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My Titanic Moment

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On the wall of my office, right above my desk where I have to look at it every day, hangs a large black-and-white photograph of a ship. It lends a nautical ambience to what would otherwise be a cold and sterile space. But this isn’t a photo of just any ship. It’s of the RMS Titanic, as she’s leaving Southampton, England, on her maiden voyage, almost exactly 100 years ago. 

Capt. Richard Thiel

The picture has been with me for a long time and adorned many offices because it has been a constant reminder of two rules that have been important to me, not only in magazine publishing but in life: Expect the unexpected, and you’re never as smart as you think you are.

I’ll be taking down that picture as soon as I finish writing this column because after 25 years, I’m vacating this office. PMY has been sold, and the new owners will bring in a new editor, George Sass, Jr., next month. 

Leave-taking is always emotional, and leaving PMY will be hard. But a quarter-century at any job is a pretty good run. And whatever sadness accompanies my departure comes with a much larger measure of gratitude for having had what can only be described as the best damn job in the world. I cannot tell you how many times over the years I’ve said to myself, “I can’t believe someone is actually paying me to do this!” 

I’m also grateful that this job put me in contact with so many great people. I was a boater long before my “literary career,” and it was always one of my greatest joys to just sit around with other boaters and chew the fat. I heard a lot of tall tales and told a few of my own, but I also learned a lot by listening to people who’d spent more time on the water than I ever would. When I became editor of PMY that coterie grew exponentially, and over the years, you readers have instructed me, corrected me, railed at me, and yes, even occasionally, praised me. Thank you for all that.

From now on you’ll find me on the masthead as Editor-at-Large, which means I’ll be able to just write and not have do all those other nettlesome tasks like editing and planning and budgets. I’ll be spending more time on the water and less indoors, but I’ll still find a place for that picture. Because whether you’re running a magazine or a boat, a little humility and a lot of preparedness can carry you a long way.