By John K. Fulweiler, Esq.

This is a primer, an antidote to all things amateur. It’s a one-page missive on a mission to commission solutions to a dozen situations (or ‘sitches as a person I love and know calls them). Some of the situations are maritime oriented and some aren’t. A few are unpleasant, but that doesn’t mean a life well led shouldn’t (or won’t) cross these waters.

Dragging anchor. Don’t worry you didn’t have enough scope and you misunderstood why a good length of chain is so important; get your engine going. Work next on letting out more scope (read, pay out more rode!) Don’t yell at your crew. And yes, dragging anchor into another vessel may likely give rise to liability so give some consideration to getting your hook down and set.

Anger. Identify what’s unfair. Anger comes from reacting to real or perceived inequity. My wife taught me that lesson a long way back when I used to get angry quick, bright and too often. I’m far from a model of Zen calmness these days, but I don’t do stupid like I used to.

You’re sinking. A lot of people worry the volume of water. Don’t. The water in the cabin can wait. Pull up the floorboards, throw off the hatches and find the source. Get a sail run over the bow and you and your partner, you pull that sail like a bedsheet down under the hull. Get cushions and blankets and stuff them in the hole. Find the problem, first, and deal with the consequences, second. And keep a length of lumber and a small saw aboard, as they’ll prove handy in all kinds of situations including bracing a patch.

You lost something. Play with time. I once bought a Tiffany bracelet and sat smug in a cab heading up Madison full of the heady promise and expectation of youth. I exited the cab and then turned in horror as the cab sped north, a distinctive blue bag bouncing, alone, on the rear seat. Hailed another cab heading south, swung Tiffany door wide (I was getting to know the place), eschewed the elevator and ascended the stairwell, alone in the moment. Retrieved credit card and purchased the same bracelet, again. Held bag tightly in hand, hailed another cab and returned to that corner, exited with my purchase and rended time.

You’re aground. Back that ship up; pour the power on. If no-go, reduce your draft by heeling. With a tender, have someone take a halyard and power off about 100 feet and open that throttle so she heels over, then clutch-in and back off. Alternatively, get someone (everyone) on the boom and swing it out. Bury the rail and rudder over to keep the stern pointed straight and pour what power your sailboat’s tired iron can generate. No matter the horror of the strain you’re putting on the rig, my experience doing scores of such ungroundings was it’ll take it alright. (And always put a couple of slats in the companionway, the seawater pours into the cockpit if you’re doing this maneuver right.)

Traumatic bleeding. Boats are bloody obstacle courses. When someone falls, it’s like getting hurt on the farm where’s it’s never neat and mostly very dangerous. Like with seawater, stop the bleeding. Elevate the appendage, apply pressure and get help moving your way. Shock is a physiological occurrence as strange to me as the tidal cycle meaning you need to know that when blood is pooling crimson and sticky, the injured can start acting very odd. Talk to them. Keep them focused.

Imminent collision. Brother, the Rules of Road require action to avoid collision, no matter whether you have the right of way or not. Pay attention. “Swivel your damn head,” a flight instructor would yell at me all while swatting the dash of our wee plane so hard, it’d make my seat rattle. He had a point. Look around and behind you. All the time. Know what’s going on around your craft and maybe avoid a setup for a collision.

Losing. If you can’t win a race, buy new sails. Stop reading or watching how to win. Make an investment in your sails. Get someone from the loft to help you get the size and cut that’ll win you a race. This works.

Winning. Even if it’s the Bermuda 1-2, thank someone else. Be humble. The fact we all walk this earth thanks to others seems lost on many today. Strength isn’t being a cocky M-F’er. What happened to the quiet strength of humility?

Getting protested. Keep sailing fast. Like many tough moments in life where the plane is spinning down and the altimeter peeling around, you have to keep the plane flying. Work the pedals, pull on that damn yoke and fly your plane.

In the street-deep vocals of the talented Lizzo: It ain’t my fault this column got loose, gotta blame it on the Goose, blame it on my juice . . . . (Juice, Cause I love you, Lizzo, Atlantic Records, 2019)

This article is provided for your general information, is not legal opinion and should not be relied upon. Always seek legal counsel to understand your rights and remedies.

Underway and making way.

John K. Fulweiler, Esq. is a Proctor-in-Admiralty representing individuals and small businesses in maritime matters including personal injury claims throughout the East and Gulf Coasts and with his office in Newport, Rhode Island. He can be reached at 1-800-383-MAYDAY (6293) or, or visit his website at