I’m down with the Mediterranean moor, but I don’t get this phenom of people backing into their driveways. In my time, you pulled into a drive. If there was a second fridge in the basement and a color TV in the family room, your drive might’ve bent around in a half-circle so you never saw reverse. But these days, it’ll be twenty feet of macadam mat and folks be twisting and wheeling their carriages backwards leaving it parked, grille out.
These are strange times and maybe this ever-ready pose makes folks sleep better. Maybe the neighbor is flexing by leaving the manufacturer’s moniker in my face as the pug and I crab down the street. Or maybe, this Mediterranean moorage is an homage to classic yachting where the likes of Ari parked the CHRISTINA O in Marseille and Monte Carlo stern-to against stone piers, bridging the gap with ramps of teak and polished aluminum rail. Who knows what these reverse parkers are up to; but it bothers me.
Doing things ass-backwards isn’t limited to parking. This botched behavior happens in the law, too. Courts can get the facts wrong. Sometimes it’s a product of earnest estimating going awry (like the Supreme Court decision in Alonzo v. King where a Justice inaccurately asserted DNA can match a person with no chance of error). In other instances, a lower court lathers the law against the grain leaving things messy and uneven such that an appellate court (hopefully) reviews the decision, takes out the belt sander and resets the case’s course.
So let’s practice parking proper by getting some basic maritime concepts straight.
In marine salvage, the salvor might keep your pride, but not your boat. Whether it’s a professional salvor or amateur, they’re entitled to salvage rights, have a lien against your vessel and can ask the Court to issue an arrest warrant to seize your vessel, but take your boat? Nope.
A sailboat by its nature of being a sailboat does not always have right of away over a powerboat. Just because your sails are up doesn’t mean you can hold course and white-knuckle your way into collision all while you spray spittle whispering: “I’m right; I know I’m right.” The bottom line is that every vessel has an obligation to avoid a collision. (COLREGS, Rule 8)
You can’t name your boat whatever you want. They’re rules, man! Take a look at 46 C.F.R. Section 67.123 titled “Name and hailing port marking requirements.” Among other things, you’ll read that a documented vessel’s name must be “in clearly legible letters of the Latin alphabet or Arabic or Roman numerals not less than four inches in height.” And then, scroll over to 46 C.F.R. Section 67.117 titled “Vessel name designation” where you’ll learn the hopes of naming your craft MAYDAY MABLE isn’t going to work. Indeed, please stash any thoughts of license-plate tomfoolery as the federal government makes clear a vessel’s name “[m]ay not contain nor be phonetically identical to obscene, indecent, or profane language, or to racial or ethnic epithets.”
Only crew in the service of a vessel are entitled to a seaworthy vessel. That is, an injured passenger doesn’t have a claim for a breach of the vessel owner’s duty to provide a seaworthy vessel. Instead, a passenger has a claim for a breach of the vessel owner’s duty to provide him/her with reasonable care under the circumstances.
Arbitration is when the parties agree to resolve their dispute before a non-court tribunal. Mediation is where two parties meet and try to reach an amicable resolution. The result of the arbitration is binding on the parties. A mediation is just a settlement conference. Even the most seemingly sophisticated clients jumble these two terms!
A collision is not an allision. An allision is a collision between a moving vessel and a stationary object. An example of an allision that almost (nah, likely a fable) happened and which has taken on its own sort of lore involves a Naval vessel on course to intercept a lighthouse. The punchline of the perhaps fictionalized transcript ends with this radio transmission made in response to the Navy’s demand to give way: “This is a lighthouse. Your call.”
If you’re injured on a boat, careful about hiring just any lawyer. Maritime defense attorneys have a lot of maritime legal ammo to hurl down range and you may not get the value out of your claim. Consider hiring a maritime personal injury attorney.
When you make an insurance claim pertaining to your vessel, in my opinion the surveyor the insurer sends down to meet you at the marina (you know, the fellow with the broad grin, hearty introduction and serious intent) is not your friend. If it was me, I’d always hire my own surveyor to ride shotgun whenever I was making a claim against my marine insurance policy.
Some federal courts will have an oar in the courtroom when they hear an admiralty case.
Do you have your own maritime belief you’d like confirmed or denied? Send me an email and I’ll try and help clarify whether it’s “impish or admirable.” (Dwight Christmas, The Office, season 9, episode 9, Universal Television 2012)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his website at saltwaterlaw.com.