Boat breaks down at sea or is beached - rules for rescuers?

Adetheheat

Member
Joined
14 Aug 2022
Messages
107
Visit site
On my boating course the instructor said something about if someone rescues your boat because it's beached or broken down then as soon as they get a rope attached to your boat they then own your boat? Is that so - how would I get around it ? I remember the instructor saying just agree the price before they get a rope attached and you'll be ok.
Thanks
 

AngusMcDoon

Well-known member
Joined
20 Oct 2004
Messages
8,726
Location
Up some Hebridean loch
Visit site
The laws of salvage are complex. The compensation depends on the risk taken & expertise shown by a salvor. It's not automatic that the salvor owns the rescued boat. Also a claim will only be upheld by a judgement from an admiralty court which is a very expensive legal process to undertake. For a small low value boat it's not going to happen. A ship worth tens or hundreds of millions of pounds is a different matter. If you have a salvage claim made against you refer it to your insurance company. They know how to defend against them or settle for a smaller agreed amount.
 

ylop

Well-known member
Joined
10 Oct 2016
Messages
1,942
Visit site
Angus had covered most of the key points, and “instructors” who perpetuate these myths are more of a problem than anyone claiming salvage unreasonably - if there really was a strong case for salvage, negotiating a “price” is exactly the sort of time wasting you shouldn’t be doing. If however you are adrift on a calm day a mile or two from shore and a passing fishing boat offers to tow you back to harbour then it obviously makes sense to agree the cost for the service up front - just as if you parked in a field and got stuck you’d agree a price with a farmer for helping your out with his tractor.
 

Refueler

Well-known member
Joined
13 Sep 2008
Messages
18,837
Location
Far away from hooray henrys
Visit site
Angus has it ....

Salvage claims are a thorny mess. Professional Salvors have Salvage Documents to sign which basically state that Court will decide % claim on salvaged item.

In the matter of small boats like ours - its best to agree to some form of compensation and not get into legal battles over it ...
 

AngusMcDoon

Well-known member
Joined
20 Oct 2004
Messages
8,726
Location
Up some Hebridean loch
Visit site
For leisure boats in the UK many rescues are undertaken by the RNLI, who strongly discourage salvage claims, or harbours/marinas may tow you to your berth from the harbour entrance for a fixed fee, or fellow leisure sailors will do a simple rescue for beer compensation. While fisherman can be a truculent lot when someone needs help they will often go out of their way to assist for no compensation. The types who will start making claims are few and far between.
 

LittleSister

Well-known member
Joined
12 Nov 2007
Messages
18,166
Location
Me Norfolk/Suffolk border - Boat Deben & Southwold
Visit site
Long story short,

- a salvage claim is exceedingly unlikely to result in the salvor becoming owner of the boat in trouble (could happen if e.g abandoned boat mid-ocean rescued at considerable cost/trouble/danger);
- most other leisure boaters will gladly help another and not expect payment to e.g. tow you or other help that doesn't involve a great deal of risk. It would be churlish to not to provide them with some token of your appreciation - bottle of wine, a modest amount of money for drinks, would be typical. Certainly recompense them for any damage or lost gear resulting, or any additional fuel, berthing costs etc. they might have incurred for a long tow.
- it could be a different kettle of fish if your boat would be completely lost or seriously damaged without help, and that help involved significant risk, cost or time;
- best by far, if possible, to agree a fee for the rescue before you accept a line from a boat offering to tow you (especially if a fishing or other commercial boat), or any other actual help.
 

ridgy

Well-known member
Joined
26 Jan 2003
Messages
1,392
Location
North West
Visit site
I was taught to (haven't needed to) in the event offer my line to the salvor rather than accept theirs, the idea being one is taking a tow not being saved. Might be an old wives tale.
 

Bouba

Well-known member
Joined
6 Sep 2016
Messages
40,178
Location
SoF
Visit site
When you agree to a fee...does it have to be written ?....signed by both parties ?....can it be verbal ?
 

Bouba

Well-known member
Joined
6 Sep 2016
Messages
40,178
Location
SoF
Visit site
Final question....if you come across a distressed boat...offer to help for a fee...if that fee cannot be agreed upon...can you just sail away ?
 
Joined
8 Aug 2013
Messages
84
Visit site
Not sure if needed to he written, but i thought verbal agreements can be considered contractual in UK, i would also be interested if this is true or not.

We have a legal obligation to rescue if mayday (or other official signal of distress) and safe for you to do so. The definition of distress is 'a vessel, vehical or person in grave and imminant danger'.

In the real world its a none issue. Most distress situations are dealt with by the coastguard. All commercial tow services (like sea start or harbours and marinas) will make there charges clear and probably get payment upfront before doing anything. Any one else polite to offer fuel costs or rum if they are towing you any distance.

