BWI Writing Contest Salutes 2009 Stories

Top marine journalists in the U.S. and beyond  were recognized today in the 2009 writing contest conducted by the membership of Boating Writers International.  Presentations were made in 17 contest categories — including a new “Original Online Content” field — representing $17,000 in awards, the largest payout to date.

In its 17th year, the BWI contest attracted 134 participants submitting 352 entries. In addition to cash awards, Certificates of Merit were presented to writers of another 35 articles which scored within 95 percent of third-place tallies in each category. All submissions to the contest were published in 2009. Each of the 17 categories (noted below along with sponsors) was judged by four active journalists in the first few weeks of the New Year. Results:

1. Boating Columns – sponsored by KVH Industries, Inc.

1st place, “On the Wind” by Chris Caswell (Sailing); 2nd place, “Meneely Under Way” by Jane Meneely (Chesapeake Bay); 3rd place, “Off Watch” by Wendy Mitman Clarke  (Cruising World). In this category, entrants are required to submit three related columns. “Caswell’s columns are a buoyant mix of humor, sea stories, personal reflection, sensitive commentary and good advice,” the judges agreed. “His writing brings you aboard with him.” Certificates of Merit awarded to: “Setting Sail” by Peter Nielsen (Sail); “We’ve Always Wanted to Ask” by Robert Stephens (Boating Life); “Performance” by Dudley Dawson (Yachting); “Following Seas” by David Seidman (Boating); “The Roger Henry File” by Alvah Simon (Cruising World); “Sailing Life” by Melanie Neale (Cruising World); “Editor’s Letter” by Alan Jones (Boating World); and “Cruise of the Month” by Diana Prentice (Chesapeake Bay).

2. Boating Lifestyles – sponsored by

1st place, “It Was a Club of Their Own” by Ann Dermody (BoatU.S. Magazine, March); 2nd place, “Cruising with Mom” by Nonnie Thompson (Pacific Yachting, Spring); 3rd place, “Fast Cat Fever” by Ann Levelle (Chesapeake Bay, Jan.). “A well-researched, beautifully written and poignant story of a pair of passionate boat lovers and the barriers they had to break to found and maintain the nation’s first all-black yacht club,” is how category chair Betsy Haggerty described the top entry. Merit awards go to: “Honeymooners of Phangnga Bay” by Gary Goodlander (Cruising World, April); and “Kayak Karma’s Gonna Get You” by Marty LeGrand (Chesapeake Bay, Aug.).

3. Boating Profiles – sponsored by ZF Marine.

1st, “The Miracle Worker” by Robert Stephens (Boating Life, March); 2nd,  “The (Not Quite) Mellow Dude” by Herb McCormick (Sailing World, July/Aug.); 3rd, “Space Odysey?” by Herb McCormick (Cruising World, Oct.). Of  Stephens’ work, judge Emily Corman said, “Despite his subject’s physical challenges, the author’s message is clear and inspiring: Clay Dyer’s story as a professional angler is just beginning.” Merit award to “A Captain’s Irresistible Tales” by Doug Campbell (Soundings, March).

4. Boating Travel or Destinations – sponsored by Island Global Yachting.

1st, “Magic & Mystery in Micronesia” by Alvah Simon (Cruising World, Nov.); 2nd, “Vanuatu: Explosive, Exotic, Exciting” by Alvah Simon (Cruising World, Feb.); 3rd, “On One Boat, Three Stories Unfold” by Herb McCormick, Angus Phillips and Elaine Lembo (Cruising World, Aug.). Category chair Michael Sciulla said the top entry has “A great lead, attention to detail, insight, perspective and affection for its subjects … a must read.” Judge Patrick Sciacca said the unique, 3rd place, three-author article, “Illustrates that multiple authors can create a cohesive, informative, and humorous piece while preserving their individual voices.” Merit Certificates to: “Live History on Our ‘Star Spangled’ Seas” by Stephen Blakely (Soundings, July); “It Does a Body Good” by Paul Clancy (Chesapeake Bay, Aug.); “A Pocketful of Miracles” by Jody Schroath (Chesapeake Bay, Sept.); and “Anegada” by Kim Kavin (, Oct. 6).

