As the 2013 boating season came to an end—at least for most of the country—we decided to spend the month of December talking to some of the influential, experienced, competitive and knowledgable people in the industry to find out their Highs and Lows from the past year.
Here are the people we interviewed. Click on the names to jump directly to that individual. More names will be added daily.
Stu Jones • John Cosker • Jeff Johnston • Peter Hledin • John Tomlinson • Craig Barrie • Mike D'Anniballe
Mike Livorsi • Brett Anderson • Alexi Sahagian • Marc Granet • Dave Hemmingson • Randy Scism • Rik Wimp
David Holley • Randy Davis • Fred Kiekhaefer • Scott Sjogren • Shaun Torrente • Terry Sobo • Dan Kleitz
Greg Harris • Erik Christiansen • Ed Champion
Although he says his travel schedule won't be as hectic at it was in 2013, we're sure we'll be seeing Ed Champion, sales manager for Lake Ozarks Marine and marketing director for MidwestBoatParty.com, at quite a few events in 2014. Among his highlights from 2013, the Lake of the Ozarks, Mo., resident counts trips to Arizona's Lake Havasu and Florida's Key West, which led to the sale of Lake Ozarks Marine's 34 CCX demo model from Sunsation Boats. He also includes the growth of MidwestBoatParty.com as the popular forum registered its 20,000th member in 2013.
High: This is general, but the growth of our business is my high for 2013. We sold more than 30 boats in just our second year and we became a dealer for Sunsation in February and recently picked up Chief Powerboats. We also opened a new retail location in August—the old Raymond's Boats in Osage Beach. I'm just real proud that we keep continuing to move forward.
Low: Almost everybody you've interviewed has touched on my low—the accident at Lake Cumberland. I knew Brad (Smith) really well and Jeff (Asbell), too. He was from the lake and Brad was only a couple of hours from here. We can't bring them back, but I hope everyone learns from the accident. I don't know what the answer is—I think speed limits are probably a good idea at events—but it would be nice to see some kind of self-regulating take place.
For Mercury Racing's Erik Christiansen 2013 has been a year of transition, excitement and demanding, yet rewarding, work. Not only did Christiansen take the reigns from Fred Kiekhaefer, the legendary Mercury Racing president, he also oversaw the roll out of the Fond du Lac, Wis., company's 1650 Race engine (read the story) and the introduction of the highly acclaimed concept automotive 1650 crate engine (read the story), which was showcased in a supercar at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas in November. After his final trip of the year to Dubai in mid-December, speedonthewater.com caught up with Christiansen to get his Highs and Lows from 2013.
High: My highs for 2013 include the success of the QC4v product at the Super Boat International Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla. (Boats with Mercury 1350 and 1650 engines finished first, second and third in the premier Superboat Unlimited class.) I have to say that my new role has been a high as well. It's been very exciting to work closely with so many talented people here at Mercury Racing.
Lows: Certainly the boating accident (at the Lake Cumberland Poker Run) and the human loss that the sport has endured over the years is a low. We're a small community so these kind of shocking incidents affect us all.
For someone who doesn't work in the performance-boat business, South Florida specialty realtor Greg Harris was on hand for more events around the country this year than anyone we know (hence the inclusion in our series). Harris and his beautiful girlfriend, Yvonne Aleman, spent 40 nights on the road at boating events such as the Desert Storm Poker Run in Arizona, the Texas Outlaw Challenge, the Pirates of Lanier Poker Run in Georgia, the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in Missouri and many in their home state.
"We traveled more than 19,000 miles and spent more than $25,000—and we don't even own a boat right now," laughed Harris, adding that Aleman is a catamaran girl after getting her "A-to-Z education" over the past 12 months. Currently shopping for another go-fast ride, Harris, who also is a moderator for OffShoreOnly.com, said he likes traveling to events to see friends, fellow boaters and clients on their home waterways to return the favor when they visit South Florida.