(Edit - decent rum, not the cheap stuff).
 

Boathook

Well-known member
Joined
5 Oct 2001
Messages
8,047
Location
Surrey & boat in Dorset.
Visit site
Not sure if needed to he written, but i thought verbal agreements can be considered contractual in UK, i would also be interested if this is true or not.

We have a legal obligation to rescue if mayday (or other official signal of distress) and safe for you to do so. The definition of distress is 'a vessel, vehical or person in grave and imminant danger'.

In the real world its a none issue. Most distress situations are dealt with by the coastguard. All commercial tow services (like sea start or harbours and marinas) will make there charges clear and probably get payment upfront before doing anything. Any one else polite to offer fuel costs or rum if they are towing you any distance.

(Edit - decent rum, not the cheap stuff).
Need to ask @Rum_Pirate as to what is decent rum.

In the past when I have towed a broken down boat, i just ask for a contribution towards my fuel used.

Might be me one day asking for a tow.
 

ylop

Well-known member
Joined
10 Oct 2016
Messages
1,942
Visit site
I was taught to (haven't needed to) in the event offer my line to the salvor rather than accept theirs, the idea being one is taking a tow not being saved. Might be an old wives tale.
It’s a bit of a myth based on some logic (but not quite the logic stated) - the value of a salvage claim will take into account any specialist equipment the salvor needed. It doesn’t mean they have not got a claim if you provide the rope, and if their rope is more suitable (or even just already rigged) it might be foolhardy to refuse it on the basis of your hope to avoid a claim.
When you agree to a fee...does it have to be written ?....signed by both parties ?....can it be verbal ?
In true urgent salvage arena it’s not uncommon to agree “Lloyds Open Form” salvage via VHF - that defines the contract but leaves it up to independent arbitration to agree the value. I expect professional salvors probably now use phones more than VHF (and record the calls!).
Final question....if you come across a distressed boat...offer to help for a fee...if that fee cannot be agreed upon...can you just sail away ?
Your obligation is to save the people not the vessel.

If you offered to tow me in for £10,000 and I said “no” but the best way to save the people meant you towed me in anyway - you could go to court and try to establish a salvage claim. The value of that claim would depend on the value of the goods saved, the environment benefit, etc AND the level of risk and skill you had to display to pull it off. Theoretically they could say - that’s worth £20K or £20. Indeed they could say, “it doesn’t meet the definition of salvage” because it was such a low risk task. Thats why it’s in everyone’s interest to agree any cost first.
 

AngusMcDoon

Well-known member
Joined
20 Oct 2004
Messages
8,726
Location
Up some Hebridean loch
Visit site
More importantly...does anyone know the salvage laws in France ?
France is a signatory of the International Convention of Salvage so the laws will be much the same. The main difference with rescues is that the SNSM will send you a hefty bill. That's far more likely to make your day out unexpectedly expensive than a spurious claim for salvage from Hervé the lobster fisherman.
 
Last edited:

Bouba

Well-known member
Joined
6 Sep 2016
Messages
40,178
Location
SoF
Visit site
France is a signatory of the International Convention of Salvage so the laws will be much the same. The main difference with rescues is that the SNSM will send you a hefty bill.
I’ve heard that as well....I am a member...I wonder if that would give me a discount
 

westernman

Well-known member
Joined
23 Sep 2008
Messages
13,505
Location
Costa Brava
www.devalk.nl
France is a signatory of the International Convention of Salvage so the laws will be much the same. The main difference with rescues is that the SNSM will send you a hefty bill.
That is true, only if they towed the boat.
If they picked you up out of the water and left the boat behind, there is no bill.
 

Bouba

Well-known member
Joined
6 Sep 2016
Messages
40,178
Location
SoF
Visit site
This recent story is a good example
Exmouth RNLI rescues motor yacht in 11-hour operation
If you have ever tried to hire a boat for the day you will know how expensive that can be....if you then want to add the cost of hiring a crew of highly skilled people at a moments notice...pay them overtime, danger money and a bonus for the completion of a very difficult job without injury or loss of property....then those figures mount up very quickly...I would expect that to be easily in five figures
 

AngusMcDoon

Well-known member
Joined
20 Oct 2004
Messages
8,726
Location
Up some Hebridean loch
Visit site
That is true, only if they towed the boat.
If they picked you up out of the water and left the boat behind, there is no bill.
Losing your boat may incur costs so I doubt many people turn down the offer of a tow. I expect that explaining to your insurance company that you turned down the offer of a tow because it cost €800 so instead the boat is a total loss can I have €100k please may be an awkward conversation.
 
Top