By Captain Kevin Deerman
It’s always been amazing to me to see what kind of creatures show up in the lights around the boat at night when tuna fishing off the Texas coast. Over the years we’ve encountered many different types of fish. These nocturnal visitors are welcome entertainment for the crew on the long nights in the Gulf of Mexico. We are always on the lookout for flying fish to use for live bait.
Over the years, we have also scooped up our share of juvenile dorado, wahoo and even different billfish species. Hanging around a lit-up spar rig in 5,000 feet of water is not a very safe environment for these smaller fish when the tuna start feeding at night.
A few years back, Captain Kirk Elliott told me about a juvenile sail that his mate had dipped up in his net and had swimming around in a five-gallon bucket on deck. After watching the little sailfish swim around the bucket for a few minutes, Kirk asked his mate if he would dump the baby sail back overboard and let it free before they hurt the little thing. The mate had no sooner complied with Kirk’s request, than the sailfish was gobbled up by a big tuna as it slowly swam away from the boat.
As we tuna fished for a few hours on a July night a few years ago, we netted and released a couple of juvenile sails and spotted around a half dozen more swimming around in the lights. I’m sure most of the boats that frequent the deepwater spar rigs have experienced similar sightings of juveniles while tuna fishing also. The Billfish Foundation recently announced a pretty cool new program called the Juvenile Billfish Project. TBF is asking for help from all of us to get more information on these young billfish to get a better understanding of their habitats and distribution.
This information not only helps provide data on juvenile billfish, but is useful in determining where the big ones spawn. To help out, all anglers need to do is email a photo of a juvenile billfish that they have caught with as much information as they can provide. Pertinent facts include the approximate location, date, time of day, weather conditions, size of fish, and the like. Snap the picture, jot down the details and email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While it might not seem like a few photos with information would accomplish too much, widespread participation in the program can provide scientists with a wealth of data through time. Not only could this help to more understand the habits of juvenile billfish (and the species as a whole), but it makes netting up all the small marlin and sailfish that swim into your lights even that much more fun… Just try not to feed them to the tuna!
– That’s the report from Texas!
Camas, WA – Furuno USA has announced a software update for NavNet TZtouch2 that enables use of the popular CMOR seafloor maps. CMOR’s high-resolution, shaded-relief bathymetric bottom images help navigators identify suitable locations for fishing and diving, overlaid on top of NavNet’s conventional vector, raster, or fishing charts. CMOR’s high-resolution coverage for NavNet TZtouch2 Multi-Function Displays currently includes parts of the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, and southern portions of the East Coast, and additional areas will be available in the coming weeks.
The ability to overlay CMOR maps on the chart type of the customer’s choosing is a unique feature of NavNet TZtouch2. For current TZtouch2 owners, the maps properly formatted for use in TZtouch2 MFD’s are available for download from the Furuno web site at www.FurunoUSA.com, along with the software update and instructions for updating the NavNet TZtouch2 system. For customers new to TZtouch2, all new TZtouch2 MFD’s will now ship with a 256GB Micro SD card that includes all of the CMOR maps available, in addition to the system’s pre-loaded raster and vector charts that include most of the western hemisphere. Customers can unlock the CMOR charts at the time of purchase, or at any time thereafter.
For more information on CMOR maps, visit their website at www.cmormapping.com. To learn more about NavNet TZtouch2, or the complete line of Furuno Marine Electronics, see your local Furuno dealer or contact: Furuno U.S.A., 4400 N.W. Pacific Rim Blvd., Camas, WA 98607. Phone: (360) 834-9300
Have you ever wanted to know the most popular lures used around the Bahamas, the Gulf of Mexico and the Mid-Atlantic? Take a minute and listen in to Grand Slam Sportfishing Supply owner Jim McGrath as he showcases the best lures for 2019. Lures include the recent World Cup and the Mid-Atlantic winner. Don’t wait and order yours today!
by Dave Ferrell
With all of the hurricane destruction in 2016, photos of destroyed, damaged, sunken or otherwise battered boats are floating across the internet. What becomes of these boats? How does salvage work and what about insurance coverage? The following is Dave Ferrell’s breakdown of the process. Whether a boat owner, captain or crew, this information is a must-know for anyone involved in boating. – ITB
On August 24, 1867, the Blackwell, a British ship docked in San Francisco Harbor caught fire around 4 a.m. When the crew was unable to contain the blaze, it was forced to abandon ship. As the fire raged, a tug boat docked nearby named the Goliath raced over to the vessel and tied up alongside. With the help of local firemen and two fire engines that they had put onboard, the Goliath fought the blaze. After about a half hour, their combined efforts put out the fire, saving the ship and some of its cargo.
