Salvage — Carry the correct forms and understand the basics
Should the worst happen and your motoryacht winds up hard aground, stranded, on fire, sinking, etc. and you need to be towed to safety, remember that forewarned is forearmed. The fundamental concept of marine salvage is that the salvor should be encouraged by a financial reward to assist to save life, the yacht and her property and more recently to prevent pollution. Historically, lengthy and costly court proceedings took place, arguing about payment for salvage. To resolve these disputes, Lloyd’s Open Form (LOF) was designed to encourage instant action by avoiding delays that might otherwise arise from commercial haggling. While there is nothing wrong with using LOF, alternative U.S. forms, such as those supplied by BoatU.S., are available, and they provide for judgment and dispute resolution in the United States rather than London. Keep a copy on board, just in case, and do check that your insurance fully covers salvage.
Critical Time Failure — Engines never fail when you don’t need them
We slowly moved through the crowded anchorage off Newport, Rhode Island, heading for the sole remaining mooring ball. My wife guided me toward it and I slipped from ahead into neutral until she called for me to go astern. I engaged reverse. Nothing happened! “Now would be a good time to go astern,” my wife called out, surprisingly calmly, as we overshot the buoy and approached the yacht ahead. I tried again, still nothing. My wife ran for the fenders. We were lucky to have been moving ahead so slowly that we were able to prevent anything more than a gentle impact. No damage to anything, except to my pride. Had I just obeyed the basic rule to try all gears before you need them for real, I would have been forewarned. Remember Murphy’s Law for yachtsmen states: If it can go wrong it will, and just when it is most inconvenient.
Grounding — If you have touched gently
First, a couple of definitions: If a yacht is grounded intentionally, she is said to be beached; if grounded accidentally, she is said to be stranded. I hope your yacht will never be so badly damaged that beaching becomes a viable option. Stranding, on the other hand, is something many have experienced or seen. A light touch can often be prevented from escalating into a serious situation by quick action and correct procedure. Do not be tempted to go full astern immediately. Check for lines in the water, such as the painter to the tender, which could wrap around the propeller and really make your day. Back off slowly to prevent wash from throwing mud and sand forward, grounding the boat more deeply. Watch temperature gauges — an increase could indicate debris clogging main engine intakes. Check the constitution of the seabed on the chart: Backing off coral or sea grass can cause tremendous damage and invoke stiff penalties and fines. In tidal areas, especially on a falling tide, consider waiting for it to rise. Sometimes it is best to call for professional towing assistance.
Be Prepared to Ditch — Always the last and final option
If it is clear that the accident or emergency situation is not going to be resolved, or that there is even the slightest possibility that the situation may escalate out of control, the captain must prepare to abandon ship. This is the time to ensure that everyone is wearing warm clothing and has a correctly fitted life jacket. Ideally, everyone will be relocating to another boat and not just jumping into the water or taking to the life raft. However, if that’s not the case, the two major threats will be hypothermia and drowning. The most common cause of death following a shipwreck is exposure. People become too cold to help themselves and drown. Even without getting wet, crew aboard a survival craft can die of cold. The epic survival stories have nearly all taken place in tropical waters. Never launch a life raft until the abandon ship order is given by the skipper, but it must be made ready. There are too many stories of even professional crews launching a life raft and tying it alongside to await orders, only to have it swept away before anyone boarded.
Spit and Polish in the Engine Room — Show a little lovin’
As far as I am concerned disposable diapers were invented to sit under pumps and motors that tend to weep or ooze oil. They are great placed under a machine during an oil top-off or filter change, and they even have self-adhesive strips to hold them in place. Toddler sizes are the best for marine use. String bags are great for storing rags. Hang them in areas of your engine room, clear of machinery, where you need quick and easy access. Do not buy rags: Tear up old T-shirts instead. Wash down the outside of hoses or fittings that carry salt water with a kettle of boiling-hot fresh water every so often. This prevents salt corrosion throughout the engine room and also makes saltwater leaks easier to pinpoint.
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