I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S BEEN 20 years since I wrote my first article for Boating World. A series of nine fishing book reviews launched my career under then-editor John Kiely, for whom I had done some freelance work. After that article, he casually said, “You could do this for a living if you want.” I took him up on it … and my life hasn’t been the same since. I have many vivid memories, including my first boat test, which was nearly my last. On that day back in 1996, I met Peter Truslow, the then-new president of EdgeWater Boats (now CEO of Bertram). He was demonstrating EdgeWater’s new 26-foot center console — hull #1, which hadn’t truly splashed yet and wasn’t even finished, having been hauled out of the factory for the test — minus its standard T-top. Anxious to show off its indestructible nature, Truslow pinned the throttles on the twin Yamaha 150s and we roared out of Ponce Inlet, near Daytona Beach, straight into five-foot head seas. Only after we launched high into the air did I discover there was nothing to hang on to, since the T-top also held the boat’s grabrails. Despite applying the Vulcan death grip to a cupholder, I crashed to the deck, while thinking, “So this is marine journalism.”
My first pontoon boat review was equally comical. I was documenting my musings in a reporter’s notebook, which handily fits in a back pocket, and had my pen jammed into the wire spiral. Only after I had sat in every seat did I realize my ballpoint pen was deployed. I’d left indelible ink squiggles everywhere I sat. That day I learned that no matter how furiously you rub spit with your index finger, the lasting power of the pen is mightier.
The contents of the magazine back in ‘96 point out how far the marine industry has progressed. Honda was touting its new 90 hp four-stroke, the largest of its kind at the time. Now, Seven Marine builds a 627 hp four-stroke. Also in that issue were six pontoon boat reviews. The fastest of the bunch was a JC Pontoon 226, powered by a 250 hp MerCruiser sterndrive. It hit an amazing-at-the-time 40 mph. Last year, Brad Rowland went 117 mph on his South Bay 925. Many of the companies within its pages are no more — e.g., OMC and Riviera Cruiser — and there were several other items that don’t exist anymore, such as Polaris and MasterCraft PWCs.
But the years have also exacted a toll as partial payment for the fun I’ve had. I severed my ACL slipping on a salmon dock in Echo Bay, B.C., during a 1,500-mile trip on a 26-foot Glacier Bay from Seattle to Glacier Bay, Alaska. Then I slipped coming off the front deck of a boat at the Miami Boat Show, tearing the MCL in the same knee. In retrospect, I wish I had read the Chicago Tribune’s famous 1997 “Guide To Life for Graduates,” which talked about taking care of your knees and wearing more sunscreen. They weren’t kidding about the sunscreen.