Join Date: Jul 2010
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I recently found this post, and even though it may have already been put to rest I believe I might be able to clear up some misconceptions, if not for clearing our name, but also for information purposes. Let me start out by saying I am the owner of Sea Tow Charlotte Harbor and take a posting like this very seriously. I know exactly the case you are speaking of because a case of this severity rarely occurs, and I will explain some of the circumstances of this case leading up to the ultimate need for salvage.
There are some truths in the posters first statement. Those being, the vessel was a 45’ Gulfstar, he was aground and that we were unable to unground the vessel the evening of the incident. Another part of the posters original statement is inaccurate, the vessel was not in the channel (the reason the vessel was aground). I can not speak of the other vessel aground in the Manchester waterway because I know nothing about the case itself.
This case as with every service we provide is very well documented. There are two other important facts that are not mentioned and those are that there was a small craft advisory at the time of the incident, and that an anchor had never been set during the entire incident. Two attempts had been made to unground the vessel at no charge under the membership agreement. The tide was LOW and was beginning to flood. Overnight the vessel bounced all night in a small craft advisory pushing the vessel further and further aground until it was perched on a sand bar at the highest possible tide.
When we were approached to remove the vessel the next day, we thoroughly explained the severity of the situation and discussed the salvage operation, contract and payment. This occurred the next day. The customer had sufficient time to call other companies, insurance providers, attorneys or anyone else that could provide assistance or advice. All parties were well informed, contracts were signed and costs were discussed before any billable work had begun. This was not a simple ungrounding. This service took an entire day, two tow boats and 32,000 lbs of lift bags to increase buoyancy and remove this vessel from its strand, all with the owner on board.
When does a service become not covered? Here is ungrounding verbiage right from the Sea Tow membership guide: Ungroundings: Sea Tow will provide free ungrounding assistance to covered vessels when all five of the following conditions apply, namely that the vessel: is in a stable, safe condition, is not in dangerous surf or inside a dangerous surf line, is surrounded by water on all sides, has some movement (i.e. rocking), and can be refloated upon initial arrival or at the next high tide in 15 minutes or less by one Sea Tow boat. Ungroundings that do not meet the foregoing criteria are considered salvage services and are invoiced to the member as such.
As for the definition above this franchise and many others exceed those criteria on a regular basis. We do so because it is good business. In no way shape or form could this case been considered a covered service and was never eluded to as such.
Another poster noted that the customer had signed a contract. This is true, and it is customary to discuss possible costs with a customer before rendering any service and having that discussion defined in a contract. Had this been a covered service the operator would have simply ungrounded the vessel and completed the paperwork at the dock with the words on the invoice “no Charge” “free towing for members”.
Someone mentioned that if you used your line to be towed a salver would be less likely to charge or make a claim. This is a myth. In the same case the tower using his own line does not automatically entitle him to an award or compensation. Using your own line could also prove a very dangerous practice. Using dock lines or anchor line as means of towing or ungrounding could result in “snap back” seriously injuring someone. Professional towers carry heavy, low stretch poly line that will not “snap back”.
Captain Randy responded to the first two attempts and I was onboard for the second attempt. Captain Randy has been assisting vessels in Charlotte Harbor for the last 10 years and I have been assisting boaters for 8 years. Sea Tow Charlotte Harbor and its captains have an excellent reputation and are highly skilled and knowledgeable individuals.
We take customer service very seriously and go above and beyond for all of our members and non members alike, every day. We assist over 700 boaters in Charlotte Harbor every year. No matter how hard you try not everyone will be completely satisfied with a service after that service has been rendered. We always take a customers complaint seriously and make every effort to make that customer happy regardless of the circumstance. We are a local company and have an excellent reputation within the professional community and with local boaters in general. Without our reputation we would be nothing as a company. This is why we are very careful and systematic when approaching a paid service of any kind. When considering a towing company ask local repair shops, marina personnel, boat dealers and boaters in the community, and I think the response will be a positive one concerning Sea Tow Charlotte Harbor. The most important part of the equation is to be educated and well informed as a boater, and communicate with your tower or salver as to what is covered or not or what the costs associated are with any service. Two posters had offered very informative links to explain salvage. I would also recommend visiting those sites.
As a business owner it would be foolish to over charge or mislead any customer in any way, and I can assure you it does not take place here. We are very contentious about communicating with customers about any cost involved with any services before they are rendered. We make regular presentations to local boat clubs discussing salvage and other services. An informed customer is our best customer. Take the time to look up and read about salvage law and actual salvage cases. Please read your member guides, no matter what towing company you belong to. Check out the society of marine arbitrator’s web site, and please, try not to put to much stock into what is read on forums. Most of the information is inaccurate at best. If anyone is interested in reading or obtaining salvage contract (most companies use the same contract) or has any questions pertaining to any services we provide please give us a call or stop by our local office 7 days a week.
Captain Mike DeGenaro