Ask a Maritime Attorney
I sold my boat a couple of years ago and allowed the buyer to make payments for half of the purchase price. He signed a promissory note, and I recorded a preferred ship’s mortgage with the Coast Guard. He is now three months late on his payments, and I would like to know my options. Can I just repossess the boat, or do I need to get the U.S. Marshals involved? What kind of notice do I need to give? I probably should have looked into this before I sold the boat to him, but I really did not expect him to have any problems making the payments.
I own a sailboat that I keep at a marina in San Diego. We had an encounter in the bay last month with a tugboat that was pushing a barge, and there was some disagreement among our crew as to who had the right of way. We were making way under sail only -- and, as such, I believe that we had the right of way over the tug, which is basically just a power boat. Several of my crew are under the impression that the tug had the right of way since, as a commercial vessel underway with a barge, it would be considered a “restricted” vessel under the Rules of the Road. Which of us has the correct answer?
My father passed away last month and I am working to get his affairs in order. He owned a sailboat, which he purchased three years ago. But after his death, I learned that title for the boat is still in the name of the previous owner. Unfortunately, when I tried to contact the previous owner, I was informed by his family that he had also passed away last year. To complicate things further, the seller’s estate was never probated. His family has been very helpful, but it seems that I am now faced with trying to sell a boat where nobody is alive to sign a bill of sale. Do you have any suggestions?
I am applying for insurance on a boat that I just purchased. The insurance applications require a lot of information, but I was wondering about the significance of the purchase price and the value. This boat is currently in terrible shape cosmetically, and I intend to invest a lot of time and money into fixing it up after the purchase. Should I give them the actual purchase price on the application, or the expected value after I complete the project?
I made an offer on a 40-foot sailing yacht, and I now have two weeks to complete a sea trial and survey. I asked my yacht broker to recommend a marine surveyor, but he won’t do so unless I sign a release to hold him harmless if he refers me to an incompetent surveyor. That seems a little heavy-handed to me. Should I sign the release?
On a recent trip to Catalina, we were motoring our inflatable dinghy outside of the moorings, but fairly close to the harbor. Another boat passed in front of us, and we noticed at the last second that they were trolling a fishing line behind them. The monofilament line was almost invisible. I grabbed the line to lift it over our heads as we passed barely underneath it, but the line was so tight that it sliced deeply into my hand. The injury required stitches, and I am left with tendon damage. Do I have any recourse against the fishing boat? I was under the impression that the Rules of the Road require fishing boats to display certain shapes during the day as well as lights at night, but there was absolutely no hint that these guys were fishing until the line was literally on top of us.
I am on the race management committee for my yacht club and I have a question concerning possible exposure of the club and its volunteers to liability during races and other events. Specifically, if a member volunteer who is operating a club-owned boat damages another privately owned boat during a race, is it the responsibility of the club to pay for the repairs to the other boat? I have reviewed the Racing Rules of Sailing, and I don’t see anything relating to collisions with a committee boat -- so, would liability be determined entirely under the International Rules of the Road?
I am considering the purchase of a foreign-built yacht that I would like to operate as a charter yacht in California. The boat is now U.S.-flagged with a MARAD waiver to allow it to operate in U.S. waters as a “six-pack” charter vessel. I have an MCA 200-ton Master of Yachts license and have been running large BVI- and Cayman-flagged charter yachts for more than 15 years. I am a U.S. citizen, but I have never needed a Coast Guard license, since I have never run charter yachts in U.S. waters. The seller of the boat that I am considering told me that for a foreign-built yacht that operates under a MARAD waiver, the captain can command the yacht under an MCA license without the need to acquire a U.S. Coast Guard license. Is he correct?
Several months ago, I inherited a classic boat from my father when he passed away. I am interested in selling the boat -- but when my yacht broker reviewed the abstract of title from the Coast Guard, we learned that a notice of claim of lien had been recorded against the boat almost 20 years ago. The claim is apparently related to the restoration of the yacht after my father bought it. When I contacted the repairman to get more information, he claimed to have had a verbal agreement with my father that required the claim to be satisfied when the boat was sold. He has no receipts to support the amount of the claim, and my father never said anything about this agreement. I want to be fair -- and if the repairman is actually owed something for his work, he should be paid -- but due to the age of the claim and the lack of any paperwork, I have no way of determining whether it is valid. Are maritime liens subject to a statute of limitations? What can I do about this?
