A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

Do you hire people smarter than you are?

Would you hire someone who’s smarter than you are? In 35 years in journalism and the marine industry, I’ve heard my share of senior management types espouse the virtues of surrounding themselves with people who are brighter than they are. In truth, more than a few wound up foundering because they didn’t hire people who […]

What do you expect? It’s a boat

It is not the leather or teak or technology that matters so much to the good folks on the water these days as it is a different kind of comfort. Call it the luxury of reliability, dependability and durability.

A home run of a derby

As a teacher and principal in Middletown, R.I., Steve Ponte has influenced thousands of children. Outside the classroom, he’s also been a role model and mentor for young people through a kids’ fishing tournament he has held through the school for the last 28 years.

A master’s duty

Two well-publicized marine accidents — the capsizing of the Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia and the South Korean ferry Sewol — have raised a number of safety questions and concerns, including this one: Must the captain go down with the ship? It’s a little more complicated than lore might have you believe. The safety of […]

Missing sailors and difficult decisions

It is probably one of the most difficult things the Coast Guard has to do: suspending the search for mariners lost at sea while loved ones implore them to keep looking for at least a little longer. Their hope is rock-solid, their pleas as heartfelt as any you’ll hear in your life, let alone your […]

Q&A with Mercury’s new president

I was able to catch up earlier this week by email with John Pfeifer, the new president of Mercury Marine. Pfeifer, 48, replaces Mark Schwabero, who was recently promoted to the newly created position of president and chief operating officer of Brunswick Corp.

Built to last

Powerboat writer Eric Sorensen was passing through my part of the world yesterday afternoon, so we met at a pub after work to kick around some future story ideas.

A taste of fishing

We’ve been burning the midnight oil lately getting our second issue of Anglers Journal wrapped up — put to bed, as they say — and out the door. We think that anyone in the industry with a passion for fishing — or who sells boats, motors, gear, tackle and accessories to anglers — will have […]

The appeal of innovation

For the last year, Correct Craft president and CEO Bill Yeargin has been working on the Manufacturing Council, a group of 25 business leaders who advise U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker on a variety of manufacturing topics.

Two messages to heed

In the not-too-distant past, when our waterways were a bit more crowded, we heard more concerns raised about irresponsible boaters tossing large wakes or driving recklessly. The actions of a few bad apples were not only jeopardizing the safety of others, but they also put boating on the radar of overzealous regulators and waterfront homeowners. […]

Fiberglass is forever

We were looking through old stacks of Trade Only the other day for background when a front-page story I wrote nearly 25 years ago and had long forgotten jumped out at me.

Boating’s ‘great value’

We’ve been beating the affordability drum for a while now, but there it was back on the table last night. I was having dinner with a bunch of people, and the talk down at our end of the table inevitably drifted to boats — who was actively looking, who was somewhat looking and who was […]

Looking forward to the spring thaw

We all know this old chestnut from Mark Twain: “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.” This year, a “few minutes” only seemed to make things colder.

Can you fix this?

I was listening to “Car Talk” on NPR last weekend when the Magliozzi brothers took a call from a woman named Kathy who said she didn’t have a problem with her car, but rather her husband, who is a mechanic.

Ahhh, South Florida!

After more than a month of moving in and out of the polar vortex, it was nice to be back on the water off South Florida last night. Real nice.

The affordability challenge

If you want to get on the water, you’ll find a way to get on the water. Small boat. Project boat. Begged, borrowed or banged-up boat. But if you’re not among the upper middle class — say, the top 20 percent — you’re probably not buying a new premium brand.

Talk that leads to action

Diversity, advocacy, youth, affordability, the aging of our fleet and the graying of our core market — these issues have become part of regular industry dialogue during the past two years, thanks in large part to the inaugural Growth Summit in December 2011 and the continuing work of the Recreational Boating Leadership Council.

Spending is back

It wasn’t that long ago that an executive or business owner might have shied away from buying a new yacht because of the sensitivity of spending big money when millions of people were losing jobs. It was all about optics. They didn’t want to seem oblivious or callous with so many people struggling.

