Coast Guard Auxiliary Tip of the Month – Towing vs. Salvage

Coast Guard Auxiliary Tip of the Month The Importance of Knowing the Difference Between Towing vs. Salvage We have a number of areas in and around San Diego where the water is shallow and there is the likelihood of grounding; especially at low tide.

If you do run aground, try to get off immediately unless you are holed. Towboats generally will try to assist if there is not danger to their vessel or yours. One thing to remember is that if you are a sailboat, especially with a fin keel, it is extremely easy to do damage to the area where the keel attaches to the hull (I did this once on a Catalina 30). Sometimes sitting there for a few hours can save you thousands of dollars in repairs. The tide will come back in.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary does not aggressively get into the towing business, but if we come upon a vessel needing assistance, we can and usually will render assistance. The National Search and Rescue Policy recently changed this rule allowing us to help. Prior to this, we could only render assistance with Coast Guard approval, and after private towing companies were offered the opportunity – and then only in the case of emergency. Coast Guard Auxiliary boats are now authorized to tow when the Coxswain feels it is safe and prudent.

Having said the above, if you do get yourself into a predicament where you have to call for assistance, knowing the difference between a towing situation and a salvage situation and the corollary legal ramifications is an important piece of knowledge that every boater should have prior to leaving the dock.

You should know that when help arrives, if you say or agree to certain words under stress, you could easily lose your entire investment and more. You need to ask the people offering assistance whether it is a tow or a salvage operation they’re offering. Don’t assume they will voluntarily tell you. Click Here for an expanded discussion of this topic.

The best way to avoid the need for towing (and God forbid, salvage) is to plan ahead. Know your cruising area; carry charts; know your insurance carrier and discuss what they do and don’t cover, and know your insurance agent/broker’s home and cell phone numbers as well as the office number. Accidents always happen at very inconvenient times.

Most of all, have all the proper equipment aboard. The Coast Guard wants you to have the equipment in this webpage . If you would like a free Vessel Safety Check (VSC) please contact me at Seabeeze Books and Charts, and I will arrange for an examiner to stop by your boat or you can stop by the VSC station at the foot of Laurel street any Saturday of the year.

Categories: Seamanship