5.  Boating Adventures – sponsored by Discover Boating.

1st, “One Mom, Two Teens, No Exit” by Tania Aebi (BoatU.S. Magazine, March); 2nd, “Mission Accomplished” by Sprague Theobald (Motor Boating, Nov./Dec.); 3rd, “Miles Away in One Sense, Light Years in Another” by Peter Swanson (Soundings, Oct.). Judge Louisa Rudeen called the winner, “An inspiring story of family bonding.” Merit Awards: “In the Eye of the Storm” by William Barton (Cruising World, Nov.); “Ain’t Nothing Like It” by Meredith Laitos (Sail, Dec.); “First Time Solo” by Charles Doane (Sailing, Dec.); and “In Search of Chowder” by Roger Kamholz (Sea Ray Living, Spring).

6.  Boat/Engine Care and Maintenance – sponsored by Interlux Yacht Finishes.

1st, “When the You-Know-What Hits the Fan” by Tom Neale (Soundings, June); 2nd, “Power Trip” by Vincent Daniello (Motor Boating, Nov./Dec.); 3rd, “Water, Water, Everywhere” by Frank Lanier (Southern Boating, April). Judges said Neale’s article, “Takes square aim at ‘lurking disasters waiting to happen’ with a lot of potential to be helpful to boaters. This piece offers that help in the form of clear, concise writing by an expert in everything from wiring to V struts to the ‘creeping crud’ on stainless prop shafts.” Merit Certificate to “Cool Tools for Odd Jobs” by R.J. Rubadeau (Cruising World, July).

7.  Electronics – sponsored by Jeppesen Marine.

1st, “Manna From Heaven” by Peter Swanson (PassageMaker, July/Aug.); 2nd, “Into the Nitty-Gritty of NMEA 2000” by Ben Ellison (Cruising World, July); 3rd, “Testing Chartplotters” by Lenny Rudow (, Nov. 16). Of the first-place pick, judges commented, “It’s not your everyday writer who can combine the global recession, a larger-than-life statue of Jesus, and advanced satellite services into a must-read. This look at new-to-market antennas is both informative and fun.”

8.  Ethics and Environment – sponsored by Marlink AS.

1st, “Go, Terps” by Michael Fincham (Chesapeake Bay, March); 2nd, “Veggie Power” by Jeff Hemmel (Boating, Feb.); 3rd, “Unarmed but Uneasy” by Gary Goodlander (Cruising World, July). Judge Betsy Clayton described “Terps” as, “A wonderful ecological tale told with a personal, engaging touch. A must-read for anyone who looks at what’s beneath the bow.” Certificate of Merit to “Critical Grass” by Joe Myerson (Northeast Boating, March).

9.  Fishing – sponsored by Suzuki Motor Corporation.

1st, “Pump & Crank” by Lenny Rudow (Marlin, July): 2nd,”Thrill Ride” by Doug Olander (Sport Fishing, Aug.); 3rd, “Back in Black” by Lenny Rudow (Salt Water Sportsman, March). “The writer lays out a cool new offshore fishing technique in a way that is entertaining and easy to understand, offering good instruction in a solid read,” commented judge Pete McDonald of the top entry. Merit Award to “Ghost Busters” by Ron Ballanti (Salt Water Sportsman, May).

10.  Boating Issues, News and Analysis – sponsored by Mercury Marine.

1st, “Time to Throttle Back” by Chris Landry (Soundings, Aug.); 2nd, “Lobster Wars: Good People Doing Bad Things” by Jim Flannery (Soundings, Oct.); 3rd, “What the Euros Get” by Jeff Hemmel (Boating, Jan.). Judges said the winner, “Addresses one of the most important issues currently facing the powerboat industry – how to design and market more fuel-efficient boats – and does so in a thoughtful and thorough manner. The writer’s prose is engaging and the story was well researched … a model to other writers.” Merit Certificates: “How to Kill Your Boat” by Pete McDonald (Boating, March) and “The Case for the Simple Life” by George Sass, Sr. (Soundings, Dec.).

