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Cuba, Rum, a New Boat, and a Scrappy Editor

Happy 30th Power & Motoryacht! In order to properly launch our gathering of the clan, I think it’s appropriate to deliver my best wishes with a few memories of my own.

The most noteworthy event for me was undoubtedly a promotional cruise to Cuba I organized with this magazine while working for Grand Banks Yachts. The circumstances of the February night in 1997 that provided the genesis of the concept remain enshrouded in a thick haze, but vague memories include 12-year-old Cuban rum, (the possible motive as to why in God’s name we came up with Cuba as the destination!), a toasty engine room, a box of Saltines, and boatbuilder David Marlow. 

David and I were a little younger then and impressed ourselves the next morning when we recalled our basic concept, though we didn’t embrace it with the same life-changing enthusiasm we possessed the previous night. Basically, we determined it would be a stellar promotion to take a new Grand Banks 42 Europa to Cuba (David was the largest Grand Banks dealer at the time). Once there we explore the island nation for a month or more. 

A week later, while I was still filling a legal pad with my pros and cons (mostly cons), David purchased our company demo boat and offered to loan it back to us for the Cuban trip. His only requirement was that he and his wife would pick up the boat on the south coast of Cuba and take a terminally ill friend on a slow cruise back to Florida. How could we not oblige? We shook hands and that was that. We were taking an $800,000 boat to Castro’s doorstep. 

Now in order to make this entire venture work, I needed a magazine willing to participate and publish the undertaking. After all, my job was to promote our brand. Seriously. 

I began hitting the phones, setting up meets. The more established magazines turned me down cold. One editor voiced concerns about stoking political fires. I believe he was convinced that a gang of crazed sugarcane barons would follow his Volvo wagon home and protest right on his Greenwich, Connecticut, lawn. 

Another editor simply didn’t get it. “Why in the hell would you want to go to Cuba?” he asked. He smugly suggested we do a dock-and-dine tour. “Maybe a wine tasting at some high-end marinas in New England,” he offered.

I headed for the door while he flicked lint off his double-breasted blue blazer. Dismayed, I walked down to Madison Avenue for my last appointment of the day: Power & Motoryacht’s editor-in-chief Richard Thiel.

“So, Richard, what do you think about taking our new 42-footer down to Havana, and then around to the South Coast of Cuba to Cienfuegos?” Halfway through the sentence he recognized the possibilities of this undertaking. A smile began to form at the corners of his mouth.

“I love it! Better yet, let’s have an all-female crew make the trip,” he suggested with child-like enthusiasm. I had found my media partner! He and his managing editor at the time, Amy Rappaport, had recently launched Boating for Women and he thought this was a great way to help kick off this new publication, while also covering the story in Power & Motoryacht. 

That was it. Within minutes Richard was fully committed. We then spent the next hour in his office looking at charts, talking about details, and simply bantering about boats. Hell, he was more enthused than I was. I’m fairly certain that while those other editors were down at the club sipping G&Ts talking about some lunatic boat guy trying to cruise to Cuba, Richard was in his office booking the flights.

I ended up helping to get the Grand Banks from Florida to Havana. From there the all-female crew did indeed take the boat to the south coast of Cuba. And David and his wife Barbara enjoyed a few weeks of cruising splendor with their dear friend.

Today, I’m determined to ensure that this same scrappy, let’s-do-it, enthusiastic attitude that Richard and magazine founder Jeff Hammond promoted is carried on. If not, I expect a call. In the meantime, David and I have recently begun our next adventure discussion. 

It’s time to go to sea.