Best Boating Stories of 2011

Top marine journalists in the U.S. and beyond were recognized February 17 at the Miami International Boat Show in an annual writing contest conducted by the membership of Boating Writers International (BWI). Presentations in 16 contest categories representing $16,000 in awards were made to first ($500), second ($300) and third ($200) place scorers. Also presented was the group’s Grand Prize Writing Award for 2010.

In its 19th year, the BWI contest attracted 113 participants submitting 301 entries. In addition to cash awards, Certificates of Merit were presented to writers of another 34 articles which scored within 95 percent of third-place tallies in each category. All submissions to the contest were published in 2011. Each of the categories (noted below along with sponsors) was judged by four active journalists in the first few weeks of the New Year.

For details on the Grand Prize Award, scroll down below the 2011 listings.

Annual Contest Results:

A reading list with click-throughs to the top three entries in each category can be found here:

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

1st place, “On Watch” by Gary “Cap’n Fatty” Goodlander (Cruising World); 2nd place, “On the Wind” by Chris Caswell (Sailing); 3rd place, “Off Watch” by Wendy Clarke (Cruising World). In this category, entrants are required to submit three related columns to be judged. Describing the top choices, category chair Marlin Bree says, “Here are grabber openings, building reader involvement, twisting plot points – all followed up with such a satisfying climax that you know they are all surely from a master writers’ toolbox.”

2. Boating Lifestyles – sponsored by Discover Boating.

1st place, “Black Pearls, Reef Sharks and Ancient Ghosts” by Antonia Murphy (Cruising World, June); 2nd place, “Around the World by Thumb” by Clive Webber (Cruising World, July); 3rd place, “From the White-Knuckler Files” by Elaine Lembo (Cruising World, Feb.). Of the first place piece, judge Yvonne Hill said, “Raising the bar on what could have been just another cruising story, the author infused the tale with desire and suspense for an entertaining, engaging and informative read. The writing sparkles.” Awards of Merit to: “Let There Be Pirates” by Jane Meneely (Chesapeake Bay, July) and “Are You Being Served?” by Chris Caswell (Yachting, July).

3. Boating Profiles – sponsored by ZF Marine.

1st, “Beauty and the Beasts” by Marty LeGrand (Chesapeake Bay, April); 2nd, “Full Noise or No Noise” by Herb McCormick (Cruising World, Sept.); 3rd, “No Stranger to the Grind” by Stuart Streuli (Sailing World, Nov.). “I really liked ‘Beauty and the Beasts’ because of the surprises sprinkled through the narrative that each give an insight into who Dr. Julie Ball is and how she’s excelled in what’s clearly a guy’s game,” offered judge Mark Pillsbury … “For a fish story, this one is overloaded with interesting facts; a really fun read.” Merit awards to: “A Space Odyssey” by Gary Kramer (BoatUS Magazine, Aug.); “Resurrecting a Legend” by Heather Steinberger (Sailing, Jan.); “Insider – Geoff Eisenberg” by Michael Verdon (International Boat Industry, Sept); “Remembering John Krevey” by Betsy Haggerty (Boating on the Hudson & Beyond, April).

4. Boating Travel or Destinations – sponsored by Martin Flory Group.

1st, “Destination: New York City” by Stephen Blakely (Soundings, Oct.); 2nd, “In Darwin’s Wake” by Herb McCormick (Cruising World, Nov.); 3rd, “Society Islands Sojourn” by Tim Murphy (Cruising World, June). “Were I to ever undertake such an outing, ‘Destination: New York City’ – part travelogue and part roadmap – is a thoroughly engaging read and a no-nonsense guide to traversing the Big Apple,” noted judge chair Michael Sciulla. Receiving Merit awards: “Byzantium Bound” by Jane Meneely (Chesapeake Bay, March); “The City That Care Forgot” by Mary South (Yachting, April); “Diamond in the Rough” by Wendy Clarke (Cruising World, Sept.); “Baja Magic” by Peter Swanson (PassageMaker, Oct.).

5.  Boating Adventures – sponsored by Yamaha Marine Group.

1st, “The Voyage in Between” by Gary Goodlander (Cruising World, Jan.); 2nd, “Emergency Exit” by Chris Caswell (Yachting, Aug.); 3rd, “From Penguins to Palm Trees” by Beth Leonard (Cruising World, April). Said judge Lenny Rudow, “’Voyage’ drew me into the world of sailing adventures, from the first line to the last, with a mix of real-world experience, history, and geography. I read, I learned, I was entertained.” Merit Awards: “Ten Feet Across the Pacific” by Marlin Bree (The Ensign, April); “Chesapeake Sailor Earns Stripes” by Stephen Blakely (Soundings, Jan.).

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

1st, “Turning Heads” by Jen Brett (Cruising World, June); 2nd, “Importance of Oil Sampling” by George Sass, Sr. (PassageMaker, July); 3rd, “Home Sweet Hazard” by Chris Caswell (Dockwalk, July). Judge Robert Buller offers, “What boater doesn’t have a marine head story?  It was written in a breezy, yet informative manner with good explanations … covered the topic well and set out alternatives for the reader.” Merit selections: “The Unprotected Saildrive” by Ed Sherman (Cruising World, Feb.); “Choosing a New Cruising Main” by Frank Lanier (Practical Sailor, Aug.); “No Mechanical Skill? – There’s a Fix for That” by Tom Neale (Soundings, Oct.).

