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Rudderless Wonder
Morgan 382
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Anyone who boats is going to be in a sticky situation now and again. I found myself observing one such docking catastrophe that caused an injury and well...I'm still trying to decide if there's someone to blame or if it's one of those "**** happens" type things.

The pumpout is located at the end of the dock on a separate dock, adjacent to jetty rocks. After pumping out, the vessel in question departed in reverse from the dock as the wind started picking up. The skipper having left that dock earlier, knew there were dinghies and other small boats parked behind several slips, narrowing the fairway considerably. He had no major concerns and from what I can gather has done a lot of cruising on his boat and it's in great shape.

Later it was learned that the harbor master had asked slip holders several times to remove the boats from the fairway when not in use but the owners had not complied. One owner in particular left his 21' Duffy in this narrow fairway.

The skipper, wanting to do work on the stern of his boat, apparently, sought to reverse his vessel down the fairway but the Duffy just barely prevented his boat from completing the turn in to the fairway. The skipper was forced to put the boat in forward and reattempt the turn but being at the end of the dock got swept by the wind as a rather large gust came up.

The skipper, seeing his boat was about to graze a boat across the fairway, asked a crew member to step out on the deck and fend the boat off with her foot. She lost her footing and fell between the two boats, causing injuries to both her legs.

The skipper should have had a boat hook ready, he admitted. He accepts ultimate blame for his vessel and the direction it took but I can't help but think the guy who left town with his big boat in the fairway, against marina rules, despite being asked by the harbormaster, deserves to eat at least some of the responsibility for the accident.

Does anyone have a professional opinion or have you ever come across a similar scenario?
 

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If you negligently operate your boat in a manner that injures another person or damages his property, you're liable for the injuries or damage. If you can prove that another person parked his boat in a way that contributed to the injury or damage, then a court will hold the other person jointly liable with you, usually apportioning the damages between you based on the percentage of the fault of each person.
 

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The typical outcome is everyone is partially at fault. I can’t fully picture the setup, but if the obstruction was blocking a narrow channel, it was likely in violation of the ColRegs, if not local ordinances. If the skipper could see it, the skipper probably still assumes the majority of the guilt. He could have not tried, until it was cleared. Bumps and injuries ruin the entire day. Hope his crew recovers easily.
 
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1968 Columbia 50
Columbia 50
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Sad to say the skipper is pretty much at fault IMHO. The marina is not doing any favours by having or letting people leave their other boats in the fairway. The 21' Duffy should be in it's own slip for Pete's sake, and not tied off in the fairway.
 

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Seems to me it's like saying I tried to parallel park in a tight spot and I hit the car parked in front of me. It's the parked cars fault.

The Duffy shouldn't have been there, but the skipper had other choices. IMHO
 

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I blame the skipper.

On the other hand, if these people have been warned repeatedly not to leave their dinghies blocking the fairway, then the harbormaster should have taken some more assertive action to remove them. Any parent knows that you can tell a child not to do something until you are blue in the face, but if there are never any consequences for doing it, then the child will just keep on.

If I were the skipper, I would accept responsibility. But I would also raise hell with the harbormaster, to get them to do something about offenders who are constantly blocking the fairway.
 

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Yeah, that's ALL on him, he decided to back down a fairway to make a turn he couldn't make then blew the recovery and decided to deploy a human fender, whole chain of poor decisions. I wouldn't expect a 160lb person to be able to "fend off" a boat without injury from personal experience.
 

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I guess where I loose it is "skipper asked her to fend off with her foot." My view is boats are replaceable, body parts are not. Never ask anyone to fend off with a body part. Take a fender forward and do your best to put it between my boat and the obstacle would be OK in my mind IF the person so directed was capable, agile, understood the dangers, etc. Inexperienced crew? I wouldn't even ask for that. Hit it and fix the fiberglass later.

There are other possible discussions about trying to never put your boat in a place where there isn't a plan b escape...but this direction to use a body part as a fender? I wasn't there, but from the description that one's hard to understand.
 

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Yeah, that's ALL on him, he decided to back down a fairway to make a turn he couldn't make then blew the recovery and decided to deploy a human fender, whole chain of poor decisions. I wouldn't expect a 160lb person to be able to "fend off" a boat without injury from personal experience.
I don’t ever ask someone to fend off from anything because my boat weighs about 50,000 lbs and they’re more likely to get hurt than to accomplish anything useful. When I’m docking I do like to keep at least one fender free and easily available and all crew made aware of it so in case all doesn’t go just as planned I can ask a crewmember to drop that fender in between my boat and whatever the obstruction is.
 

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IMP, the harbormaster should tow the tenders that extend into the fairway. Equivalent to illegal parking. He'll only need to do it once. Those that gripe will gain no traction with their neighbors.
 

