The way it was, you’d have the boat captain and the owner swapping stories all night. The vodka and beer didn’t do anything but make the stories sharper and the memories brighter and a little louder. Now how it is, they sit languid at the bar or sprawled on the wicker. No one talks ‘cause they’re all staring at a pixellated screen. I think video didn’t just kill the radio star; it’s done killed us all!

I’ve left Johnny at home and so it’s me and Tito making these observations. I wander the flats with a fly rod practicing to catch something. Tito joins me at around five and then Kalik shows up around eight and then there’s dinner and friends and a shambling golf cart shuffle down rain rutted gullies to a house on the bay’s edge. Good stuff. You couldn’t do it well year-round, but you can look pretty good doing it for a week or two.

So, what happens in your own sweet spot of repast when the rented skiff sinks or your winter weight breaks a stanchion? That is, what’s to be done when maritime calamity hits abroad? You’ve got to meet life’s challenges with some context. Not every situation will be the same.

A lot of the runabouts you rent in the southern climes will have a low market value but a high possessory value which is shorthand for saying, a boat in hand around here is worth a lot more than it appears. This means you need to be prudent with the craft you rented. Treat it right. Drive it like a picnic boat even if it’d be hard to call it a work-skiff back home.

How I do things is I start off taking a bunch of photos. Everyone understands a photo and if there’s howling about some torn bimini cover when I get back to dock, the photos will help show otherwise. Digital images are your friend because, importantly, they contain a time/date stamp. Take a lot of photos…and don’t be making like you’re Ansel Adams. Snap ’em quick.

I’m also careful not sign any form language. I’ll sign a simple rental receipt, but count me out for any form with a list of conditions. I’m in a foreign land and the last thing I need is some magistrate ruling against me because I signed a form saying I’d be responsible for all damages, etc.

I always aim to pay cash because I don’t want an unhappy (or greedy) owner charging me for nonsense after the charter ends. And worse, I don’t want a credit card to be available so a disgruntled owner can try and recoup a larger loss. The problem with putting down a credit card is that it’s a little like giving the vessel owner a bond. As a business rule, and something you should consider when vacationing, I try to avoid benefitting someone unless I’m getting something out of the deal.

If you’ve got a boat and a marine insurance policy, it doesn’t hurt to talk to your broker or insurer about your travel plans. I understand some insurers may offer riders (for an additional premium) that’ll cover you chartering. And while in my opinion most marine insurers won’t cover your rental of a jet ski or runabout in foreign waters, the rental company might have coverage available for an additional cost. If it was me, I’d get that coverage. Yeah, I know buddy, you got the funds to self-insure, but I don’t like wasting time. If there’s a loss and I bought the vendor’s policy, I’m probably walking without a lot of hassle. And the self-insured fellow? He’s got to hire a lawyer and maybe a surveyor and deal with the claim.

As for life and limb, you need to keep a few things in mind. First, if you’re hurt in a foreign locale, the laws of that locale (as opposed to your homeport) will likely apply. That means your remedies and claims will be different than the generous justice available in the USA. Second, gather evidence. Whether you lost a limb or a loved one, you must take a moment to photograph the scene and get some witness names. (If not you, have someone do it for you.)  Third, review your ticket contract, the resort policies, the charter agreement or what have you, to make certain you understand what law applies and the time by which you must commence suit. A good practice here is to share these documents and the circumstances with your admiralty lawyer. Any admiralty lawyer worth their salt should take their time to unpack things with you and give you a vector by which to steer through those initial (often traumatic) days.

So those are my thoughts. Not legal advice, just the vodka-laced ramblings of a maritime lawyer on a brief break. Tomorrow, I’ll roll out early and hack my way through this lifestyle. There’s a nice Huckins done in yellow down on the dock. A Merritt with its beefy beam and linear mile of brightwork burbles alongside. I’ll tug the battered Whaler I use close to the pier and climb down. Its Mariner two-stroke outboard will crack to life and I’ll power through the harbor and then pop on a plane and curve my way down to the Narrows. The fish will be nervous.

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