A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

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.

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.

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?

Met at the dock? Now that’s service

I was hanging out recently at my marina in Rhode Island, fooling with my little boat, when a friend returned to his slip fresh from a shark tournament off Montauk, N.Y. The fishing had been good, but what really impressed him had nothing to do with fins and teeth, but rather with service.

A skills gap and the next generation of techs

Gone — or at least dwindling quickly — are the days when a technician could get by solely by being able to “think with his hands,” although that ability remains a critical component of the job. More and more, success also hinges on the ability to “think with your head.”

Sperry Top-Sider and Olympic sailing: a perfect match

Whether you sell tin boats in Wisconsin, flats boats in Florida or express cruisers on Long Island, the celebration at the New York Yacht Club last week marking Sperry Top-Sider’s title sponsorship of the US Sailing Team is positive news for everybody in the business.

Baby boomers, boats and birth data

As an industry, we have been talking of late about the need to reach out to a more diverse audience in order to fill out the next generation of boaters and the subsequent ones after that. And just a cursory look at the changing demographic landscape in this country provides plenty of evidence that broadening [...]

On deadline, under pressure, every day

Good deadline reporters write fast, they’re competitive, they don’t come unglued under pressure, and they come back the next day and do it all over again. Day after day. Trade Only associate editor Beth Rosenberg pretty much fits that description to a T.

An angler, writer and ‘gentle soul’

Sportfishing writer Tim Coleman was a quiet, modest man who preferred to let his actions and written words do the talking for him. An exceptional saltwater angler and a prolific writer, Coleman didn’t like to put himself at the center of his stories or shine a spotlight on himself.

The choppy waters of a slow recovery

At the American Boating Congress in Washington, D.C., last week, speaker Greg Ip of The Economist reminded the audience of one of the realities of this sluggish economy. We remain in the midst of a slow U- or L-shaped recovery, one that still feels like a recession to millions of people.

Smooth sailing or a ‘bumpy ride’?

It’s been a long time since anyone has suggested we’ve been too effusive in our reporting on the state of the industry. For much of the last four years, just the opposite has been true.

U.S. manufacturing: ‘On a knife edge’

Good news on the manufacturing front from The Wall Street Journal and a growing number of other sources. After a long drought, industrial manufacturing in this country may have shifted gears, the newspaper suggests in a recent story.

A new definition for ‘BOAT’

You probably know the old saw. Q: What does the word “boat” stand for? A: Break Out Another Thousand. At the Recreational Boating Leadership Workshop in Chicago yesterday, NMMA president Thom Dammrich provided a different interpretation of the acronym.

So long, tire-kickers

There is boat show traffic, and then there is qualified traffic. The Palm Beach International Boat Show has a reputation for attracting a strong percentage of serious buyers, which really shouldn’t be a surprise given the surrounding zip codes.

A project changes lives in Maine and Japan

One winter ago, Stacey Raymond found himself in the same boat as a lot of small builders, scratching and clawing for every sale. This winter, however, was a bit different for the owner of General Marine Inc. of Biddeford, Maine. Raymond was busy building 20 small boats for fishermen in Japan whose lives were turned [...]

Don’t be a ‘stupid salesman’

We need to grow the pie. We need to attract more women, more young people, more minority-group members — more people who don’t look exactly like me and, no offense, probably don’t look like you, either.

Diversification: the new business model

Deep recessions have a way of reordering the status quo. New business models emerge, and companies that are able to adapt quickly to changing conditions typically do better than those that can’t. Be it a large public company or smaller private ones, those able to capitalize on the opportunities that down markets invariably offer emerge [...]

Was the Costa Concordia a taut or loose ship?

Captain of your ship. Captain of your company. Are there lessons to be learned from the captain of the stricken cruise liner Costa Concordia, who has been dubbed “Capt. Coward” and the “Chicken of the Sea” for leaving his ship before all of the passengers and crew?

‘Exactly what the guy wanted’

Several weeks ago, I was standing in C&C Marine’s plant in Bristol, R.I., with Charles Tasso, looking at a new but uncompleted NorthCoast 21 Express that was supposed to make it to the Providence (R.I.) Boat Show.