I married an Elizabeth and so maybe I just like the name, but Bequia’s Port Elizabeth is one of my favorites. And if there on a hook you find something tobacco, something cold and your feet on the rail of something with a big center cockpit, well friend’o, you might’ve found a moment of synchronization in a universe of syncopation.
Twin engine operators of things that fly or float will know what I’m saying when speaking of synchronization. Two engines left to run at speeds slightly different from each other create a throbbing dissonance that’ll have all hands grimacing. An engine synchronizer is magic in a box that adjusts the tagalong engine to the lead engine’s speed. Yeah, you can fuss with the throttles yourself but as the sea state changes so do the engine loads and by the time you finish that pull from your beer, you’ll be fussing with the throttles again. An engine synchronizer does all the fussing and yields a continuous sweet-sounding harmony.
Now when running under a chute with everyone scooted back toward the cockpit and the sky tall and the grins broad and the swivel shackle parts letting the chute fly loose, that’s an unexpected change of rhythm – a sailing syncopation. I try and avoid syncopations and you should, too. In the maritime law I practice where we chase across the tops of breaking seas trying to seize money in compense for wrongs, syncopations are part of the business. The defense will abruptly change course and throw up smoke. What should be normal and the expected in preparing for trial will be interrupted with the novel argument or obstinate attorney. You can’t buy a ‘synchronizer’ for your law practice, so you learn to roll your shoulders and take the rogue waves as they come. It’ll pass. It’ll all work out fine. Do your best.
As a vessel owner, it can feel at times that life on the ocean is one big syncopation interrupting the pace and tempo of what all those sailing YouTube videos promised. Water makers stop making; springs and pawls stop winching and that damn paddlewheel on the speedo stutters leaving you thirsty, loose-sailed and guessing. I can’t help you with those maladies in this column, but I can help you synch things ashore.
First, who owns your boat? Give that some thought. Without considering taxes, why are you registering it in some offshore locale? Take the time to really understand the how and why of your boat ownership. Marine documentation specialists are a good starting point; they might not be lawyers, but they are on the front lines of these issues.
Second, who’s that you’re paying to work aboard? The federal law works hard to protect those crew injured in the service of a vessel. My office is (very) good at upending vessel owner (nay, their insurer’s) arguments that the injured “Jimmy” wasn’t really part of the crew, he was just a “dayworker.” That latter term isn’t even recognized in the maritime law! Meet with your broker; make sure you have coverage sufficient to protect your liabilities should anyone working aboard be injured.
Third, and this is a little bit of salad dressing so you take it as you will, but sometimes I see insurers get all syncopated because of what a vessel owner tells them. Make sure you tell an insurer the complete story. For instance, did you tell the insurer that you flew Jimmy down to the Caribbean last season to work aboard?
Fourth, keeps prohibited drugs off your boat. Period. The federal government has a lot of ways to seize your vessel.
Fifth, if you suspect your vessel is defective or if you’ve suffered a loss and you’re making an insurance claim, consider hiring your own marine surveyor. What? You’re going to rely on the surveyor the insurance appointed? Please. Make sure you hire an “accredited” surveyor. Lots of nautical retirees, IMO, like to don a survey hat. You want someone who knows the difference between tabbing delamination and a cored deck.
Sixth, be nice. The boating world is small and your tantrums yield smaller gains than you appreciate.
Seventh, pay your invoices on time. We deal with a lot of marine vendors and IMO boats that pay vendors promptly, get treated more favorably. (I’m not saying to pay unconditionally; rather, be diligent in unpacking the billing issues and seeking a resolution. As a personal practice, I would never leave a boating billing dispute unresolved under the theory that the vendor hasn’t gotten back to me. Most times, the vendor knows it has a maritime lien against your vessel and it can seize your vessel in payment.)
I’d like to spend a season in Bequia puttering and splashing and assembling letters into words and words into paragraphs and paragraphs into chapters. I would study the sunrises and mar the dusks with too much tobacco and things cold, but I’m good at getting synced and I’d crank out something worthy of a book cover. There’s time for that still provided the syncopations remain few.
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 email@example.com, or visit his website at saltwaterlaw.com.