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Boating Safety Tidbit:

First Aid for Embedded Fish Hook
  1. Wash your hands to reduce risk of infection.
  2. Expose the injured area and inspect the wound, without touching it.
  3. Gently place clean dressings around the object.
  4. Place bulky dressings around the object to keep it from moving. This will apply pressure to the wound but not the object.
  5. Secure the bulky dressings in place with a narrow bandage; taking extra care to ensure that pressure is not exerted on the embedded object...
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Boating Articles

Are Boat Auctions a Bargain?
Boat/US Magazine, Jan, 2005 by Caroline Ajootian

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Every year, boats that are literally and figuratively washed up because of accidents, fires, sinkings and storm damage live to float again when they are sold at auction, often for rock bottom prices.

Last year was no exception. Weeks of non-stop hurricane activity on the East Coast in September and October yielded a bumper crop of thousands of seriously damaged and dented vessels, many of which can be viewed online at boatus.com/hurricanes/liquidators. The temptation to buy one of these vessels is strong when you consider what seem to be give-away prices.

For example, how about the possibility of buying a 1998 36-foot Tiara for under $20,000? At less than a tenth of what the boat would normally sell for, it sounds pretty good--until you consider that Hurricane Frances left a 15-foot split in the hull and unzippered the hull-to-deck joint for 20 feet. And, it's anyone's guess what shape the twin turbo-charged Cummins engines are in.

On the other hand, for someone who wants a little runabout, there are any number of boats with only slight damage that could be picked up for a song.

Separating the good buys from the proverbial "holes in the water" takes a lot more than just luck. Potential buyers of auction vessels can improve their odds by using some common sense.

"Whether you're buying a boat at salvage, on the Internet or from an ad in the paper, always hire a marine surveyor to inspect it," advises Carroll Robertson, vice president of BoatU.S. Marine Insurance Claims, who put up for auction at least 500 of the thousands of vessels totaled by hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne last fall.

"For the couple of hundred dollars that you spend, even as much as $1,000, a thorough survey inspection is worth its weight in gold," warns Robertson.

Marine surveyor referrals are available online at boatus.com/insurance/survey. Long distance buyers can hire a marine surveyor located near the auction site to evaluate the boat and report on its condition.

Sully Sutherlin, owner and founder of U.S. Auctions, one of the major online boat auction houses handling disposal of totaled vessels for BoatU.S. Marine Insurance, observes, "The nice thing about a damaged boat is that you don't have to put it back into perfect shape if you just want something to get out on the water with. You can skip some of the aesthetics."


Still, he cautions, "Damaged boats are not for everyone. They require expertise and resources," in other words, elbow grease and money.

Auction boats are also a good source for parts needed for boat restoration projects. However, most online auction houses do not sell individual parts or engines. So, if you need a special bow rail or window frame, you might just have to buy the whole boat.

U.S. Auctions "posts pictures along with everything we know about damage and type of boat and engine," Sutherlin said. "We can tell you if it sank. If there's anything derogatory we'll say it. We don't pull any punches. But, if it doesn't have owner records, we don't touch it."

The company, like most other online auctions, offers no guarantees about physical condition. Boats are sold "as is, where is" with clear titles and no liens. Sutherlin says his company makes a 10% commission on every boat sold.

Potential buyers should take advantage of the week or longer preview period before bidding closes to have would-be prizes inspected by a marine surveyor. Once the sale goes through, buyers have three days to make another inspection and during that period they can notify the auctioneer if they wish to cancel the deal. Cancellations must be done in writing. After the three days are up, there's no turning back. The boat is yours.

"We are the intermediary between the insurance company or seller and the buyer," Sutherlin says. "What we're mainly interested in is a fair auction. We don't allow any shenanigans."

That means the auction house watches online bidding like a hawk. "Bid manipulation is prohibited," the company's Web site warns. In other words, individuals are not allowed to place bids simply to drive up the price.

U.S. Auction's online sales are handled by eBay and buyers are urged to use the proxy bidding feature. This allows the bidder to place a "maximum" bid for the most he is willing to pay. This amount is confidential. eBay's computer bids for the buyer in increments small enough to outbid others. It will not automatically raise the bid to the full amount. Bidding on most auction boats begins at $1, since they are sold without a minimum price or reserve.

The sale is open for one week and "the last person standing is the winner," Sutherlin says.


