The opinion of the court was delivered by: JUDD
This is a libel for salvage by the master and six members of the crew of the M. V. Terecita. They contend that their efforts prevented the S. S. Karina II from going aground on a coral reef near Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean Sea, in November, 1963. The basic issues are the nature of the salvaging operation and the amount of the award to the libellants.
It is clear that the Karina's captain accepted the help of the Terecita, that it towed his ship away from the reef, and that the venture ended with the Karina in safety. Opposition to any salvage award is based partly on the contention that the Karina's own efforts completed the rescue, and partly on resentment at the grossly inflated claim made by libellants' counsel.
The facts will be stated as found by this court, with discussion of the evidence where there is substantial conflict.
The S. S. Karina II was built in 1946 and is a Bahamian flag freighter of 1,387 gross registered tonnage, 224 feet in length and 36 foot beam. On November 8, 1963, she was proceeding from Barbados to Vera Cruz, carrying a cargo of 1,475 tons of bauxite. In midafternoon, the vessel's fan engine, which supplies air to the boiler, broke down. The engines stopped, all steam was lost, and she began drifting. Calls for help were unavailing. The ship's log contains the most graphic summary of what occurred thereafter, and was not contradicted by other evidence:
"1520: Heavy smoke from funnel. 1545: Ch. Engineer notified Master that fan out of commission. 1634: Engines stopped. Hoisted 'Not under Command' day signals. * * * 1830: 'Not under Command' lights hoisted. * * * Ship drifting. 2235: Ship's electric lights went out. Ch. Engineer informed Master no steam available for boilers. 2305: Sent out urgency call by Ra. Telephone on 2182 to all ships. 2330: Ra. Telephone out of order. 2345: Signalled a series of F's and V's to passing ship. * * * No reply."
"0040: Wireless auxillary motor started. Resumed urgency call to 'ALL SHIPS' giving position at 1805 yesterday. 0043: St. Petersburg Ra. acknowledged. 0150: Auxillary motor ceased working. * * * Auxillary motor worked for a short while. Made contact with U.S. Navy Tug 42429 and reported position at 0550. Same acknowledged and promised to be at hand by 1358 hrs. * * * 0915: U.S. Navy Aeroplane passed overhead and circled. * * * 1100: Radio apparatus ceased working. No reception nor transmission."
"0030: Observed flashing of 'Old Isaacs Pt. Lt.' Grand Cayman Is. Sea & swells. Grand Cayman Is. visible. * * * 0735: U.S. Navy plane passed overhead. Displayed a smoke float. * * * 0955: Fired No. 1 Distress Rocket. 1000: Fired No. 2 Rocket. 1005: Smoke Signal released. 1009 to 1030: Fired three Rockets. 1040: Hands ordered to clear away lifeboat covers & extra rations put in boats. Crew notified of Boat Stations. 1227-1238: Fired two more Rockets. 1238: Let go Stb. Anchor about 3/4 ml. from nearest line of reefs. Veered to 7 Shkls. Anchor not holding. Ship drifting dangerously on to reefs. 1330: U.S. Navy plane returned. Motor Boat came and tow line passed to her. Commenced towing. 1430: Hand steering gear connected. 1520: Anchor cable sawed through link in chain locker and slipped to facilitate tow; anchor caught in rock ledge."
Captain Hoek of the Karina testified that the wreck of a Liberty ship was visible on the reefs, less than a half-mile away, and that rough weather was forecast on the afternoon of November 10. He was then just off the east end of the island.
The motor boat which responded to the Karina's plea for assistance was the M. V. Terecita. The Terecita is a wooden fishing vessel, 54 feet long, 6 feet deep, and with a 14 foot beam, and is powered by a 220 horsepower engine.
Captain Conolly had assembled a crew of part-time mariners after being notified by the Public Works Department that there was a ship near the reef. He left Georgetown, Grand Cayman Island, at 10:00 a.m. on November 10. The Terecita reached the Karina at 1:30 p.m. and offered to tow. At first, Captain Hoek of the Karina declined assistance, insisting that the Terecita lacked sufficient power and that another ship was coming.
The Terecita stood by, and no other help appeared. After a half-hour, the Karina's captain agreed to accept the help of the fishing boat. At first he was apparently unwilling to rely wholly on the Terecita, for he left his anchor in the water. It is not clear whether the anchor had been holding. Captain Conolly testified that it had no hold when he arrived, and that the Karina was still drifting. This view is supported by the log, which did not mention the anchor catching on a ledge until more than an hour after the tow began. Captain Hoek testified that the anchor held within a half hour after it was let down. This conflict need not be resolved, for Captain Hoek clearly did not have faith in the anchor keeping him off the reef until other help might arrive. In choosing to be towed by the Terecita rather than to remain in his anchorage, he acknowledged that he was in a position of such risk that even a small fishing boat was a welcome rescuer.
The replacement cost of an anchor with seven shackles of chain was approximately $5,200. The weight was about eight and one-half tons, too much for the Karina's crew to raise without steam power to operate the winch. Since the tow could not continue with the anchor caught on a ledge, Captain Hoek ordered that one of ...