Large-scale boat shows can feel like an awkward family Thanksgiving. There’s usually a mix of people you’re genuinely happy to see, those who keep to themselves, the repeat visitors to the liquor cabinet (no judgment here, folks) and souls you’ve known long enough that they may as well be family.
To me, this mixing bowl is part of what makes the marine industry such a great place to work.
When I returned to the Miami International Boat Show in February for the first time in two years, I felt a lot of real happiness. Hugging people? Oh, yeah, give me some of that. Firm, friendly handshakes? Bring it. Laughing maskless with people I hadn’t seen in ages? Priceless.
But not everything went according to plan, and that’s what helped me truly understand just how lucky I am to work in an industry so filled with great people who will drop everything to lend a helping hand.
My plane was delayed for three hours, and I was surrounded by people behaving in awful ways. Getting a ride at the Miami airport involved three canceled Lyft bookings before a guardian angel driver named Jorge saw me standing confused, sweaty and stressed. He grabbed my bags and whisked me to his car.
At the hotel, which was perfect in many ways, my room had no desk. The Wi-Fi was about as fast as a mid-’90s dial-up modem. I tried to tether my phone data to my laptop, but the feature was crippled. Then I found the in-room, wired Internet port — next to the toilet (really).
The next night, after a long day on the show floor with my fellow judges for the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s Innovations Awards, we gathered for dinner at a local Peruvian joint. Sitting across from me was Rachel Harmon, a project manager for the NMMA. We commiserated about the trials and tribulations of show-going — and we laughed until we cried.
The show opened the next day to the usual whirlwind of awards programs, press conferences, interviews and after-show dinners. Everyone has their favorite event; mine is one hosted by Yamaha. The dinner always includes familiar faces, excellent nosh and drinks, and is largely planned by one of my favorite people: Neal Wheaton. She and I caught up while relaxing after a long day on our feet. The cocktails didn’t hurt, either.
After the dinner, I picked up my baggage and headed to a new hotel in South Beach. As of 10 p.m., I had a canceled reservation, no place to stay, a pile of stories to write and an industry breakfast to cover at 7:30 a.m. I eventually got into a room, wrapped up my workday around 1:30 a.m. and fell asleep at 3 a.m.
I spent much of the second day of the show in the media room, writing stories. Then it was back to the new hotel for a hot shower, my favorite long-sleeve Phish shirt and some comfy PJs. I ordered drunken noodles and tom yum for delivery from a well-rated Thai restaurant. I sipped the hot soup, sighed with deep relaxation and closed my eyes before digging into writing again.
Then my phone started buzz-walking its way across the desk. It was Neal, getting ready to board her flight home. “I’m so glad you got into a room last night,” she said. “Is there anything I can do for you? Do you have a lot to write tonight? Call me anytime if you need something.” That random act of kindness gave me the energy to push through the night and get my work done. I’ve heard similar stories about Neal rescuing or supporting marine journalists during stressful times.
When I got back to my home office, I had to start putting together the issue you’re reading now. We had been down an editor since late January. (Welcome aboard Dom Yanchunas, our new staff editor, who started the day this issue shipped to the printer.) I called Kim Kavin, who does freelance writing and editing for Soundings Trade Only, to try and get a grip on how to make this issue happen. We tossed around a few ideas, worked on a planner and got the train firmly on the rails. “Look, you call me anytime, and I’ll do whatever you need,” she said. “You’re going to do fine. No, you’re going to do great. I’m here for you.”
Jeff Moser, my predecessor at this title, has also called often to check in, helping me to feel at home in my new seat as editor-in-chief. He could have simply left me to figure out the whole process on my own, but he didn’t. There are probably others I am forgetting.
These generous people remind me that in our industry, there’s almost always someone who will go out of their way to help you if you leave yourself open and constantly connect with people throughout your career. Paying it forward is strong in our industry.
So, why is the marine industry such a great place to work? People like Rachel, Neal, Kim and Jeff. That’s why.
This article was originally published in the April 2022 issue.