High: My highlight from the year has to be the Pirates of Lanier Poker Run on Lake Lanier. Between the amount of boats that turned out for the run, the organization of everything and the overall generosity, it was unlike any event we attended. It was cool to see a poker run held at a five-star resort that brings together pontoons, ski boats, personal watercraft, cruisers and 46-foot Skaters running the same course, and all for fun and a great cause. The fact that they raised almost $300,000 was unbelievable.
Low: My low point is that there were two similar accidents at Lake Havasu and Lake Cumberland with two completely different results, yet the boating community only wanted to argue about fault and blame and speed rather than discuss where we go from here and how we prevent accidents going forward. It's just frustrating that after all the hours spent tearing each apart that nothing beneficial came from it to make the sport safer.
Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats operations manager Dan Kleitz, which is why we decided to let company principal Mike Fiore off the hook and go to Kleitz for this year's highs and low from the Outerlimits perspective. From strong sales and new model introductions to strong performances at the Super Boat International Key West Offshore World Championships to the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, fortune shined on the Bristol, R.I., company in 2013.
High: I would say that we survived what we all hope was the worst of the worst and the shop is slammed with new boat orders. We are actually sold out for the 2014 model year between our cats and V-bottoms. Every boat but the one 36 will be capable of running 130-plus mph. We stuck to our roots of building purebred, high-performance boats and it has served us well. The introduction of the SV50 and SL36 would also be notable, as well as having the new 46 cat and a new SL50 V-bottom in tooling. And let's not forget the continued dominance of Dr. Michael Janssen and Brian Forehand on the race course taking another undisputed Super Vee Light championship in Key West.
Low: Thankfully, we don't have many lows for 2013. One would be in Key West with the SV43. On the last day we had a great shot of taking home the championship, but while leading with a 15-second lead we had a mechanical failure that knocked us out of the race. Joe (Sgro) and Brian (Forehand) put on a great show though. Also as most people have touched on their highs and lows this year, the tragedy that occurred at the Lake Cumberland Poker Run was just a terrible occurrence and terribly sad.
Between rolling out a few new models, attending dozens of poker runs across the country, racing in Puerto Rico, doing demo runs at Thunder Over Louisville—the official kick-off event for the Kentucky Derby Festival—and showcasing its models at various boat shows, Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats has had a busy and successful year. In fact, Terry Sobo, Nor-Tech’s director of sales and marketing, said the year has been one of the best he’s seen in his 20-plus years in the business. Much of that success has to do with the company’s center console lineup, which ranges from 29 to 50 feet, but the builder also has seen an uptick in performance boat sales.
High: It’s been a great year for sure, so we’ve had quite a few highs. I think my high is the fact that we recently topped the century mark in sales of center consoles since we started offering the models in 2010. That’s pretty impressive in my opinion, and it’s definitely helped keep Nor-Tech in business through the economic downturn.
Low: I guess the low would be not having enough capacity to meet the demand for our boats. I know that’s a good problem to have, but we’ve been working on some ideas of how to segregate our business into other buildings.
Our fourth driver in the Highs and Lows from 2013 series is accomplished tunnel boat driver Shaun Torrente. The multi-time national champion from Florida has spent the past two and a half seasons competing internationally in the F1 H2O series (minus a suspended license for the last two races of 2012), a dream he’s had since he started racing. Now we won’t say his ultimate dream came true this year, but the Qatar Team driver finished a remarkable season second in overall points behind teammate Alex Carella, who won the world championship for a third straight year (read the story).
High: Although I’m extremely proud of our team’s 1-2 finish, I’d have to say that Doha is definitely my high (read the story). Not only was it my first overseas win, I had my girls (wife, Flavia, and daughter, Isabella) there with me and I took the points lead with just a couple of races to go. It couldn’t have worked out any better.
