Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Jacksonville, Fl
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There is another thing to consider when you get towing insurance. It also insures you don't get ripped off!
Sea Tow and Tow Boat US are franchises. That means each boat that you see running around out there is actually an independent operator, and some of them are, simply put, crooks.
There are several cases on the docket down in South Florida over this right now. Here's the basic scenario. Your boat has a problem and needs to be towed. You call for help and the tow boat arrives. By the way that Admiralty Law is written, if he gets a line wrapped around a cleat on your boat, he is eligible for salvage fees. Not a reasonable towing fee, but salvage. That can be 10% of the value of your vessel.
So if you choose to run without towing insurance, be aware that if you have a boat that's worth, for argument's sake, $100,000.00, you run aground and the guy in the black and yellow boat pulls you off, you might find yourself with a bill for $10,000!
This isn't a joke, either. An owner I know down in Miami had the family out for a day of dolphin fishing 3 summers ago, and on the way back into Stilt Town, he cut the corner a big and ran aground. Not hard, but he was stuck, and bent the last 2 inches of his props. He called a tow company (email me and I'll tell you which one), and the boat showed up, tossed a line on a cleat and pulled him off. It took about ten minutes, start to finish. The big sedan limped back to its slip with the bent props. No other damage done anywhere.
The tow boat operator had him sign the bill and said he'd send the guy an invoice. Three days later, he got a bill for (sit down) $310,000 dollars for salvage, along with an explanation that the fair market value of the boat was $3.1 million, and the tow boat operator had 'saved the vessel from immediate peril.'
The tow boat operator made a mistake. The owner is a very wealthy lawyer, so after he'd calmed down a bit, he decided to push the issue. The tow boat operator and the big company he works under have been trying to settle out of court, but the lawyer isn't having any of it. Several maritime lawyers have jumped on board and are providing their expertise and services pro bono because the entire boating community needs protection against such crooks.
For now, if you don't have a towing service, make double-damned sure you don't let the guy drop a line around your cleat FOR ANY REASON until you have discussed what it's going to cost, and that is written down on the contract, you and the operator have signed that contract, and you have a copy of it in your hands, or you might find yourself with a huge bill.
It isn't that way everywhere, but it's common in South Florida, and I heard that the people near Nassau Sound are pulling the same shenanigans, and going aground there is easy because the sand bars shift daily.
Just a word to the wise...
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