My first hand knowledge comes from about a month ago when our spreader broke and the strating gear on our motor failed. It had just gotten dark, and this being our shake-down cruise I was a little worried about de-masting so we called to inquier about a tow... $1500 Ok no thanks my stupidity for not making the 1st mate understand how importain being a member of Tow boat is or that they might think of setting up an instaint membership when you need it.
LOL if they wouls have charged an extra $100 for instaint membership, I bet they would collect big and have half the people that own boats as members.
I'm still getting use to the cost of wind.... its a good thing I can do all my own repairs.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.
—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)
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I guess I'm not clear, after signing tow agreement he was towed and later he was informed that the bill would be around $40,000.00. Since his insurance had expired there wasn't any coverage and was negotiated to $10,000.00. The " turns out" portion is for those who like to question the basis of my knowledge of the situation. The whole point of this is that it appears to be routine with Sea tow to get you to sign the paper work before you are notified that it will be a salvage tow and not a free tow and then it's too late. The old saying " don't sign any blank forms " is especially true with Sea Tow. Years ago I was a Sea Tow member and that was their method with me ( always sign first then tow and bill). The few times I've been towed with Tow Boat it is always been tow first and then sign form.
If you were a member of Sea Tow, then they did not claim salvage against you. You may have had to pay a large fee for their services, but it wasn’t salvage since you were paying for the service.
If you are in a situation where you call Sea Tow and they assist and tow you off, then you should negotiate a price ahead of time and pay him some cash. They cannot claim salvage on you when they accept funds for proving a service.
Maybe it's just me but I think some of you fellows are being rather hard on the original poster. My read is that he was just describing a situation and contrasting the treatment that was received in one case verses another. Unfortunately, there have been a number of incidents in Florida where tow boat operators have really pushed the limit and particularly so some of Sea Tow's operators. While that has been less so since the affiliation of Tow BoatUS and Vessel Assist via West Marine due to competition, there still seems to be a big difference between the way Tow BoatUS treats people and some Sea Tow operators do, although I hate to make a blanket statement because some Sea Tow operators are very good as well.
I also know that a lot is left to the tow boat operator's discretion. In one case I know of, a fellow who got himself stuck in the Manatee River and called for a tow. The operator told him that if he was willing to wait until high tide, it would be a "soft grounding", in which case the service was entirely covered under the fellow's Tow BoatUS unlimited towing policy. If not, it was a "hard grounding" which was not covered. So, the guy and his crew sat out in the River until high tide.
I also know that a distinction is made when the tow operator uses his line to free a yacht verses a yacht passing its line to the tow boat. A local tow boat operator here in the Sarasota area, who is very good, commented that to the extent possible, one should always pass a line to the tow boat, rather than accepting a line from him, which influences the determination of tow verses a salvage.
__________________ "It is not so much for its beauty that the sea makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from the waves, that so wonderfully renews a weary spirit."
Last edited by svHyLyte; 05-06-2010 at 12:01 PM.
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
Thanks for putting this to rest and for confirming my preference to never enter into an annual contract with a tow company. For peanuts, our marine underwriter has always included a tow endorsement and in the three times we have exercised it, I have made two observations:
1. it's fun to call on the radio for "any tow vessel" and watch them race to us for the business, and
2. in no case has our underwriter ever limited the amount payable or raised our annual premium.
What purpose or advantage an annual tow contract has eludes me.