Today's Date

Tuesday, December 01, 2015
The Log

Ask a Maritime Attorney

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?

If the captain has a stroke, does the Coast Guard need to know?

David Weil, Esq.  |  posted: 7/6/2015

I own a large motoryacht and I employ a licensed captain to operate and manage the boat. The captain has a number of medical restrictions on his license, and he recently had a stroke. Can you give me some idea how this will affect his license? And, if he doesn’t report the stroke to the Coast Guard, should I as the vessel owner make a report?

Rules for operation of a vessel by a dealer, manufacturer

David Weil, Esq.  |  posted: 6/20/2015

I am working with a partner to market a line of new boats that we are manufacturing in the United States. I recently took delivery of a “demo” boat here in California, and we are using the boat as a platform to introduce potential customers to our boats. We did not want to title the boat while we are offering the boat for sale, so we obtained a manufacturer’s registration number from the California DMV and we display the number on a portable registration board mounted on the bow. I thought I was following the rules perfectly but we were recently boarded by a harbor patrol officer during a weekend cruise, and we were cited for operating an unregistered vessel.  He told us that the manufacturer’s number was not appropriate for our use of the boat but he did not provide any details. What did I do wrong? 

Can I withhold slip fees during a dispute with my marina?

David Weil, Esq.  |  posted: 6/8/2015

My boat was damaged in its slip during a storm last winter, when a cleat pulled out of the dock and my remaining tie up line parted under the resulting strain. Several months before the storm, I advised the marina manager that the dock cleat was loose and I was concerned that it might pull out of the dock in bad weather. I continued to complain, but he never sent anyone down to repair it. After the storm, I asked the marina to repair my boat, but so far they have refused. I decided, therefore, to withhold my slip fee payments, but now they are threatening to evict me. I have heard that the California Floating Home Residency Law may protect me from this kind of intimidation by the marina, since I live aboard my boat. What are my options?

What are the requirements for running a spectator boat?

David Weil, Esq.  |  posted: 5/23/2015

I volunteer my boat every year as a spectator boat for an annual fund raising regatta run by a large charity. I will typically have five or six guests aboard, plus a volunteer from the foundation who acts as a steward for the guests and a friend who acts as my crew. I don’t receive any money for my participation, but we are invited to a banquet the night before, receive lunch before the race and attend the hosted party afterwards. We had a small incident last year and, while no one was hurt, the incident raised a few questions. First, would the volunteer spectator boats for this event be considered to be carrying passengers for hire, for which a Coast Guard licensed captain should be running each of the spectator boats? If so, would the spectator boats need to be inspected by the Coast Guard? And finally, regardless of the Coast Guard requirements, should we look into a special insurance policy for the event or perhaps ask the guests to sign a liability release before boarding the spectator boats?

Does my marine insurance policy cover earthquake damage?

David Weil, Esq.  |  posted: 5/10/2015

I just renewed my homeowner's insurance policy and it reminded me that I have never seen an earthquake insurance policy offered for a boat. I know that homeowners have to take out separate earthquake policies through the California Earthquake Authority to get coverage. Are boat owners eligible for anything similar? If my boat suffers damage during an earthquake — whether it's in dry storage, on a trailer at home or tied to a dock at a crowded marina — will my marine insurance policy cover it?

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