Low: I’m not sure I really have a low. This year has been amazing—my family is great and I loved being part of such a professional organization in the Qatar Team. I guess the beginning of the year was my low as I was still dealing with my suspended UIM license from 2012 (read the story). I didn’t find out if my license was being reinstated until February so waiting on that was a lowpoint.
Between new and previously owned models, Pier 57 Marine in Gurnee, Ill., sold 118 boats in 2013. That's not a bad year, considering that the full-service high-performance powerboat dealer sold 128 boats in 2011—it's biggest year to date. Company owner Scott Sjogren told us he has been running flat-out since January, and he was still moving at the same pace when we caught up to him a few days ago.
High: The high this year is that used boat sales have been unbelievable. We are very happy with how our consignment business has grown, and very happy with the number of referrals we've gotten from clients who were pleased with our consignment business. Our service center and concierge services continue to expand. Most of all, we're happy to see that people still have what I call "the water gene."
Low: You know, I don't even know that we have a low to speak of. I think if anything, our biggest challenge is to sustain the high standards for service that we've set and continue to provide the value that people expect from us. That's not a low or even a problem. It's just a challenge for us, and it's a good one to have.
Since exiting stage right as the president of Mercury Racing in Fond du Lac, Wis., and moving to Colorado a year ago, Fred Kiekhaefer has been plenty busy. In addition to serving as a consultant for his former employer, he started a design-and-engineering consulting outfit of his own called K-Lab Design Works and he has been working on his own "secret little" project. Kiekhaefer wouldn't say anything more than about his concept, but he was happy to give us his highs and lows—in reverse order—for 2013.
Lows: Any loss of life is a tragedy when it occurs in our tight-knit boating community. I feel particularly sad about the terrible loss of Brad Smith and Jeffrey Asbell this year. On a much lighter note, the low for me was that I was not able to attend the Mercury Racing 1650 crate engine roll-out at the SEMA show (read the story), especially since I've never been to SEMA. I was at the (SBI) Offshore World Championships, but I could have found a way to do both—not all of both, but part of both. I would have liked to be there.
Highs: Remember, I don't work there anymore, so this is from my heart: Merc's 1650 crate engine winning SEMA's Global Media Award was quite an accomplishment for Mercury Racing. Another high was the success of that platform in Unlimited class at the Worlds—boats with 1650 or 1350s finished first, second and third in class. On a personal level, my high has been the launch of K-Lab. I walk 35 steps to my CAD station. I have three clients, and (at last) I take calls 18/6, not 24/7. I have almost no meetings and I live two hours from Vail. Plus, for the first time in 22 years, I live in the same house as my lovely wife—all week! It's all pretty neat.
In the nearly 10 years since Randy Davis took over as owner of Nordic Boats, he has seen the Lake Havasu City, Ariz., business build everything from a 43-foot offshore catamaran to a 21-foot ski race boat. He's also seen the company take a major hit due to the economic downturn and a flood of deck boats—Nordic's most popular line—entering the market after a builder went out of business. While scaling back was a given, Davis, who also runs a successful framing business in Southern California, continued to tool up new boats, which seems to have given Nordic a competitive advantage as 2013 was the company's best in several years.
Nordic Boats. He has done a great job in the position. He knows how to talk with the customers and he knows how to build boats. He's also built a lot of the competition's boats so he brings that knowledge to the table as well. Winning our 11th Catalina Ski Race was another high as Todd Haig tied Chuck Stearns' all-time record (read the story).Highs: The fact that we've sold almost 70 boats this year is something to be happy about, but I think the best part about 2013 was the promotion of Thane Tiemer, who has been our tooler for several years, to general manager of
Low: For the bad, to be honest, even though we've been doing OK, I keep in contact with some of the other manufacturers and it's hard to see so many of the West Coast builders struggling. Competition is a good thing so you don't want to see other companies not doing well or hear rumors of them going out of business. The other thing is that I hate seeing accidents happening at poker runs. Poker runs are a big part of our industry. Maybe it's time we rethink how they are started—I'd hate to see any events cancelled.
