In the second sentence of this column, which was established as the most insightful in the yachting industry back in 1985, I’m going to plagiarize the author who preceded me, my old boss Michael Peters. The first time I met Tom Fexas was at the 1995 Miami Boat Show. (Mike opened his column, which aced this space from June 2012 to June 2018, by writing “The first time I met Tom Fexas was at the 1978 Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show.”)
Alright, I’m done plagiarizing. Let’s do this.
That Miami show was also the last time I met Tom, who was busy being the most acclaimed American yacht designer of the era. I was 21 and had just won my first design award for a 49-footer I had drawn during a summer internship before my senior year in engineering school. Having read every one of Tom’s columns in Power & Motoryacht, I had to introduce myself to my childhood hero.
I was astonished when he told me he knew who I was.
Tom knew my name because he had been one of the judges of that yacht design competition, held by the National Marine Manufacturers Association and, uhhh, Yachting magazine.
The contest had amateur and professional divisions. I lied on my application and entered as a professional yacht designer because I wanted to find out if I had the right stuff.
I returned from the Miami boat show with the award four months before graduation. I began to think about where I wanted to try to get my first real job in yacht design.
Fexas? Naturally, if he’d been hiring. But another designer’s work was so compelling that I had to make contact. I mailed my best design samples to Michael Peters and called him two weeks later.
Mike spent more time on the phone than I could have asked for. “If you’re ever in Sarasota, let me know,” he said. Two weeks after graduation I packed my life into a U-Haul and dragged it from Minnesota to Sarasota behind my Jeep. The next day I popped my nose into Mike’s office. I started in September.
Mike had his hand in virtually every segment of the powerboat industry, and I marveled at the variety and magnitude of the work. At his office I was designing boats for Chris-Craft, Cigarette, -Garlington and Magnum, among many others.
Years later I left to work for Hinckley and Ted Hood, who won the America’s Cup in 1974. Eventually I managed design and -engineering for a complex product range. Building boats with bare hands is an essential part of any good yacht designer’s education, so it was the experience I knew I needed.
Today, I might not be at this point in my career as a yacht designer had I never worked for Michael Peters, whom I consider a friend, two decades later.
It is truly an honor to be the third person in 33 years to write this column, in the wake of the late Tom Fexas and the very much alive Michael Peters. This is our moment of shift colors.
What you should know is I’m the right guy to take over this spot. I hope you’re going to set your magazine or phone down after reading Inside Angle every month and walk away chuckling, and with new insights about the yachting industry, the luminaries and lunatics therein, and your own boat. I’ll probably even tell a story about Mike here and there.
I’ve been reading this column in Power & Motoryacht since I was a kid. If what I write here is read by some 12 year old with Cheetos dust on his fingers who wants to learn something about boats, maybe it will inspire him in some way. But that kid’s granddad better be laughing his ass off reading it, too.