Bloomberg or CNBC should hire me because the language of finance has a lot in common with boating. There are all sorts of headwinds and tailwinds.  There’s talk of clams and shark watchers and froth and fish and tons of attention is paid the bottom. You don’t want to guess the bottom. You’d like to know where the bottom is and sometimes you’ll miss the bottom. Buy the dip; sell on the ebb.

But to my eye, boating and finance also share a clubby space with built-in biases, favoritisms and privilege. They’re like two corporate execs in tapered trousers and Cole Haan Zerogrands sipping Titos and murmuring rumors.  Outside the middling production level boats, the dockside scene is full of white, middle-aged management types circling some queen-bee (or king-bee). On Metro-North, it’s not hard to spot the two traders in the vestibule swaying to the tug of train tittering over tidbits the suburban investor will learn too late.

You students of capitalism will tell me I’ve got it wrong and I don’t understand that their money tilling efforts create efficiencies and power a market that benefits all. The skipper and their owners will hiss I’m missing the fact their monies power coastal industries including indirectly, they’ll say with wry smiles, the work you do, John.

Still, what both groups miss (or won’t turn to consider) is they’ve made things too top heavy. Finance and boating these days are like those R-Class sailboats with their long slivers of hull and acres of sail that seem rigged to founder.  Attractive? Maybe so, but not seaworthy.  

First, boating is too expensive and by extension excludes participation. You can’t find a new mid-priced production sailboat these days for less than hundreds of thousands of dollars. Heck, the Catalina 315 (no model of design, but comfy for sure) looks like it’s in the mid-two hundreds. And the runabouts from the inflatables to the center-consoles are redunkulously priced. But don’t quibble pricing with me because we both know it’s not the buy-in price, it’s the carrying cost. With the massive corporate buy-up of marinas and the continued coastal development pressures, the carrying costs are an elevator going up.  (That’s the sort of afternoon jargon you hear on CNBC; they’re like basketball announcers always hunting the next sporty phrase.)

Second, and these are words worthy of quote: produce too much royalty and a society fails. Look it up. A society needs striation because single layer cakes don’t carry a party.  The great contract between the people and the government includes, I’d argue, an obligation that things are fair. There will always be a Vanderbilt or two, but nowadays there’s a roller with F-you money around every corner all while the middle class is relegated to some sort of modern-day serfdom. It’s wacky because there’s an easy fix. Taxation. We need to stop making royalty and start fixing this country (literally) and by showing the world we know still know how to adult through sensible taxation. No one should have so much money that they’re really not accountable for their actions. Look around; you and I both can probably count a half-dozen people we know with money that basically makes them untouchable. 

Maybe this is all a little heavy for a cool sailing magazine; forgive me. In a way, I feel like I’ve been lucky to get away with barging the starting line most of my life and that perspective gives you clarity. It gives you the clarity of maybe seeing those that aren’t going to make the windward mark and understanding why. It also makes you ponder (lightly) how long this regatta will last before the weather turns.

Who knows? A long time ago, I was in the Middle East on a strange endeavor that had us flying private, sitting cross-legged with Arabs and idling in hotel rooms. We got talked at a lot which was part of the bargain and I had trouble holding my tongue until my colleague got me straightened out. In a voice rosined with misadventures, he joked my problem was I forgot that the world has a lot of inertia and my chaffing wasn’t going to change anything. He might have been right.

Ehh, get on now. This boating barrister has said enough. There’s good Scotch to open and fun cars to drive and a new outboard to hang on my daughter’s Whaler. Yes, she’s still green-lighted to leave for her Transatlantic. We have her kit spread out in the living room. She’s been looking at the weather and I’ve been squeezing in such advices as “always clip-in.” I think she’ll break ground as scheduled and maybe you’ll hear more about her trip. In the meantime, slay your day and savor the sip. 

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 john@saltwaterlaw.com, or visit his website at saltwaterlaw.com.

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