By John K. Fulweiler, Esq.

I sold our sailboat. Selling a boat is an unpleasant business. The detritus of misadventures, voyages and moments fill the interior spaces. In sorting things prior to closing, you’re reminded of voyages you should’ve taken, projects planned and personal promises left unrequited.

I’m repeating the words of those before me, but boats are more than things and especially so when you’ve toiled at tending to them. It makes the parting tougher. he choice of what to leave the new steward also complicates things; I left our brass clock and barometer along with a monster compass that snugs into a cockpit fitting. I left the bits and pieces of the galley that came with the boat. I left the battered First Aid kit with cremes and bandages that timed-out decades ago, highball glasses in a style long past and sorted ephemera that accumulates in old boats from ashtrays, to parallel rulers, cotter pins, twine, shackles, hose lengths, pipe clamps and duct tape salted with time. I left some vodka and the remnants of a good scotch. I left a rubber dustpan hardened with age. I left whipping twine and battens and signal flags and flashlights and a sewing kit. I left two old pencils.

On a summer night in a small harbor back when bitcoin was about $600 a token, my wife and daughter crowded the galley table as I upended things looking for the spare can of stove alcohol. As it turned out there was no spare can, but a hot meal was served through the liberal use of my Aqua Velva aftershave – a fuel providing not only sufficient BTUs, but a lovely aroma. It’s a memory that still gets my two girls cackling with laughter.

I once misjudged our being set against a bridge piling. I thought the wind would keep pulling and it didn’t. My Arkansas-born wife, always gentle in her phrasing, suggested I needed to stop rustling around for another cold beer and get back on deck right now. I did and good on her because without us starting that Westerbeke, I would’ve not lived that moment down. It’s a memory that still chides me into tempering my confidence on the water.

I spent a summer in a shed with her thirty-five feet. The two of us and a transistor radio that played the Jazz Decades channel. It took two months for me to sand, fill, sand, fair, sand, prime, sand, paint, sand and paint that hull. I used an Alex Seal product and a roller and the finished result was a 10 on the ham-and-egger scale and a solid 7.5 on the professional scale. I miss the routine of that summer and the simple goal. It’s a memory that reminds me of how some part of my genetics craves physical labor.

Still, it wasn’t a good fit. I have a skillset and a like for how I want to be on the water. I loved her lines and she was kindly to sail, but I was never happy with the tiller. I missed the certainty of twin diesels. I’ll have another sailboat, but it’ll have a bigger powerplant and an obnoxiously oversized wheel. I’d like a ketch or something with a center cockpit. All as time and fortune allows, right?

For now, we’ve picked up a wide-body inflatable that was once a tender to something that dragged it up and down the East Coast. (Yup, it’s got those awful blue lights around the whole deck as well as below the waterline!) And for now, the sight of my daughter laying out a trail of folding white water as she roars across the Bay toward her summer job can’t be beat.

There are maritime legal things to be thinking about when you sell a vessel. Part of me wanted to be around to show the boat and point out this and that, but having a broker involved is better. t keeps separation from any accusations of misrepresentation. Don’t just sign the forms your broker pushes around. For example, maybe the purchaser doesn’t want an in-water survey meaning you should maybe strike that language from the standard boat sale documents. And give some thought about how to terminate your relationship with the marina where the vessel is stored at the time of the closing. ou should consider speaking with the marina beforehand to avoid any surprises. Likewise with your insurer. And then there’s the issue of letting the Coast Guard (and/or the state of registration) know that you’ve sold the boat. While each state may have its own procedure, I understand that with the Coast Guard you can email them telling them as much; not legal advice, it’s just what I did based on some advices I’d been given from someone in the know.

Anyway, there you go. We still have a Laser, an Opti and a Dyer Dhow (“Accent on Performance!” as its old advert proclaims), meaning I’ve still got the credentials for these pages. As far as that tired trope of the two best days of boat ownership being the closing and selling dates, I disagree. Our best days of owning s/v Stardust will always be when we three were aboard and under sail.

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