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Old 01-31-2018, 06:55 AM   #1
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FL Bill to Regulate TowboatUS and SeaTow

Is anyone here following the FL bill to further regulate TowboatUS and SeaTow that was introduced by Dana Young? Does anyone know of experiences that might justify this?

I have nothing but very good things to say about TowboatUS although I did have one strange experience in VA.

I was towed quite a long distance after an engine failure in my sailboat. A couple days later, I got a call from the towing captain saying that I owed him a couple of grand. I pointed out that I had an invoice from him that I signed when he was alongside that read “$0.00” at the bottom. He said that was between me and BoatUS, they had paid the maximum, and I owed him the balance of his costs. I said that I would have to talk to headquarters. He said (as best I remember), “Talk to whoever you want but this is between you and me. I know where you are. I’ll have the sherriff tie your boat to the dock, kick you off, and we can talk about this in court a couple of years from now when it gets onto the court calendar. I’ll wait. Meanwhile, your boat will be unattended at a dock somewhere.” I told him to suck an egg.

I called TowboatUS and they jumped right on it. They even sent me copies of their emails to their new franchisee. They basically said that if he ever tried something like that again with a customer they would yank his franchise so fast his head would still be spinning when they hauled him into court for breech of their contract with him. I tied up next to the towboat a few times in the next couple of years and the owner never said a word to me.

https://www.passagemaker.com/trawler...da-law-salvage
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Old 01-31-2018, 08:11 AM   #2
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I had something similar happen where after providing ten minutes of service to pull me off of a rock jetty I had dragged into, the towing company declared it a salvage claim. Maritime law allows them to claim it is a salvage whether it is or not. You then have to pay, negotiate or litigate.

The Florida law requires the towing company to advise you up front whether it is a salvage or a tow covered by your BoatUS insurance unless it is a life or death or imminent sinking situation. That is sensible and I support the law.

In my case, I assumed it was a simple tow situation. If I had been advised otherwise, as the proposed law requires upfront, I would have declined and gotten my self off. All I had to do was start the engine and move away from the rock jetty.

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Old 01-31-2018, 08:14 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by djmarchand View Post
I had something similar happen
David
Curious, did you have TowboatUS or Seatow insurance at the time?

If so, would you mind telling us which?
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Old 01-31-2018, 08:29 AM   #4
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He said (as best I remember), ďTalk to whoever you want but this is between you and me. I know where you are. Iíll have the sherriff tie your boat to the dock, kick you off, and we can talk about this in court a couple of years from now when it gets onto the court calendar. Iíll wait. Meanwhile, your boat will be unattended at a dock somewhere.Ē I told him to suck an egg.
Not boating related, but I had a similar experience a while back with a landscape service company. It just amazes me that there are business owners out there who think that the proper way to handle customer service is to threaten liens and lawsuits at the very first indication of a disagreement.

The guy I dealt with said, "Hey! I file liens all the time!"

I said, "What is that, your company motto? Maybe you should paint that on the side of your trucks!"

Like you, in the end, his threats were all completely empty, as I had signed receipts and work orders to prove that I had paid everything I owed.

And people wonder why so many small businesses fail every year!
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Old 01-31-2018, 08:41 AM   #5
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It happens in Canada too. Have a friend who anchored in Ganges a few years ago to go to the Saturday market. When he dinghied back to his vessel it was gone. Long story and sad tale later his lawyers and insurer said it was easier to pay the tow boat company 25k than fight it. Weather calm and no anchor dragging involved. A local shore person said his dock was threatened by the drifting unattended high end US flagged vessel. The towing company was only too happy to oblige.
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Old 01-31-2018, 08:54 AM   #6
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I pay Boat US for my towing plan. I have not used it however my thought process is to call them when and if I need assistance and let them deal with the towing service. See how it works out when and if.
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Old 01-31-2018, 08:57 AM   #7
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we always advised whether salvage or tow unless immanent threat to life or limb.

so the law is fine with me... until the state and courts take down some captain for not rendering aid because it was verbally refused, the something bad happens and it goes to suit and the captain gets screwed.

believe me, it is a very likely scenario.

and for every 5000 good outcomes, one or several bad ones happen.... always gotta legislate the bad calls...what a pity.
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Old 01-31-2018, 09:07 AM   #8
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“and for every 5000 good outcomes, one or several bad ones happen.... always gotta legislate the bad calls...what a pity.”

