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Commentary: Thanks for the Powerboat Ride

Working for Powerboat, I got to know readers like Joe Sabo, the owner of this Cigarette 38' Top Gun.

Working for Powerboat, I got to know readers like Joe Sabo, the owner of this Cigarette 38′ Top Gun.

Allow me to apologize in advance for this long and self-indulgent commentary …

No matter how well you prepare for loss, you’re never really ready for the moment it happens. When it finally hits, it hits hard.

And so it is with the recent end of Powerboat magazine, which was acquired by Bonnier Corporation earlier this week. The people at Bonnier have said that they will not publish the magazine in its “existing frequency,” which had dwindled from 11 thick issues a year to an anorexic six, and instead will approach it through “special issues and Internet initiatives.”

Which means that unless something miraculous happens with the go-fast marine industry, the Powerboat you knew and loved, or the Powerboat you knew and hated, is gone.

When an existing magazine is sold, it’s not uncommon for the new publisher to want a fresh start, meaning its own editors and writers. So I was prepared for the, “We’ve decided to go in a different direction” speech. Not saying that would have been easy or fun to hear, but I was ready for it.

But what I wasn’t prepared for was that direction, at least for the immediate future, to be nowhere.

So what’s left to say? Thank you. I have a bunch of them, so please bear with me.

First, to the readers of Powerboat magazine, the team of talented folks behind it and the many people in the marine industry who supported it, thank you very, very much. You are the reason there was a Powerboat.

To the late Tom Newby, the guy who set the standard for high-performance powerboat photography and was a great friend and an inspiration, thank you. To the late Dave Kelley, the best writer in the boating realm and another fine and inspirational friend I’d never have known if I hadn’t worked for Powerboat, thank you.

Of course, I have to thank the two Bobs, meaning Teague and Christie. Powerboat technical editor and test team leader Bob Teague patiently—that’s my story and I’m sticking to it—taught me more about the high-performance boat world than anyone. Bob Christie, a former Donzi and Baja dealer of uncommon foresight and generosity, always gave me great advice and honest assessments.

John Tomlinson (left) and Bob Teague. Test drivers (and friends) don't come any better.

John Tomlinson (left) and Bob Teague. Test drivers (and friends) don’t come any better.

In almost 16 years writing for Powerboat, I produced more than 1,200 articles for the magazine, about half of which were boat tests. I liked them all until they were published. Then I hated every one of them. Being your own worst critic can be an occupational hazard for a writer.

Covering events in places from Miami to Malta and writing about over-the-top go-fast boats and engines never, ever sucked, but the stories I liked working on most were about people. Powerboat gave me the opportunity to write profiles of the most extraordinary people including Vic Porter of Formula, Mike McLeod of the McLeod Design Group, Peter Hledin of Skater,, Debbie Christensen—the bravest person I’ve ever met—of Advantage, Randy Scism of MTI, Skip Braver of Cigarette Racing Team and David Woods of Pier 57. Writing those stories for Powerboat was a privilege.

Am I done writing about high-performance boating? No. Not by a long shot. As Fred Kiekhaefer—the smartest guy I know in the marine industry and another cherished friend—at Mercury Racing likes to say, “The race never stops.” (Why else would I be posting this piece at 5 a.m.?)

Fred Kiekhaefer, of Mercury Racing, shown here introducing the 1350 engine, a longtime Powerboat supporter and a scary smart guy.

Fred Kiekhaefer of Mercury Racing, shown here introducing the 1350 engine, a longtime Powerboat supporter and a scary smart guy.

So thank you Powerboat magazine family, thank you high-performance marine industry and—most of all—thank you readers. For almost 16 years, I was blessed with the best gig in the go-fast boating world. It was one hell of a ride.

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