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Old 24-03-2011, 21:29   #61
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Re: Sailboat under tow had mast broken off on the Blue Heron Bridge-today

My sincere apologies for not doing update posts. I joined when I saw my boat on Google.
Tow-BoatUS did not file an incident report as required with US Coast Guard and I have been busy doing this.
US Coast Guard is now doing a full investigation of this incident.
My boat height above water line is 64' and the published Blue Heron Bridge clearance is 65'.
The Tow-BoatUS Captain shortened the tow line to less than my boat length when entering Palm Beach inlet and the Tow-BoatUS Captain asked me to take the helm and follow directly behind them as one of the tow lines attached had broken. This took my total concentration as boats were passing in the narrow channel we entered.
The Tow-BoatUS captain only asked my draft and never asked my mast height.
When turning into bridge from NW channel I only saw the bridge water mark at the last few seconds, it was between 62' and 63'. I only had time to start to say a prayer. The Tow-BoatUS Captain told me after the collision that the higher tide was the result of the Moon. The US Coast Guard have told me that Sunday 20th March 2011 was the highest tide in 18 years.
Tow-BoatUS was towing at 5+ knots. My sailboat speed under power is only 3 to 4 knots and if I was in control and going under a bridge I would have been doing 1 knot. I would have had plenty of time to notice the bridge clearance height if I was in control. I am a sailor with 40+ years of experience with Ocean crossings. The reason for the call for assistance was engine failure.
My wife (crew) was injured and boat damage is estimated at about $105,000.00. The boat is totally disabled and we are stranded in Florida.
From information and documents seen I believe that charges could be laid against Tow-BoatUS and the captain by the US Coast Guard.
I think that Tow-BoatUS Palm Beach might not have a valid insurance. They have lied to me and my attorney regarding reporting this to the US Coast Guard and have refused to provide a copy of their insurance.
Tow-BoatUS immediately after the incident admitted being responsible and liable for all repair costs and subsequential expenses. They have now gone back on that promise and deny any liability for the accident.
I have not met a single person yet who says that they are not liable.
Can anyone advise why Tow-BoatUS would not be liable?
If any members have any photos of this incident they should contact US Coast Guard Palm Beach.
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Old 24-03-2011, 22:24   #62
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Re: Sailboat under tow had mast broken off on the Blue Heron Bridge-today

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Originally Posted by Bazzas Boat View Post
My sincere apologies for not doing update posts. I joined when I saw my boat on Google.
Tow-BoatUS did not file an incident report as required with US Coast Guard and I have been busy doing this.....
<snip>.
Bazzas,
I feel for your loss. I hope that somehow things will manage to work out.

Best,
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Old 25-03-2011, 02:57   #63
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Re: Sailboat under tow had mast broken off on the Blue Heron Bridge-today

Bazzas, I’m sorry about your loss a really bad mistake , I was in the water when you & the tow boat passed 50 feet from me, I the first thing that entered my mind when I saw what happened was that because the full Moon was the closest it’s been in 20 years the tide could have been extra high, but then after I came ashore I saw that the water mark was not much higher than it usually is so I discounted that thought- perhaps I was wrong-I dont have any other pictures but what i posted- I think your mast could be repaired, ive seen lots of them spliced, this might save you some money
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Old 25-03-2011, 03:10   #64
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Re: Sailboat under tow had mast broken off on the Blue Heron Bridge-today

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Originally Posted by Bazzas Boat View Post
Can anyone advise why Tow-BoatUS would not be liable?
If any members have any photos of this incident they should contact US Coast Guard Palm Beach.
Bazzas, sorry to hear about the damage, you must be gutted just as Spring arrives. I don't think you will get an answer to your question, that is what your Attorney is paid for.

However, why is the repair estimate so high? Okay a new mast plus rigging isn't cheap, but $110 K?

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Old 25-03-2011, 03:12   #65
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Re: Sailboat under tow had mast broken off on the Blue Heron Bridge-today

Ram, good thread. Whilst sadly its too late for Bazzas, it might just help to save another CF member from a similar fate in the future

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Old 25-03-2011, 06:03   #66
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Re: Sailboat under tow had mast broken off on the Blue Heron Bridge-today

I know the owner of that towboat, and I'm pretty confident he has proper insurance, and the information I have is the case has already been turned over to his insurance company, which is the reason for him to now deny liability: insurance companies advise their not to discuss things with the injured party, and especially not to admit to any fault. This is pretty standard procedure in the US.

