It is an age-old law of the sea that if you find a drifting boat and bring it to shore, you can claim salvage rights. However, an America's Cup racing crew whose catamaran drifted to sea the other night got the shock of their lives when the 'hero' who rescued their boat from some rocks was not satisfied with their gratefulness - he wants $200,000.
Boston Whaler - Tholke went out in the middle of the night to ’rescue’ the catamaran
The incident happened in San Francisco and has been reported widely in the local press. The San Francisco Chronicle thinks he is 'either a Good Samaritan or a high-seas pirate.' Probably neither of the descriptions fits the San Francisco owner of a Boston Whaler Todd Tholke. He's just a keen-eyed opportunist with a smart lawyer.
Tholke went out on the bay in the middle of the night to single-handedly rescue the runaway French catamaran Energy. It had snapped its mooring line and drifted out to sea into the darkness, unmanned and out of control. It fetched up on the rocks of Treasure Island, where it was spotted from the land by Tholke.
At 3:30 a.m., Tholke pulled it off the shore with his 14-foot Boston Whaler. He then towed it to the Treasure Isle Marina and handed it back to the racing team.
The French were so grateful they offered to give Tholke a ride on the bay.
But Friday, as the French prepared for the regatta, Tholke's representatives presented them with a warrant from U.S. District Court to 'arrest' the boat and take it into custody as soon as Sunday's races were over.
Tholke's attorney John Edgcomb said in court documents, the rescue had established 'a valid maritime salvage claim' and Tholke was entitled to 'a liberal maritime salvage award.' Edgcomb said the amount was up to the court, but something 'in excess of $200,000.'
The French Team said in a statement that they were 'surprised and disappointed', according to the Chronicle.
The court case is proceeding and San Francisco is agog.