For David Holley of Peters & May, the global yacht and powerboat transportation logistics leader, 2013 was the best year the company has had since 2008. In a sign of the times, the company, which continues to support Unlimited hydroplane, tunnel boat and offshore racing powerboat racing, opened a new office in Shanghai, China. It also re-opened its office if Palma, Mallorca. In Holley's view, "The marine market is on the up and we are confident it will stay that way."
High: It's tough to pinpoint our high this year as we have had plenty of success. On the boat transport side, I would say our high has been shipping some crazily large pieces of cargo. We have moved several yachts over 50 meters in length including a 2,000-ton barge and an 800-ton wooden clipper. On the Peters & May Racing side, we have seen some real success from our sponsorship program. The U11 Unlimited hydroplane had a quality season with a new boat, finishing on the podium twice and finishing every heat this season. Ben Jelf had another amazing year in his GT15, and off course we were able to watch Alex Carella and our man Shaun Torrente bring home a 1-2 in the F1 World
However the main high for me was witnessing and supporting the Junior Hydroplane program in Doha (Qatar)—seeing 26 kids take to the water over a two-day period was a real spectacle. I love racing, but there is nothing better that seeing a kid get out of a boat with the smile from ear to ear. As we get older it's easy to forget what racing is really about, and at a grassroots level they show respect and a level of professionalism that we can all learn from.
Low: Our low had to be the disappointment we felt on hearing that the 2014 Qatar cup had been cancelled. (Read the story). It was going to be an incredible event, just as all the QMSF events are. The team in Qatar knows how to put on a show and the fact that so many of the American teams had concerns about travelling overseas was a shock to us all. The positive thing is that there are plans in place for another event later in 2014 and we are confident that the uptake will be stronger. The Unlimited Hydroplane guys have been to Doha every year for four years now and they can't wait to go back.
While Arneson Industries Surface Drives do find their way on the transoms of new high-performance catamarans and V-bottoms, repower projects continue to drive the San Rafael, Calif., company's high-performance powerboat business in the United States. Rik Wimp, the company's well-known longtime general manager, says that consumers are "getting the message that the Arneson Surface Drives deliver more performance, require far less maintenance and offer greater value than a typical I/O." Without a doubt, Wimp and company played a big role in some of the most spectacular projects this year. And there are even more to come next year.
Highs: With 2013 ending, for better or worse, overall things have been good at Arneson with strong sales throughout the year, and that's a good thing businesswise. The highlight for performance boating has to be Louie Marchese with his 154 mph run at the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in his Skater 338 Fat Boy. That was an amazing feat given that it was his first run in the boat on a one- mile straight-line course. Louie told me that he boats on the twisty Kankakee River, which made simulating the run at LOTO difficult. It really shows the talents of Louie and the boat combination.
Lows: Well, it goes without saying that the loss of Jeff Asbell and Brad Smith is the low of this year and many recent years that I can think of. Two great men were lost in one tragic accident and they are and will be missed in the boating community, as well as by their families. Let's hope that 2014 doesn't bring any such tragedies.
Between debuting the out-of-this-world Black Diamond 52-foot canopied catamaran at the 2013 Miami International Boat Show in February (read the story), delivering five of the company's new 42-foot center console models (read the story) and being inducted into the inaugural Lake of the Ozarks Shootout Hall of Fame in August (read the story), Marine Technology Inc. owner Randy Scism has had quite an unforgettable year. Very positive about the resurgence in business over the past 12 months, especially with the 48- and 52-foot catamarans, Scism can't wait to see what 2014 has in store for the Wentzville, Mo., company.
