Running a marina restaurant left him hungry for a marine career

I guess you could say my story is a bit different from many of the others in this column. I got into the marine industry because of my passion for cooking. Yes, that’s right; I said cooking.

I guess you could say my story is a bit different from many of the others in this column. I got into the marine industry because of my passion for cooking. Yes, that’s right; I said cooking.


I always enjoyed boating; I bought my first leaky aluminum rowboat (actually more Gluvit than aluminum) for $50 as a teenager. Hit by the “need a bigger boat” fever, I’ve had more than a dozen power and sailboats along the way, including my favorite, a 1960s Evinrude “Sweet-16” (think of a tri-hulled floating Batmobile with Cadillac fins on the back), and eventually a cabin cruiser that became the core of our family vacations. Although I loved being on the water, the idea of working in the marine industry never crossed my mind.

So how does a passion for cooking bring a guy into the marine field? It’s a good question. I grew up the youngest of five, and it was my mother who inspired me to cook. In the early ’90s I found myself running a small waterfront restaurant on the Jersey shore catering to people who wanted to enjoy a meal with views of Sandy Hook Bay. The restaurant happened to be at a small marina; helping to sell slips at this marina was my introduction to the industry.

When I decided to move on from those insane restaurant hours, the boatyard life was something that interested me. I got my start working at the Julius Petersen Boatyard’s ship’s store on the Hudson River less than 20 miles north of Manhattan. It was an amazing place to work, steeped with more than a century of history and a fantastic cast of characters. I worked my way up to retail manager, service manager and eventually general manager of the yard. I learned to love (or tolerate) the urgency of the spring launch season and the craziness of the fall haulout.

After a decade and a half, it was time to move on. I became the national sales manager for AB Inflatables USA — a job I enjoyed, but it never really utilized my boatyard experience. A few years later my career took a turn when a friend talked me into a regional sales position at Pettit Marine Paint.

Pettit was the perfect match for me; I worked a sales territory covering Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. Countless hours on the road and many nights away from home were rewarded with satisfaction from a job I really liked. Maybe it was hard work, timing or something else that eventually led to me becoming vice president of sales and marketing. Now those countless hours of work and travel have led to five years of record-breaking sales.

Today my passion revolves not only around my family and my job, but also around the entire marine industry, around the people. I am extremely fortunate to be a part of what I believe is the best team in the entire marine industry.

I also enjoy the “boat-show cousins” that I see from show to show, from event to event. We run into each other in the elevators, hotels, restaurants and bars. We say, “Hey, how are you? How’s life? Everything good?”

Yeah, it’s all good …

I really enjoy being part of this industry; I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Donald Zabransky is vice president of sales and marketing at Pettit Marine Paint.


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