It is a shame. I can attest that having spent many (successful) years in a service business that the large majority of customers and businesses in this world try to do the right thing and are looking for nothing else but a mutually beneficial outcome. Legislators will do their best to screw that up.
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Old 01-31-2018, 09:17 AM   #9
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Senator Young has some pull in the Legislature, she was in Leadership when she was in the House.

The Senate Bill and the House companion have each passed 2 of their 3 committee assignments. The Legislature is in week 4 of 8 so that's some good movement for this point in the session.

I gave it a quick read, and of course few Bills make it through the typical 3 committees and the floor of their respective chambers without amendments, so the fat lady has not sung yet. The 4 votes so far in Committee have not been close, but have not been unanimous either, that is interesting as most of the time when a Bill is heard in Committee the ducks are already in a row.

Senate Bill 664 (2018) - The Florida Senate
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Old 01-31-2018, 09:35 AM   #10
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Typical desk jockeys....


Verbal contracts are usually valid is certain situations....


Written notice provided to a vessel in 5 foot seas, crashing it against the rocks, pouring rain, 35 knots of wind pinning the vessel, everyone on board petrified numb, probably injured, unable to move without probable injury....I make the approach in a single engine Shamrock, no thrusters, probably no crew....


And....... a written contract is necessary, which obviously any good attorney will get tossed anyway because the signer was petrified to insanity....


OK...lets see how this one plays out.


Even the USCG is smart enough to not have a lawyer aboard all helos instead of rescue swimmers (their next qualification) and lower liability releases on daring rescues.


OK...maybe an extreme case...but the other is true too.... getting your but wacked if you drive away because you CANT always get a signature or just get flat out refused because of sticker shock ....then something bad happens....

.....
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Old 01-31-2018, 09:43 AM   #11
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Greetings,
OK. So is a verbal statement by the tower like: " This is assistance NOT salvage" sufficient to forestall any salvage claims by the tower or is a signed statement necessary?
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Old 01-31-2018, 09:56 AM   #12
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It happens in Canada too.
Terminology varies from country to country and region to region but, I think where I come from that would be called "theft".
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Old 01-31-2018, 10:11 AM   #13
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Quote:
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Curious, did you have TowboatUS or Seatow insurance at the time?

If so, would you mind telling us which?
It is entirely irrelevant as to who the tower was but it was TowBoatUS and I had BoatUS unlimited towing insurance. The incident described occurred in the anchorage at Oriental, NC when my anchor dragged.

To be fair (well only a little) the towing company said that they would contact my insurance company and negotiate a settlement and that i wouldn't be personally charged. Typical- focus on the insurance to spread the cost to all of us rather than hit us individually.

I did contact my insurance company and they had an adjuster call me to arrange to come out and assess the damage. I said what damage, just a little scraped paint below the water line. I said that you can come but it will take a haul out or a diver to see it. He declined to come.

He did ask what value TowBoat provided in this incident. I told him it was worthwhile to have the tower hold me off the rocks while I hauled the anchor and got the engines started, but not essential. I told him I didn't think twice about accepting his assistance because I had BoatUS towing insurance.

I don't know what if anything was paid. Never heard any more about it.

And to others comments about verbal contracts. I think that the Florida law should assume that all tows are non salvage unless indicated in writing. It only takes a minute for the boat owner to sign a form indicating it is salvage, not routine towing. If you can't do that then you probably are in an imminent danger situation and the marine salvage law should hold.

