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Old 22-01-2007, 12:54   #1
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salvage rights

i am curious to know salvage laws regarding derilect boats in the tule's or those that break free from moorings and end up on beaches after storms. i live in the california delta. lots of boats floating around in the backwaters...
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Old 22-01-2007, 15:10   #2
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Generally legal advice from the Cruisers Forum is maybe worth what you pay for it but sometimes it's not.

The process starts with filing a claim. The details of how it all works and what you can expect is a bit beyond anything you can get here. An education in maritime law as well as Califonia law would be a good start.

It appears you seek to secure one of these derilect boats and make into a vessle of your own. The process could end with your trial for grand theft or you may wind up with something worth less than a free boat.

Best bet is to save the boat, secure it, and then seek 1/3 the appraised value from the owner in a claim or get the boat awarded to you as is. It helps if you can prove you didn't steal it as any boat of value will be desired back by the owner for free and they won't want to pay the 1/3 salvage value to you. They will quickly claim you stole it from them.

If it has no value to them there are better free boats you can get for the asking rather than fish a worthless boat out of the sea. Boats are expensive to repair and free boats often cost more to fix than new boats even as you slave away without pay to do the work yourself. The materials will eventually get your bankroll. It's why they are free and / or abandonded nearly all the time.

Unless you follow the proper procedure you will never secure title to the boat.
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Old 22-01-2007, 15:21   #3
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Does that often happen where the owner of a nice yacht that broke free from its mooring during a storm that ends up on a beach claim the salvor "stole" it? That sounds mighty unsportingly. Were I the salvor in said instance, I would get really grumpy. Who would you suggest I speak with directly to circumvent the years I'd otherwise have to invest in law school (w/ emphasis in maritime law of course)?
Thanks for your help...
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Old 22-01-2007, 15:34   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swami maximus
Who would you suggest I speak with directly to circumvent the years I'd otherwise have to invest in law school (w/ emphasis in maritime law of course)?
As an attorney, I would say that you should speak directly with someone who has invested years in law school, with an emphasis in marine law, of course.
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Old 22-01-2007, 15:38   #5
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Quote:
Who would you suggest I speak with directly to circumvent the years I'd otherwise have to invest in law school (w/ emphasis in maritime law of course)?
A real lawyer just can't be a bad way to start. It's what they do.

The real intent of salvage rights was to encourage people to take risks often required in rescuing the people aboard and the boat from dangerous conditions that are life threatening. A ship in distress in a serious storm will require great risk to save. Those that take this risk deserve a reward if they succeed and so this system is designed. How it all works is farther reaching.

Quote:
Does that often happen where the owner of a nice yacht that broke free from its mooring during a storm that ends up on a beach claim the salvor "stole" it?
They don't generally break loose from moorings. That would be an issue that might cloud the decision.
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Old 22-01-2007, 18:16   #6
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Swami,

Many years ago, while working on a passenger vessel in San Diego Bay... I spotted a sailboat on the rocks at Harbor Island.

I photographed it.

Two weeks later, on the king tide, I boarded it and initiated a salvage effort. I'd brought a British Seagull and kedge anchor. There were witnesses.

The cockpit was full of fish & bird remains & walrus crap (from the looks of it) and the mast was about to come down. But she wasn't holed.

So - I enlisted a few onlookers to help shove and we eventually got her out of the rocks and afloat. Next, I lowered the mast, rigged the Seagull and got underway for the closest yard with a travel lift.

It was getting dark and the Harbor Police came along side to see why I was underway with no lights. I gave them my drivers license and explained what I was up to. They asked if this was the boat that had been on the rocks, etc, and if I intended to salvage, etc, etc... and eventually let me proceed. The officer wished me good luck, gave me his card and added that they'd recorded me being on the boat. Before long I was anchored safely & legally and I swam ashore.

Next morning I contacted a lawyer friend and explained myself. She photo copied the relavent pages of Maritime Law and briefed me as to where I now stood, from her perspective.

What I read into the laws is something to this effect: Just because a vessel is adrift, sunk or washed ashore - the owner does not give up title. If someone comes along and initiates a salvage, they, in effect, become an agent for the owner. As an agent for the owner, the salvior is entitled to be compensated for his efforts. However, the salvor must "act in good faith and the fees must be reasonable".

So... I went to the DMV and was provided with a copy of registration history for the vessel. Next, I wrote a letter addressed to the owner and informed him of what had transpired over the past few weeks and that I was in posession of his boat. I sent a registered copy to the owner and another copy to the officer who'd stopped me on the bay earlier that week.

In the letter, I stated what I had done (in good faith) and that my salvage efforts were worth $500.00 (reasonable) and wanted $10.00 per day (reasonable) for safe keeping and where the vessel was located (in good faith). I went on to state that I may be interested in buying the boat and that we should meet as soon as possible to settle this matter.

My fees were reasonable and I acted in good faith.

The owner called me immediately and wanted to meet the following day. He added that the cops wanted to fine him for littering their beach!

We met at the SD Harbor Police shop the next morning. The owner stated that he'd lost interest in the boat a few years ago and was willing to make a deal with me. I offered him $100.00. He accepted and signed the title.

Next, he and I went to the nearest harbor pub and drank a few beers for lunch. He asked me to follow him home and he gave me a new genoa, anchor, outboard and a few other bits & pieces for my "new" boat.

I hauled her out the following week for a long overdue bottom job.

Turned out my new boat was a 1959 fiberglass Santana 22. I named her after my girlfriend and took them both out for a delightful sail six months later.

Good luck,

Kirk
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Old 23-01-2007, 02:48   #7
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SALVAGE vs FINDS:
Kirk’s excellent story illustrates the difference between a case of simple/pure Salvage (which only grants the salvor a prefered maritime lien), vs the “Law of Finds” wherein the finder actually takes ownership.
The “Law of Finds” (“finders keepers”) only applies when the owner makes some affirmative act that clearly and convincingly establishes a positive intent to part with ownership - even with an abandoned vesell.
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