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  #1  
Old 06-24-2011
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You many think you are the Captain....

of your vessel but, increasingly, you are not, at least legally. As boater licensing and operator cards become more common, state laws written around the model of motor vehicles, are changing our oldest and most basic assumptions about responsibility for and command of recreational vessels.

One size fits all laws written primarily to address the most common craft, fast outboard boats where there often is no clear master, have caused Canada and several U.S. states to abandon the concept of there being a Captain or Master of an unregulated recreational vessel. In many jurisdictions, there is only the "Operator" and that is whoever has their hands on the wheel.

There are some serious implications in this. When you let a guest steer, you may be exposing them to legal liability for your mistakes that is out of your control. If there is an accident, you may be willing to accept full responsibility but, if the helmsman has deeper pockets, the other party may be able to make them entirely responsible.

The latest "Points East" has an article I wrote on this subject. You can read it online at:

Points East, the New England Cruising Magazine

See page 96.
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Old 06-24-2011
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I have had this interpretation of "operator" presented to me.

Note that persons other than the operator may be held responsible.

Quote:
In response to your inquiry regarding use of the term "master" with regard to pleasure craft.

First, please note that the Safe Boating Guide (Safe Boating Guide - TP 511 E (2011) - Transport Canada) is a set of guidelines, which only make reference to the regulations and provide an interpretation thereof. The guide is therefore not bound by the exact terminology used in the regulations. In the interest of brevity and simplicity, the term "operator" is used to identify the person who's in charge of the boat.

Having said that, the term "person who operates" is used throughout the Small Vessel Regulations (http://www.tc.gc.ca/acts-regulations...076/csa76.html) as well as other regulations dealing with pleasure craft whereas the term "master" is only used with reference to non-pleasure vessels.

In addition, the term "operator" is used directly in the Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations (http://www.tc.gc.ca/acts-regulations...08/csa108.html).

With respect to the question, "Do the pleasure craft regulations require that someone be named as the master/skipper?", the answer is no.
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Throughout the various regulations dealing with pleasure craft under the Canada Shipping Act (Small Vessel Regulations, Boating Restriction Regulations, Collision Regulations, etc.) as well as in their corresponding Contraventions Regulations, the terminology applied is "operate pleasure craft" or "allow someone to operate pleasure craft." The intention of the regulations is to stipulate that the pleasure craft itself may not engage in the undesirable action (be operated by someone without sufficient proof of competency, not carry the prescribed safety equipment, etc.) There is no requirement to designate someone as an operator because if the pleasure craft is found to be in violation of the regulations then blame may be assigned to several persons on board depending on the prevailing circumstances.

The key point to remember is that the pleasure craft should not ever be left in a state in which it would violate the regulations whether that be via a driver with no proof of competency or an owner who allowed someone to operate the boat without the required safety equipment.
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  #3  
Old 06-24-2011
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Yes, the proliferation of Jet Skis and fast outboards have forced States..and Canada to implement some requirements for safety education. Each state enacts their own legislation and regulations. Many model their programs to Nasbla or other standards. The one size fits all approach, has created consequences. Some may be intended, others not.

Placing burden on the " operator" while it may create anomolies like you described in the article; Should force people to "think" before they take the helm of a vessel or leave the helm to someone else. While, I agree that the long tradition of " Master of the vessel" might sadly be disappearing; the ready access to 40 mph vessels to those who have no concept of tradition, let alone the " Rules", required some action be taken.

I was recently in a crossing situation with a 50 ft power driven vessel
( a pleasure craft) , I was in a 24' sailboat under sail. I was the stand-on vessel.
Even if I were under power, I would have been the stand-on vessel, as I was to starboard. We were both doing approximately 5 knots. When the power vessel showed no sign of giving way, I tacked away to avoid collision.

There was a couple on board, there was a woman at the helm, ( no intent to disparage) as I tacked away I saw the man suddenly appear on deck looking rather confused.
I imagined the situation to be.. " here honey, take the helm, keep going straight, while I go below and take a leak" It was clear that the operator had no idea how to " operate" the vessel. Who knows if he would have acted any differently. She was probably calling down to him that she had a situation developing that she didn't know how to handle.

