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Accidents Happen, part 1: Boat Damage
Posted: Monday, December 19, 2011 8:20 PM
Joined: 01/05/2008
Posts: 65

Dockwalk magazine’s column, Worst Case Scenario by Kelly Sanford, highlights a hypothetical situation that captains may experience and offers advice from experts on how to handle it. The January 2012 column details the responses necessary for insurance purposes in the aftermath of an accident.

With guests adamant about spending New Year’s Eve on Jost Van Dyke, the crew of M/Y “Scrupulous” arrived two days early to claim a prime spot in the anchorage. In the following days, it became crowded, and on New Year’s Eve day, M/Y “Bollix,” a small yacht, anchored very close to Scrupulous. The captain and crew watched Bollix set the hook and agreed to monitor its position closely and re-set an anchor alarm to track both boats. The situation was one the captain would rather have avoided, but given the popularity of the anchorage, he played the hand he had been dealt.

As night fell, Scrupulous maintained a manned anchor watch while the entire party aboard Bollix headed to shore for the festivities. Moderate swells rolled into the anchorage and a steady wind developed; the conditions were far from severe, but enough for the single, poorly set anchor holding Bollix to start dragging. Attempts to contact the absent crew on Bollix went unanswered and before Scrupulous could prepare to reposition, the two collided. Bollix became tangled in Scrupulous’s anchor line and a festive New Year’s Eve went pear shaped.

When accidents like this happen, the steps that need to take place in the aftermath are fairly straightforward. (And whether your vessel or the other party is at fault, the steps are the same.)
“The first priority is to get everyone out of harm’s way and avoid making rash decisions that might end up putting someone in harm’s way,” says Spencer Lloyd of Frank Crystal & Company. If there’s an incident involving a less experienced mariner or a bareboat, it’s perfectly reasonable to assist the other vessel if necessary. “There’s nothing in the law that should prevent you from helping another vessel in distress,” Lloyd adds.

Rob Carron, vice president of Marsh’s Luxury Yacht Practice, says that in the immediate aftermath, both boats should account for everyone on board and make sure there are no injuries. “Seek medical assistance if necessary, and get names and contact numbers for the injured parties,” he points out. Once the vessels are no longer in peril and all passengers are safe and accounted for, the captain should make any necessary reports
to local port authorities.

At this point, the captain and crew should begin assessing the damage and the captain must generate a Captain’s Master Statement report. Although there’s no standardized format for this report, both Lloyd and Carron say it should contain as much information as possible. “Start with the names of the vessels and parties involved, include the date, time and conditions leading up to the incident and a concise description of both the incident and resulting damages,” Carron says.

“Hopefully the watchkeepers have documented the entire developing situation in the ship’s log,” Lloyd adds, and advises, “Captains need to diligently document decisions made in the pilothouse. If you do not, the oversight may eventually bite you.” To supplement the written report, take photographs and video — anything easily transferable to the insurance company to illustrate what happened. Once the necessary assessments have been made, “Advise your insurance brokers and carriers — including the Hull and Machinery, Protection and Indemnity and Crew Medical — as soon as possible. Most providers and insurance companies have a twenty-four-hour hotline,” Carron says.

Although you should get the insurance information from the other involved party, “Sometimes these things happen and the people aboard the other boat will launch into a tantrum. If the other boat is acting [aggressively], do not engage them,” Lloyd says. “If you’ve got someone being an idiot, defer to your respective insurance companies to handle the situation, take precautions to minimize your exposure to confrontation and do not aggravate the other party.” Insurance companies and their inspectors are pretty good at getting to the truth, so Lloyd tells captains not to concern themselves with obtaining a confession of culpability.

Before heading to sea, the captain will have to make a very conservative assessment of the vessel’s seaworthiness if there is damage to the boat. “A majority of policies have a provision that allows crew to use whatever means necessary to minimize loss,” Lloyd says. “If you have any concerns about the vessel’s seaworthiness, then do whatever it takes to make the boat safe. If you need to use hydraulic cement or a rubber patch or even if you have to beach the boat, if you think it needs to be done, then you do it.”

According to Carron, if there is anything more than minor cosmetic damage to the boat, make port if you can do so safely and terminate usage of the boat until the insurance inspector has had a chance to survey the boat.

“When it comes to seaworthiness, you want that burden to fall on the insurance surveyor. If there is any question of the boat’s integrity and the captain returns to sea, then any further damage may negate the insurance claim,” Lloyd explains. “The damage does not have to sink the boat. It can be something as simple as damage above the waterline that takes on water while underway and causes interior damage. My personal pearl of wisdom is that a captain should never do anything that might give an insurance company an excuse to deny a claim.”

Insurance is in place because accidents happen. A savvy captain mentally will rehearse the requisite steps to manage a situation if an insurance claim becomes necessary. Methodical documentation, composed decision making and adherence to safe, proper protocol are necessary for navigating an accident when the boat is badly damaged.

Posted: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 8:35 AM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026

" A savvy captain mentally will rehearse the requisite steps to manage a situation " AND PREVENT THE INSURANCE CLAIM. A leeward vessel cant escape a windward vessel drifting down by hauling in its anchor and closing the gap.... it must dump its chain to the bottom, become completely free, create maneuvering room, then clear the anchorage . And be assured that after I dump my chain to protect my boat and crew from your drifting stinky, I will be that "IDIOT " on the other boat launching into a tantrum. Respond correctly or review your dental policy
Capt Edward P
Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 7:49 AM
Joined: 06/01/2011
Posts: 81

It also sounds like there was no enough chain out in the first place so the angle of leverage was too high. This is negligence in the first place, we all know the 3 x rule and it would appear that the party came first priority wise and the boat safety second. Weight of anchor and chain also should be examined to see if - with all fuels, water,victuals,stock, fittings, furniture and effects to see if the useable load has been exceeded - something easily overlooked when the anchor is normally delivered with the boat and it is empty of ribs, jetskis, ribs and tanks of air, fuel, booze, food etc. Yours 'aye Cap'n Ed
Rusty Wrench
Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 12:19 PM
Joined: 21/09/2010
Posts: 207

Capt  E P,
It is not the anchor alone which holds the vessel, but the length and physical size of anchor chain deployed.
Perhaps you should add the captain's wallet to your list; ''ribs, jet skis, ribs and tanks of air, fuel, booze, food etc''

Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 3:37 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026

Anchor technique really makes no difference. When youre anchored to leeward of the fleet...and since we are all on big boats and are correct seaman, we will be anchored to know that when the wind comes up boats to windward will drag. It is guaranteed. As a pro crew...the reason they pay you.... your strategy to cope with this high season madness is to teach your crew how to escape effortlessly, no sea stories , no amateurish insurance mumbo jumbo.....just solve the dam problem
 Average 5 out of 5