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A look back at the magazine's history of covering emerging technologies that changed boating forever.

Innovation. It’s a word that’s tossed around far too often and much too cavalierly. It’s used to describe everything from media companies to toothpaste. But what is innovation? I believe that true innovation only happens outside of your comfort zone. It’s rarely a safe path taken without the specter of failure looming overhead.

A couple weeks ago, we moved our office across town to a spot more befitting the post-Covid world. During the move, I became the custodian of Power & Motoryacht’s archives spanning 36 years—a reality my wife was not overly thrilled about. In between writing and conference calls, I found myself drawn to the new bookshelf in my basement office and the jumbled collection of magazines it housed. I’d shuffle a couple magazines around to restore some semblance of order, but I would inevitably be drawn into the musty pages.

There was a point when I would come upstairs after work (tough commute, I know), spend a few hours with the family and then sneak back down for some late-night reading after Karen and Connor went to bed. My new collection made me realize a couple things. One: Bill Pike might be the most-traveled, best-adventured magazine editor to ever don a pair of Sperrys. In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing some of my favorite Capt. Pike throwbacks at and on our social channels. Second: My appreciation only grew for how long, I mean, how well, Mike Smith has been offering sage technical advice (sorry, Mike!).

The stories of adventure hit different, but it’s been even more fun to read about the innovative technologies of the past. Stories of Loran-C, microwave-size GPS plotters and suitcase-sized VHF units made me realize how fast marine electronics have morphed and evolved. I discovered a review Bill wrote about a new app that claimed to put navigation in the palm of your hand. No one had heard of Navionics at the time, but we were there reporting on it. When Volvo Penta promised an innovative, pod-based propulsion system, it’s fair to say that many, perhaps even most, boaters were skeptical, but still, we put this thing called IPS through the paces. Then there was the legendary story of how the late Editor-in-Chief Richard Thiel begrudgingly accepted an invite from Shep McKenny to test a gyro of some sort that he claimed would revolutionize boating. The Power & Motoryacht stamp of approval, we like to think, helped bring Seakeeper to the mainstream.

Following in that proud wake of investigations into emerging marine technology is the issue you hold in your hands. In “Lake X Monster,” Charlie Levine dives deep into our cover star(s), the new 600-hp Mercury V12s. News of Mercury’s powerful outboards sent shockwaves across the boating world. It’s not just their power or number of cylinders that surprised boaters all over the globe—power alone doesn’t earn the badge of innovation. Like my mom says, it’s what’s on the inside the matters. Beneath a monstrous cowling is a lower unit that swivels and steers; combine that with a two-speed transmission and easier maintenance than ever, and you’re looking at history in the making.

In our feature well, Bill Pike is at it again with “Special Report: The Dawn of Driverless Boats.” Bill’s had something of a fascination with autonomous technology for years now, but it was mostly being developed in the shadows by various militaries. I was skeptical. Bill was persistent. As usual, Bill won. He made more international phone calls than he wants his wife to know about (sorry, BJ!) and spent more weekends away from the boat than he’d ever care to again, just working on this thesis. The end result is a story that covers a topic that’s equal parts complex and fascinating.

I’m proud of the reporting in this issue. It will fall in nicely with the magazines that came before it. I notice a bit more room on my bookcase. It’s that empty space representing the future that excites me. Reporting on the innovation to come is where I find motivation. Whatever comes across the horizon next, we’ll be there.

This article originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.