The Annual BWI Writing Contest

Boating Writers International organizes an annual writing contest to reward excellence in journalism in categories ranging from fishing to travel, boat tests to social media. The contest draws hundreds of entries each year, and has been awarding $17,000 annually in cash prizes.

The contest takes place between November and January each year, with 17 categories that each award $500 for first place, $300 for second place, and $200 for third place. Those winners are announced at the Miami International Boat Show each February.

BWI members receive two free contest entries as a benefit of membership. Non-members can enter the contest at $50 per submission.

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The 2014 BWI Writing Contest Winners

In its 22nd year, the BWI contest attracted 134 participants submitting 349 entries. In addition to cash awards, Certificates of Merit were presented to writers of another 60 articles which scored within 95 percent of third-place tallies in each category. All submissions to the contest were published in 2014. Results are posted on this website under the “News” tab, or go to


The Grand Prize Writing Award

When funded, the Grand Prize Writers Award, which carries a four-figure cash prize, is selected from a pool of the top three entries in each of 17 writing categories that were considered for the annual contest.  Scroll down to see recent Grand Prize winning details.

2010 Grand Prize Award

Jim Flannery, senior writer for Soundings publications, received the top honor BWI presents to a journalist — The BWI Grand Prize Writer’s Award.  Announcement of the award, consisting of a $2,500 check and a crystal trophy, was made during the 2012 BWI membership meeting at the Miami International Boat Show. Flannery, of Fort Lauderdale, covers the southeast and beyond for the consumer and trade publisher filing dozens of articles annually ranging from safety and legislative concerns to industry profiles and human interest tales. Co-sponsors of the award are Martek of Palm Beach and Overing Yacht Designs.

Flannery’s in-depth treatise, “The fading glory of working waterfronts,” profiled the human impact that the demise of water-based commercial enterprise brings and identified the issues that lead to it. In Maine, and coastal states also tied to a challenged fishery, the competition between private land use and development and civic interest in keeping businesses and resulting jobs is a constant faceoff. Flannery also reported on individuals, groups and government programs seeking healthy mixed-use solutions which offer hope for restoring waterfront vitality. The article was first recognized in the Boating Issues, News and Analysis writing category, one of 48 award winners in the 2010 BWI Annual Writing Contest.  The top three entries in each of 16 writing categories were considered for this grand prize.

Judges said of Flannery’s entry, “We found this exploration of a dying Maine Coast to be commendable. We applaud its considerable research, its fresh angle, and, most of all, its strong writing.”  (A link to the feature is

Also cited by the judges as honorable mentions were:

- Panbo, the Marine Electronics blog … “Used the medium well, provided accessible content, and delivered a fresh voice;” and

- “Escape from the Island of Doom” by Marlin Bree … “Offered a strong narrative, a captivating tale, and clear, powerful writing.”

This award was judged by three faculty members at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications of Syracuse University.

2009 Grand Prize Award

Liz Walz, editor-in-chief of Boating Industry magazine, was the recipient of the BWI Grand Prize Writer’s Award for 2009 (presented in 2010). Walz works from her home in Manlius, NY and has served as an editor of the magazine for 10 years.

Independent judges from Northwestern University’s Journalism school picked Walz’s article, “The New Word-of-Mouth,” for the honor. It is a persuasive treatise on why businesses need social networking strategies and how to implement them. Published in the June, 2009 issue of the magazine, it goes deep in research, reporting how experts leverage social media then ties compelling industry-specific examples to prove the promises. Illustrating each of the social sites, she removed the mystery of participation, explained how to “listen” and “respond,” then ardently suggested “clicking in.“

Judges described Walz’s entry as being, “Soooo on target. The right stuff at the right time. The writing is crisp. Organization is about perfect. You can not read this without learning something – painlessly even in these painful economic straits. This makes for a most significant story.” To access the story, click on

The judging team identified several additional entries for excellence in writing:
– “It Was A Club of Their Own” by Ann Dermody in BoatUS Magazine:
– “Bouncing Along the Bottom” by Michael Verdon in International Boat Industry
– “” by Bill Sisson.

2008 Grand Prize Award

George Sass, Sr., a freelance writer, author and former advertising creative director, won the Grand Prize Writing Award, the top award Boating Writers International gives to a journalist, in 2008.

Sass, of Annapolis, MD, received the award, consisting of a $5,000 check and a crystal trophy, at a formal presentation during the BWI membership meeting at the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show. His story, “Big-Water Boats – How to Choose the Right Vessel for Offshore Cruising,” was published in the 2008 Ocean Explorer Handbook.

Judges said of the entry: “After a gut-griping lead, this article turns into a beautifully structured and nicely written example of explanatory journalism. It is interspersed with anecdotes, narrative description and lively quotes – so as to not get bogged down in textbook prose. Throughout, the writing is crisp. This is good, clear, informative writing at its best.”

The top three entries in each of 16 writing categories were considered for this grand prize. Judges for the Grand Prize Award are associated with Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and have had careers in newspapers, magazines, broadcasting and on-line enterprises. They include: David Nelson, Professor of Media Management and Ethics; Michele Bitoun, Senior Director of Undergraduate Education and Teaching Excellence; and Professor Marcel Pacatte, Managing Editor of the Medill Reports website.

Several additional entries were cited by the judging team for excellence in writing, including “Limulus Lately” by Wendy Mitman Clarke in Chesapeake Bay; “You Can Go Home Again” by Tania Aebi in Cruising World; and “Fishing for the Future” by Dick Russell in Northeast Boating.

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