For about 60 years, I was in, or connected to, the boat building, design and supply business. Looking back, I realize that I had an education in that industry that might never be matched. For all practical purposes, I was the United Nations emissary to the boating industry. I came to Florida from Indiana, in 1956. Offshore powerboat racing began in 1956. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I was a pretty good, factory trained Johnson outboard wrench, and a boat crazy nut. (Still am). A very good combination for the time. I went to work for Challenger Marine, on the present turf of TNT racing, rigging, storage, etc. in North Miami, Fl.
Challenger was owned by Dudley Whitman and Art Siegel, two blue eyed American, Christian, guys. This was the fledgling portion of my boat building career. We built 15’ Challenger fiberglass outboard boats, and little Harry Cates designed Moth class sailboats. Amazingly, we used a method that is just being reinvented today. In those days, it was called “Marco Method” and comprised of matched molds, gel coated both sides, with all the fiberglass material fitted between them. There was a trough around the bottom of the mold, and we poured a measured amount of catalyzed polyester resin in the trough, turned on a vacuum pump and went home for the night. The next morning, we popped out the most advanced outboard on the planet. It as smooth as a baby’s butt, inside and out, exceptionally tough, and beautiful. I loved everything about Challenger. I worked there 8 years (minus two in the Army), and worked my way up to General Manager. I was promoted fast enough that I never learned quite enough about my former position. Anyway, we were Chris Craft, Johnson Outboards, Trojan (No, the boat) and later Boston Whaler and Formula dealers. Business was great, I was making good bucks, racing a lot, having babies, and enjoying life. Everything I knew about business, I learned at Challenger. It hardly prepared me for my next job. Although I was happy as a lark, a dark, handsome, funny guy lured me away from my dream job. His name was Don Aronow, and he was Jewish.
I had not connected the business dots between the God-fearing, honest Midwest guys at Challenger, and the New Jersey raised Aronow. Just when I thought I knew what I was doing (I didn’t), Aronow made whatever promises were necessary to steal me from Challenger. About half of them were constructed entirely of smoke. We started Donzi Marine, and made it fly. We worked about 100 hours a week, but we got to race the big stuff. The pain was short-lived, however, and I was traded to a minor league team, Teleflex, out of Canada. They bought Donzi Marine from Aronow, who sold me with the company, and bent them over mightily. They were Canadians, Eh. I worked there for a total of 4 years, and liked it a lot. The only down side, Tim Chisholm, Chairman of Teleflex, sent his brother John to be sales manager of Donzi. Dick Riddle and I fired him. Two weeks later, John and Tim bought Donzi Marine. Uh oh.
Not to worry, my racing partner, Billy Wishnick fronted me enough money to start Nova Marine. Bill was sort of Jewish, but not the Jersey type. Maybe the nicest man on the planet. We did that for 4 years until a recession chased us out of business. We sold to Dick Genth, at Wellcraft. I was left on the doorstep of Elton Cary. He took me in and let me manage Cary Marine for a while. I got to prototype the huge (for then) 49’ Cary. We built several of them. Elton was a refined redneck, and another real Prince of a guy. John Holman, of Holman Moody car racing fame hired me away to manage Holman Moody Marine, on the Miami River. John was a very nice man, and a card-carrying redneck. I got be a field service tech for the ill-fated Ford Marine and Industrial gas turbine. A most interesting job. I had been using Holman Moody Ford racing engines in my Offshore racers, and we got along fine. I worked for a while at an imaginary retail dealership on the same property that had been Challenger. I was run by two brothers, Grand and Larceny, and I didn’t stay long. Further to UN job list, a French businessman bought Cary Marine and hired Jean Claude Simon to run it (into the ground). They hired me as engineer, and we built a bunch of 49’ diesel sport boats for a dealer in Italy to finish. When the management of Cary in France sacked Jean Claude, they put in a new Prez whose boat experience consisted of coming here on a cruise ship. Oy vey! Non, Mai Oui! Whatever… He asked me to teach him the business. I took him on a demo of our excellent 32’ Cary (same as Aronow’s 32’ Cigarette) twin inboard fish boat. We were idling toward Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale when the very knowledgeable customer asked “What is the draft?” The Prez answered “Probably