In this situation, ( NJ law) I believe the law would have held both the
" Master" and the " Operator" accountable. If the " owner of the vessel is aboard when it is being operated in violation of the law"

I think it also helps people think twice about operating a vessel, now that your drivers license is tied to your boaters license, and that you give " implied consent " to a sobriety test by operating a vessel"

I enjoy history and tradition, and may share some of your lament, but I have no problem making " operators" of vessels accountable for their actions along with the owner or master.
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Old 06-24-2011
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You're assessment of the situation is most likely exactly accurate. She probably didn't even know which knob was the throttle, and was little better than a "human autopilot".
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Old 06-24-2011
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Hey,

While the 'operator' concept works for a car, it doesn't really work for a boat. What happens when an autopilot is steering? Does that the AP is the 'operator'? That leads me to a question: Boating While Intoxicated is a crime (as it well should be) but drinking, and even being drunk, while underway is not. If there are 4 people on a sailboat underway, 3 are drunk, 1 isn't, can the sober person be the 'operator' even if they don't know anything about sailing?

What about the times when a boat is at anchor? Is no one operating the boat?

Barry
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Old 06-24-2011
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Barry,

Clearly, the Auto Pilot is a tool, that can be used by the " operator" .
Under no circumstances, would it ever relieve the operator of responsibility for the safe and legal operation of the vessel.

If a boat is at anchor it is not underway. But there are always situations where you can split hairs. You can no sooner quickly anchor a vessel to avoid being responsible for operating a vessel under the influence or some other violation, just as you can't pull into your driveway and park, and say..." but I wasn't driving"

As to operating a sailboat with 3 drunks onboard; it depends on where you are..which state and perhaps the size of the vessel and whether or not it has an engine and what the licensing laws are.
Why is that any different than a cab driver taking home 3 drunks after a night of partying in NY? The cab driver needs to be sober and have a license

In your example, there may be situations where no specific law prohibits that behavior but then we venture into the area of how to we legislate " stupid"
In your example, there is either an "owner of the vessel" or a responsible individual (someone who say, signed a rental agreement.) If that individual is one of the " drunks" then they would bear responsibility, and they may have put the sober person in a position of responsibility as well. But then, if they sail with drunken sailors..they only have themselves to blame. ;-)
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Old 06-24-2011
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Oh boy, this is going to be another one of "those" threads!

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Old 06-24-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BarryL View Post
Hey,

While the 'operator' concept works for a car, it doesn't really work for a boat. What happens when an autopilot is steering? Does that the AP is the 'operator'? That leads me to a question: Boating While Intoxicated is a crime (as it well should be) but drinking, and even being drunk, while underway is not. If there are 4 people on a sailboat underway, 3 are drunk, 1 isn't, can the sober person be the 'operator' even if they don't know anything about sailing?

What about the times when a boat is at anchor? Is no one operating the boat?

Barry
Maybe I'm just naive, but I like to think that common sense prevails in the vast majority of cases. To even ask whether an autopilot might be an operator sounds like a stubborn refusal to acknowledge common sense. Three drunks and one sober person with no sailing skills is a similarly nonsensical example.

This may be fertile ground for Internet speculation, but I think we all know the right answers to these things. It's obvious.
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Old 06-24-2011
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Under Federal law the cutoff for being drunk is .1%
Most states it is .08%
But if you hold a commercial license, under Federal law it is .04%
I hold a 1600 ton Master with 2nd Mate Unlimited upon Oceans. And that means I fall into the third group... And this is a very good reason why I don't drink around boats of any sort. How about you??
And if the USCG tests you and it comes up to .09%, then they will turn you over to the local police in the state where it is .08%.

So be careful out there and go easy on the adult drinks.

Sober up!! that is the Law....
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Old 06-24-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boasun View Post
Under Federal law the cutoff for being drunk is .1%
Most states it is .08%
But if you hold a commercial license, under Federal law it is .04%
I hold a 1600 ton Master with 2nd Mate Unlimited upon Oceans. And that means I fall into the third group... And this is a very good reason why I don't drink around boats of any sort. How about you??
Third Group here, CDL holder, Quit drinking 20 years ago when i saw what was coming in the Trucking industry, now to start working on the 6 pack license , would hope no one would let a non sailor be the only sober one around a sailboat, or a powerboat ether.
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