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A Man You Could Count On

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Capt. Richard Thiel was editor-in-chief of Power & Motoryacht from 1987 to 2012.

There’s a fair amount of logistical maneuvering involved in putting this magazine together, as you might imagine. Between out-of-town meetings, boat shows, sea trials, and various other events, our writers and editors are seemingly on the move all the time. Covering all the necessary bases can sometimes get a bit complicated.

A few weeks ago, one of those more complicated scenarios came up: a tricky little trip that would require connecting flights to a relatively remote outpost, as well as some driving, and it all happened to coincide with a busy week on the calendar for everyone. It was sort of the perfect storm of scheduling.

So I shot a note to Capt. Richard Thiel, our editor-at-large, editor-in-chief emeritus, and resident sage: “Hi Richard, is this something you could possibly do?”

The response was typically succinct, and as was usually the case in my conversations with Richard, resulted in a sigh of relief: “I will take care of it.”

We’re all still coming to grips with the news that Richard passed away earlier this month, due to complications from a stroke. Colleague, mentor, friend… the roles he filled were many, and the void he leaves is one that simply can’t be filled.

It’s that word, friend, that always came up with Richard, regardless of how you knew him, personally or professionally. He was one of those truly rare people about whom no one ever had anything but good things to say, and he never had a bad word to say about anyone else. I suspect there was a correlation there.  

Like any great captain, Richard’s focus was always sharp, and always forward. Our last exchange was, of course, about upcoming assignments, and the onset of the boat-show season. This was to be his 34th Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show, and he spoke with excitement about checking out the Azimut Verve 40, the Absolute 45 STY, the Jarrett Bay 64, and the Cummins QSK95 diesel engine, and how more builders were replacing flying-bridge models with coupes. He recommended Bahia Mar’s poolside, rooftop bar for drinks, and Carlos & Pepe’s on 17th St. for the best Mexican dinner in town. He laughed when he recalled the streaker who nearly circumnavigated the show 20 years ago before being caught.

We talked about getting together for a long overdue lunch—Richard, of course, insisted on buying—but other obligations got in the way. That wasn’t intended to sound like one of those overly sentimental, “don’t take your loved ones for granted because you never know what tomorrow will bring” type of things, but I guess that is what I’m saying.

High on the list of Richard’s traits that always left all of us in awe was his productivity. When it came to testing boats, and writing about them, the man got things done. He was so organized and ahead of the game that even I was surprised at how much of his writing we still have waiting in the wings, unpublished. Having thought about how to handle that delicate situation, we decided that we would go ahead and publish those articles, starting with the November 2016 issue—his penultimate Power & Propulsion column is on page 46—and in the upcoming months. Richard was the ultimate pragmatist, and we’re fairly certain that’s what he would have wanted. I think reading his final words, as well as Bill Pike’s remembrance here, will help us all in a very difficult time, and pay a fitting tribute to our beloved colleague and friend.