From all accounts, it appears that the towboat will have to pay to repair your boat. Failing to notify the USCG of the incident was an oversight, but that doesn't rise to the level of criminal conduct.

What happened to you and your boat is terrible, and we are all sorry for your loss, but it wasn't malicious on the part of the towboat captain. He made a really bad mistake. Because he is licensed by the USCG, the will conduct an investigation.

Again, let me assure you that BOAT/US requires that all their contract towers have proper liability insurance, and that BOAT/US requires annual proof that the insurance is in force.

I can understand your impatience with this situation, but it probably won't be resolved in a week or two. Insurance companies tend to take time with investigations; please don't see that as a sign that someone is trying to shirk their responsibility to pay for your damage.
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Old 25-03-2011, 08:12   #67
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Re: Sailboat under tow had mast broken off on the Blue Heron Bridge-today

Not calling the USCG was an oversight? Anytime you are involved in an accident, you call medical if needed, law enforcement USCG.

Doesn't sound like aversight. How hard is is to gtab a mic or cell phone. It's not like he was communicating with yacht.
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Old 25-03-2011, 08:20   #68
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Re: Sailboat under tow had mast broken off on the Blue Heron Bridge-today

Bazzas Boat, welcome to CF... I wish better circumstance led you here!

So we now have more of the story, but I caution everyone that we have still not heard from the towboat operator (nor are we likely to).

@ Bazzas Boat: As this matter will surely lead to litigation, it would be advisable to not further comment on this subject in this forum, as it is not confidential. Anything you state here would be admissible in court, and even if you delete a comment, it would still be available to the court by subpoena. That said, we welcome your future participation in our forum on ANY other topic!
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Old 25-03-2011, 08:25   #69
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Re: Sailboat under tow had mast broken off on the Blue Heron Bridge-today

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Originally Posted by capngeo View Post
I am amazed by all the armchair quarterbacks in this thread! The guys who REALLY have run assistance towing vessels have opined, yet nobody seems to listen!

FACT:
  • The Towboat Captain HAS to rely on the vessel operator's info about air draft
  • Unless local knowledge proves otherwise, tideboards are the only gauge available to the towboat
  • minimum steerage speeds are some of the least controlable
  • sailboats (monos) are extremely hard to tow astern because of carry-on
  • local conditions of wind, tide, and vessel traffic all complicate the process
  • Most assistance towing vessels have no special power, control, or maneuverability
  • No two tows behave exactly alike
  • IF the skipper of the vessel needing assistance feels the towboat (or it's captain) is not capable, it is HIS responsibility to take action to terminate the tow and secure his vessel
  • In MY experience, most of the boats needing assistance were a direct result of a lack of experience of the operator and THEIR errors or omissions
  • The most accurate way to tow a sailboat with an assistance towing vessel is on the hip, using the sailboat's rudder to steer
I have towed hundreds (if not thousands) of small boats over the years, and can tell you NOTHING is 100% perfectly safe when controlling one vessel from another. I'll go as far as to apply that same statement to vessels under their own power!

The ONLY person opining in this thread who was actually there (the OP) can state "facts" about this particular incident, and even HE was not privy to the conversation (if any) between the two vessels.
Amen....

Time to sit back and see what the USCG's investigation says...while it may not be accurate...it sure will carry a lot of weight in maritime court..but not always...
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Old 25-03-2011, 08:26   #70
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Re: Sailboat under tow had mast broken off on the Blue Heron Bridge-today

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None of what you wrote in your post would matter, even if the sail boat was dragging a submarine and had no rudder or if it was running only 1 engine, this would not affect anything in this case, there were no eddies on a slack tide and no boat traffic at the moment this happened-- if the tow boat kept an eye out and slowed down and looked up we would not be having this conversation now-

I have towed and been towed under this bridge more than once and I am very careful to go very slow so as to make sure I’m clear while towing a sail boat or any other boat under a bridge that is close to topping out- - whatever the guy in the sail boat told the tow boat captain about the hight of his mast is mute (IMHO) – the tow boat captain should know not to take anyone’s word and proceed with extreme caution, this he did not do-as he was traveling at about 5 knots maybe more- Hey its a mistake he made, ive made just about every mistake that is possable - , I would bet you it never happens to him again!

wrong on most accounts...any of those may require speed adjustments....at least if you care to maintain proper control of the disabled vessel....
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Old 25-03-2011, 08:47   #71
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Re: Sailboat under tow had mast broken off on the Blue Heron Bridge-today

Given the unsettled nature of this situation and the possibility of pending action we are going to close this thread.


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