Lake Race. (In June, Scism and Bob Bull won the PX class in Bull's 48-foot MTI, read the story.) They did a great job with that race and are on the right track allowing people to come out and get their feet wet and see how they like the sport.Highs: Business has sure picked up, which is nice, but I'd have to say my high would have to focus on what took place on Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks right here in our backyard this year. Along with the 25th anniversary of the Lake of the Shootout, which was incredible as usual, we had a lot of fun at the new
Lows: I can't really think of too many lows. Well I guess what happened with Bob and I in Key West (at the Super Boat International World Championships) was pretty disappointing (read the story). We messed up the first day and took third; then we won the second race. We had a great shot heading into the final race, but we overheated. I thought we blew a head gasket and it turns out it was just a bad radiator cap that pushed out the o-ring and was leaking antifreeze everywhere. Done in by another $20 part—I guess it just wasn't mean to be this year.
As the founder of Dave's Custom Boats (DCB) in El Cajon, Calif., Dave Hemmingson has seen his company grow to new heights practically every year for the past two decades. This year was one he will never forget, that's for sure. Between getting the first two M41 Widebody catamarans on the water and the introduction of the M29, the 29-foot sibling of the M31, M35 and M41 models, Hemmingson had a lot to smile about when reflecting on the 2013 boating season.
High: Easily the high for me was building the second M41, the red one. From start to finish, it was amazing to see that boat come to life. And then to be able to run it at some poker runs and at the DCB Regatta was incredible. There's nothing like it on the water.
Low: I'd have to say the low for me was hearing that Lenny Headley passed away in Northern California. He was such a nice guy and always took great photos and video of our boats at the Desert Storm Poker Run and other events. He'll definitely be missed by everyone at DCB.
While driver Marc Granet is without question the public face of the Miss GEICO offshore racing team, he also is the first person to emphasize that regardless of what happens on the racecourse it is the result of a "top-to-bottom, all-around team effort." And with world championships on the Super Boat International and Offshore Powerboat Association circuits, the Miss GEICO team's efforts were rewarded handsomely this season. But the team's journey to those titles, according to Granet, was the best part of all—even sweeter than the victories themselves.
High: There were a bunch of highs for us this year. For the first time, our team truly came together as one. That has been a high that lasted all season. It all came together for the team this year. Our team is a family, and it's been so nice to see it and be part of it. Another high was that the boat finally came together—after so much work that went into it all year and before the season even began—to point where its balance was perfect and we had the power we were used to having with the turbine engines. That was a long way to come after losing the turbine boat to a fire in a Sarasota (Fla.) less than two years ago (read the story).
Low: My low would have to be, without question, watching one of my good friends and partners in the Miss GEICO team, battle cancer and deal with cancer therapy. That was very challenging—definitely a low for everyone involved. But watching him emerge from cancer therapy was one of my biggest highs. We had a couple of lows on the racecourse, and spinning out in Clearwater (Fla.) was one of them. We were pushing hard, and after evaluating what happened we realized we were racing "emotionally," and that's not how we run. And from my perspective as a member of the powerboating community, the loss of our poker run brothers Jeff Asbell and Brad Smith was a tremendous low. Whether something like that happens in a poker run or on a racecourse doesn't make it any easier. It is horrible in and after the moment, and it brings back a whole flood of hard memories.
For high-performance marine engine builder Alexi Sahagian, the owner and founder of Boostpower USA in Newbury Park, Calif., business in 2013 was every bit as strong as it has been for the past several years. That's because the company has a solid international customer base including clients in Australia, Dubai, Japan, New Zealand, Russia and more. So when the United States economy hit the skids in 2008, Boostpower's business, according to Sahagian, was unaffected. In fact, Sahagain said his business increased "something like 12 percent during the bad times."
High: In 2013, we spent a record-breaking amount of money on research and design for our 800-cubic-inch platform so we can introduce a series of engines based on that aluminum framework. That project has been a focal point for us. We spent way more than we should have on R&D, but one of our goals is to break stuff here first so we don't have unhappy customers later. We also did our triple compound engine —800-cubic-inch—with two turbochargers and three superchargers and we're just finishing up that project now. Every year, we try to do some crazy exotic project that pushes the limits—that's just what we do. That engine wasn't built for a customer; it was built for research and development, but it will go to a customer. Another highlight has been our remote engine-tuning program, where using a computer and a wireless connection we can tune the engine for one of our customers, for example, on the East Coast right here from our shop.
