Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Laser Master Barred from Morning Sail

(Caution: Tortured reasoning at work!)

Recent research has unearthed the shocking possibility that a well-known Laser sailing blogger may be legally barred from some weekend sails every week of the year.

Title 46 of the Rhode Island General Laws requires sailboats to be numbered. (Boats under fourteen feet long, such as Lasers and Sunfish, are, however exempted from having to be titled, but they still need to be numbered with some limited exceptions.)

A loophole in the requirements that some sailors might use to avoid numbering their boats is contained in Section 46-22-2, a portion of “Regulation of Boats, which contains the definition

(2) "Motorboat" means any vessel whether or not the vessel is propelled by machinery. For purposes of this chapter, motorboat shall not include houseboats as defined in § 44-5-25.1, canoes, and rowboats twelve feet (12') in length or less.

Since for these purposes a sailboat is a motorboat, sailors of small one-design racing dinghies might try to take advantage of an exception to the numbering provisions.

§ 46-22-6 Exemption from numbering provisions of this chapter. – A motorboat shall not be required to be numbered under this chapter if it is:
(5) A motorboat used exclusively for racing

Well and good. Racers even get some minor exceptions from equipment requirements (subsection (h)). But, potentially, this opens up an interesting can of worms, given that a dinghy sailor who doesn’t register and number a boat has to use the boat exclusively for racing. Tune-ups, tuning, calibration, workouts, and practice would presumably be allowed (parallel argument might be constructed from the precedent in 46-22-2 (h)), but plain old pleasure sailing, cruising, fishing, etc., would be strictly verboten.

And, surprisingly enough, there’s a potential for some weekend sailing to be illegal!

If the dinghy gets away with being un-numbered because it is used exclusively for racing, that would imply that it participates in sailing regattas and competitions. These are generally scheduled for weekends and could be considered to be athletic events.

But, Title 41, Sports, Racing, and Athletics, of the Rhode Island General Laws, contains a provision regulating “Athletic Games on Sunday” (Chapter 41-6).

Section 41-6-2, Authorization of amateur games, provides that

The licensing authorities of any town or city may authorize amateur athletic games to be played or held in a town or city between the hours of noon and six o'clock (6:00) in the afternoon of the first day of the week upon such premises and subject to such rules and regulations for the preservation of good order and the prevention of disturbances, as the licensing authorities may prescribe and determine in their discretion.

Further, section 41-6-6 restricts athletics from occurring within 500’ feet of a “church or chapel” or within 200’ of property owned by an objecting landowner.

Thus, if a Laser owner does not register and number a boat and seeks to take advantage of the race boat exemption, or if said Laser owner participates in a regatta on Sunday even with a boat that is numbered and registered, he or she may be legally barred from sailing on Sunday morning (and evening) within town or city limits or at any time near a church or objecting landowner’s property, if such sailing could be construed to be part of an athletic game within the meaning of Title 41.

Tillerman, have you been out there on your boat breaking the Sunday sailing blue laws!

What happens to any Laser sailors who get caught racing on Sunday morning or evening in your town? Do the town authorities put them in the stocks or pillory? Make them wear a big red letter “S”? Or do the local authorities maybe delegate punishment to your club’s protest committee? If so, then the race/protest committee equipment checklist needs to be modified to include appropriate apparatus for punishing wrongdoers.

Caveats: Lots of them, including potential differences between statute law (Rhode Island General Law) and applicable regulations (the law as implemented and enforced by the Department of Environmental Management and law enforcement authorities), the question as to whether a sailboat regatta or other sailing competition or practice would be covered by Title 41, and the question as to whether a particular Laser or similar dinghy is registered and numbered and whether this is common practice or not within the Rhode Island jurisdiction. Note that this is intended as a silly exercise for entertainment purposes only and not as legal advice and that any person who wishes for an accurate and applicable legal statement should obtain competent legal counsel and research assistance. Note too that laws, implementing regulations, and enforcement practices are subject to revision and interpretation. Note that laws are subject to change and that sources of information about these laws may not be current, including sources provided by the State of Rhode Island, Department of Environmental Management, and information providers with contracts to the state and/or its subdivisions and agencies. Note that this analysis is necessarily restricted to very specialized circumstances and does not cover factors that may apply to any situations that vary in any manner from those assessed herein. If you don’t want a fool for a lawyer, hire a competent attorney. So there!

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