There are stupid questions. Don’t let any boater tell you different. From the owner of the boat show production vessel to the teak decks of a German build, there’s a lot of stupid. Here’s my list for your galley amusement and maybe some teaching. I mean, OK, OK. Cool your jets, Bar associations, it’s not legal advice. Don’t rely on what I’m saying. Every situation is different. You get the idea; don’t be stupid.

If I find an inflatable tender on the beach, can I keep it?
No. Stop. Salvage and the law of finds doesn’t work that way. I mean, if it’s your sibling’s or friend’s tender, go ahead and torment them with claims of finders-keepers. You’ll be wrong, but it’ll be fun. Quote me if you want.

Driving while intoxicated laws are different on boats, right? Nope. Pretty much very similar; it’s just that “don’t drink and boat” slogans aren’t marketed with any intensity. Don’t drink and boat. Bad things happen. Float and drink, but don’t get underway all brimmed up with liquid enthusiasm because remember the prison term may pale in comparison to the civil judgment for the injuries you cause – those numbers can easily exceed your boat policy limits and maybe threaten the equity you hold in your house, your investment accounts, etc.

That marina doesn’t have a lien on my boat like they say, do they? If you’re the owner and you OK’d the work they performed, they likely do. And the maritime lien follows the boat, even through purchasers for value who didn’t know about the lien. Doesn’t really matter to the existence of the lien if you’re complaining about the quality or the price charged. The lien probably still exists.

Now, like I how tell my grandson Spalding, “We’re so big and with all this sail, we always have the right of way!” Nope (yawn). Not true, Judge Smails. All the money you have might make it so you can fiscally bully your way through most things, but not the navigational Rules of the Road.

Can we hire our American crew where the language prohibits them from having a jury trial? No. Just no. And stop being such a terrible person.

Oh, him? We’ve got him working as a dayworker so he’s not crew. That works, right? No. Just no. Again, why are you being such a terrible person?

Is dragging anchor an Act of God? No.

Did you know that the Rules of the Road don’t apply when we’re on the Club course? Wrong.

Can I call my new tender the MAYDAY? No. Don’t be a moron. Think of the collective confusion if boaters could call their craft such names as “DISTRESS” or “TAKING ON WATER” or “GOING DOWN” or “SOS”. It’d be maritime

mayhem. Even Congress (not the bastion of smarties) figured this one out early and there’s a federal law prohibiting such naming antics.

We just want the insurer to pay the agreed value on our superyacht’s tender; now it’s asking where the tender parted the towline and was lost. Do we have to tell them? Yeah. I think you might have an insurance fraud issue if you don’t. What’s wrong with you?

Bowriders are the best, right? No. In my opinion, these boats create seating situations where passengers can get seriously hurt.

Am I responsible for the damage caused by my wake? Yes. That’s all. You are. Slow down.

Admiralty law will free me from prison, right? That I don’t know, but I appreciate there’s a whole heap of prison lawyering that seems to find some sort of liberty-type arguments implicating admiralty jurisdiction.

If I’m the wealthiest man in the world, should I be at fashion shows looking like Derek Zoolander? No on both accounts. To bastardize a Chris Hitchens quote: There’s a special place in hell for the richest man in the world who panders to self-image and idolatry.

This article captures my tonality for 2024. A colleague recently referred to one of my Court filings as having too much bravado; he was mistaken in his word choice. The words were right because they were brave and honest and spoke the truth without the cloying treacle of legal linguistics. Don’t hide behind words. Tell it as it is, but don’t be a bully.

Let’s see how this year unpacks, uh? 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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