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Talking Heads

The buzz of the distant street cleaner tasked with washing away the sins of the night before percolated in the background. High-fashion photo shoots of models with legs as long as I am tall dotted several nearby corners. The waitstaff scurried around us with full pots of coffee, dressed in their obligatory all-black uniforms—a rather harsh requirement for a sidewalk cafe in South Beach, Miami, I must say.

I love mornings in South Beach, and I love breakfast, so the combination of the two is kind of the ideal way to kick off a boat show. On a sunny Friday morning this past February I joined Power & Motoryacht’s Executive Editor Bill Pike and naval architect—and Sightlines columnist—Michael Peters for the most important meal of the day. 

Soon enough I realized it was a big mistake not to have put aside the entire morning for our breakfast meeting. 

Not because we had business topics to discuss. Not because the service was painfully slow. And not because we had to spend time with Michael reviewing future column topics. Nope, it was because our breakfast was one of those special boat-show memories where the three of us simply shared a few stories about boats, boatbuilders, and the people that make working in the marine industry such a rich, cool, and fulfilling endeavor. (Actually, Michael and Bill did most of the talking. I already had “boat-show voice” and sounded like Maude with bronchitis.)

We discussed Michael’s working relationship with notorious boatbuilder Don Aronow and his presence in the Miami office on the day Aronow was murdered (see “Fast Talk” by Kevin Koenig, here). During this thread of conversation I noticed Michael would stop talking any time someone would walk by, while his eyes continuously scanned the cafe. “Hey man, I really don’t like talking about this,” he said.

We moved on to more lighthearted tales of late Louisiana boatbuilder Harold Halter, the glory days of powerboat racing, and the woes of custom boatbuilding. 

Toward the end of the meal, wiping eggs benedict from his impressive beard, Michael looked at me and asked, “Whatever gave you the idea to work with me on a column in the first place?”

The answer was simple. A few years before while I was working for another marine publication, Michael was a source for my good friend Jay Coyle’s column. Jay approached him for his opinion on the direction and trends of production boatbuilding. Michael agreed to work with Jay as long as his quotes were not watered down. That request found its way to my desk. I agreed immediately. After all, I wanted to hear what Michael had to say. 

Over the next few weeks I read several missives between the two of them and had a glimpse of Michael Peters unplugged. I laughed. I cringed. I began to consider my next job. I whispered, ‘Oh Jesus,’ on more than a few occasions. And above all, I learned a hell of a lot. 

Jay and I held up our end of the bargain and the end result was marvelous. That’s when I realized Michael needed his own column

When he agreed to contribute on a monthly basis to Power & Motoryacht, picking up where the late Tom Fexas left off, I was pumped—and slightly apprehensive. You see we have the same handshake agreement to give Michael free reign and allow him to put his straight talk on paper. Every month I pray that this is not the issue where Michael Peters Unplugged becomes Michael Peters Unhinged. Hey, I’ve got bills to pay.

During that breakfast I got the feeling that he was sizing me up for a future whopper, putting our agreement to the test. Please be kind Michael, I’m in your hands. More importantly, thanks for reminding me that this can be such a fun, interesting, and rewarding industry.