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Liability...... Good Samaritan or just a fool


Aug 10, 2012
WD Schock Wavelength 24 Wallenpaupack
Wow lots of people saying just do it... Guess what... I've been there, not hypothetical, and of all things a friends boat no less.
So I come down to the dock, winds howling... we're on a lake so howling is merely 30+ knots... still.

Boat was a Catalina 25, and the spring line was either missing or was never added (can't be sure). Wind was off of aft port quarter, so essentially blowing the boat into the dock. Examining the dock the bow eye was smacking the dock and damaging boards, worse the chop was dropping the bow eye onto the dock, and had already damaged several 2x6s. I noted that without another source of a line, I could extend the existing aft dock line around the winch, and back to the dock, effectively pulling the boat out and away from the dock, to prevent it from smashing... which I did. I verified the boat could no longer touch the dock, and given that this was a lot of stress on the winch, I thought I had better let the dockmaster know. I went up to see if he was around and he was not.

Later that evening I emailed the dockmaster to let him know, also I left a voicemail on his machine first of the damage to the dock, and second that the owners boat was just adjusted by me (nobody else), I also voiced my concerns about the stress on the winch that the owner should likely come down and verify my fix, and that it was at best a temporary fix, given that I hadn't any spare line to use for a spring. I cannot be sure he relayed this information to the owner.

Two weeks go by, and I run into the owner (as they hadn't been to the club for that long). I had honestly forgotten about the incident. I get "thanked" with "thanks for adjusting my docklines and forcing my boat to smash into the docks!"

Sadly I will no longer adjust anyone's stuff, even if I know them well. I'll tell them, call them, but won't do squat unless they ask me to.

I'd love to say that this person was a newbie, or someone who hadn't known me well... but sadly they knew me for at least a year, and we've sailed races, and been in the club together for at least as long. We've since gotten over the ordeal and have made our peace of it... but I no longer just jump in and fix things.
Jun 8, 2004
-na -NA Anywhere USA
Sad it came to that. Some states do have Good Samaritan laws. Not sure where you are at but new sailors never learn as it is everyone else's fault. I never see an issue when preventing damage to your boat or injury to anyone