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October 18, 2017 - October 21, 2017

Dear Fellow Members and Guests:

It is with deep regret that I have to inform you that the Board of Directors has decided that it has no choice but to cancel the meeting scheduled for next week at the Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, California. At 8:33 a.m. Central Daylight Time on Monday, we learned that due to wildfires in the area, the Silverado had been evacuated. Since that time, the Officers, Board, Planning and Arrangements Committee and other members have been investigating the situation, communicating with Silverado, and exploring all potential options. Last night, the Board unanimously concluded that we had no option but to cancel the meeting.

At present, the authorities are not allowing anyone onto the property to determine the extent of damage that may have been sustained, and I was informed this afternoon by the Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Silverado that it will probably be at least five days before anyone will be allowed onto the property. Moreover, even if there is no fire damage, numerous homes directly adjacent to the property were destroyed, and there will be a lot of clean-up required. Accordingly, Silverado will not be in a position to accept guests until sometime next week at the very earliest. A number of people have called the Silverado and have been told that all reservations are being cancelled through October 22. Silverado has recommended that we tender a declaration of force majeure, which we are doing to obtain a release of all obligations the Association has under its contract with Silverado.

Even if it were possible for the Silverado to accommodate us, we believe that would be extremely unwise to attempt to bring a group to the area next week. The fires are still uncontained, and there is concern that the main fire could return to the area. At the very least, air quality in the area will be very poor for some period of time, and could pose a hazard, particularly for anyone with respiratory issues. And we are informed that the area around Silverado “looks like a war zone,” and would scarcely be conducive to the atmosphere we expect at our meetings.

As soon as we learned of the problems at the Silverado, we began investigating whether there might be another facility that might be able to accommodate us. Because of the cancellation penalties that many of you would incur if we attempted to relocate outside the Bay Area, we concentrated on the area within reasonable distance of the airports that most people would fly into to go to Napa. The resort planner we have used for years contacted 82 different properties in the area, and none had any availability for a group our size. In addition, organizing a meeting typically takes over a year, and the problems of organizing a meeting at a different facility in a week’s time were simply insurmountable.

We also gave consideration to the possibility of changing the date of the meeting. However, given the limited window available, particularly in view of the early date of Thanksgiving this year, we concluded that this was not a realistic option. To begin with, to book another property, we would have to guarantee a certain number of rooms. Over the years, we have developed a feel for how many people will attend these meetings, but this is when our members know about the date of the meeting more than a year in advance; we have no way to know how many people would attend a meeting with at best a few weeks’ notice.

Accordingly, the Board unanimously agreed that we simply had no option but to cancel the meeting. Needless to say, this is very disappointing to all of us, since we all expected this to be an exceptional meeting in a wonderful venue.

While we understand that Silverado is cancelling all reservations through October 22, we recommend that you take steps to make sure that your hotel reservations are cancelled. There is a notice on the Silverado website that reads “Please call our contact center at 855-265-0154 to make any modifications or cancellations to reservations with arrivals the week of Monday, October 16th.” Similarly, the website of The Marriott Napa Valley Hotel and Spa states “Should you wish to modify or cancel your reservation, please call 800-228-9290.” You should also take steps to cancel airline reservations; I understand that at least some airlines will not charge a cancellation fee if you provide them a copy of this message. Also, remember to cancel any restaurant reservations that will charge you if you do not appear.

I look forward to seeing you at our next meeting.


Harold K. Watson | President of the Maritime Law Association of the United States


October 18, 2017
October 21, 2017

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