Interesting thread... was involved in a salvage/rescue operation in the early 60's off the west coast
of Vancouver Island which can be a bit tricky if a sea is running. We had just delivered a barge of black oil
(fuel oil) to a native settlement north of Tofino and were tied up beside the barge when we heard a distress
call on 16 from a pleasure boat that had lost
about 6 miles off the coast and were taking on water
due to the sea conditions. Took us about 1 hour to locate her and when we came along side, the skipper
requested we take he and his passengers (total of 4) aboard our towboat. His vessel was about 45 feet and ours was towboat about 65 feet. Seas were running around 10-15 feet with the odd growler over 20, not uncommon for that area.
We managed to get them aboard and my skipper
asked if he wanted to attempt a tow and pointed out that it would be a salvage operation if he did. He agreed to the tow and my skipper put me aboard to secure a line. By the time we had everthing squared away, we had drifted down nearer the entrance to Barclay Sound and the best point of refuge was either Bamfield or down a long canal to Port Alberni where there was a shipyard and mechanical services. We got inside the sound out of the swell and moved his boat along side for a 'hip' tow in to Port Alberni and secured there overnight.
In the am, the guy phoned his insurance
broker and returned to our boat and informed the skipper that on the advice of his insurance
guy, it wasn't salvage but he would pay for the tow. At that point our towboat skipper called the RCMP who chained his boat to the dock until the legalities could be sorted out.
The eventual outcome was that the case had to go Ottawa because it was an Admiralty issue and British Columbia
did not have jurisdiction. The case was finally heard in a Canadian court convened in BC province over a year later.
My time on the witness stand was brief but the case turned on the verbal agreement between the pleasure craft skipper and the towboat skipper putting a line from the tow boat aboard the pleasure boat which was unoccupied at the time and in peril of loss due to the sea conditions and imminent coastal hazards.
I don't recall
the exact amount of settlement but it was at the time a percentage of the vessels value based on British Admiralty Salvage Law and considerably more than the tow would have cost.
I believe there is much more case law now, particularly in the US but it was an interesting experience at the time for a young kid... Capt Phil