Low: The biggest low for me, personally, has been my dad's (Hank) health issues. He is 88 years old and he has been fighting cancer. The people who are close to me know about it, and it's been hard. I get in moods and there are times I can't even think straight. That's one of the reason I get here so early in the morning—so I can get things done without any distractions.
Thanks to a late spring in the Midwest and Northeast, 2013 was an up and down year for Brett Anderson and his crew at BBlades Professional Propellers in Princeton, Wis. Business started sluggishly before ramping up to unprecedented levels for the company in June, July and August. With even bigger things on the horizon, Anderson is optimistic for the coming year but grateful for his company's progress during this one.
High: I guess those middle three months of the season this year would have to be a high. It showed us that people are still enjoying boating—it's just a matter of finding the time and having the good weather to do it. This summer showed a lot of promise for us. Another one our highs was the success of our customers Jason and Johnny Saris in Saris Racing—they won an OPA World Championship this year. (Read the story.) Jason and Johnny have become good friends of ours, and Jason does all of his propeller work though us.
Low: My flight to Key West (for the Super Boat International Offshore World Championships) had to be my low for the year. Due to a bird strike, we were delayed leaving Wisconsin for Chicago, so I missed my flight to Key West out of Chicago. The rerouted me from United to Delta, which meant I had to stop in St. Louis and Atlanta to get my flight to Key West. It took me 15 hours to get to Key West—it should have taken about 6-1/2 hours—but it was worth it. I had two great days there, saw a lot of our clients and had a great time.
For the past 25 years, Mike Livorsi, founder of Livorsi Marine in Grayslake, Ill., has remained focused on creating the highest-quality, most-reliable products in the marine marketplace. Just this year, Livorsi Marine implemented a number of new coating and anodizing processes to make its highly regarded controls even better. The company also keeps rolling out new products and branching into new segments of the industry beyond go-fast race and pleasure boats. Mike Livorsi said he's expecting 2014 to be even better.
High: Once again, Livorsi Marine has had a great year broadening our product line with the ski- and tow-boat market. We introduced our full electronic EEC billet controls to Malibu Boats, Nautique Boat Company, Tige Boats and Centurion Boats. These stylish controls are fully electric for smooth and safe shifting and throttling. We believe the new electronic side-mount controls will be a platform for us to penetrate other markets.
Low: Beyond the slow growth in our traditional markets, with the government sequester there was not much spending with OEM builders and retrofitting military/interceptor vessels and workboats. The good thing is that we used that time to engineer new and innovative products that will be ready for the 2014/2015 season.
Thanks to a bounty of marine engine rebuild work, Mike D'Anniballe and the rest of this team at Sterling Performance Engines in Milford, Mich., haven't had much time to bask in the glow of the successful debut of their turbocharged 1,700-hp engines at the 2013 Lake of the Ozarks Shootout. (To read the complete story on the project, download the latest issue of Speed On The Water Digital Magazine at no charge by clicking here.) But that hasn't stopped them from working on the next generation of 1700s, which will be set up with a single turbocharger instead of the dual turbos on the first set. A pair of reconfigured Sterling 1700s may even end up in Game Changer, a coming 40-foot Mystic Powerboats catamaran owned by Tom Borisch, who currently owns a turbine-powered 50-foot Mystic cat called Low Altitude.
High: Well, obviously for me it was the showing of our 1700s at (Lake of the Ozarks) Shootout. That project took a lot longer than we initially planned, but we were really happy with the results. There are a lot of engine builders out there advertising big horsepower numbers, but those numbers weren't necessarily reflected in the top speeds of the boats at the Shootout. We advertised a horsepower number and we delivered on that horsepower, and the top speed of our boat reflected it.
