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BoatUS consumer affairs director retires

After 26 years of fighting for boaters' consumer rights, BoatUS Consumer Affairs Department director Caroline Ajootian announced her retirement.

Seaworthy Magazine editor Charles Fort will assume the helm of the BoatUS Consumer Protection Bureau, the only consumer advocacy program dedicated solely to boaters seeking redress from manufacturers, suppliers or businesses, BoatUS said. It also offers the only online database of consumer complaints and safety information, as well as a free online Recall Safety Alert Registry.

Ajootian sailed on Long Island Sound and the New England coast as a child growing up in New York. She later worked at her family's wooden-boat workshop and was a newspaper reporter and photographer before she joined BoatUS in 1986.

Many BoatUS members will recognize her name for her consumer-driven stories in BoatUS Magazine, and she was fondly known among users of BoatUS online chat boards as the helpful "Ask Caroline" moderator. She also managed the BoatUS Salvage Arbitration Program.

"Almost everything else we know today about recreational boating and the businesses that produce, sell and service boats is completely different from what it was 25 years ago," Ajootian said in a statement. "For example, today, while complaints to BoatUS about dealer and factory service haven't been completely eliminated, the egregious complaints of the past are rare. And the marine industry has gone a long way toward adopting consumer-service trends with things like comprehensive warranties, improved overall product quality and ease of repairs. Today you also hear much less finger-pointing between the factory and the dealer.”

Ajootian investigated and wrote dozens of high-profile stories for the magazine throughout her tenure, often identifying emerging patterns of defects.

In addition to his new duties as consumer affairs director and consumer editor of BoatUS Magazine, Fort will remain in his role as associate editor of Seaworthy magazine, the BoatUS damage avoidance publication. Prior to coming to BoatUS in 2002, Fort sailed the hemisphere for three years from Alaska to Panama with his family aboard a 30-foot sailboat, gaining hard-earned bluewater experience. He has a 100-ton Coast Guard Captain’s license.

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