The Ethiopian calendar runs seven years behind ours which isn’t all that interesting, but learning that Rastafarians and Ethiopia have a connection sort of is.  More later.

I’m writing this in Florida on a little island off its western edge. It’s the middle of March and Florida right now is sinking under the weight of tourists scrambling to wring the most out of a week “with the kids.” It’s a gruesome affair for everyone and if you haven’t had the time or inclination to hustle, you’ll be enduring hour-long waits for a rental car that hitches left on the highway and slugging beer at a hotel bar that sticks to your elbows. You know these places. It’ll be fine and it’ll be a memory, but it could’ve been something so much better.

The problem is travel has been cold pressed pasteurized. The Internet’s mathematics force us all into the same slot, time frame, option and piss-poor outcome. Like the way we practice maritime law, my advice is to think differently. That sounds like Silicon Valley speak, but how it sounds shouldn’t matter to you with the sticky elbows. Break free of the Internet and hunt up places that aren’t listed on the major travel sites, avoid the name brand and root up the wayward and out of the way. It’s not about spending more, but about spending more wisely.

As might be expected of someone sounding so preacher-like, my bar-top view is grand and there’s no ribboned noise of highway or screech of holidaying families. I admit an osprey’s dive bomb into the waters next to us was startling, but not so much as to the fin and scale he lifted aloft to some high-perched dining table. At any rate, if you like the Harper’s Index, what follows is my nautical take of what that magazine does so well.

The first yacht to get about on a pleasure sail was called the Disdain and it broke ground in 1604. Rastafarians with their reverence for the weed and brightly colored wool caps (not to shortchange their interesting life’s view which includes a disdain for mediators between the worshiper and deity) believe Ethiopia’s last emperor Haile Selassie (aka Ras Tafari) was the incarnation of God on earth. The Endurance, Shackleton’s recently discovered vessel, was insured at the time of its loss by Lloyds of London and the Indemnity Marine Insurance Company for £15,000. A voyage from Newport, RI to Odessa, UKR is about 5,289 nautical miles and averaging 6 knots, it’d take me 37 days to arrive. Captain Cooke was right when he proclaimed “no sea could hurt” his exploration vessel the 97’ HMS Endeavor as it was ultimately scuttled about 1,200 feet WNW of my office in the vicinity of Goat Island, RI. (In my youth, I read everything I could on Captain Cooke’s adventures and it gives me a great thrill to envision his vessel having sailed around Narragansett Bay…Fantastic.) Sea levels in Rhode Island have increased 5 inches since 1950 and if you don’t believe me, drive about on a stormy day and see how much roadway is wave-swept. There are about 11.84 million recreational boats registered in the USA, which in 2020 caused about 62.51 million dollars in damage.  The Wonder of the Seas is the largest cruise ship in the world at 236,857 gross tons and with a length of 1,187 feet which is 95’ longer than the USA’s largest aircraft carrier (the super carrier USS Nimitz). The paddle-wheeler General Slocum, the passenger ship Eastland and the steamship Princess Sophia share the horrific historical honor of being USA vessels that suffered mass casualties and collectively account for more than 1,000 passengers’ deaths. By USA law, untreated sewage discharges are prohibited within 3 miles of shore. There are 12 digits in a boat’s Hull Identification Number – the first 3 digits identify the manufacturer and the last 4 digits are the month and year of its build. $1,000 and 1 year in prison is the penalty under USA law for a false distress or hoax call. There are 95,471 miles of shoreline in the USA with 3,478, 1,519, 2,625, 618 and 384 being the coastal mileage in Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. USA law mandates children under 13 years of age must wear a Coast Guard Approved PFD. A documented recreational boat must display its name and hailing port in letters not less than 4 inches in height, but the permanent marking of the documentation numbers on a boat’s interior can be 3 inches in height. Despite their vintage-style sound, a whistle, bell and gong are sound-producing devices still required aboard boats by USA law.

And there you go, a tincture of salty somethings to help spring get on with things. If you’re like me and plan this summer to keep an eye about for floating Russian money, please do so and please don’t hesitate to call me if your yacht spotting yields anything interesting. In the meantime, let’s keep Ukraine top of mind which is a throwaway phrase, but I can’t offer more right now. Appreciate what you have. Be kind to the fellow who doesn’t know better. And maybe give the sea rose’s scent a little longer huff than you’d do so normally.  We’re in strange seas.

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


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