Low: Without question, for me the low of the year for me was the accident at the Lake Cumberland Poker Run that took the lives of Jeffrey Asbell and Brad Smith. The conditions and environment for that kind of high-speed running just weren't right—they were poor. Two people died, and that just didn't need to happen.
Since joining the team at Statement Marine in January of this year, Craig Barrie has had a great time getting to know everyone at the St. Petersburg, Fla., company and helping grow the business to new heights. Bringing nearly 30 years of industry experience to the table, not only has Barry improved the production process at Statement, he's managed to set up a dealer network and get CE Certification so the company can sell boats in the European Union. Although he didn't provide much detail, Barrie teased a company poker run boat that will be touring the country in 2014—an updated version of the 42 Ultimate V-bottom.
High: I've had quite a few highs thanks to my transition over to Statement Marine. First of all, we've got some really great people that know how to build boats here, and that helps tremendously. One of the highs has to be the acceptance of the styling changes we've implemented, which we're extremely proud of. The CE approval is a big deal, too, because now we can sell boats worldwide. As you know, a lot of my strengths have been in overseas or export business. Add in the fact that we've got a dealer network up and running and 2013 has been a very positive year.
Low: I know this sounds like a cop out, but I can't come up with a low. Everyone I know is healthy and this year, which has flown by, really has been good to me. I guess I'm lucky enough to not have a low point in my life personally or professionally.
Considering the name it has made for itself in the high-performance powerboat world, you'd think that go-fast boat service, rigging and storage would be TNT Custom Marine's bread and butter. But the truth is that while the Miami-based company's performance-boat business picks up in the winter months with the influx of fast boats from the Midwest and Northeast, local owners of "regular pleasure boats and fishing boats," according to company co-owner and noted offshore racer John Tomlinson, are the company's mainstay throughout the year. And thanks to the range of services TNT offers for powerboats of all kinds, it's been a good year for the outfit.
High: Well, I have a few highs. We went out and won the offshore race in Gasse in Sarasota (Fla.) this summer after not touching the boat all year, which was kind of cool. And then we successfully ran Sterling's turbine engines in the Skater at the Shootout (read the story) to a big number. That was a high for sure. And our business was up this year over all the different categories—Mercury service, stern-drive rebuilding, rigging, marina and storage—we offer. That's definitely a high.
Low: Boat accidents are always a low, so the accident at the Lake Cumberland Poker Run had to be the biggest low of the year. It seems like we have one of those every year. Finding out we weren't going to Key West to race (read the story) the day before we were supposed to leave—that was a low, too. Fortunately, I don't have a lot of lows. Everybody in my family is healthy and business is good.
While the year began "a little bleak" in the words of Peter Hledin, business has been strong for Douglas Marine/Skater Powerboats—the iconic high-performance custom catamaran company he founded—since August. Hledin and his crew in Douglas, Mich., reportedly have built 10 new cats this year, and while the 388 is the current favorite with clients, Hledin says sales of his smaller models are picking up.
High: In the last three or four months we've had a big up-surge in orders, and that's the most positive thing we've seen this year. The 28 and the 30 cats, with outboards and inboards, are starting to come back and that's also been a positive sign. We hope that means that the "average" guy is coming back into the picture.
Low: Obviously, the deaths of Jeff Asbell and Brad Smith surpassed anything that happened this year. They were such great and capable enthusiasts, with so much potential. It was just a huge, huge blow to everyone in the community—their families and friends, as well as other boaters. They were so energetic when it came to following their passion. That's rare.
For Jeff Johnston, director of sales and marketing for Hering Propellers, his highlight from 2013 was a no-brainer—getting married to longtime girlfriend Nichole Overson in Newport Beach, Calif., in early October. Six weeks later the newlyweds were running around Key West, Fla., during the Florida Powerboat Club Key West Poker Run and the Super Boat International Offshore World Championships. Key West was one of a half-dozen performance boat events Johnston attended in 2013, so choosinnt wasn't that easy.
