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  #1  
Old 06-11-2010
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Welland Canal Canada. Advise needed (perhaps legal)

I just completed a 10 day trip on my 27' Santana which took me from Dunkirk, NY. north across the end of Lake Erie and through the Welland Canal to Lake Ontario.

During our trip through the canal we ran were involved in an incident which proved expensive, time consuming and frustrating to say the least.

While entering lock 4th lock at 10:30 PM we were following the directions of the Lock Attendant and suddenly my engine quit. I restarted and lost forward and reverse. As I coasted to my assigned place in the lock the attendant asked me what was behind my boat.

I looked down to find a long length of line trailing behind my transom. I lifted my engine compartment and found that the flexible coupling between the engine shaft and the prop shaft flange had broken.

I was stuck in the canal.

The Lock Attendant informed me that I had to leave the lock to which I replied I could not as I had no power. From there I was instructed to talk to the Canal Supervisor by radio which I did and was told I had to be towed out of the lock and out of the canal by any private boat who was willing to tow me. I requested information as to liability and was told the canal had none in the issue.

Now I'm no lawyer but I had just paid $200. to use the Welland Canal and while following their instructions hit a 200' line in their lock which caused damage to my boat. It would seem to me that they must have some responsibility for providing safe navigable waters with in their own lock.

I requested to speak to someone of authority and was told the Shipping Inspector would be there shortly. Once there, one of his first question was what if the color of the line was blue. It was, in fact, a blue line with an orange weave. The next morning we found that this same line was used by the canal system to pull dock cables ashore from the decks of large freighters using the locks. The line tangled in my prop was an exact match of the line used in all of the locks by lock personal.

Now it was a situation where we hit their line which was negligently left in their lock at night.

Ultimately we were towed clear of the canal. We found a mobile marine repair service who was able to fabricate new parts and I was able to dive below the boat to clear the 10 or 12 feet of line wrapped around my prop and shaft. The prop shaft was bent and will need to be either replaced or repaired.

In the enclosed picture you can see approximately 140' of coiled line which goes down and around my prop and rudder. It then comes up the other side and forms another coil about 60'

I would like to be reimbursed for the damage to my boat. The people I talked to at the canal said they were absolutely not responsible. I am not so sure.

Any thoughts on this situation would be appreciated. Legal or otherwise.
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Old 06-11-2010
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I would guess you're out of luck. The canal had no liability for items in the water. although the line may be theirs, good luck proving it up.
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Old 06-11-2010
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While you could contact an attorney and try to get the state to pay for damage to your boat and loss of use and such, the chances are winning may be pretty small. Without speaking to an attorney, preferably one that specializes in marine law, you really can't say where you stand.

Personally, I think the canal system is liable, and a well-worded letter may be able to get you some response.
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Old 06-11-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cormeum View Post
I would guess you're out of luck. The canal had no liability for items in the water. although the line may be theirs, good luck proving it up.
I am curious if you are correct in that they are not liable for items in the water. May I ask where you get this information? It would be helpful.
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Old 06-11-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fparry View Post
I am curious if you are correct in that they are not liable for items in the water. May I ask where you get this information? It would be helpful.
I just don't think that generally, they have any duty to anything except operate the locks. I agree with sailingdog, you should contact a marine lawyer.
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Old 06-11-2010
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I'd point out that if the line is indeed one that the canal uses for pulling dock cables ashore from large freighters and such, which it sounds as it may be, then the fact that the canal staff left it in the water is probably something they can be found at fault for. It is most likely a reasonable expectation that any lines that the canal staff use would be removed or at least secured as to not become a hazard to vessels using the lock.
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Old 06-12-2010
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Your boat, your responsibility to keep a lookout for hazards, even inside of locks.
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Old 06-13-2010
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just curious

when you first entered the canal system, and paid your fee, were you given anything in writing that states terms of use?

You will probably need to contact a lawyer that not only is familar with maritime law, but is also familar with Canadian Law.
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