Consequently, the owners of the Goliath sued the owners of the Blackwell in the San Francisco District Court for a salvage reward, winning a judgement for $10,000. (The U.S. Constitution grants federal courts original jurisdiction in “all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, including salvage cases). That ruling was upheld by an appellate court, but the Blackwell’s owners appealed again, bringing the case to the United States Supreme Court.
Ultimately the Blackwell’s owners gained a minor victory when the judges determined that the firefighters’ efforts made up half of the salvage operation and thereby awarded the Goliath’s owners $5,000 or half the amount due. It wasn’t, however, the monetary award that made this ruling so compelling. Rather it was the Court’s creation of the elements that must be considered when determining a salvage reward. These are now known as “the Blackwell Factors.”
Salvage Rules, Sort Of
In the Blackwell decision, the courts set six factors that should go into determining the “reward” that a salvage company can claim. They set the main details in determining the amount of the reward for “a salvage service:
(1) The labor expended by the salvors in rendering the salvage service.
(2) The promptitude, skill, and energy displayed in rendering the service and saving the property.
(3) The value of the property employed by the salvors in rendering the service, and the danger to which such property was exposed.
(4) The risk incurred by the salvors in securing the property from the impending peril.
(5) The value of the property saved.
(6) The degree of danger from which the property was rescued.”
Unfortunately, these factors don’t provide any formula as to how these different elements would be weighted in determining the amount awarded, however, all of these factors must be considered when setting the value of the reward due to the salvors. In 1989, the salvage industry came together to create an international standard for all salvage operations. This standard added several additional factors, including promptness of the services rendered; the availability and use of vessels or other equipment intended for salvage operations, and; the state of readiness of the salvors’ equipment.
These regulations are known as the SALCON 89 agreement. It also goes on to detail the responsibilities of both the salvor and the boat being salvaged. But again, there are no guidelines on how much weight each of the factors should play in determining the reward, except that the reward cannot be more than the value of the vessel and cargo itself.
Boat Salvage in Practice
According to Chuck Hansen of Fast Response Marine Towing and Salvage in Miami, most salvors base their fees on either a percentage of the value of the vessel or a per-foot fee. “There are two types of salvage,” says Hansen, “contract salvage, where you write up a contract and come up with a price up front; and pure salvage or ‘no cure no pay.’”
Pure salvage occurs when services are rendered voluntarily in the absence of a contract. To keep salvors from plucking up unattended boats there are three elements that have to come into play for a pure salvage to be valid, (a) a marine peril; (b) service voluntarily rendered when not required as an existing duty or from a special contract; and (c) success in whole or in part, or a contribution to such success. So if a salvor tries and fails to save the vessel, no matter how hard he tries or how much danger he put himself in, he gets nothing if the cargo and/or ship is lost.
“The standard per-foot rate for a sunk or sinking boat is around $175 to $200 a foot,” says Hansen, “or a percentage of the vessel’s worth…commonly 20-percent at the highest. You are allowed to bill up to 30-percent if it’s incredibly dangerous, at night etc. If you have a 30-foot Bayliner, I’m probably going to charge you by the foot. If you have a 45-footer worth a million dollars I’m going for the percentage. And that percentage will fluctuate depending on the Blackwell factors. You also have low order salvage that is usually between four and six percent. To get that 20-percent it really has to be a salvage performed under some pretty risky conditions. Any unmanned vessel that’s adrift is also a salvage, and even certain tows can be considered salvage as well. If you get inside the swim buoy or up on the beach, I can consider it a salvage if I so choose…so make sure you have a good anchor!”
Hurricane Damage, Vessel Owner’s Liability
With all of the hurricanes hitting the US this year the salvors are enjoying a bit of a business boom, but it’s not easy work. “About half of the boats will have good insurance and will be taken care of pretty quickly,” says Hansen.
“An owner or insurance company will contact us, and we will come and try to refloat the boat and get it to a haul out facility. But getting the boats from Irma has been very challenging. Most of our refloats have to do with a bad fitting or a failed pump, something that’s easily fixed to get the boat floating again. A lot of the boats we’ve dealt with from Irma had bottoms that looked like Swiss cheese. They don’t want to float, so we have to either make extensive repairs and patches or tow them submerged. Once we make it to a haul out, we will put it on a transport and let the insurance company make the call on whether it will be repaired or deemed a disposal,” the salvor continues.
One thing you see a lot of in South Florida are seemingly abandoned sail boats and old power boats on moorings. Are boat owners responsible for damage done by a boat set adrift during a storm? According to Hansen, probably not. “I’ve talked to a couple of lawyers and they said that hurricanes are an act of God. Just like if a neighbor’s shingle comes flying off his roof and breaks something, your neighbor is not responsible,” he says.