High: One thing that really stood out to me this year was seeing Kenny Mungle run Gone Again, his 32-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran, at events across the country. Not only did he bring home the Gunslinger GPS Shootout title at his hometown event the Texas Outlaw Challenge in June with a 171-mph top speed, he followed that up with a class-winning 177-mph run at the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in Missouri. Then he hauled the boat to Key West and even made a couple of passes on the racecourse in the 20-year-old former raceboat. He seemed to have so much fun this year. It was really cool to see that kind of excitement from a customer who put so much time, effort and money into a boat.
I'd be remiss if I didn't tout Brad Rowland's 114-mph top speed in his triple-engine South Bay pontoon to win the Top Toon award at the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout. We worked with him to break his personal best by 3 mph and were quite impressed with his run.
Low: I can't think of anything lower than Jeff Asbell and Brad Smith's accident at the Lake Cumberland Poker Run (read the story). The passing of the two dedicated powerboaters really hit home as I'd been working closely with Jeff on propellers for his Skater for quite some time. Not only did I lose a customer, I lost someone I was just starting to get know well.
With his 50-foot Mystic Powerboats catamarans still earning raves from owner-fans such as Tom Borisch and Ron Szolack, it's been a good year for John Cosker, the owner and founder of the DeLand, Fla.-based custom high-performance boat company. In 2013, Mystic both "down-sized" with the sale of the tooling for its 60- and 70-foot sport yachts to Midnight Express and "upsized"—so to speak—with the beginning of its C4000 series of 40-foot catamarans (read the story), which will be the smallest offerings in the Mystic line.
High: My Way running 224 mph (read the story) had to be my high this year. I figured it would run past 200 mph but up end somewhere in the "two-teens." And then to see Bill (Tomlinson, the owner of the My Way 50-foot turbine-powered Mystic cat) go back out and try to beat his own number? That was amazing. We were idling along in Recycler (Don Onken's 50-foot Mystic cat) and I pulled along Bill and asked him, "Aren't you finished?" He said, "There's still more in it."
Low: Boy, it's really nice that I have to actually think about that one a bit. It's been a great year. I can't think of anything I've been disappointed with at Mystic this year. We had a great presence at the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout—at one time there were four Mystics at the docks—and, of course, Bill made his record-setting run, and we kicked off the 40. I can't think of a bad thing that happened with Mystic this year.
The owner and founder of the Florida Powerboat Club (FPC) in Pompano Beach, Fla., Stu Jones has much to be thankful for after completing another safe and fun poker run season. Not only did he and the club's end-of-the-year poker run receive a lot of recognition in Key West, Fla., thanks to the possibility of the offshore world championships presented by Super Boat International leaving town (read the story), he was able to take his family on a fun summer poker run tour to events that weren't produced by the FPC. When asked to provide his highs and lows from 2013, Jones didn't hesitate.
High: Obviously the high was finishing off the year strong with the Key West Poker Run—our monumental event—without any major hitches. From the weather and all that stuff we have no control over to the safety management, the responsible approach by every participant and the way the poker run village came together, I couldn't be happier with this year's run. I have to admit, it also was nice to finally be acknowledged by the people in Key West, including the city manager and the current and former mayors. After 21 years of bringing boats down there, to get some recognition for what our event means to the town was a personal high.
Low: The loss of Jeff Asbell and Brad Smith at the Lake Cumberland Poker Run was a huge low this year (read the story). Although the incident wasn't directly related to an FPC event, Asbell and Smith were members and to lose anybody in a boating accident is a low point. I kind of have a double low as the club lost its longtime helicopter pilot Mark Palmieri in April (read the story). Mark worked for the club for seven years and was the most dedicated and loyal pilot we've ever had. Losing him in a helicopter crash was extremely tough. This year has been a bit of a roller coaster ride.