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The Tender is not a Toy
Posted: Tuesday, December 22, 2009 3:34 PM
Joined: 02/05/2008
Posts: 392

Dockwalk magazine's regular column, What Went Wrong by Kelly Sanford, highlights a different marine accident each month, focusing on the lessons learned. We've received feedback that some readers would like to comment on it. So we're republishing it in the forum so you can have your say.

This month's column explains why the tender is not a toy.

Almost all yacht marketing literature will call any hulled craft affiliated with a larger vessel a “toy.” Even a substantial 32-foot center console with a cabin will often appear on an enumeration of the big-boat’s “toys” – it’s right there beside the personal watercraft, kayaks and the Laser. Not to get caught up in semantics, but perhaps it would be worthwhile to give anything with a hull and a motor the respect it requires and in lieu of calling it a toy, call it “supplemental watercraft.” What follows are two stories – both true – that reinforce the premise that not all “toys” are toys.

Collision at Sea
Several years ago, the crew of a large motor yacht was enjoying some well deserved downtime. The captain of the boat gave three of his crew permission to use the “toys.” Two set out on the PWCs and the third was enjoying some helm time with the center-console tender.
While the crew were playing on the water, the crewmembers on the two PWCs managed to lose sight of one another and collided, injuring one of the crew. The crewmember in the center console quickly came to their aid. Thinking the boat was in neutral, he jumped in to assist his injured crewmate. But, according to a representative with the boat’s insurance company, the boat was still in gear when the crewmember jumped in. The unmanned boat then collided with the big boat – not once, not twice, but three times, causing substantial cosmetic damage to the boat.
There were no life-threatening injuries associated with this incident, and despite a rash of terrible luck while trying to repair the cosmetic damage, the event was thankfully (if not miraculously) benign, unlike the second story of our duet.

Fatal Error
It was 1995 and the crew of a yacht were – again – taking advantage of some time off while in Greece. A representative of the boat’s insurance company says that some of the crew had taken the tender to meet up with friends for the evening. Returning to the yacht after dark, the tender was cruising at speed when it hit a drainage pipe that jetted out over the channel. It was both unmarked and unlit.
The results were catastrophic. There were horrible injuries and several gruesome fatalities, which included more than one decapitation. The tender also was smashed. “They never saw it coming,” the insurance agent says. “It might be the most terrible claim I can recall.”

The two very different and disturbing stories both implicate a certain degree of complacency in using the boat’s tender. It is important to note that in both cases, the captain was not running the tender at the time of the accident. Aboard pleasure yachts, it’s not uncommon for unlicensed crew to be given liberal access to the tender without comprehensive training.
Laura Sherrod, who assesses special risks for Atlass Insurance, says, “In marine insurance, there are far more liability claims on the tender than there are on the big boat, and more often than not, it’s not the
captain who causes the incident but other crew.” 
“What is the take away message here?” asks Spencer Lloyd, a veteran yacht captain now with Brown and Brown Marine Insurance. “There’s no mandate from your insurance company that requires formal training to operate the tender, but it is up to the captain and [his officers] to properly manage the guests and the crew and police the use of the toys and tender. You don’t want to be a killjoy, but you want to make sure that every aspect of the boat
is operated safely.”
In the era of larger, more sophisticated yachts, the accompanying tenders are following the same trends. “[Tenders] can have a large center console…with three outboard motors; they’re not a piece of cake to operate without sea skills. When you have crew who start out on really big boats [where there is limited access to helm time of any kind], despite their sea time, some of these crew have very limited small-boat handling skills. Ultimately, the tender and the toys are still in the captain’s command,” Lloyd says. “Personally, I think all boats should have a boat handling test for all crew before they are allowed to operate the tender or toys – well, there definitely should be – because what happens if you are in a
life saving situation?”
Lloyd maintains, “Professionals are usually incident free. Captains should use a lot more discretion when deciding who gets to operate the tenders and when. The [terms] should be consistent whether a guest is on [board] or not – just look at the stats and claims…every one of them is a perfect example of what not to do.”

