BoatUS chairman and founder Richard Schwartz announced his retirement from a 47-year run as the leader of the half-million-member boating association, effective July 1.
Schwartz will pass the torch to BoatUS president Margaret Bonds Podlich and other key leadership staff, although he will remain chairman of the BoatUS board and chairman of the BoatUS National Advisory Council.
The creation of the recreational boating organization began in the early 1960s when Schwartz was invited aboard a friend's boat and, soon after departing the dock, the vessel's owner was given a ticket for improper engine compartment ventilation, which Schwartz viewed as unfair because the owner had no responsibility for the boat's construction.
A Princeton and Yale Law School graduate and an antitrust lawyer at the time, Schwartz asked his boating friends whether anyone was fighting for their interests and the answer was no.
BoatUS was born thereafter with a mission of "service, savings and representation." A few years later, Schwartz's Capitol Hill testimony resulted in the watershed Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971, which gave the Coast Guard the power to hold manufacturers accountable for certain safety standards and led to the creation of the Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety.
Schwartz’s efforts helped secure passage of the Recreational Boating Safety and Facilities Improvement Act of 1979, also known as the Biaggi Bill, which affirmed that taxes and fees paid by boaters should support boating programs.
In 1984, Schwartz was credited with leading the passage of the federal Wallop/Breaux Trust Fund Amendment, today part of the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, which now returns more than $650 million annually to federal and state boating and fishing programs.
He was a vocal opponent of user fees and the highly unpopular luxury tax in 1992 and the diesel fuel tax in 1997, both of which were repealed.
The BoatUS Marine Insurance program, which began in 1967, offered the first recreational boat policy in clear, understandable language rather than centuries-old commercial ship language. Schwartz wrote a primer on what a boat policy should have in plain English, and it has been adopted industrywide.
BoatUS developed the only recreational Boat Damage Avoidance program and publication to help BoatUS members avoid claims and injuries — Seaworthy. BoatUS insurance programs now total more than $8 billion in hull value.
"We've become the largest boat owners organization in the U.S. and fought major boating battles along the way, making life better and safer for boaters, and all the while creating the services that make the boating experience better,” Schwartz, 83, said in a statement. “Boating should be a pleasure, not a hassle. I am proud to have led this organization and even prouder of our staff, who deliver the BoatUS service every day."