At the same time, if your vessel is leaking fuel or damaging the environment you can be fined heavily if you don’t respond to the Coast Guard in a timely manner. “Let’s say your boat sinks and it’s spewing fuel, and you cannot afford a salvage fee. If you can’t get someone there to take care of the problem in short order, the Coast Guard will federalize the vessel. They will pay a government contractor to salvage the vessel, usually at a huge price, and then go after the owner for the money. A lot of folks just don’t understand the kind of liability they can face when their bargain basement 30-year old trawler sinks at the dock. That great deal can come back and haunt them,” says Hansen.
All of the leaking boats from Irma created a huge natural disaster. In response, the Coast Guard made a nationwide call after the storm to get as many port teams as possible into the South Florida area as soon as possible. They are tasked with finding possible environmental hazards and getting the folks who own the boats to take care of them. If you do not respond in a timely manner, you will be fined into submission.
During normal times, when there’s no hurricane boats to salvage, Hansen and his crew will go on patrol looking for sunken boats or vessels in distress and try to locate the owner. “I can get a name and address from the FL numbers. I’ll often look up the names on Sunbiz because most owners of nice boats have some sort of business. A lot of the folks don’t even know that their boat is sunk,” says Hansen.
Hansen also works with the city to take care of some of the derelict boats littering the bays and canals around the City of Miami Beach. “They have a great program that gets rid of these boats quickly. They put the job up for bid and once you win the job you have 24-hours to remove the vessel. On a larger scale, sometimes a municipality or government body will contract a single salvage operator to take care of all the derelict boats in an area. They will bring in a barge and haul out 50 boats at time. That’s what’s going to happen to most all of these hurricane boats here in South Florida…the state’s going to have to do something.”
If You Run Aground
There are no hard and fast rules about what to do when you’ve grounded a vessel but there are some things you need to consider before you jump into a life raft and float away. Once you leave the vessel, it is considered unmanned and it is now fair game for the first salvager that appears on scene.
“You probably want to try to get pulled off first,” says Hansen. “Of course, that depends on what kind of bottom you are stuck on, rocks versus sand, and the configuration of the boat. An outboard or an I/O will probably come off just fine, but if you have inboards and shafts, you can do a lot of damage trying to pull it off. Even if the boat is in calm water and it looks super simple, the way salvage is if you are on the ocean, it’s an automatic salvage.”
The price you end up paying for a salvage can take months or even years to make its way through lawyers, insurance companies and adjusters. “The higher the reward the longer it takes,” says Hansen, “and you rarely have someone pay the bill that you give them. Since the adjuster has to make himself look good, they will fight every bill, no matter how fair. It’s customary to overbill, since we know that they are going to refuse to pay on the first go around. I’ll have to tack on an extra $500 or so just so the adjuster can cut it and show that he’s looking out for the insurance company. It’s a pretty crappy business in that respect.”
Miramar Beach, Florida –It was the blue-water version of David vs. Goliath. A group of high school buddies competing aboard a loaner boat topped 90 other professional teams by landing the largest blue marlin in the 2018 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic. Angler Will Beard boated the 699.2-pound blue marlin after a nearly two-hour fight. Beard, of Fairhope, Alabama, and Todd Terreson, Mac Waller, Ritchie Prince and Pete VanLingen comprised the rest of the crew aboard Can’t Deny It, run by Capt. Bo Keough. Doug Terreson owns the 48-foot Viking based on Ono Island, Alabama. Beard was named top angler and the team is splitting $131,040 in prize money for its efforts. The backstory is even more incredible.
Beard, Terreson and the rest of the team wanted to fish the Classic after graduating from high school this spring. Doug Terreson agreed to loan his boat with fuel and gear, provided the teenagers paid the $6,000 base entry fee. Todd Terreson would act as mate and veteran skipper Keough was a late addition. The team managed to scrap together the entry fee but couldn’t afford any of the optional jackpots that would have boosted their overall winnings considerably.
Trolling a weed line 120 miles south of Destin, Can’t Deny It hooked the winning fish on a chugger lure, the only blue boated on a lure during the 2018 contest. The other four weighed fish were taken on live bait. The team also released another blue and a white marlin and boated qualifying tuna, dolphin and wahoo during the trip.
“Nobody slept much last night,” Beard said before Sunday’s awards ceremony. “It’s finally sinking in what we accomplished. I’m very grateful to Mr. Terreson for giving us this opportunity.”
“I asked them if they knew they had gone up against the best pro crews in the Gulf and won and they all looked at me with wide open eyes,” Keough added with a laugh. “Doug and I stayed up on the bridge and the boys did it all from the cockpit. It really was something.”
The field of 91 boats, with an average size of nearly 60 feet, was vying for $2,040,200 in overall prize money. In addition to the tournament cash awards, teams could enter optional jackpots at various levels up to $10,000 in the blue marlin and release categories. This scenario contributed to the other historic news of the 2018 contest.