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Some interesting legal issues here.

One aspect that hasn't been mentioned, is that the skipper "asked a crew member" to fend off. What if he'd asked her to quickly strip naked before fending off (what I would have done). What if they were back on the dock and he asked her to jump in the water with the anchor tied to her left foot? The crew member could have said no way, Ahab, ain't doin' it.

Everything else in the story might just be a red herring. Maybe it all boils down to whether you should do any damn fool thing the skipper asks you to do.

Did the crew member have enough boating knowledge to know if fending was safe in this particular situation? Or was she a neophyte who relied on the skipper's knowledge, and assumed it was safe?

Or consider...if the boat wasn't very heavy, the speed was slow, and fending was an appropriate action, the skipper could not have known the crew member was clumsy.
 

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What if he'd asked her to quickly strip naked before fending off
Eliminates all arguing. No two naked people have ever gotten into a fight.

Then again, according to my last training, asking that is far more culpable than physical injury. Going first is the same.
 

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In my opinion, any time a moving vehicle of any type hits a stationary anything, the operator of the moving vehicle bears responsibility.
 

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In my opinion, any time a moving vehicle of any type hits a stationary anything, the operator of the moving vehicle bears responsibility.
Let’s say there is a kid‘s bicycle lying in the street, immediately around a blind corner and you’re doing the posted speed limit, for the corner. Are you liable for hitting the bike?

Now let’s say there is a kid on it. You have to make the split second decision to hit the kid, or drive off the road, hit something else and injure your passengers.

These normal human accidents/reactions are why it will be a long time before society accepts auto driving cars making them. There isn’t always a perfect answer. Humans are allowed to be imperfect. Tesla isn’t.
 

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Rudderless Wonder
Morgan 382
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks for the replies. It's pretty much a done deal. There was a minor scratch on the skippers boat, nothing really to gripe about. The crew member is healing fine, no major damage. They both apparently have a lot of miles under their belt so I don't doubt they were doing what they thought was right.
 

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In my opinion, any time a moving vehicle of any type hits a stationary anything, the operator of the moving vehicle bears responsibility.
In point of fact, an illegally parked car is normally considered partially at fault. Check the driving regs in your state. This is certainly the case in VA. It depends on the specifics.
 

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One of None
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One of my pet peeves is people that don't know what they're doing telling people what what to do! And the basic assumption, that only men get behind that wheel or on the tiller, don't move their butt and think it's their job to spout orders even they don't know how tell people what or how to do things, I saw that next to my boat over the weekend this young man apparently just got the boat, chatty Kathy girlfriend of his was on the boat, neither of them knew what they were doing but it didn't keep him from telling her to go and untie the lines. She had no idea whatsoever what to do, thankfully for them, the engine started smoking and they came right back to the slip. In all fairness this is not all or most men but the colonial way of thinking is still well entrenched, again In fairness and there are plenty of women that differ to the male just because they are male. I don't this want it to be a knock down drag out male female battle but it's pretty hard to avoid the issue!
 

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I don't this want it to be a knock down drag out male female battle
Then I’d respectfully suggest you stop bringing it up so often. I am on the helm and my wife does the lines. Not due to some colonial whatever, but because she asks for it that way. If she asked to do it the other way, we would. When one is looking for something with a bias, they will always find it.
 

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One of None
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Oh I wasn't looking for the bias! I thought it was an abandoned boat up until this past weekend! it was comical more than sad but I knew the potential danger the young lady was in and I did help them retie the boat.
 

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In point of fact, an illegally parked car is normally considered partially at fault. Check the driving regs in your state. This is certainly the case in VA. It depends on the specifics.
One of my pet peeves is people that don't know what they're doing telling people what what to do! And the basic assumption, that only men get behind that wheel or on the tiller, don't move their butt and think it's their job to spout orders even they don't know how tell people what or how to do things, I saw that next to my boat over the weekend this young man apparently just got the boat, chatty Kathy girlfriend of his was on the boat, neither of them knew what they were doing but it didn't keep him from telling her to go and untie the lines. She had no idea whatsoever what to do, thankfully for them, the engine started smoking and they came right back to the slip. In all fairness this is not all or most men but the colonial way of thinking is still well entrenched, again In fairness and there are plenty of women that differ to the male just because they are male. I don't this want it to be a knock down drag out male female battle but it's pretty hard to avoid the issue!
Don't look at me. When I go out with my daughter, I handle the lines and let her drive. This started when she was ~ 12 and continues now that she is 26. By now, we have a system we're used to. The reason I handled the lines was strength in the beginning, but now it's just habit. We always had a brief confrence before leaving or landing, covering the wind, tide, duties, and plan B. Easy.
 
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