11.  The Business of Boating – sponsored by Home Port Marine Marketing.

1st, “Bouncing Along the Bottom” by Michael Verdon (International Boat Industry, Oct.); 2nd, “Marinas Last Hit and Least Hurt” by Gary Beckett (Soundings Trade Only, Nov.); 3rd, “The New Word-of-Mouth” by Liz Walz (Boating Industry, June). Of the winning entry judge Joe Myerson commented, “This comprehensive report is a realistic analysis of the economic difficulties faced by the recreational boating industry. Solid, well-researched, represents professional business journalism of the first tier, without gloss or sycophancy.” Awards of Merit to: “Cuba Libre?” by Peter Swanson (Yachting, Oct.) and “An Industry of Small, Niche Builders” by Reagan Haynes (Soundings Trade Only, Oct.).

12.  Seamanship, Rescue & Safety – sponsored by Sea Tow Services International.

1st, “The Last Battle of the Grampa Woo” by Marlin Bree (The Ensign, May/June); 2nd,  “Eight Days on a Capsized 23-Footer” by Chris Landry (Soundings, Nov.); 3rd, “Lucky Duck to the Rescue” by R.J. Rubadeau (Cruising World, Sept.). Judge Jennifer Chesak said the top pick, “Was written with true zeal and captured the intense passion a man has for his ship as well as the incredible bravery and heroism abundant on this rescue mission at sea.” Merit Award for “How to Inspect Your Lifeline System” by Frank Lanier (Latitudes & Attitudes, Oct.).

13.  Technical Writing – sponsored by Dometic Marine.

1st, “A Question of Balance” by Jeremy McGeary (Practical Sailor, Feb.); 2nd, “Planing Hull Efficiency” by Eric Sorensen (Soundings, Aug.); 3rd, “Maritime Moonshine” by Bill Grannis (Trailer Boats, Dec.). Category chair Marilyn Mower said the top entry, “Is an exceptional analysis of the alphabet soup of sailing boat design factors and the modern compromises between performance and creature comforts, stability, and helm balance issues affecting cruising and racing boats.” Merit Certificate to “Wind & Solar are Fine…” by Wendy Mitman Clarke (Cruising World, Dec.).

14.  Boat Tests – sponsored by Volvo Penta.

1st, “Getting it Write” by Chris Caswell (PassageMaker, Oct.); 2nd, “Mr. Holland’s Opus” by John Page Williams (Northeast Boating, Oct.); 3rd, “Third Engine’s the Charm” by Patrick Sciacca (Power & Motoryacht, Sept.). Of the top article, judge Michael Verdon noted it “Uses a fictional technique of focusing the boat report around a notebook. The writing is short, compelling and makes what could’ve been a dull report into an interesting test.” Certificates of Merit: “Big Daddy Daysailer” by Bill Springer (Cruising World, Dec.); and “A Resonant Tune” by Herb McCormick (Cruising World, Feb.).

15.  Gear, Electronics and Product Tests –  sponsored by Xantrex Technology Inc.

1st, “Radar Love” by Peter Swanson (PassageMaker, May/June); 2nd “Two Stroke Versus Four Stroke” by Lenny Rudow (, Nov. 24); 3rd, “Hijacked by High Fashion?” by Darrell Nicholson (Practical Sailor, July). Judge Robert Buller said “Swanson ‘spoke’ to me as a boater, drew me in with a first-person example then went on to outline a new technology and explain why it was better – it held my attention throughout.” Merit Award to “Far From Finished” by Ann Key (Practical Sailor, Dec.).

16.  Megayachts –  sponsored by Awlgrip North America.

1st, “Achieving Perfect Balance – Silver Cloud” by Liz Pasch (Yachts International, July); 2nd, “Vajoliroja” by Louisa Beckett (Boat International USA, March); 3rd, “Stampede” by Louisa Beckett (Boat International USA, July). Silver Cloud has “An appropriate headline because this story represents a perfect balance between outstanding technical content and crisp, well-written text,” commented judge Eric Colby.

17.  Original Online Content – sponsored by National Marine Electronics Assn.

1st, website “” by Kim Kavin; 2nd, audio slideshows and video series on “” by Bill Sisson; 3rd, website “” by Diane Byrne.  The top pick, said category judge Paul Esterle, “Draws you into the charter lifestyle. Great production values coupled with an interesting mix of articles and videos make for an entertaining and informative visit.” Certificates of Merit to: “Boat Show Blog” series by Glen Justice and Gaspare Marturano on; posts, podcasts and imaging of “Racing Events” by Stuart Streuli on; marine electronics website “” by Ben Ellison; and writing and production of articles and videos on “” by Lisa Cook.