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The Sky’s the Limit

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My roundabout journey to becoming the editor-in-chief of Soundings Trade Only began in 1975 when my father picked me up one afternoon from kindergarten. I asked him where we were going. “The store,” he said. There was a hint of deception that even a 5-year-old could spot.

We eventually ended up at Sears Roebuck and Co. in Annapolis, Md. Dad told me to stay put. (Yes, this was a reasonable and safe thing to do with a kindergartener at the time.) He soon emerged with a clerk who heaved two large cardboard boxes into the pickup bed.

At home, dad ripped into the larger box. A 12-foot, lime-green fiberglass skiff was birthed from the cardboard. Then the smaller box was cut open. Inside was an outboard. Dad stood amongst the cardboard carnage, grinning like a pig in mud. The boat was a 12-foot Gamefisher. The outboard was 9.9-hp Gamefisher that proved to be one of the most unreliable mechanical contraptions ever built. We named the boat Old Greenie.

We went everywhere in that small boat. We soaked crab traps in Chesapeake Bay almost every summer weekend, often scoring a two-bushel limit. We fished for flounder in back bays. I loved it. Most of all, I cherished the time on the water with Dad. Even though there was plenty of choppy water between us during my teenage years, we reconnected in the late 1980s when a 37-foot sailboat came into Dad’s life. He taught me how to sail, and I was instantly obsessed.

In 1990, I talked my way into a job at Fawcett Boat Supplies, a full-service chandlery in Annapolis. I had no experience with boating hardware, most boat systems, sailboat parts or customer service that didn’t involve pouring drinks for bar patrons. I learned the brands and boat systems, was promoted to rigger and ultimately earned a wholesale territory filled with marinas, boatyards, boat dealers and other marine businesses.

Eleven years later, during a short stint as a yacht brokerage service manager, I began pestering one of my old marina contacts about working at Waterway Guide, a well-regarded cruising guide he had recently purchased and moved to Annapolis. Although I had zero publishing or writing experience, he gave me a job. I shipped books, handled customer service and orders, answered the phone and ultimately deceived the editors into sneaking me some editorial reads. Four years later, I was the managing editor. The rest is history.

I took over a local Chesapeake powerboating magazine in 2010 and three years later left to branch out as a freelancer. Lenny Rudow, a well-known Chesapeake Bay writer and a good friend, helped connect me to magazine editors and other industry players. But it was at the Miami Boat International Boat Show in 2015 when I spied an opportunity that would boost my career in the publishing business.

I summoned the courage to introduce myself to Bill Sisson, who at the time was editor-in-chief of this publication, as well as the newly launched Anglers Journal. It was one of the smartest moves I’ve made.

Sisson began fielding my story pitches, I started writing for other publications in the Active Interest Media Marine Group, and in 2017 I came on staff as senior editor at Soundings. Three years later, I picked up managing editor duties at Anglers Journal. In mid-January, they offered me the keys to this magazine. It took me about three seconds to say, “Yes.”

So that’s my story. The marine industry has taught me that if you work hard, create a network of good people (of which there are many) and have a keen interest in boating, the sky is the limit. I would have laughed in your face back in 1990 if you told me I would go this far.

Today, the marine industry is a bustling place. Boatbuilders are working with order sheets as far out as three years. Viking Yacht Co. just sold 24 new boats at a boutique event in Florida. Companies such as Brunswick, OneWater, MarineMax, Lippert Components and Patrick Industries recently posted record financial results. Acquisitions and consolidations are happening at a fast pace. It’s a prosperous time in the industry.

Despite the good news, there also is a feeling of uncertainty winding through the boating business. Inflation recently posted its largest gain in 40 years. Though record growth was reported in the last quarter of 2021, the news was tempered by continued staff shortages, supply-chain woes, Covid-19 omicron variant shutdowns and reports that the Fed soon will raise interest rates. In addition, some wonder if the housing market will burst and what effect that might have on the economy.

No matter what happens, the Soundings Trade Only team is committed to bringing you the shoe-leather reporting about the industry that you need to run your businesses, be successful industry participants, sell more boats, connect with your customers and help us all be better caretakers of our watery world.

See you on the docks. 

This article was originally published in the March 2022 issue.

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