It is the Coast Guard’s policy to pursue all unmanned adrift vessels as a possible person in the water until it can be determined otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt.
The only ways to conclude cases involving unmanned adrift vessels is to either locate the owner, make a determination based on the facts of the situation that the vessel has been abandoned, or suspend operations after an unsuccessful and intense search effort for a person in the water.
While the Coast Guard deals with many reports of unmanned vessels, there are often clear signs that the vessel was not occupied, had been exposed to the elements for an extended period of time, or otherwise not part of a scenario where someone was operating the vessel and fell overboard. What has made the recent cases difficult is that the signs onboard have pointed to recent use and not that of abandoned property. In all cases, the Coast Guard has been able to eventually track down the owner, but not before costing the organization multiple hours of searching and investigative efforts.
The Coast Guard asks boat owners to pay extra attention when securing any vessel that is being pulled up onto the shore and to ensure that all registration is accurate and contact information is up to date. The Northeast has recently been experiencing a drastic tidal range of over 11 feet and vessels that seem to be safe well above the shoreline at low tide are drifting away at high tide. Additionally, many of the vessel’s registration has been incomplete, out of date, or never been transferred after the vessel was sold, all of which slow down the Coast Guard’s efforts to positively identify the owner and increases the time and cost of the search effort.
Line Handling and Marlinespike
When aboard a boat, ropes are no longer called ropes, they are called lines. At least three and preferably four lines should be carried aboard for docking
- A bow line to secure the bow;
- a stern line to secure the stern, and
- at least one spring line to reduce fore-and-aft movement.
The diagram below shows four lines used. Although the stern line will keep the boat from moving forward too much, to be safe a fourth spring line running from the dock cleat forward could be used.