Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Salvage? Or...

All of us here in Puget Sound are aware that we've had some pretty tremendous wind storms lately, especially those of us who went days without power.  But the boaters among us are even more aware.  Whether your boat was tied to a dock, moored on a buoy, or (Heaven forbid) at anchor during these storms, there was a great risk of damage.  In the worst case, the boat would be torn loose from its moorings...

And that happened to this Riviera Star 24 (made by Progressive Plastics in Richmond BC) that washed up onto the launch ramp at Camano Island State Park.  

November 26

Apparently, adrift and driven by the high wind, the boat first ran into the finger dock and then jammed under it, keel first, where it spent some time, pounding on, and being pounded by the dock floats, as high wave after high wave passed thru.  It must have at some time been nearly completely horizontal, since there is sea grass high in the rigging as well as all over the deck.

I spoke to the Park Ranger and asked what the story was about this poor runaway...  He told me that they had been concerned about damage to their dock so they pulled the boat off and tied it as you see.  The Park rules do not allow overnight moorage on the dock, so just tying it to the dock was not an option.
November 27

Talking to the Ranger, I allowed as how the Park had acquired a boat thru salvage rights.  But no, he told me that their lawyer had advised him that the boat was still the property of the original owner, and that they had begun a legal notification process that would last at least 30 days.  Supposedly at the end of the notification period, they could legally declare the boat as derelict and then take possession of it.

November 30
As you can see from the progression of pictures, the boat is now full of water.  The interior is surely a ruin with all wood bulkheads and other items warped, the wiring is soaked in seawater and will need to be replaced.  In fact at this point the boat would be more valuable as a bare hull.  By the end of the notification process, after another month (at least) of pounding on the bottom, even the value of the hull will probably be lost.

December 7

So... Has the park received good legal guidance, treating this boat exactly as if it were an abandoned automobile under land-based law?  Doesn't a boat adrift constitute salvage under Admiralty law?  I do know that when a friend of ours lost his engine, grounded on the rocks and called for a tow, his boat was declared salvage and became the property of the towing company (he eventually bought it back via the normal procedures).

How is this situation different?



Drew Frye said...

I'm sure the park and the lawyer have no knowledge of admiralty law. They believe the boat has a negative value (by the time it sinks it certainly will) and that the owner is responsible, whatever the cost. They also don't understand that unlike a parked car, it is a dynamic situation; it will get worse quickly. On the other hand, you and I know there may be no insurance. My guess is that it will be on the beach for years, perhaps until it falls apart.

The logical answer would have been to pump it out, have it towed and hauled, and then bill any costs to the owner or the hull. But government agencies don't stick their necks out.

I'm actually disappointed, though, that they did not act from an environmental harm perspective.

Anonymous said...

Tying it to the dock was not an option? Seriously? Seems this is an extreme situation and the rule should have been bent - particularly since this is the slack season. I've always been told "it is never bad form to save a boat." The rangers should have saved the boat vice just moving it out of the way.

Drew Frye said...

And that overnight rule did not logically apply to the Rangers, so that is obvious baloney. On the other hand, without fenders and depending upon the swell, that likely was not tenable anyway.

I' think I'd have sooner pulled it high on the beach than tied it parallel to that fetch. A small boat like that would be simple to drag back off on its side.

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