because we are going under the bridge”. I was testing a 32’ Cary with the new Tempest stern drive packages in the Intracoastal Waterway one day, when the Prez decided that he could follow me a twin inboard 32’ and learn how to handle a boat properly. He failed to inform me of his plan, and when I made a high speed hairpin turn around a marker, he went so far into the trees that we couldn’t see him from the water. It didn’t take him long to kill the company, after Jean Claude’s excellent start, and I went to work for Magnum Marine, now owned by the same Italians who had been our Cary dealers in Italy. I was hired to engineer the new 53’ Magnum High Speed Diesel runabout/cruiser, and stayed for nearly 5 years. Fabulous job. Summered in Monaco, wintered in Rapallo. In Monaco, I had a red 53’ Kevlar boat with twin V16, 1400 HP Detroit Diesels, and a red and white 27’ Magnum sport boat with twin 450 HP BPM Vulcano engines on speedmaster drives. I ran demonstrations around the Mediterranean. On one demo, I was told to go to San Tropez, about 50 miles along the coast, and find a client. I went alone, and located him at his home. We took several of his guests for a spin at 50MPH (VERY fast for a big boat back then), and he invited me to stay for brunch. He had a table about 50 feet long on his porch, and we had forty or fifty of his closest friends for an excellent brunch. While we were eating and chatting, I noticed a young and beautiful nude girl on the diving board next door. I asked my host who that might be, and he told me that it was the current pedophilee of “that asshole” Roman Polanski. I wandered over and chatted with naked 17 year old Nastissia Kinski. Hung out at Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo in August each year, where the dowagers of European industry sat in the lobby with diamonds the size of doorknobs. Maybe the greatest job in the world for kid from Indiana. Damned if I didn’t get lured away to be Prez of a new company, Cougar Marine, next door to Magnum, in the old Donzi yard where I had already worked twice before. Enter the Brits.
We were going to be McClaren product dealers, Sabre Diesel engine dealers, Cougar boat builders, racers, and such. The first stuff didn’t happen, but we ruled the world of offshore racing for four years. Bad part, I had just learned to speak Italian, and now I had to learn British. “Tut tut, stiff upper lip! Don’t let the side down. We don’t tip. Stuff like that. Worked there for five years, had lots of 100 MPH rides, lots of smiles. When the British pound (not the dog one) devalued, the Brits sold the yard and fled to the old sod, with a major hunk of cheese, thanks to the currency fluctuation. Went down the street to Cigarette. Manager was my pal, Val Jenkins, Boss was a financial whiz, not a boat guy. In his office, he had a 12’ blue marlin mounted. I asked if he had caught it. “Yes. It was my only fishing trip”. The company owner had insisted that he go to Walker’s Cay and go fishing with his expert captain. He did, and caught this monster in the first morning. I like to fish, and to be polite, I asked if he would like to go fishing with me. “For what?” I ran the product development team with some great guys, Jim Gardiner, Jim Muir, Alex McCrae, Scott Smith. We build some beautiful stuff, the Café Racer 35, Top Gun 38, and I got to design the 31 Bullet, 31 Decathlon and a 21’ runabout. Too much work for me, and I bolted. I worked for Teleflex Marine, inventing stuff, which always got shot down by the “Product Prevention Department”, Legal. Did that for a couple of years when I got hired by Gentry Transatlantic to help turn the record holding 110’ long, 11,700HP, 80MPH “Gentry Eagle” into a yacht, and to help develop a 100 knot Atlantic record holder for Tom Gentry. Now I was working for John Connor who was Canadian/Californian, and Tom Gentry, who was Californian/Hawaiian. Never did fully pick up on their language. That finished when Tom Gentry flopped his racer in Key West harbor, and died. Jerry Schmid, of Stainless Marine adopted me, and I worked there for 14 years, selling, developing new products, falling in love with Letty, who sat directly across the office from my desk. Just an ordinary American, Jerry treated me well, until the entire boat bidness was killed in ’08. “Wandering the streets for minutes, I was hired by the unsung hero of boat design, Harry Schoell, who was prototyping high efficiency steam engines. I worked there as Senior Engineering Fellow for 7 years, and built some amazing stuff.
I have enjoyed it all, and am still building boats. I am a contributor to the design building and fitting out of 48’ 100 knot high tech runabout/cruiser for two for a very knowledgeable boater from Massachusetts, the same area where the damned Patriots play.