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Old 03-21-2007, 08:54 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by sailormandave View Post
In my mind this is very analgous to going on a road trip with these same friends where one of us might have provided a sport utility vehicle and we split the costs of fuel, food, camping fees, etc, but nobody compensated the owner for the use of the vehicle. I'll agree that in a different country or outside of a countrie's territorial boundary different laws may apply but fundamentally I feel it's the same situation.
I tried to make the distinction between friends and strangers. When you advertise for strangers to join you on your boat, you are not choosing one of two options - that of chartering a boat with friends, or sailing with friends on your boat. You are advertising for strangers to sail on your boat in return for payment of money that you state is "sharing expenses." I assume you wouldn't use the crewfinder forum to advertise for your friends to join you sailing on your boat?

I did not get into the insurance aspects of what you tell your insurance company, because if the boat is in charter, the insurance covers paying charter guests; most responsible charter companies ask for statements of competence from the charterers or, if absent competence assurances, require that a licensed captain be hired by the charterers.

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It seems you put a large emphasis on what one otherwise would have done. You make the argument that if a boat owner did not have crew or other people onboard, they would have done the cruise anyways and would have seen all the costs but the additional persons food anyways. That may be true in your case. In my case, what we otherwise would have done is spend much more money on a charter. While what an owner of a cruising boat might theoretically otherwise have done may have a huge influence on what you think is ethically right for someone joining you to contribute, I have a difficult time believing insurance companies, the coast guard, the court systems etc. really care what you might otherwise have done. It seems to me they care weather your trip is commercial or pleasure and again, I don't understand the idea that if my friends and I would have shared the price of food this would have been considered a pleasure trip, but by sharing fuel costs is suddenly becomes a commercial trip.
Again, what you do with your friends is not the issue. The issue is advertising for strangers to join you as "crew". You now own your boat, so there is no option: "spend much more money on a charter". You are taking your boat out, correct? Not paying someone else for the use of their boat (a commercial transaction). Therefore, the question is, would you sail your boat alone? With only friends aboard? If neither, how is asking strangers to pay to sail with you on your boat not a commercial activity?

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Years ago, I took a bareboat course from a sailing school in the BVIs - the same place I took my friends sailing this winter. That trip was also a week-long experience which cost about $1,300/person which included basic food (booze extra), instruction, boat use, etc. The company did not graciously provide the boat, but charged a set fee which paid for an instructor's salary covered the cost of the boat, advertising, etc and produced a profit for them. It seems to me that when one compares these two trips, one is not "splitting hairs", one is looking at two extemely different situations. In one case, a business is asking a fixed price which is clearly comparabe to other businesses in the trade who are operating to make a profit. The captain is being paid and making a profit. It seems to me if anyone is trying to split hairs it is those who argue that a cruise is private if food costs are shared, but once fuel is shared, it becomes a commercial enterprise. It seems to me, if your are sharing the costs, you are cost sharing, not operating for a profit.
First, you need not make a profit for the operation to be a commercial venture. Secondly, why are you comparing a qualified instructor in a sailing school operation to your operation of your boat? You paid for a sailing course complete with instructor, room and board provided by the company. The boat and instructor are there operating solely because you (or another student) hired them, and the boat would stay in port if there were nobody hiring them. If the only reason you are taking your boat out sailing is because you have advertised for, and found, strangers to come along and share the cost on your boat, I fail to see how that is not a commercial activity.

The discussion of the difference between taking passengers for hire, or actually seeking crew is relevant to those using this board's free crewfinder. And that is perhaps where the hairsplitting comes in. When somebody argues that $25, $30, $40 per day is cost sharing, those of us who own and operate our boats for our personal pleasure are keenly aware of what it costs to operate the boat, and how much somebody coming along adds to those costs. And I don't think it's even as high as $20 per day, even in French Polynesia or the BVIs. But nevertheless, looking for payment in order to take one's boat out, and using a Free Crewfinder to advertise for this purpose is the issue.
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Old 03-21-2007, 11:52 PM   #16
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JeanneP: Thanks again for an in-depth response. Let me ask a simple question to see if I accurately understand what you believe being commerce - at least in regard to sailing.

In the case I described of my January trip where I provided the boat and all my friends including me contributed equally to operating costs such as food, fuel, etc, you seemed to agree with me that this would not be considered commercial. I'm glad we could at least agree on that! Please correct me if I'm wrong on that.

Given that, please give me your reaction to this:

On another trip, I had long-time friends join me, but we still had room available and wanting to expand our sailing community, I put a post online and ended up having one person join whom I did not previoiusly know (I'll call John). Again I provided the boat and everyone onboard including me contributed equally to food, fuel, etc. If I undertsand your view on commerce correctly, you would say I was engaged in commerce with John, but not the other people on the boat.
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Old 03-22-2007, 02:30 AM   #17
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I read this string and everyone has good ideas; i.e. questions that would have to be asked and answered prior to an insurance carrier providing a defense and coverage for an action brought against the boat owner for property damage or injury due to negligence. The decision would be made on the preponderance of evidence collected specifically related to the event in question. There isn't any one item that I've seen posted here that would cause a coverage problem by itself. The sum of the facts is what counts. These coverage decisions are typically made by a Judge through a Declaratory Action proceeding; maybe a Federal Judge applying Admiralty law, but not necessarily. The insurance companies will be looking to the court for relief from providing coverage, but the good news is, when there are grievess injuries and property damage, the Judges will normally find for the insured. What's more, judges will often put off rendering their opinion on coverage until the underlying tort action is adjudicated. This means the insurance company(taking the least risky route) is on the hook to provide a defense through verdict, a very expensive and risky proposition which they won't proceed with; instead they will opt to settle the matter, pleasing most parties, including the Judge.

As for getting cited by the Coast Guard, if someone is badly hurt and the boat owner mentions during the immediate investigation that he or she accepted 10 cents (it won't matter whether he says it was for, i.e. victuals, diesel, moorings, etc.), that boat owner is probably going to get cited. He or she might be able to get it sorted out downstream with the assistance of counsel which will be expensive, stressful and time consuming.

If there is an occurrence involving serious injury, death or significant property damage, all defenses (and comforts) afforded by the careful descriptions of intents placed on this site and this string in particular, won't mean much. Taking money from people to ride your boat with you increases risk of substantial financial loss, even if the insurance company comes around in the end (and they won't help with a Coast Guard problem no matter what). Additionally, don't be surprised if your "crew" says in their deposition that they considered their sailing trip with you a "vacation." The next thing they will say is what they paid you. You can argue all day it was only for their personal maintenance and that it didn't help the boat, that you couldn't have made a cent, etc.; you will probably get hooked as a commercial venture which will cost you far more than $20-$40 per diem your crew kicks to you. In my opinion, it's just too much risk. I sail out of Jacksonville, Florida; it's always a free ride. Jerry
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Old 03-22-2007, 06:52 AM   #18
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@DancingBear

Great post! That puts this all in a "nutshell".

Welcome aboard - enjoy your stay.
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