A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

Shackleton’s leadership has a message for our times

“I called to the other men that the sky was clearing, and then a moment later I realized that what I had seen was not a rift in the clouds but the white crest of an enormous wave. During 26 years experience of the ocean in all its moods I had not encountered a wave [...]

Plotting a course into unfamiliar waters

Like crew aboard a ship about to get under way, you could feel the thrum and vibration as the diesels were started and then idled for a period. After the tugs eased her into the channel, the ship slowly picked up speed and gathered momentum.

Surveyors must be savvier than ever

Boats are like people. They like constant, regular use or exercise. They don’t like to be ridden hard and put away wet (without maintenance). And they don’t like to sit on the hard for extended periods of time. Like their owners, they’re capable of atrophying all on their own.

The technology transfer

Consumers are deeper on the sidelines in this economic downturn than in any other we’ve lived through. They continue the process of deleveraging, getting their balance sheets in order as they try to find their sea legs again.

Out of sight, out of mind, right? Think again

Question: When wiring or plumbing is buried away out of sight of the customer, say behind a panel or under the cabin sole, does it still have to look good or be aesthetically pleasing? Isn’t that the place you save a few bucks by saying the hell with the presentation? Who’s going see it? Who’s [...]

Showtime in Lauderdale: Will the buyers return?

FLIBS is an important barometer. With more than $3 billion worth of boats and equipment on display over 3 million square feet of terra firma and terra not-so-firma, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is the exclamation point on the fall show season.

‘Stay hungry. Stay foolish’

One commentator called it a “talk for the ages.” It’s the commencement address Steve Jobs gave at Stanford University in 2005, which you can access by clicking here or watch below.

Selling boats amid double-dip concerns

I spoke Tuesday with yacht dealer Ben Wilde as he drove a Nordic Tug 54 into a stiff current on the C&D Canal en route to PassageMaker magazine’s Trawler Fest event in Baltimore. He grumbled about the foul tide that would put him into port after dark, but he didn’t complain a lot about the [...]

9/11’s maritime heroes

I had intended to write a piece today about how we’ve all grown more stress-hardy in the three years since Lehman Brothers collapsed — “we” being the industry and the boating public. But I changed course after watching an e-mailed video from boatbuilder Ken Fickett, who owns Mirage Manufacturing, the builder of Great Harbour trawlers.

Analyzing the analyst

An old saying you used to hear with some frequency was that all you needed to get into the boatbuilding business was a barrel of resin and a shed. It’s not that easy anymore, but you get the idea.

We need jobs, not speeches

If there was ever a political rallying cry worth remembering, it is James Carville’s prescient mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid.” You could build a campaign around those four words, as Bill Clinton so aptly did in 1992 when he defeated President George H.W. Bush.

Technological wonders in the midst of Irene

One of the enduring images I carry from Fort Lauderdale in the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma is of a reporter opening the trunk of his car outside the Bahia Mar Hotel and revealing a traditional 20th century office phone, just waiting for an energized outlet and an intact landline to do its thing. Talk about [...]

Hold fast as the storm passes

Sooner or later you’re going to get caught out — in more wind, in bigger seas, in more of everything than you hoped for. That’s just part of being on the water. When it happens, you don’t want to panic or overreact. Safer to let cooler heads prevail.

A few good signs among the headwinds

The economy continues its bumpy summer ride as a host of global and domestic issues keep the waters roiled. The choppy seas are the result of a familiar litany of concerns — persistent unemployment, the weak housing market, sovereign debt woes and debates over the U.S. debt ceiling.

Simple technology in a high-tech world

There is nothing fragile or complex about the small gray mooring barge, its hydraulic torque motor hanging from a 15-foot steel mast. It works day after day, year after year, screwing what are typically 10- to 15-foot steel shafts with two or three helixes at the base into mud, sand, clay and gravel bottoms. Think [...]

A boat is not a Prius

A story in The New York Times several days ago talked about the negotiations between the auto industry and the Obama administration over new vehicle mileage and emission standards that would dramatically affect the types of cars we drive in the future.

Catching up with the clan

I met the pilgrim several days ago on my first afternoon on Striper Island. A big school of fish was breaking out wide, and this tall, lanky character ran down the beach and waded out up to his shoulders, literally, to try to reach them with one of his big, sweeping southpaw casts.

PFDs and the nanny state

Broad-based mandatory life jacket wear rules — mandatory as in for all boaters, on all pleasure boats, regardless of size, across the board — are misguided. It’s like hunting squirrels with an elephant gun. Not only is it overkill, but I’m also not sure they will accomplish what well-meaning safety advocates hope they will.

The fuel factor: How will prices affect boating?

The price of gasoline has been falling of late — hooray for that — but the price of a gallon of regular is still significantly above where it was a year ago. That’s one of the factors that has hurt consumer spending and slowed economic growth. And it’s done nothing to encourage people to spend [...]

Initiating the uninitiated

Getting a non-boater out on the water is not a new concept, but it is a powerful one. And it’s one of the cornerstones of the NMMA’s new Welcome to the Water campaign, which through a soon-to-be-launched app will enable 40,000-plus Discover Boating Facebook “fans” to invite their friends to leave terra firma behind and [...]

Boats, bragging rights and new technology

The sun was going down as the two graybeards (metaphorically speaking, of course) stepped aboard a 29-foot center console in a canal off the ICW. The skipper plugged his iPhone into the boat’s sound system, launched the app for the Internet radio station Pandora and punched in singer John Prine’s name.

Bin Laden, the luxury tax and ABC

Osama bin Laden was dead, and Washington, D.C., was taking a welcome break from its usual rancor and partisan bickering. A rare feeling of goodwill descended over the capital, the country. Dare I call it togetherness? Call it what you like, it felt pretty good — even if we all knew it probably wasn’t going [...]

Bigger is better? Not for this boat show

It’s nice to be in on the ground floor of something in this business. That way, when you circle back in 10 or more years you can say, “Oh, yeah, I remember when this event was just getting off the ground.”

These are get-it-done days

A shipyard owner I know called last week to tell me about a big refit project he’d just won. He got the job with a very competitive bid — and the only way he was going to make any money, he told me, is if he rolls up his sleeves and does a good bit [...]

Hold on to your hat

Several headlines and stories have caught my attention since last week’s blog post. Consider them signs of the time — the latest examples of disruptive technologies.

Seeing with ‘vision rather than sight’

Looking for inspiration? I found it reading senior writer Jim Flannery’s piece on championship sailor, marine business operator and motivational speaker Vince Morvillo that will appear in the May issue of Soundings Trade Only.

A gathering of believers

I was talking over coffee at the Maine Boatbuilders Show in Portland this weekend with a fledgling boatbuilding entrepreneur who has a design in his head for a better mousetrap. We were taking the long way around to his designs by first remembering the good old days. He spoke fondly of the skiffs of his [...]

Can a cooler have too many beers?

I was walking the docks last month at the Sea Isle Marina during the Miami International Boat Show, looking for interesting boats that might make a good story. It was the end of two long days, and I was moving at a measured pace, trying to really eyeball the boats rather than just rush past [...]

Rising energy prices form a gathering storm

Just as the economy was getting up a nice little head of steam, fighting in North Africa and rising tension in the Middle East threaten to slow the forward motion. At the very least, the turmoil and resulting concern over the impact on oil production could create headwinds to recovery, a drag on growth, not [...]

A friend and colleague

It’s been too easy, I think, during the long recession to forget about things such as why we got into this business to begin with. Or why we first fell in love with boating or fishing or sailing. We lose track of the importance of family time; the fishing trip you promised a son or [...]