David
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Old 01-31-2018, 10:42 AM   #14
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A sticky subject, and there are a few stories out there of unscrupulous operators taking advantage. I know the Sea Tow owner in my area, and most of the guys that work for him. They all have good intentions, care, and are not looking to claim salvage unless the situation calls for it. Its the easiest check I write all year in regards to boating.
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Old 01-31-2018, 11:09 AM   #15
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I have a feeling that Maritime Law is going to trump anything the great State of Florida does. It seems to be the Law of the water when it comes to towing and salvage.

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Old 01-31-2018, 11:13 AM   #16
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time will tell...Fl may not have its say in maritime court, but I guess it can fine you and pull your business license.

time will tell, and hopefully no one on either side of the towlines suffers for it.
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Old 01-31-2018, 01:16 PM   #17
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I know some guys in the towing business and everyone hates then until they need them and they become saviors until the bill arrives and they are hated again. Sad. Reminds me of cop fobia.
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Old 01-31-2018, 02:18 PM   #18
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Item 1-I see over and over and over including this thread people referring to Tow Membership as insurance. It is not insurance. Don't think of it that way. It is membership agreement that provides access to certain services.

Item 2-Read the agreement. There should be no confusion that hard groundings are salvage in the eyes of the agreement.

Item 3-If it even seems possible it might be salvage or something serious, contact your insurance company. They also can enter agreements with the tow company to cover the tow expenses.

The above three things are all controlled by the person being towed, by you. As to the tow operator, I do think some laws regarding their obligation to make it clear if it's salvage are ok, but I think the vast majority are professional and make it all clear. The tow companies are quick to deal with some of the mavericks, but still much of the problem comes back to the boat owner not knowing what the rules are, not knowing what he paid for, not involving his insurer if it's salvage. Most have insurance and most insurance covers salvage. Tow membership does not.
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Old 01-31-2018, 03:32 PM   #19
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Technically, even the tow to the marina from a water or fire damaged boat is not covered. Spelled out clearly by Sea Tow, a little less clear by BoatUS so the franchise may have the option if they like you....

That really gets people stirred up too...

Usually its covered in the hull insurance hopefully you have.....
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Old 01-31-2018, 04:23 PM   #20
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While I am not following it, I have heard about it and agree that some form of oversight needs to be imposed as it seems that relying on private interpretations of maritime law has enough loopholes in it to have many of us see or hear of abuses in definitions of terminology. If the tow companies and "membership companies", at the least, provide a menu and pricing and definitions of what constitutes what service, it would help a lot. Yes, I know there are 100's of situations and you can never cover them all, but the comfort that TowBoatUS and SeaTow sell, is sometimes far different than what they will provide. Moreover, the expectation that even the most experienced captain MUST make monumental decisions while lives and property are (or sometimes even when they aren't) in jeopardy isn't always fair. It is so different than car insurance. You can't just get out of a minor fender-bender and stand on the side of the road and think about what to do next.

I wonder if tow club memberships should just go away and let's do this more like auto coverage. I have tow and salvage in my policy, but it doesn't cover everything. I would pay more for hull insurance if I didn't have to worry about a tow company trying to take advantage of me when I was in peril. I would feel better if I knew insurance would cover it completely and if the tow company has an issue, they take it up with my insurance provider.

Finally, I would also like to see the antiquated maritime law that allows them to basically steal your boat and hold it hostage for money done away with. Put a lean on it? Yea maybe... but there is NO REASON for them to look at the value of the vessel and determine a salvage price on that. Per foot would make much more sense.

Anyway, some of this may be BS and isn't based 100% on experience, but I, like many others I would gather, are extremely confused by what tow companies sell and cover, what insurance will and won't cover, and what maritime law allows everyone to do about it (and where). I assume we will all get an earful about it in this thread sooner or later :-)
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