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Old 13-06-2016, 10:18   #1
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Can a fireman force you to abandon your boat?

Yesterday while leaving the marina for a short sail with the family, the engine died in the worst possible place between the jetties. The entrance in pretty narrow and we had around 20 knt of cross wind, no room to drop the anchor and no time to get the genny out. Despite the help of a guy on his dinghy to try to tow us in less than a minute we where aground 10 ft from the rocks. We never hit anything and the grounding was really soft. We were extremely lucky. I called the marina to see if they could tow us and also Tow Boat US who gave us an ETA of 2 hrs. I remembered two weeks ago I installed a vacuum gauge in the Racor precisely to avoid something like this to happen. In the meanwhile a guy who did not identify himself said he wanted everyone out of the boat. We were not in immediate danger, but I thought it might be prudent to get the kids and wife out, so they boarded the dinghy with the guy that was still trying to help (looked for him afterwards to thank him with some wine, but could not find him). So I went down below to remove the gauge and bleed the fuel lines, the guy yell at me that I needed to get out of my boat, to which I replied that I was going to try to restart the engine, so he told me that he was giving me 10 minutes. At the time my only thought were to start the engine and get out of there so I did not pay much attention to what he was saying. So I bleed the lines and the engine restarted fine and with no effort I was able to get the boat out. After the adrenaline set and I we were safe at the dock I kept thinking if this guy that I later found out was a fireman, has the authority to get me out of my boat in a situation of no immediate danger at least that was my assessment. I always though that should be the captains call. Any thoughts?
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Old 13-06-2016, 10:40   #2
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Re: Can a fireman force you to abandon your boat?

I was a fireman too (retired) and never herd of anything like this. In the interest of safety, if there was no immediate danger, best to have a knowledgeable operator on board to assist in the operation. Sounds like a case of small man syndrome.
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Old 13-06-2016, 11:14   #3
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Re: Can a fireman force you to abandon your boat?

If the guy had any real authority I'm sure it would have been a high priority to him to let you know.
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Old 13-06-2016, 15:28   #4
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Re: Can a fireman force you to abandon your boat?

Strange. Wonder if he was going to call salvage rights on your vessel once you "abandoned" it....
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Old 13-06-2016, 15:50   #5
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Re: Can a fireman force you to abandon your boat?

No one but the USCG can remove you from a boat, and for that the commander has to determine that the vessel is manifestly unsafe for the voyage... It's a pretty high standard. So far as I know no other civil authority can terminate a voyage, though a police officer can arrest you, he can't remove non-arrested people.

A fireman? They don't have the legal authority to remove you from a burning building.
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Old 13-06-2016, 15:54   #6
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Re: Can a fireman force you to abandon your boat?

not even coast guard can force you off your boat.
they can request you to leave but they cannot force you off.
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Old 13-06-2016, 16:21   #7
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Re: Can a fireman force you to abandon your boat?

I think a fireman does have this sort of authority but not to be executed at a whim. If there were no immediate danger (a fire, a fire in vicinity, etc.) this guy's action sounds unusual.

Maybe talk this event over with his superior? Maybe there is some kind of problem that needs a delicate investigation?

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Old 13-06-2016, 16:24   #8
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Re: Can a fireman force you to abandon your boat?

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Originally Posted by zeehag View Post
not even coast guard can force you off your boat.
they can request you to leave but they cannot force you off.
In the perfect storm the captain of the Westsail 32 Satori was ordered off the boat by the USCG after the crew (according to the owner without his permission) radioed a Mayday. He said he decided to comply because of the repercussions if he refused.

Here's a write-up from the Westsail owners web site. I don't know if the owner's concerns about the penalties are correct or not but it seems quite clear that the captain of the CG vessel felt like he had the authority to order the sailboat be abandoned.

Within a couple of hours a helicopter flew over and raised them on the radio indicating that the Tamaroa, a Coast vessel, was going to try and contact them on the VHF. When the Tamaroa arrived and called the Satori Ray again reported that the boat was O.K., that he wanted to stay, but that the crew wanted to get off. The Captain of Tamaroa radioed back and told Ray that he had specific orders from Headquarters in Boston to remove everyone from the boat. Ray knew that if he refused the order to abandon ship he could loose his captain's license and Satori's Coast Guard documentation. His boat could then be prohibited from entering American ports.
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Old 13-06-2016, 16:26   #9
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Re: Can a fireman force you to abandon your boat?

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A fireman? They don't have the legal authority to remove you from a burning building.
I wouldn't put any money on that. Up here in NH these guys are under/part of the Dept. Of Safety, aka State Police. They have more power & authority than the police. How this came to be, beats me but I think it's scarey. Whenever every decision you make is done under the guise of public safety up here in the Northeast the liberals are all for it.

I respect what these guys do because I wouldn't want to run into a burning building but they seem to have gotten involved in stuff that goes way beyond fighting fires.
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Old 13-06-2016, 16:39   #10
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Re: Can a fireman force you to abandon your boat?

ORDERING off and FORCING off are two entirely different things.
and one does not HAVE to leave boat when ordered off.
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Old 13-06-2016, 16:41   #11
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Re: Can a fireman force you to abandon your boat?

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ORDERING off and FORCING off are two entirely different things.
and one does not HAVE to leave boat when ordered off.
According to a court case the USCG has the right to both.

U.S. court says Coast Guard has the right to order master to abandon sinking ship - Professional Mariner - February 2007
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Old 13-06-2016, 16:42   #12
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Re: Can a fireman force you to abandon your boat?

Individual authority? Off duty? Out of his jurisdiction? No Incident Commander? You hadn't called the fire department? I've been a firefighter and a deputy sheriff, and unless there's a huge difference in jurisdictions this guy was from a different planet. Without that structure, he was acting as a Good Samaritan only, which means private citizen with useful training.
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Old 13-06-2016, 17:26   #13
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Re: Can a fireman force you to abandon your boat?

Be afraid,be very afraid. There is a world -wide trend toward Fascism,very pronounced now here in the US. The State and its minions trump (no pun) the rights of the individual esp. without due process. 9-11 accelerated this process and one of the last retreats of the individual is the sea and your boat, but even here there are many have argued for a license to sail......WTF?
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Old 13-06-2016, 17:39   #14
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Re: Can a fireman force you to abandon your boat?

I can see if a boat is sinking the CG would have the authority to take you off, but in a stable situation- grounded inside a marina. No fire or emergency. It would be pretty tough for anyone to order you off your vessel legally.
We had a drunk guy sailing in Bellingham bay one day. Boarded by CG then the Sheriff. All they could do was issue tickets and watch the dude. I think he would be an emergency more than this guy was.
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Old 13-06-2016, 17:58   #15
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Re: Can a fireman force you to abandon your boat?

It depends where you are, and as zee suggests, ultimately you have to cooperate or defy them. Here in Oz, and it may vary by State, it is an offense to not obey emergency personnel. I do not know what the procedures would be if one refused, nor whether the CG would forceably remove one, nor what "reasonable force" might be. Perhaps discretion is the better part of valor, but maybe not. Hmmmmmm.

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