Today's Date

Monday, February 08, 2016
The Log

Ask a Maritime Attorney

Reader asks if he can place a mechanic’s lien on brother’s boat

David Weil, Esq.  |  posted: 1/29/2016

My brother asked me to help repair the engine in his sailboat. The boat was located in the San Francisco Bay area but he promised that he would bring the boat to our home port of Morro Bay in exchange for my help. I spent several hundred dollars on parts, and I ultimately completed the repairs after four trips to the boat and over 60 hours of my labor. He and I sailed the boat to Morro Bay, where my wife and I assumed that we would enjoy a boat partnership for years to come. To our surprise, my brother and his girlfriend left Morro Bay the next day and the boat is now in a long term slip at a marina in Southern California. Can I put a mechanic’s lien on the boat to recover the amount owed to me in a case like this?

Can I sell more than one boat a year?

David Weil, Esq.  |  posted: 1/15/2016

Is it legal to sell more than one boat a year in California without having a yacht broker’s license? I own one boat that I have for sale and have the opportunity to purchase another which I intend to clean up and sell for a profit. I know there are restrictions on the number of cars that I can buy and sell in the course of a year so I was curious about whether boats are subject to the same restrictions.

How can I resolve a dispute over commission paid to a broker?

David Weil, Esq.  |  posted: 1/1/2016

I am trying to help my parents with a problem that developed in connection with the recent sale of their boat. The boat was listed with a broker in Southern California, and after the deal closed, he had apparently deducted a 30 percent commission from the sale proceeds instead of the usual 10 percent. I know I could take the broker to small claims court, but I am trying to avoid that, since I live in another state. I am instead looking for a trade organization or association that I may be able to file a complaint with. I have heard that all brokers are part of an association that allows them to post their listings on the Yachtworld website, but I have not been able to find that organization on the Internet. If you could point me in the right direction, I would really appreciate it.

Does a boat repair professional need a contractor’s license?

David Weil, Esq.  |  posted: 12/18/2015

I am in a dispute with a boatyard regarding its invoice and the quality of its work on my boat. The boatyard sued me in small claims court to collect the disputed funds, and I have been doing a little research for my defense in the lawsuit. I discovered the boatyard does not hold a California contractor’s license, and an unlicensed contractor may not file a lawsuit to collect fees. Furthermore, I found in Business and Professions Code sec. 7057 a “general building contractor” is someone who works on, among other things, structures for the shelter or enclosure of persons or animals or who works on “moveable property.” So based on my research it appears the yard is an unlicensed contractor and prohibited from suing me to collect its fee. Am I correct?

Understanding CF registered boat lien sale procedures

David Weil, Esq.  |  posted: 12/5/2015

I own a boat that is registered with the California DMV. I recently left town for a couple of months, and I happened to get into a dispute with my marina manager a few days before my departure. When I returned, I was shocked to learn that my boat had been sold by the marina at a lien sale auction. I left a forwarding address with the marina before I left town, but I received no notice prior to the lien sale. What exactly are the notice and advertising requirements for a lien sale on a boat?

Do maritime liens have an expiration date?

David Weil, Esq.   |  posted: 11/20/2015

I am in the process of selling my boat, and the buyer discovered that a lien had been recorded on the Coast Guard Abstract of Title over 10 years ago. The lien is related to some engine work that was completed on my boat, but the boat mechanic who did the work should have removed the lien when I paid him. Now, after 10 years, I can’t find the mechanic and the buyer will back out of the purchase if I can’t transfer clear title to him. I did some research on this and I found a federal statute which calls for maritime liens to expire after three years. Does this statute apply to a case like mine? If so, why does this lien continue to appear on my title history? If not, what can I do to clear my title?

Understanding marina tenancy

David Weil, Esq.  |  posted: 11/7/2015

I am a 72 year old retiree living aboard my 48 foot sailing yacht in Northern California. Last month I had a dispute with one of my neighbors about a shorepower cord, and several weeks later I was advised by my marina that my lease was terminated. This will create a severe hardship for me because I am scheduled to have surgery several days before the effective date of the lease termination. I asked the marina manager for more time but she refused. Can you help me?

