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June 10, 2015 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Way out there. Not the Jetsons.

Floating out there in their own little world, yet no escaping.

Each little thing must be categorized, legally defined, and dealt with accordingly.

Flotsam. Jetsam.

Really. Have to nail those completely down?

Can’t just call it garbage, trash, or debris.

woman. 1916 film actress. La Falena/USPD.

Oh, the distress. The despair.They are out there not knowing what they are. (1916.USPD/

No, let’s get legal.

To stay well-informed, out of trouble, and right on top of cocktail party repartee, simply remember that flotsam and jetsam, while both are marine in nature and associated with vessels, the two are very different.

Flotsam is something in the water that was not deliberately thrown overboard by accident or by shipwreck. If the origin of the word is consider, floter (to float), that’s reasonable.

Jetsam is really an abbreviated version of “jettison”(get rid off). Anything thrown off a boat intentionally by crew in distress or to lighten the ship’s load is jetsam.

Now this is where lawyers start salivating.

According to maritime law, flotsam belongs to the original owner and they may claim it as theirs anytime.

Jetsam can be claimed by anyone who finds and grabs it. If jetsam has value, the one who picks it up, gets to keep all the money from the sale of the salvage.

Easy to see how people, even countries, might go to court over this.

two women. 1916 film Coachman do not drive horses/unknown author/

Yes, take notes. We need to get our stories straight.(1916.USPD/

But what about the bodies?

If a person intentionally, deliberately leaps off a cruise ship, would the suicidal individual become jetsam? Obvious distress and an attempt to lighten the mental load. Slowly floating away into oblivion.

(Ever been trapped on a cruise ship with a less than congenial crowd? Or maybe a large family reunion? There’s not enough booze…..)

If it’s an accidental person overboard, would that be flotsam?

If the individual was totally drunk and toddled over unexpectedly.

If there was an unfortunate slip due to excessive suntan lotion saturation.

Or if a foolish unsteady reenactment of the scene from Titanic, they float off as flotsam?

What if it’s murder on deck, but in the water, jetsam?

The killer might be in severe distress or see the act as lightning burdens of one or of all?

Certainly behaving as if getting rid of something unwanted.

prince on beach with princess kneeling over him (fairy tale1899. Anderson's Fairy tales/Stratton/

“Oh, get up you piece of garbage. I know you are faking it. You were perfectly happy to get on board when mom and dad offered to pay for the whole cruise. Now gut it up, get up, and smile. It’s only a few more days.” (1899./Stratton/USPD/

Complicated. Laws, words, and a wandering soul certainly can create a muddle.

But the serious question is would the dismasted Gunboat Rainmaker left in distress be jetsam or flotsam?

Should we bother to ask or just see if we can find it and grab it? (May 27, 2015. The 55 foot catamaran never recovered.)

Cruising along.

One man’s trash is another pirate’s treasure. Hence the maritime laws.

 Time to pick up sticks (or masts or whatever else is out there. What a mess.)

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.








  1. easyweimaraner / Jun 10 2015 1:09 pm

    I remember the Napoli who stranded on the beach in 2007, the peeps knew no mercy and acted like Captain Jack Sparrow… take what you can and give nothing back… I saw in tv how they got a lot of bmw motorbikes… and all french people were sad, because it happened not on our side of the channel :o)


  2. Ally Bean / Jun 10 2015 2:14 pm

    This discussion gives a whole new meaning to going with the flow. What a strange and nuanced world in which we live. Interesting topic.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 10 2015 2:51 pm

      Some things are just too bizarre to ignore…lawyers, for example, and sailboat called gunboats. Once again proves reality is really strange. Thanks for picking up the pieces and adding to the comment pile


  3. Carrie Rubin / Jun 10 2015 4:40 pm

    Oh my, a bit of darkness to this one. I like it. 😉

    I recently used the word ‘flotsam’ in my latest WIP, but I had to look up the difference between it and ‘jetsam’ first. Had I seen your post first, I could have saved myself some time and gotten an enjoyable read out of it in the process!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 10 2015 8:44 pm

      Summer means cruise ships, tales of family reunions, and horror stories – around the campfire – safer…
      So happy there’s possibly a redeeming factor here. Thanks for floating by!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. sustainabilitea / Jun 10 2015 6:30 pm

    Whatever caused you to float-some ideas out about this subject? Whatever it was, I enjoyed the read.



    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 10 2015 8:40 pm

      It all started out with another post’s draft and “how do you spell that floatie junk stuff Floatsome or Jetson?…oh, wait that was the TV show…”
      Glad you got a giggle.


  5. dogear6 / Jun 10 2015 9:55 pm

    The hair splitting on this should be enough to keep the lawyers in business for a long time!



  6. Kourtney Heintz / Jun 11 2015 9:08 pm

    Wow. What a fun application of flotsam and jetsam. The dead body on the boat is terribly hysterical. 🙂


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 12 2015 1:56 pm

      Wasn’t sure. It was funny to me, but not everyone has a quirky sense of humor. Whew! Thanks for giggling along


  7. Paul / Jun 11 2015 11:38 pm

    Interesting post Phil. I learned a lot.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 12 2015 1:55 pm

      Like what to say to the judge/jury during the trial? (giggles). Hope some summer fun is floating your way. (as usual I’m frantically paddling to keep up – will raft over to where ever you’ve posted shortly!) Thanks for scooping up a comment to leave


  8. PiedType / Jun 12 2015 3:57 am

    Interesting. Not sure I’ve ever know the difference between flotsam and jetsam.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 12 2015 1:49 pm

      Only lawyers know – or care. Someone has to do it! Thanks for picking up a trashy comment


  9. marthaschaefer / Jun 13 2015 6:25 pm

    Never knew the difference between flotsam and jetsam! Thank you Phil, most informative. Now as to that sailboat…


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 13 2015 11:08 pm

      Seriously…a little bigger than a needle in a haystack. Better hurry before hurricane season gets organized (although we are watching a tropical low over Yucatan now.) Thanks for floating a comment in this direction

      Liked by 1 person

  10. jmmcdowell / Jun 16 2015 7:16 pm

    Another reason, perhaps, to continue my avoidance of cruise ships. 😉


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 22 2015 12:54 am

      Cruise ships remind me too much of either murder mysteries or plague stories. Happy to just wave as they float by. Thanks for swimming along


  11. jannatwrites / Aug 17 2015 5:21 am

    I didn’t know the difference between flotsam and jetsam… I have been on a cruise ship, but that was many years ago. Not sure I’d go now. The world is a different place. My question is, if you find something in the ocean, how could you possibly know the intent of whoever lost/unloaded it and therefore, how would you know if it was up for grabs?


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Aug 17 2015 4:29 pm

      If everything is “floating” on a “ocean” of magma, can I claim an island as abandoned? The big cargo containers – and cars – that get washed overboard probably have “return to sender” stickers on them…takes a lot of fun out of things? Thanks for rafting a comment over (we finally had rain. Molly got to walk without wilting in the slightly cooler morning weather)



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