I volunteer for a nonprofit organization in Northern California whose services include taking inner-city kids and their parents out for tours of San Francisco Bay. We were recently approached by the Coast Guard and advised that this kind of operation must be run on a vessel with a Certificate of Inspection issued by the Coast Guard. We operate one vessel, and we simply don’t have the funds to complete the modifications to the vessel that would be required to pass the rigorous standards established by the Coast Guard. We are a mostly volunteer organization that is funded solely by donations. Those donations are used to cover rent, wages for our small staff, electricity and other overhead expenses, and the costs of operating our boat. Can an organization such as ours qualify for some kind of waiver that would allow us to continue operating the vessel?
I purchased a vessel and originated a loan with an institutional lender in 2003. My signed loan agreement was called a "Security Agreement, Note and Disclosure Statement." The boat was documented with the Coast Guard and the mortgage was recorded when I purchased the boat. In 2007, the boat sank and, unfortunately, my insurance company denied the claim. The denial led to a lawsuit against my insurance company, which I eventually lost in 2010. After the conclusion of the lawsuit, my lender submitted a notarized "Satisfaction of Preferred Ship Mortgage" to the Coast Guard, and I assumed at that point that the entire matter was finally over. However, several months ago, I was served with a lawsuit from a company that had apparently purchased my loan from the original lender, claiming that I still owe a substantial balance on the note. With all of this in mind, I have a few legal questions. First, can a lender pursue a balance on a note after a after a Satisfaction of Mortgage has been recorded with the Coast Guard? If so, does the recording of that document have any legal effect at all? Do I need to file something other than a Satisfaction of Mortgage?
I recently purchased a foreign-built catamaran, and I intend use it in a small charter business. I have already obtained a “MARAD Waiver” for 12 passengers, so I am able to charter this vessel even though it was not built in the United States. However, I cannot put the boat into charter service until I refinance with a bank that will sign off on a Coastwise Trade Endorsement on my documentation. In the interim, I would like to use the boat for bareboat charters, but I understand there may be a problem with my running the boat as captain. Am I automatically prohibited from running the boat, even though I may be the only properly licensed captain in the area?
I sold my boat almost a year ago. I signed and notarized a bill of sale on the official Coast Guard form and exchanged the bill of sale for a cashier’s check when we closed the deal. It came to my attention when I received the annual documentation renewal form from the Coast Guard that the buyer never recorded the bill of sale, and the boat is still in my name. I tried to contact him, but I have been unable to reach him. What kind of liability am I facing by allowing someone to operate a boat that is still registered in my name? How can I get the bill of sale recorded?
My boat is a part of a charter fleet managed by a company in the Pacific Northwest. I take the boat out of service for personal use for a few weeks each year. When I picked it up this year, I was appalled by the condition of the boat. The damage is extensive, ranging from an engine problem to a broken hatch cover to a layer of mold and mildew under the V-berth cushions. We carry full insurance on the boat, and we were informed that the charter company was covered by the same insurance company. We have made some inquiries to our insurance broker as to repairs for the damage and lack of maintenance, but he said that we are probably not covered for this sort of thing, because it would be characterized as “ordinary wear and tear.” That seems a little extreme, especially since all of the damage occurred since the time of our last visit to the boat, which was less than a year ago. Can you help with possible legal claims against our insurance company or the charter company?
When I bought my boat nearly 20 years ago, it was registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The boat has a six-digit number engraved on a bulkhead in the engine room, and I am informed that this is probably an old Coast Guard documentation number that must have been used by a prior owner. I have applied for a loan that will be secured by the boat, and the finance company has indicated that it will require the boat to be Coast Guard documented. I am a little confused by this process, and I am hoping that you can shed some light on it. First, why is the lender requiring Coast Guard documentation? Are there any advantages or disadvantages to Coast Guard documentation? If the boat is re-documented, what needs to be done with the California registration paperwork? Will this cause the county to reassess the value of the boat for property tax purposes? What about sales or use tax assessed by the state?