rescue. A member of the crew is bound by his agreement to preserve his ship, and can claim salvage only if he is ordered to abandon ship (the order being given with no intention of returning), but later returns to it.

Every salvor who contributes to the ultimate success may claim a share in the reward, but initially the Master of the salved ship may select his salvors if several arrive upon the scene. Others may assist later if he decides that their services are necessary, but only with his permission. In the case of derelict, the first salvor to arrive has complete control and sole rights; others may interfere only if he proves to be thoroughly incompetent.

The use of Lloyd's Standard Form of Salvage Agreement between the Master and his salvors saves time, bargaining, and refers all disputes directly to arbitration. No financial sum need be mentioned in the agreement, it being decided later by Admiralty Courts. In the case of a salvage claim below £200 (probably below something like £5,000 now - my comment)the Receiver of Wreck will probably deal with it himself.


I am not so sure if the above has helped to clarify the situation but what it is is what it is.

Aye // Stephen
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