Owner/angler Dana Foster, Capt. Myles Colley and the rest of the team aboard Born2Run, a 72 Viking based in Pensacola, Florida, was named the Top Release Team and Crew after releasing four blue marlin. Born2Run won the biggest check of the tournament, $328,885, demonstrating the skill required in catching multiple billfish and the intrinsic value in releasing them unharmed. Born2Run’s payout is the largest ever in the Gulf of Mexico for an all-release score. The other team members included mates Robert Bonifay and Tyler Maxwell, plus anglers Doug Franklin, Lisa Foster and Bryan Paul, all of Pensacola. The prize money included first place in every release division jackpot. Dana Foster was also awarded the Top Release Angler trophy.
Reel Fire, owned by Chris Ferrara was a late arrival to the scales Saturday night. Angler Connor Ferrara whipped a 665.2-pound blue marlin to capture second-place honors. Capt. Chris Blanchet was at the helm of the dark blue 70-foot Viking convertible. Reel Fire won $308,124 for their fish.
Sydney Turner-Bankston, fishing aboard her father’s 72 F&S, You Never Know!, captured the third-largest blue marlin of the week at 640.8 pounds. Thomas Turner, Sydney, Capt. Joey Birbeck and the team earned a payout of $264,407 for that fish and two blue marlin releases. Sydney was named the Top Lady Angler for 2018 and You Never Know! was the second-place Release Team.
Breathe Easy (Capt. Patrick Ivie and owner Matt McDonald) and angler Rick Olsen didn’t go home empty-handed after catching a 518-pound blue on a live tuna. The Orange Beach-based team won $201,375 in jackpots. Chef Emeril Lagasse, Capt. Brad Benton and the crew aboard Aldente, a 70 Viking based at the Baytowne Marina in Sandestin, weighed the fifth blue marlin of the tournament. Lagasse’s blue tipped the scales at 475.7 pounds. Nick Diblasio added the second-largest tuna at 168.6 pounds and Aldente won second in the Top Crew division.
Past ECBC champion Done Deal, a 70 Viking owned by Jon Gonsoulin and run by Capt. Jason Buck, narrowly missed setting the new tournament record in the tuna category. Katie Gonsoulin whipped a 190.2-pound yellowfin, off the all-time mark by less than 1/2 pound. She also released two blues, good for third place in the Release Division, for an overall payout of $131,703. Angler Will Kaelin, fishing aboard Donny D III (Capt. CJ Pinney) landed the third-largest tuna at 168.4 pounds, which was worth $16,148.
Wes Kennedy captured the largest dolphin at 42.9 pounds. Kennedy was fishing on Ultimate Lure (Capt. Dusty Parrish), to earn $68,540. Nick Jusko on Pullin’ Wire (Capt. Steven Gay) came in second in the dolphin division with a 39.8-pound bull, while Chad Wandrick on Soggy Dollar (Capt. BJ Teems) was third with a 39.1-pound fish.
Seth McGonigal was the top wahoo angler at 63.8 pounds. McGonigal was fishing aboard Jubilee (Capt. Joe Morgan), earning the team $41,405. Tom Horstman was right behind with 60.1 pounds on BackDown2 with Capt. Gary Jarvis, while Neil Foster, owner and angler aboard Intense rounded out the division with a 56.4-pound wahoo.
Brothers Houston and Clark Adams were named the Top Junior Anglers for billfish and gamefish, respectively. The two were competing aboard Gunnslinger, a 60 Hatteras run by Capt. PeeWee Moore. In addition to the five weighed blue marlin, another 43 were released, along with 12 white marlin and one sailfish. The 54 game fish boated included 22 dolphin, 20 yellowfin tuna, 11 wahoo and one big-eye tuna.
“What an absolutely incredible week,” said ECBC Tournament Director Adam Alfonso. “We had two great stories with Can’t Deny It and Born2Run, nearly broke the tuna record and did set new tournament records with 91 boats and more than $2 million in prize money. I’d like to thank all the teams for fishing with us again this year, our fantastic sponsors and the entire staff for making our 16th year such a memorable success. We look forward to welcoming everyone back June 19-23, 2019, here at the Baytowne Marina at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.”
Appomattox is Coming!
An update from Hilton’s Realtime-Navigator
Shell’s largest floating platform in the Gulf of Mexico will be arriving on site sometime in May 2018 in Mississippi Canyon Block 392. This is about 18 nm
ENE of NaKika and about 30 nm inshore of Independence Hub in about 7,400′ water depth.
Balder is currently onsite setting up the mooring spread in anticipation of Appomattox’ arrival next month. This structure is certainly a heck of a destination in itself to go fish!
To give you an idea of the size of Appomattox….