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  #1  
Old 11-30-2007
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Etiquette in helping out

Have a question on when (or when not to!) help out. Best if I explain the situation.

Earlier today I observed a 40ft ex-fishing boat attempting to dock at the sailing club. Note that this was a "party" boat with 10 or 15 guys on board who had obviously been partying all afternoon, though the skipper looked sober. After the third or fourth attempt at docking I wandered up to grab a line & see if I could help.

Note that this particular jetty was not an easy spot to dock. I had difficulty a week previously trying to dock my 45ft yacht at the same jetty. Today it was blowing around 20kts straight off the jetty and there were two large (read expensive) boats that the fishing boat had to maneuver between.

Anyway, I caught the line off the Skipper's girlfriend and wrapped it around a post. The boat motored forward & back & eventually ended up hanging bows on pointing straight at me (note that this boat had a bow thruster, but unfortunately the skipper was running the bow thruster the wrong way and it was pushing the bow out away from the jetty).

During this time I suggested to the skipper's girlfriend that they should use this line as a spring and slowly motor forward and lever the stern into the jetty. She shrugged her shoulders and said she did'nt have a clue on what she was doing.

The skipper now appeared (he was using the inside steering position, why he did'nt use the steering position on the flying bridge I'll never know) and started telling off his girlfriend. I think he wanted the rope secured five feet further on to where I had attached it. The skipper disappeared inside again. I asked his girlfriend what I should do with the rope and she shrugged her shoulders. As the fishing boat was about to collide with one of the expensive boats I cast the off the line (luckily my yacht was on the other side of the expensive boat!) I then walked away and went back to securing my own vessel.

Next time I looked up the girlfriend was hanging from the bow rail with her feet dangling in the water as one of the passengers pulled her back onto the boat. Obviously she had almost ended up in the water on the fourth (or fifth?) attempt. This time I went back and instructed the girlfriend to throw me the rope and I would use it as a spring. I instructed her to tell the skipper to motor slowly forward once it was attached, to bring the stern in.

This then proceeded, though the skipper revved the engine a bit hard so the boat crunched the jetty a couple of times. However the stern swung in nicely and a couple of the "boys" jumped off and secured the stern.

The skipper then jumped off and proceeded to tell me off for securing the line in the wrong place. When I attempted to explain how a spring line works he replied that he had done this "a thousand times" and his single screw boat just did'nt work in reverse. He then released the line and attempted to pull his 40ft boat in by hand. Luckily 3 or 4 of the "boys" also grabbed the line before he was pulled into the water (remember it was blowing 20kts straight off the jetty).

Sorry for the long story, but my question is, what is the proper etiquette in this type of situation? What is the right thing to do? Should I have not helped out the second time? If skippers obviously do not know what they are doing should we give them advice? Or should we keep our advice to ourselves?

Any comments would be appreciated.

NB note his girlfriend whispered thanks to me when the skipper was'nt looking!
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Old 11-30-2007
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You were dealing with an @ss. It's similar to training a rock to roll over. You just got to shove. I would say you handled the situation correctly. Your not really helping him at that point, but trying to keep as many people safe, and protect other peoples property. If he had slammed your neighbor's boat on the sixth attempt, would you have been able to look your neighbor in the face and tell him that you didn't keep trying to help out because the other guy was an @ss. Could you have slept that night if the girlfriend had been pinned between the dock and the boat, and had to go to the hospital. If it wasn't for noble helpers in the face of pigheadedness, this would be a far nastier world.
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  #3  
Old 11-30-2007
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Depends, what did the girlfriend look like?

I agree you handled it about as good as could be done. All you can really do in those situations is offer help as best you can and defend the boats around the idiot "captain".
Had I been in your shoes and told I had secured the line to the wrong cleat, I would have pulled out my sailing knife and offered to cut it loose.
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Old 11-30-2007
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Depends, what did the girlfriend look like?
I was going to ask the same thing, but thought it was out of line ...... And yes that was a pun.
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Old 11-30-2007
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I think the etiquette of the situation varies with your location. Where I used to sail, we all socialized a great deal, and everyone helped everyone with their docklines without being asked. We didn't help each other so much because we needed help, as because it was just the neighborly thing to do around there.

Now I sail on the Chesapeake Bay, and most people can get in and out without help, and a lot of people would prefer to do so. So, I offer to help people with their lines, especially if the conditions are challenging, but I never take hold of a line without (1) the consent of the skipper or crew, and (2) without knowing where they want me to attach it, unless it's obvious, or unless it's an apparent emergency.

My reasoning is that, even though I want to help, I might make the situation worse if I don't know what the skipper has in mind.

Also, when you take someone's dockline, you're what is known in law (and biblically) as a "Good Samaritan," i.e., an unpaid volunteer, who is just trying to help, but has no legal obligation to do so. Ordinarily, in the US, a Good Samaritan is not legally liable for damage or injury he might cause, as long as he acts rationally, in good faith, and in accordance with his level of training. But, if he acts negligently (exercises bad judgment), he might be held liable for part or all of the damage that ensues.

So, when you take his line, you might be interjecting yourself in the middle of a lawsuit between him and the owner of the docked boat that he damages. He, of course, is likely to claim that the damage was all your fault. If I only act in accordance with his directions, then he's the only one who is making a judgment call, not me.

Knowing this, I don't hesitate to help people, but I only do what they tell me to do, even though I might have my own ideas about a better way to do it. If I think they want me to do something that is obviously unsafe, I won't help at all.
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Old 11-30-2007
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I would have done the same as you - try to be the better person. If they become an a@@ it just makes you more passionate when you retell the story of what an idiot the guy is to everyone you know (and who perhaps know him)
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Old 11-30-2007
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I am sad to hear that someone may, or may not, help someone else out based on the possible potential of future law suits. That is a sad state of affairs.

Sm6- That was intended as a general statement, not specific to you. I think you are right and there are a lot of people weighing similar thoughts.
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Last edited by T34C; 11-30-2007 at 10:09 AM.
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Old 11-30-2007
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Umm... hmm... the captain sounds like a real jack@ss... I think you did far better than many of us would have... and getting the idiot's 45' battering ram secured so that no one and no other boats got damaged was the right thing to do.

You might want to talk to the marina owners, since that guy is definitely a risk to the other boats... and if he is a regular, he really needs to learn how to dock and probably needs to have his head handed to him on a platter so he learns some manners.

If his girlfriend is still with him... I hope she at least realizes how dangerous a position she was in. A 45' boat would squash her pretty flat if she had been caught between it and the pier.

Once you have a spring line on... the fact that your boat has serious prop walk generally isn't much of an issue... unless you're a moron... which it sounds like he was.


BTW, I've seen one 60' boat that had a bow thruster use it and prop walk to effectively crab sideways in to a slip... pretty amazing to watch...
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Last edited by sailingdog; 11-30-2007 at 10:16 AM.
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Old 11-30-2007
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Was this a commercial fishing boat?? If so, a little talk could get the whole operation removed from your marina.
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Old 11-30-2007
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Sailormon, If someone throws you a line, as the GF did to Ilenart, aren't they requesting your help?

Il, I think you displayed a lot of class. If someone was being as jerky to me as this guy was around you, I would've been awfully tempted to let Darwin have his day ...
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