Posted: Wednesday, December 23, 2009 7:45 PM
Joined: 08/08/2009
Posts: 17

Your post "fatal Error" is incorrect. They weren't out using the tender for fun or for crew use but were actually taking guest to shore and went under an unlit bridge after dark. Please check facts prior to posting as this industry every talks. The yacht I believe was Maridome and were across from us in Malta in a prolonged refit and for From what I heard they had to pay $5M in Greece and $5M in the U.S just so the yacht could sail but thats only word or mouth...either way the facts are below. * In the early hours of September 3, 1995, the tender of the yacht M/Y Maridome ("Maridome") struck a metal pipe structure in the harbor of the Port of Poros, Greece, while ferrying passengers and crew from ship to shore. Nicholas Warn, George Stathopoulos, Andreas Brigman, and Simon Willshaw were killed in the accident; Richard Brooks was seriously injured. Warn, Willshaw, and Brooks were British crewmembers of the Maridome; Brigman and Stathopoulos were guests with Greek and German dual citizenship. The tender was apparently en route to a disco, and its helmsman allegedly was drunk and sailing at excessive speed.
Posted: Wednesday, December 23, 2009 11:46 PM
Joined: 02/05/2008
Posts: 40

Adrian- The "Fatal Error" story came from an insurance representative with the understanding that no names would be used. It is possible that some of the specific details leading up to the accident may have been misremebered. (Though the account you posted does also say it was a pipe not a bridge). Thank you for your clarification regarding the presence of guests at the time of the accident, unfortunately for those involved the moral of the story remains the same.
Posted: Thursday, December 24, 2009 3:59 PM
Joined: 12/12/2008
Posts: 22

Yes Adrian, please check your own facts before posting. Are you saying that the captain of a boat like Meridome was allowing the crew to take the owner's guests or charter guests to a disco while they were "allegedly drunk"? That's what your "facts" imply and that's a pretty harsh allegation. Are you sure YOUR facts are correct? I am inclined to believe the original version where the "guests" were friends/guests of the crew, it is the only scenario that makes sense.
Posted: Thursday, December 24, 2009 6:56 PM
Interesting, I heard from a crew member that was actually onboard the tender when the accident happened that they were out drinking and they hit a unlit partly submerged pipe... Not a bridge, and yes they had been drinking and yes they were going way to fast. N guests involved, maybe some friends but not guests as we know them. They probably had to change the story somewhat to please the insurance company. The dude I got the story from is not the kind of guy that lies or makes shit up, in fact he didn't really want to talk about it, and he was very cautious when driving tenders especially at night. Anyway tenders are not toys and should be treated like any other vessel. I often pull my crew aside if I see they are going over a reasonable speed or are acting foolish. I try and prevent accidents at all costs. If they want to go and have a blast, they can take a jetski, go way out and go for it. If I don't like what I see I'll call them right back and thats the end of fun time. And the crew respects that. Its the owners property after all!
Posted: Friday, December 25, 2009 5:24 PM
Joined: 21/08/2008
Posts: 30

I have an old friend who has been in the industry forever and he tells what I used to think was a funny story about a time that he and his crew had taken a day off while the boat was docked in Red Hook in St. Thomas. They had gone to Foxy's for the afternoon in the Intrepid and were headed back into Redhook after dark, going way too fast and they hit the channel marker right outside the inlet to the harbor. He says they got airborne and landed almost on their side and scratched the hec out of the tender, but no one was hurt. You read these storys and it turns what used to be a good-story into something that makes you think your friends are lucky to be alive. One minute you are out having fun and enjoying some time off and then everything goes pear-shaped because you got carried away. It does make you think twice.
Posted: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 4:50 PM
<<<<<<<<<“Personally, I think all boats should have a boat handling test for all crew before they are allowed to operate the tender or toys – well, there definitely should be – because what happens if you are in a life saving situation?” Lloyd maintains, “Professionals are usually incident free. Captains should use a lot more discretion when deciding who gets to operate the tenders and when. The [terms] should be consistent whether a guest is on [board] or not – just look at the stats and claims…every one of them is a perfect example of what not to do.” >>>>>>>>>> SPOT ON, SPENCER! So why DON'T insurance companies require a test to run the tender? Why is it left up to the individual captain and owner?
Posted: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 4:16 PM
Joined: 12/01/2010
Posts: 7

Dear Anonymous, Be careful what you wish for. Do you really want many different insurance companies requiring competency tests given to crew for operation of tenders? I have been trying for years to get the yacht insurance companies to agree on common language to use for a basic application for insurance….. FO getaboutit. You are in command of the vessel and it is your butt on the line. Why not include a ride on the tender as part of the vetting process when hiring certain crew. Try unplugging the gas line to the engine & see how they react. Our industry is getting flooded with “paper qualified “people that lack hands on practical sea sense.  Thanks, Spencer  

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