Insurance Companies Say Nathan Carman’s Boat Was Not Seaworthy When It Sank, Deny Coverage – Hartford Courant
Nathan Carman had three chances to activate the emergency beacon on his boat that would have alerted the Coast Guard to his craft’s location before it sank but didn’t do so even though the beacon was located right above the emergency kit he grabbed and took with him in the life raft, according to court documents.
More details about the final minutes of the Chicken Pox before it sank in Block Canyon, apparently taking his mother, Linda Carman, down with it, are contained in a federal court filing by two insurance companies that argue they should not pay Carman’s claim because he altered the boat and made it unsafe.
National Liability & Fire Insurance Co. and Boat Owners Association of the United States have asked for a declaratory judgment in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island and are refusing to pay the $85,000 policy that Nathan Carman had on the boat.
Nathan and Linda Carman were reported missing Sept. 18 while on a fishing trip. They left from South Kingstown, R.I., late at night to go tuna fishing in Block Canyon, an area where Linda Carman had not wanted to fish.
Nathan Carman was deposed on Dec. 16 and told lawyers that they got to Block Canyon about 7 a.m. and started trolling north at 4 to 6 knots per hour. Carman said they fished for about five hours before he realized that the bilge was flooded.
Carman said “he turned off the boat and powered it down.” But by then the water was “up to the battery boxes and only about three inches below the deck.
Carman said he asked his mother to bring in the lines which she acknowledged but he never spoke to her or saw her again.
“You began moving safety and survival gear to the bow to prepare for the possibility of abandoning ship; however, despite entering the cabin three times you didn’t make a distress call on your VHF radio or take the EPIRB from its cradle and activate it,” the report concluded.
“The EPIRB was mounted in the cabin immediately above where the flares and other safety gear was kept,” the report said.
Nathan Carman was rescued eight days later by a passing freighter off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard after being found floating in an emergency raft. Linda Carman is presumed dead.
Multiple law enforcement agencies are investigating Linda Carman’s disappearance. They have obtained search warrants for Nathan Carman’s vehicle, cellphone and Vermont home. In those documents, they indicate they are investigating whether to charge him with “operating [a boat] so as to endanger, resulting in death.”
The report from the insurance company experts focuses on repairs that Nathan Carman made to the boat the day before, especially replacing the bilge pump and then not properly testing it and removing the boat’s trim tabs, leaving four half-dollar size holes.
Carman testified that by removing the boat’s trim tabs he opened four silver-dollar-size holes in the boat’s hull near the waterline and that he tried to fill the holes with an epoxy putty stick, according to the lawsuit.
The insurance companies hired a naval architect and a marine surveyor to assess the alterations to the boat. As a result, the insurance companies canceled Carman’s policy and refuse to pay his claim. It was the naval architect’s opinion, according to the filing, that Carman’s repair of the holes near the waterline was inadequate, and the surveyor found that Carman’s alterations to the boat affected its structural integrity.
“Carman knew his boat was unseaworthy when it departed Ram Point Marina,” the filing alleges. And it was the boat’s unseaworthy condition that caused it to sink, the companies contend.