Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Nice little wreck removal story

Found this story in a local New England newspaper:

Boat brought up from ocean floor -, Newburyport, MA

I doubt it will make any national coverage, but I thought you might like to see a nice little article about raising a burned up boat. No hype. I don't know the details other than what I read here.

How come Mike Goodridge always gets the good publicity?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Proposed CT law to fine boaters interfering in emergencies

I found this interesting article in The Advocate, from Connecticut.

The bill, which Gov. M. Jodi Rell is expected to sign, would impose a maximum $200 fine on boaters who fail to yield or slow down near emergency
vessels with flashing lights and blaring sirens, or pass within 200 feet of a
stationary law enforcement vessel using its lights and sirens fast enough to
create a wake. [read the rest here]

This is a state bill, and technically, I would guess that it doesn't apply to privately owned commercial assistance vessels. However, the idea that boaters have to slow down near a boat with flashing lights will certainly be beneficial to us (or at least the towers in CT waters of Long Island Sound).

I think this is a legislative realization that today's modern boater just doesn't want to slow down. Obviously, wake responsiblity laws have been around for years, but those laws are pretty much impossible to enforce. If this law passes, I hope other states take notice and impose similar penalties.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Frequent Flyers

Frequent flyers is the name we give to boaters who keep breaking down; repeat customers. I remember one guy in Marina Del Rey who had so many services that I had his boat registration numbers memorized. Frequent flyers are not a huge issue for the industry, but a guy who needs 3 jump starts in 4weeks is really abusing the membership, and I think it should be addressed within the framework of the membership policies.

Perhaps it is time that the membership networks consider updating their service policies. I think that a boater who needs a second, or maybe a third service within a certain time frame, should be charged a "co-pay"; say $50 for a jump start.

I have had this discussion before, and the most common objection I hear is that it "would be too complicated. We need to keep these memberships simple," to which I reply: NONSENSE! Adding an extra service fee for abusing a towing membership is not complicated at all.

Furthermore, the current membership policies are not all that simple. There are the membership products, which have different coverages for distance depending on where the membership was purchased. Boat/US has about 5 levels of coverage already. SeaTow offers at least 5 different membership programs. Then there are the partially covered services, sometimes called "elective" service, like dock-dock tows, or rules about different coverage within the first 30 days of membership activation. And don't get me started about what a "coverage area" is....

Then, we have non-member rates, member's discount rates, commercial rates, and extra fees for nighttime operation and SCA. There are charges to supply a deck hand, a diver, pumps or 'soft aground'. Gee, this is all so simple, right?

Gold Card, Lake Card, Corporate Card, Professional Mariner, Premier, Platinum, Bay, SS90, Skipper, Captain's Card, the famous $50 card, the $500 limit, the Unlimited Card...every one of these memberships will have different coverage limits and rules.

So, where is all the simplicity that a co-pay policy will complicate? I mean, what is the big deal with adding a policy for "repeat service within 90 days (or one year or whatever) requires a $50 co-pay paid at the time of service"? And, how hard a sell will this be: "Roger skipper, our records show this is your third service this year, so we are sending a boat as usual, but we will have to charge you a small co-pay of $50 to offset the costs of repeat service. Okay?" Like this guy is gonna make a stink and burn his membership card in protest? I don't think so.

I also argue that the concept of a co-pay is universally understood. Anyone who has ever had health insurance understands this concept. Don't boaters go to dentists? I'm guessing that the dentist has already prepared them for the sticker shock of a $25 or $50 co-pay for a $300-400 dollar office visit. Is a 2 hour tow any different?

For a boater that doesn't use the service much, this concept will be welcome because they will see it as an effort to keep the cost of membership renewal under control. A co-pay policy might also limit the member churning, as abusive members are dropped by one network and join another, only to be passed back a few years later.

Rather than looking for ways to get frequent flyers off the roles, the membership networks should be looking for ways to make those guys into profit centers.

