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.
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.
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
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.