this letter should serve as to give notice to request reimbursement for damages to my boat a 1980 48 foot Tollycraft powerboat that were caused by improper operation of the Port of Everett operated Travelift on Tuesday April 20th 2010 at approximately 9:30 a.m. at the port’s original haul out location in the South basin in front of Harbor Marine. I believe the cause of the issue was improper operation of the Travelift creating unacceptable pressure points and pinch points on the hull, resulting in otherwise avoidable damage.
Damages to my boat were well documented by photographs taken by Jim Weber while the boat was still resting in the Travelift slings. These photographs are currently in possession of the Port of Everett and were circulated in an email from Jim Weber to myself (Brett Peck) and Scott Grindy on April 20th at 3:30pm. The visible damage is bulleted below but should not be considered an all inclusive listing as further damage may be documented upon dismantling.
1. Approximately 10 feet of hull deck joint separation and rub rail distortion on the port side bow just opposite of the galley.
2. Approximately 8 feet of hull deck joint separation and rub rail distortion on the starboard side bow just opposite of the dinette.
3. Approximately 3 feet of crushed fiberglass and damage to the rub rail on the aft splash rail and accompanying rub rail near the waterline on the starboard aft quarter.
I believe the cause of this damage was a result of improper Travelift operation, inconsistent with the norms of such operation and showing a deficiency in expertise and experience with such a device. A non-exhaustive list of deficiencies that I observed is noted below and is either documented as part of the photographic evidence or could be provided by expert witness as required.
• Failure to use cushioning blocks around the aft splash/rub rail to avoid pressure points on this hull appendage resulting in damage item #3 .
• Failure to recognize and communicate to the boat owner the marginal nature of the Travelift being used for the lift.
• Failure to use the least risky and optimal equipment for the job.
• Failing to take every precaution upon identifying the marginal nature of the Travelift chosen for the haul. The 35 ton lift used has the lifting capacity but only offers an inside width of approximately 17’4” on a vessel that has a beam of approximately 15’2” at the point of the forward lift sling. This narrow angle fundamentally creates a pinch point at the rub rail that can be somewhat mitigated by the use of lifting blocks but would be best avoided by using a lift with an inside width of 21’6”, greatly easing any pinch points in the lift.
• Failure to use cushioning blocks at the rub rail to help mitigate the foreseeable pinching forces that would be present.
• Failure to select the operation of a more suitable lift that was available onsite for use.
• Failure to point out, communicate and recommend the use of a more suitable lift to the boat owner. A lift that was onsite and operational.
Recommendations for the future
As Vice Commodore of the Tollycraft Boating Club, one of the largest boating clubs in both the Northwest and State of Washington, I feel I have a responsibility to encourage the following safety related items below. While accidents do happen and none of us are perfect, I’m sure we all share the common goal of preventing such occurrences in the future. I’m sure we are all thankful that only property was damaged in this example. Property that can be repaired to everyone’s satisfaction. We all want to avoid personal injury but I think we must recognize that deficiencies in operational standards do not discriminate in their victims.
• Ensure that all Travelift operators are fully trained on the equipment and recertified whenever a significant gap of time has elapsed since the last usage of the equipment.
• Pair less experienced operators with those who have a proven experience with both the equipment and a broad spectrum of expertise in lifting various boats.
• Enact a policy of ONLY pairing larger boats with equipment most suitable for the job. Stop hauling boats with wide beams using the older narrower equipment.
• When accidents happen, foster an atmosphere of information sharing, both among Port staff but also with fellow Travelift operators in the Puget Sound area. Since the time of the lift issue, it has come to my attention that Seaview boatyard would only have allowed me to have my boat hauled at their facilities that have a larger lift than the one used at the Port of Everett. Had the Port of Everett been aware of this policy it might have made the deficiencies in the current operating policy more visible.