Read, then re-read your purchase contract

David Weil, Esq.  |  posted: 10/23/2015

We recently entered into a written agreement with a private party to purchase a boat. The “agreement” was a generic purchase agreement the seller found online, and we realize now that it was missing a lot of terms important for a boat purchase. We left a deposit check with the seller and the agreement stated the check would not be cashed for at least four days, which allowed us time to inspect the boat and confirm the boat was acceptable to us.  We are looking for a liveaboard boat, and after talking with some knowledgeable people we decided the boat was not for us. We called and emailed the seller one day after signing the purchase agreement to advise him we were no longer interested in the boat. Unfortunately he refused to return our deposit, claiming our reason for rejecting the boat needs to be better than “it is just not for us.” Is he correct? Have we lost our deposit?

What’s the owner’s liability, if his rotting private dock floats away?

David Weil, Esq.  |  posted: 10/9/2015

I am a waterfront property owner with a pier and fixed dock platform located in Northern California. The adjacent property owner has allowed his fixed pier and floating concrete dock to go into disrepair following damage to the pier after a storm several years ago. A year ago, the neighbors approached the owner about our concern that the floating dock pilings were severely worn and had the potential to break away. We are concerned about damage that the free-floating concrete dock will do the neighboring docks and boats, not to mention a boat under way in the storm. What is the owner's liability for damages should this dock float free of its mooring pilings in a rising tide caused by a storm surge?

Rules of the Road: Part III

David Weil, Esq.  |  posted: 9/25/2015

What are the right of way rules for standup paddle boards and kayaks encountering power boats and boats under sail? I always thought that a row boat had right of way over both sail and power. Are SUPs and kayaks considered to be the same as rowboats?

Mind the Rules of the Road

David Weil, Esq.  |  posted: 9/11/2015

What does it take for a sailboat to be considered a “power driven vessel?” I am an active participant in a sailboat owners’ forum and this question is presented and argued over from time to time but we have never reached a conclusion. We are particularly interested in a scenario where a boat is under sail with engine running but not in gear, which may be the case for a boat that is charging its batteries. If a sailboat with the engine running and with the transmission in neutral is considered a sailing vessel rather than a power driven vessel, what would prevent the operator of a sailboat from shifting in and out of gear whenever the skipper wanted to claim right of way over a power driven vessel?

Rules of the Road apply to commercial, recreational vessels

David Weil, Esq.  |  posted: 8/30/2015

My wife and I own boat that we keep at a marina in San Pedro. We are in the middle of a large port and, as such, we seem to encounter commercial traffic whenever we take the boat out. I usually operate under the policy of “tonnage rules” and try to stay out of the way of all commercial traffic, but I’m sure the actual Rules of the Road are a little more complicated. Can you shed some light on the formal rules for operating a recreational boat in an area with heavy commercial maritime traffic?

Is a ‘notice’ of a lien really a maritime lien?

David Weil, Esq.  |  posted: 8/14/2015

I own a commercial vessel that I operate from a harbor in Southern California. I was recently notified that a company that worked on the boat over 10 years ago filed a notice of claim of lien with the Coast Guard. I did some research and discovered that a maritime lien expires after three years pursuant to a federal statute. Is the company’s claim valid?

Who is responsible when anchored boats collide?

David Weil, Esq.  |  posted: 8/1/2015

Rules to follow for every boat transaction

David Weil, Esq.  |  posted: 7/17/2015

My 35-foot motoryacht has been listed for sale for almost a year and I finally have a solid offer. Unfortunately the buyer cannot qualify for conventional financing and he has asked me to loan him the funds for a year, at which time he expects to be able to pay off the purchase. My yacht broker has offered to hold my signed bill of sale in trust pending the payoff of the loan by the buyer, but this seems pretty informal. How should we structure this type of transaction?

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