"The problem with salvage boats sold at auction is that there are definitely unscrupulous people" who buy them for resale and don't disclose previous damages once they've made some cosmetic improvements. Sutherlin adds, "There are dealers who take boats on trade and don't find out until later [about serious damages]. They don't want to get stuck with a wreck so they pass it on again to someone else" without revealing the boat's history.

Although sellers are required to reveal defects or conditions that adversely affect a boat's use, value or safety, there are no databases or resources for consumers to independently research a vessel's history, Sutherlin says.

"There is no uniform salvage titling law for boats like there is for cars," warns Robertson of BoatU.S. Marine Insurance. But, there is a silver lining, at least for salvage boats sold in Florida.

"In Florida, if a total loss is paid on a boat by an insurance company, the law requires that the insurance company's name be put on the title," she says. "So, if you buy a boat in Florida and see an insurance company on the title, it's a giveaway that the boat had been totaled."

Each year, the BoatU.S. Consumer Protection Bureau hears from boat owners who purchased what they thought were used boats with spotless histories, only to learn that they contain damages caused by manufacturing defects or accidents. Even experienced folks who "know boats" will benefit by having an objective pair of eyes examine a potential purchase.

To learn more about boats being sold at auction through BoatU.S., visit boatus.com/hurricanes/liquidators or visit the following Web sites of online auction firms handling boat sales: USAuctions.com, yachtsalvage.com, Global Marine Services (insalvage.com) and National Liquidators (yachtauctions.com)


Switlik Parachute Co. has discovered that a certain number of its life rafts contain serious safety defects that could result in the units either self-inflating or not inflating at all when needed. In October, the company issued a safety alert covering a range of life rafts manufactured as early as 1997.

According to the Trenton, NJ, company, its proprietary Switlik inflation valve can malfunction if it is exposed to an "unusual and extreme combination of temperatures." The problem became apparent in 2004 after a weather one-two punch featuring a hot summer followed by record low winter temperatures in the Northeast. The conditions which might result in a problem are exposure to temperatures above 95[degrees] F followed by exposure to temperatures below 20[degrees] F.

Company president Richard Switlik explained: "These temperatures are well within the normal operating range of the valve, which is built to meet international standards, but it was the combination of hot and cold temperatures that created just the right conditions for potential failure. Only this unusual combination of temperature extremes might possibly result in a failure."

Apparently, extreme temperature swings cause O-ring seals in the valves to lose their elasticity. The valves are fitted with two pairs of O-ring seals. If the forward pair fails, the raft will self-inflate. If the other pair fails, the gas in the cylinder can escape, which normally would not be obvious until an attempt was made to use the raft.

Although Switlik reports that a handful of rafts self-inflated, the company says they've identified only one "suspected gas depletion."

According to Switlik, "Most rafts will not experience this combination of temperatures and of those that do, virtually none will be affected."

Owners of the listed life rafts who suspect that their units may have been exposed to temperature extremes and whose life rafts were serviced prior to June 15, 2004, should have their rafts serviced immediately.

Switlik will provide a free piston and O-ring replacement kit and is covering the cost of installation by a Switlik authorized service station.

The upgrade will be provided free during annual maintenance of rafts that may not have been exposed to extreme temperatures.
Switlik stresses that their life rafts "must be serviced annually by a factory authorized service station. While many recreational life raft owners do not follow the factory service recommendations, not being required to do so by regulation, or turn to unauthorized service stations, this would be a good excuse to get that overdue service done, and done right."

The following Switlik life raft models are covered by the Safety Alert:

* MRP-10 mfr'd 9/96 to 4/1/04

* MD Series (MD-1, MD-2) mfr'd 4/97 to 4/1/04

* Coastal Series (CLR Mk-II) mfr'd 1/00 to 4/1/04

* USCG (CGR Mk-II) mfr'd 1/00 to 4/1/04

* SAR-6/8 Mk-I mfr'd 9/96 to 4/1/04

* SAR-6 Mk-II mfr'd 9/98 to 4/1/04

* POD-4 mfr'd 8/96 to 4/1/04

* POD-8 Marine mfr'd 08/01 to 4/1/04

* Any life rafts that have been re-equipped with S-2630 valves mfr'd before 4/1/04

The Switlik safety alert is being conducted on a voluntary basis because life rafts are not regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard, which normally oversees defect recall campaigns of boats and marine engines.

Owners of the Switlik affected life rafts who have not already been contacted by the manufacturer should do so immediately, 609-587-3300 or e-mail info@switlik.com. More information about the safety alert is online at their Web site, www.switlik.com.

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