Pricier than a nice house

Nordic Tug dealer Ben Wilde of Wilde Yacht Sales in Essex, Conn., and Rock Hall, Md., has had a good fall. Wilde and his team have sold 10 brokerage boats since Oct. 1, with two more sales pending, most falling between $200,000 and $370,000.

The rising cost of boating

Mechanic Erik Klockars and I had a conversation the other day about the cost of boating while we winterized my boat and fiddled with a bunch of little things that needed tweaking and fixing. It’s a topic Erik and I like to kick around, even if we usually wind up agreeing to disagree.

What’s the purpose of life? This ex-big leaguer has an answer

When he came out of high school in Connecticut, the young catcher’s nicknames were the “Moose” and the “New London Strong Boy.” At 6 feet, 2 inches and 225 pounds, John Ellis was a tough, gifted athlete who at 20 years old found himself in the starting lineup for the New York Yankees as an […]

Boating’s uber-influencers

We all know the type. Outgoing, gregarious, passionate boaters who always seem to be getting new people out on the water. They’re the ones making things happen at the marina, the anchorage, the sandbar. They know everybody, and their energy is infectious.

What will I find at FLIBS?

I had a conversation with a co-worker a couple of days ago as we went over our schedules for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show that caused a moment of reflection. We were talking about an acquaintance who is in the industry but who had sort of gone flat on shows. We were puzzled.

‘Boats’ is a fun ride

We are living in and creating a media/entertainment landscape today in which video is shouldering aside traditional forms of communication as it rapidly gains audience and revenue.

Setting the imagination racing

A couple of weeks ago I started the draft of a column in which I made the argument that the America’s Cup was in need of a reboot and that sail-crazy New Zealand was just the country to do it. At that point, it looked as if the Kiwis could stumble their way to a […]

Rick Pitino, adversity and the America’s Cup

Putting together this piece Tuesday night, I was thinking about something IBEX keynote speaker Rick Pitino said last week prior to the opening of the marine technology conference. I was also thinking of this remarkably improbable America’s Cup, which saw Oracle Team USA come streaking back with two wins Tuesday to tie the series with […]

Listening for the hum of business at IBEX

Walking the floor with IBEX show director Anne Dunbar is like moving through stop-and-go traffic. She knows everybody, so we slow every 20 or 30 feet, less sometimes, while Dunbar shakes hands, hugs, jokes and chats — all the while keeping a watchful eye on the flock.

Assessing risk and preparing for the next storm

When I came home with a generator several years ago, my wife said, “What do need that for?” She grew up in Northern California. No hurricanes. I sighed. Just wait, I thought. Since then we’ve lost power three or four times for extended periods during winter and fall storms, the last being Hurricane Sandy.

Who wants to go for a boat ride?

The best vehicle for promoting our sport isn’t a video or a blog or a tweet or even a boat sitting in a showroom. It’s a boat ride. And the best ambassador for our sport is you and me.

The art of reinvention

Sometime this weekend, I will don a mask and snorkel and quietly prowl the shallow waters off southern Rhode Island, looking for striped bass. If the surf is up, the visibility won’t be great; the water will be sandy and full of tiny bits of pulverized shells and weed, and the fish will be a […]

A salute to IBEX

Disruptive technologies continue to make headlines. Some analysts predict that the PC market will never again achieve the numbers it once did, done in, so to speak, by tablets, smartphones and whatever the next big thing in mobile is. Think devices you will one day wear on your wrist.

Paying it forward: the making of a boating family

If you make it nice and inviting, they will come. And if you teach them with patience and care and make it fun, they’ll give it a good try. And if we’re all lucky, they will join the tribe and have a long and happy life messing around in boats.

Expecting growth but watching the weather

On the eve of the American Boating Congress, the Recreational Boating Leadership Council met for five hours on Tuesday to chart progress and hear from the six committees working on key components of the industry’s 10-year growth plan.

Time to dig deeper

I read a story over the weekend about how new technology is reopening natural gas fields under the stormy North Sea. Sections of the ocean floor that a decade ago companies turned their backs on as either tapped out or just too difficult to work are seeing a healthy revival, according to The Wall Street […]

Pontoons in Palm Beach? You bet!