Friday, June 8, 2007

A Tale of Two Saleries (w/appologies to Dickens)

A young man works at Radio Shack, and discovers that he has a knack for sales. To further his career, he enrolls in a one week, 40 hour Real Estate sales course, and immediately after receiving his real estate sales license, he lands a job with a prominent real estate broker. The majority of his work is talking on the phone during normal business hours. One day, he answers a call from a buyer, and the next day meets the buyer to show a house. The buyer loves the house and purchases it without delay. The overall effort on the broker and salesman's part boils down to this: taking a photo, placing an ad, answering the phone, and drawing up some legal contracts. The broker's office earns a large commission, based on a percentage of the house's market value, a portion of which is paid to the salesman. The house is never in danger of losing any of its value due to any absence or lack of effort on the part of the salesman. The salesman is considered a hard working, honest and savvy business man.

The young man's brother works at the marina, and discovers that he loves boats. After documenting two years of service on board boats, he takes a 40 hour class and passes a test, and immediately receives a captain's license and goes to work for a towing & salvage company. The majority of his work is assisting disabled vessels, sometimes at night or in bad weather and always away from the safety of terra firma. One day, he responds to a call from a boater with a dead motor. The captain tows this yacht away from danger, before she goes on the rocks or is damaged in any way. The overall effort on the salvor and captain's part boils down to this: answering a radio call, taking a photo, throwing a tow line, and drawing up some legal contracts. The salvor earns a large salvage award based on the market value of the yacht, a portion of which is paid to the captain. The yacht could have suffered thousands of dollars in damage had the captain not been there. The captain is vilified as a pirate...

The guy who owns the yacht is the real estate broker.


Monday, June 4, 2007

No Rules? Somebody say 1, 2, 3....GO!

Remember the scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, when one of the Hole-In-The-Wall Gang attempts to take over in Butch's absence? When Butch returns, they decide to fight for who will be boss, and before fighting, Butch asks to review the rules. The bad guy says "Rules!? There are no rules in fighting!", so Butch asks someone to start the fight, and Sundance quickly says "One, two, three; GO!" and Butch takes this huge guy down with one very well place kick to the crotch...

Well, we have our Rules, and before you get into a court fight over them, you should be aware of one important thing: there are no rules. We just call them the Rules of the Road because the word rule is the most efficient way to say "you better do this, or else." But, they are not rules in the traditional sense that you would think of, like the rules of math or gravity. The Rules of the Road are the guidelines for recommended conduct, and they are by definition open to the interpretation of each individual who is bound by them, who is then open to be admonished by others for his failure to correctly interpret.

Rule 2(a) pretty much spells it out: "Nothing in these Rules shall exonerate any vessel, or the master thereof, from the consequences of any neglect to comply with these Rules or of the neglect any precaution which may be required by the ordinary practice of seamen, or by the special circumstances of the case." My interpretation of that rule is: ITS EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF.

Here is a quote from what is my favorite page at the USCG website:

The International Navigation Rules do not confer upon any vessel the right of way; however, certain vessels in sight of each other are responsible to keep out of the way of others...Navigation Rules should be regarded as a code of conduct and not a bill of rights. They do not bestow rights or privileges, but impose the duty to either give-way or stand-on, dependent on the circumstances...Finally, all this said, the ordinary practice of seamen requires precaution under all conditions and circumstances and not strict adherence to the rules or any other practice. Although strict adherence may not always be prudent, the Rules are very precise in stating that nothing shall exonerate any vessel, or the owner, master or crew thereof, from the consequences of any neglect (Rule 2). Neglect, among other things, could be not maintaining a proper look-out (Rule 5), use of improper speed (Rule 6), not taking the appropriate actions to determine and avoid collision (Rules 7 & Rule 8) or completely ignoring your responsibilities under the Rules

So, over the course of this coming season, when we are all out there using and depending on those rules, I will post some thoughts and insight about the Rules of the Road and how they pertain to us little towboat guys.

Homework for this week: does the word "scanty" appear in the rules? If so, in what context?