Sightlines - September 2017
Boating forums and blogs expose how nasty people can be.
Back in the offshore racing days of the 1980s, at the time of Miami’s infamous cocaine cowboys, I knew quite a few really bad guys hanging around the boating business.
There were several years where so many racers were suspected of running drugs, that, in an effort to clean up the sport, the American Power Boat Association (APBA) had a rule that stated you couldn’t run in a sanctioned race if you were currently under indictment. When guys like that didn’t like the outcome on the race course, their response wasn’t an official protest to the officials, but more likely “I’ll throw acid in your wife’s face,” or “I’ll cut you up into alligator bait,” or just shoot up another racer’s shop with a machine gun the next morning. Not the nicest group of boaters I have ever met.
In today’s more civilized times, I don’t expect boaters to be so mean, but it only takes logging onto a forum like “The Hull Truth” to find some really nasty people. I am sure the founders of the site did not foresee it as a place for people to hide anonymously behind their user names, bashing boatbuilders, designers, and fellow boaters at will. These blogs have taken on a ridiculous “Ford versus Chevy” slant, pitting loyal owners of one boat brand against another. Hey, guys, it’s boats we are talking about here. Where did all this hostility come from?
It seems the new badasses of the boating world have gravitated to super-fast, multi-outboard, center console fishing boats and they have nothing good to say about each other. They pronounce boats as crap, or brag endlessly about the performance of their boat, like a clique of junior-high mean girls having to get in the last insult or boast. They have all become experts on hull design and can speak forever, without knowing a thing. They make personal attacks on people they have never met or spoken to.
I have seen lawsuits dragged before everyone on the Internet, with full depositions published, people choosing sides with no intimate knowledge of the case. I have seen boat companies try to destroy their competition through lies and misinformation. We once had a client whose partner bragged so much and created so much bad blood, before even launching their new boat, we threatened to quit working for them if he didn’t stop blogging.
I have searched my own name and read about boats I didn’t design, boats I designed that were garbage, and what an untalented idiot I am. It takes a thick skin not to respond and correct people, but I refuse to enter the fray and lower myself to their sophomoric level.
I have threatened to fire anyone in my office if I ever catch them responding to a blog. I believe if you add fuel to the fire by jumping in to defend yourself, you are as bad as they are.
We all love boats here. Nobody builds a bad boat on purpose, so why trash them? They have enough problems on their hands. Does it make someone a badass to bully people on the Internet?
I have known some rough characters in this business, and I actually prefer some of those guys over this current crop of mean-spirited boaters. Boating is supposed to be a fun sport, so try being nice.
This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.