Join Date: May 2002
Thanked 52 Times in 50 Posts
Rep Power: 15
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.