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Bene505 08-07-2010 10:47 AM

Can I donate a "sunset cruise" to a charity auction???
Does anyone know if I can donate a "sunset cruise for 4" to a charity auction? I am not a Captain and the boat is registered for recreational use. I'd like to help out the cause but am a little concerned if I'm breaking the law in any way.

A fast answer is appreciated, if possible.


Stillraining 08-07-2010 11:14 AM

My understanding is no non licenced Captain can take "For Hire" money for any reason.

Non licensed vessel owners can only except "partial" reimbursement for actual costs...Fuel, food.

Im sure some Captain will give you the straight skinny shortly...we have a few here.

Edit: Id be very Leary of the liability issues if i were you.

I have and do donate my buisness for good causes but Im Insured and tret it just like any other job...Im just giving the money away is all.

SJ34 08-07-2010 11:23 AM

Though probably illegal it seems like it would be easy to fly this one under the radar. This happens all the time with charity events.

I personally would worry about the liability of having an injury to a person who paid to be aboard.

I'm not a captain, just giving my .02

Stillraining 08-07-2010 11:32 AM

I tried to edit my post to add what SJ34 just did but the program locked me out.

I do and have donated my services for various causes but I run a business and treat it just like any other job so Im insured and bonded....I too would be very leery of doing this for liability could loose your boat and any other assets you own in our leagitist socity..................unfortunitly..:(

bubb2 08-07-2010 11:47 AM

Brad the short and simple answer is no. If you think about it, the public views it as the highest bidder wins the cruise. So money has changed hands to pay for the cruise, and you are also donating your boat and services to the charity. This is why it is a commercial venture, even though you are not being paid by the charity. This answer is based on the learning for my 100 ton masters licensee.

JohnRPollard 08-07-2010 11:58 AM


Not sure if you're talking about tax issues, or other issues?

For personal federal taxes, you can only write-off the incidental costs you incur for the charity cruise. E.g., if you provide a meal and drinks, you can write-off these expenses. But you can't write-off what it would cost to charter a similar boat for the day, nor even an amortized cost of your own boat.

We have donated a trip on our boat many times for private auctions at school event. As far as liability, I checked with our insurance company and they said there were no issues, since we were not being "hired" or payed for the donated trip. In other words, they said we'd be covered no differently than we'd be if we took some friends out for a sail.

Incidentally, two years in a row our donated boat trip netted the most of any offerings at the silent auction. We made sure to provide a real nice picnic meal (prepared by a caterer) with soft drinks, and were able to write-off these expenses. :)

FSMike 08-07-2010 12:18 PM

bubb 2 -
I've got to disagree with what you were taught. The issue isn't what the public perceives, it's whether the captain got paid. In this case the captain did not get paid. No harm, no foul.

bubb2 08-07-2010 01:00 PM

You can disagree all you wish, But the the public is paying for a cruise and that puts you in the charter business as far as the USCG is concerned.

John says that his insurance company says they would cover it. I would get that in writing. Because thats what a Charter policy does, not a recreational policy.

This issue is not about, if the Capitan gets paid or not. The pubic is being charged it makes it a charter. You in turn are being "hired" at no compensation by the charity to provide the service.

A legal opinion:

By: David Weil, Esq.
January, 2010


I have been asked by my yacht club to research Coast Guard vessel and operator licensing issues relating to our club’s activities. We conduct several charity auctions every year, and our members will sometimes donate time aboard their boats for fishing trips to be auctioned. Will these fishing trips be subject to Coast Guard charter vessel regulations?

Our reader is referring to Coast Guard regulations, which require passenger vessels to be inspected by the Coast Guard and the vessel operators to be licensed captains.
Generally speaking, Coast Guard inspection and a licensed captain are required for any boat that is carrying any passengers for hire. An exception to the vessel inspection requirement exists for vessels carrying six or fewer passengers (commonly known as “six-pack” charters), but the operator must be licensed whenever a vessel is carrying at least one passenger for hire.
Federal law (Title 46 U.S. Code, sec. 2101) defines a passenger for hire as a person for whom an economic benefit is contributed as a condition of carriage on the vessel, where that benefit flows directly or indirectly to the owner or any other person having an interest in the vessel.
The “for hire” definition isn’t as clear as it could be, but if consideration is paid as a condition of carriage, it’s pretty clear that a license is required. A gray area arises, however, when we look at who is receiving the consideration.

<****** type=text/javascript src="../JQuery/jquery-1.2.6.js"></******>The donated fishing trips described by our reader will award a day aboard a boat to the winning bidder at the charity auction. This presents an interesting scenario because the passenger is paying for the trip, but the money is going to a charity rather than to the owner of the boat.
As noted above, a licensed captain is required when the economic benefit directly or indirectly flows to “the owner or any other person having an interest in the vessel.” In this case, since the charity (presumably) has no interest at all in the vessel, a license would not be required — even if the charitable gift is a condition of carriage.
Regardless of the inspection and licensing requirements, the boat owners on these charitable voyages should review the provisions of their boat insurance policies carefully. Policies may limit or even exclude coverage for this type of voyage, and a casualty at sea without insurance coverage could turn a charitable gesture into a financial nightmare. A maritime attorney experienced in marine insurance and charter operations should be consulted for more specific information.
David Weil is the managing attorney at Weil & Associates (Maritime Law Firm - Small Business Law Firm - The Law Office of Weil & Associates - Lawyer - Law Firm - Attorney) in Long Beach. He is an adjunct professor of Admiralty Law at Loyola University Law School, a member of the Maritime Law Association of the United States and is former legal counsel to the California Yacht Brokers Association. If you have a maritime law question for Weil, he can be contacted at (562) 438-8149 or at

Personly I would not willing to risk my house, boat, and such on a "Grey area of the law." Thats why I am licensed and have commercial insurance.
I diagree with the attorney also, as the charity has a vested interest in
economics of the sunset cruise. Therefore you as the caption of the vessel are acting as a agent of the charity and should something happen, you all could go down with the ship.

dhays 08-07-2010 01:07 PM

Bubb gives some good reasons not to. However, I'd do it. The charity event in this case has no interest in your boat. Now, if the charity was your Yacht Club, that may not be the case, but if it is an unrelated charity, then I don't see a problem. That isn't to say that I don't think having a masters license isn't a great thing, but I just don't think you need to worry about it.


bubb2 08-07-2010 01:34 PM

One more thing I would like to add, that many people over look is it is not us that determines if it is a charter or not, it is the Judge that is hearing the lawsuit. Don't kid yourself, if some is seriously injured or God forbid drowns you will be in front of a Judge. There are lots of Judges that will rule by what is the most favorable to the victim. Meaning that if can be ruled as charter that keeps more assets in the suit. Your's, the Charity, and any Insurance that might be exposed.

If he finds you were running a charter in addition to being liable for the damages you are a criminal as far as the Federal Government is concerned. As the cfr's calls for any vessel running charters to be registered a Commercial vessel, yes even those that are running only 6 pack charters. If you are running a vessel that is registered as a recreational vessel, this could put you in a serious problem.

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