I was walking past a row of boats on the hard at the Palm Beach International Boat Show in March when I did a double take over something to my left. I stopped and circled back. Pretty boat? Pretty girl?

Welcome to the Unreasonable Persons Club

Phin Sprague Jr. is part contrarian, part libertarian, part Yankee. The veteran offshore sailor also is the founder of the Maine Boatbuilders Show, which finished up Sunday, and the owner of Portland Yacht Service, a full-service yard in Portland, Maine.

Advocacy is as easy as ABC

Tired of feeling as if your voice isn’t being heard? Want to get out ahead of issues for a change? Get in front of folks who can actually make a difference?

Building with features customers prefer

At every boat show I attend I keep my radar tuned for at least one piece of wisdom or advice or an observation that I didn’t have before the event. The big, sprawling Miami shows that ended Monday were no different, although I’ve come to realize that the bigger the show, the harder it is […]

From the snow to the Miami shows

After several days of shoveling, blowing and plowing snow we are winging south out of storm-blasted New England to the Miami shows, where the preshow mood was cautiously optimistic, to use an overused phrase. Things are feeling better.

ABYC: Building a better industry

The industry was about to catch fire in the 1950s — the war was over, the economy was growing, Americans were enjoying expanded leisure time and more discretionary income, wood was bowing to fiberglass. By the ’60s it was zoom-zoom for pleasure boats as the expanding middle class solidly embraced boating.

The math behind the new normal

Large numbers can be difficult to put into perspective. For example, we all know that the fleet of recreational boats is aging, but it might surprise you to see just how many older boats are out in the field, versus new ones.

The dog ate my homework and other hurdles to change

As with most clichés, the old saw about “the more things change, the more they stay the same” undoubtedly has a modicum of truth to it, but I wouldn’t want to build a business model around it. Not in this industry. Not in any, for that matter. And not these days.

An amazing run by a record-setting hydrofoil

It used to be true with autos that “you raced them on Sunday and sold them on Monday.” And it was also true that racing — cars, sailboats and powerboats —improved the breed. No better example than C. Raymond Hunt and the deep-vee.

Sandy’s record damage toll

In the end, Hurricane Sandy lived up to just about every bad scenario that was painted for her as she churned toward the Northeast just over two weeks ago.

In awe of Sandy’s rage

Just a little over a week after Superstorm Sandy barreled ashore and just hours before a nor’easter was to hit the Northeast, I was having an email conversation with New Jersey boater Bob Keck.

A Taylor Made gift to breast cancer research

I want to give a shout-out to Taylor Made Products for what it did during IBEX to raise awareness for breast cancer research. The Gloversville, N.Y., company produced a limited edition of its 40-year-old mermaid fender in bright pink to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month and to raise money to fight the disease.

A boat show magazine in real time

Continuing the trend of new boats and gear recently introduced at the fall shows, the AIM Marine Group editorial team, which includes Soundings and Trade Only, also will launch a new product at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which runs Oct. 25-29.

Sell sincerity along with the boat

On Thursday morning at IBEX, I’ll have the pleasure of moderating a seminar discussion that includes an industry veteran and one of the really good guys in our business. Bing Fishman, who was the longtime Northeast regional sales manager for Grady-White, will be talking about the finer points of delivering great customer service and being […]

Kids, crabbing and a white marlin necropsy

My son and I spent the last two evenings scurrying around a dock, carrying a long-handled net and wearing headlamps as we checked lines baited with chicken legs. We were crabbing in the waning days of summer. And, yes, these were school nights for my seventh-grader, too.

Distant thunder of aging boomers

The boys at my marina have been looking a tad older, as are the ones down in the anchorage. And so is the guy in the mirror, for that matter. The market of new boat buyers and current boaters is graying before our eyes.

Walmart’s beer boat sends the wrong message

The display in the Walmart store in Orange Park, Fla., turned more than a few heads, but is a pontoon boat made out of cases of beer with kegs for floats really the kind of message the retail discount giant wants to be promoting?