Sheepshead Bay’s Captain Jack Gets Spotlight For Building Business Off 100-Year-Old Salvage Laws


When boats in Southern Brooklyn get smashed, a certain captain comes to the rescue. The captain in question is Jack Schachner, and he and his lucrative White Cap Marine and Salvage business is the subject of a fascinating report by the New York Times report.

Captain Jack’s activities mainly revolves around the business of salvaging wrecked boats in the waters off Southern Brooklyn, a difficult and dangerous job as the Times details:

Capt. Jack Schachner strained his eyes as the waves crashed over the rail of his towboat. It was a moonless night in Jamaica Bay and a storm had pitched the black water, making the conditions even more dangerous than usual as he sped along a rocky stretch of shoreline in pursuit of his bounty.
And suddenly there it was, illuminated by the flashing orange lights from his boat: a 53-foot fishing vessel listing perilously and quickly taking water from a large hole torn across its hull. The accident had occurred in the dark, prompting a Fire Department rescue of four passengers thrown into the water and leaving the boat dangerously situated on a rock jetty.
Captain Schachner’s job was to tow the boat somewhere safer, where it could be left until he could orchestrate its removal. For an entire night, he worked alone, his boat groaning angrily as the waves slammed it against the damaged vessel. Despite the peril, the thought of leaving never surfaced in his mind, he said. His reward for this salvage, he estimated, would be at least $30,000.

Schachner, who runs the business with his brother, Captain Bernie Schachner, and their first mate Frank Donnelly, sees a lot of action in the summer months when people hit the waters on jet skis, motorboats and yachts, often times getting into dangerous situations. Listening to his radio for any calls of distress, Schachner described just when to head out for a rescue.

“I can tell when there’s a sense of distress, of panic in someone’s voice, even from sleep, and when I get that sense, I go,” Schachner told the Times.

The Times explained how Schachner brings down big bucks for his actions:

He needs the radios because speed is essential in his business. Maritime salvage laws, created more than a century ago to give mariners incentive to assist a vessel in peril, state that the rescuer is entitled to a salvage reward. The reward, typically paid by insurance companies, is based on a percentage of the vessel’s value and cargo, and on the dangers faced during the salvage. The greater the danger, the higher the reward.
For the brothers, two Navy veterans with a love of adventure and “saltwater running through our veins,” salvaging seemed a natural calling, Jack Schachner said.

The report, which you can read in full by clicking here, is a fascinating portrait of the adventurous stories and humorous anecdotes that Schachner and his crew have faced over the years working as a salvage company. Check it out.


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