7.  Electronics – sponsored by Jeppesen Marine.

1st, “Touchscreen Technology” by Tim Bartlett (Power & Motoryacht, Aug.); 2nd, “Social Navigation” by Peter Swanson (Motor Boating, April); 3rd, “Managing Your Boat’s Power Consumption” by Chris Landry (Soundings, Dec.). Judges described Bartlett’s piece as, “An educational and instructive treatise on touchscreens, a quick look at how manufacturers’ products employ different types, and a caution pointing out when old tech still works best, all in a remarkably compact two-page package.” Merit: “Glancing Sideways” by John Page Williams (Chesapeake Bay, May).

8.  Ethics and Environment – sponsored by Thetford Marine.

1st, “Dammed If You Do, Damned If You Don’t,” by Jody Schroath (Chesapeake Bay, April); 2nd, “Down in the Hole” by Kevin Koenig (Power & Motoryacht, April); 3rd, “Eating the Aliens” by Chris Landers (BoatUS Magazine, Aug.). Of the first-place selection judge David Epstein said, “Well-researched, educates, is good history and tells a story. Even-handed and despite its length keeps the reader interested.” Awards of Merit: “Phasing Out Copper Bottom Paint” by Jim Carrier (Cruising World, April); “The Critters Below” by Martha LeGrand (Chesapeake Bay, Nov.); “SOS – Save Our Seas” by Jeni Bone (Ultimate Boating & Lifestyle, July).

9.  Fishing – sponsored by Suzuki Motor Corporation.

1st, “Miami Vice” by Pete McDonald (The Drake, Sept.); 2nd, “Find the Churn, Find the Fish” by John Page Williams (Chesapeake Bay, July); 3rd, “Gold Rush” by Lenny Rudow (Saltwater Sportsman, March). Category chair Gary Beckett said the top pick is, “A rare piece that combines whimsical, well-written prose with solid research and a clear command of the topic.” Merit awards to: “The Big One That Didn’t Get Away” by Jim Flannery (Soundings, April); “Fishing Gone Wild” by Doug Olander (Sport Fishing, March).

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

1st, “Magnificence Reborn” by Chris Caswell (Yachting, Feb.); 2nd, “Florida Feuding: Don’t Drop the Hook in My Backyard” by Jim Flannery (Soundings, Oct.); 3rd, “Alcohol & Boat Engines, Is There Another Way?” by Ryck Lydecker (BoatUS Magazine, Dec.). Category chair Betsy Haggerty described “Magnificence” as “Good storytelling and strong reporting clearly delineate the history of the amazing J-Class sailboats that competed for the America’s Cup in the 1930s and the rebirth of the class today.” Merit award: “Don’t Get Lured into a Deal That’s Too Good” by Caroline Ajootian (BoatUS Magazine, Aug.).

11.  The Business of Boatingsponsored by Home Port Marine Marketing.

1st, “Machined Solutions” by Chris Caswell (Professional Boatbuilder, April); 2nd, “Ready and Waiting” by Michael Verdon (International Boat Industry, Oct.); “Morgan Huntley, 31, Vanquish Boats” by Richard Armstrong (Soundings Trade Only, Nov.). “Opening with the texture and sheer size of the subject’s hands, after shaking them, makes the reader yearn for more details,” says category chair Lisa Overing of the top pick, adding, “Great metaphors; enjoyable read.” Awards of merit to: “Exporting to a Changing World” by Reagan Haynes (Soundings Trade Only, Dec.); “Car Loans Easier To Get – Boats Next?” by Jim Flannery (Soundings Trade Only, May).

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

1st, “Don’t Shortcut The Learning Curve” by Tom Neale (Soundings, June); 2nd, “Stack the Deck to Survive” by Beth Leonard (Cruising World, Nov.); 3rd, “Heavy Weather Sailing: Remembering Hurricane Mitch” by Charles Doane (, Sept. 15). Category chair John Wooldridge said, “Neale makes it clear that seamanship is a practiced art, best learned in waters close to home. For those boat owners who haven’t carefully thought about what happens every time you slip the lines and head out on the water, this story is a must-read.” Merit Award: “When the Stick Comes Down” by Patrick Childress (Cruising World, Nov.).

13.  Technical Writing – sponsored by Dometic Marine.

1st, place: “Broadband Affordability” by Gram Schweikert (Cruising World, Sept.); 2nd, “Onboard Entertainment: The Digital Files Converge” by Ben Ellison (Cruising World, Nov.); 3rd, “Back Cove: A Study in Resin Infusion” by Eric Sorensen (Soundings, Feb.). “This writer enlivened the subject by including personal experience in testing products,” said category chair Kim Kavin of the first story. “The information presented to the reader is thorough as well as engaging, and it is presented in a way that is easy to understand … especially liked the cost-comparison chart created for all of the products tested.” Merit selections: “Corrosion 101” by Lenny Rudow (Texas Fish & Game, Oct.); “Are Carbon Nanotubes Coming to a Yacht Near You?” by Roger Marshall (The Megayachts 2012); “Clearly Sensational” by Marilyn Mower (The Megayachts 2012); “Secret Surveyor” by David Seidman (Boating, Jan.).

14.  Boat Tests – sponsored by Volvo Penta.

1st, “Fire in the Belly” by Dudley Dawson (Yachting, May); 2nd, “Mama Mia” by Chris Caswell (Yachting, Jan.); 3rd, “Sea Trial: Tiara 4500 Sovran” by Alan Jones (Sea magazine, Aug.). Judges said of “Fire:” “The author takes you below the surface
and explains the boat’s design and its performance with crisp comments and observations connecting the designer and the reader to the sea.” Merit award to: “Catalina 355: Thoughtful Design” by Tim Murphy (Cruising World, Sept.).

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

This category had insufficient entries to be judged.

16. Megayachts sponsored by Awlgrip North America.

1st, “Expedition Yachts: A Journey” by Mark Masciarotte (The Megayachts 2012); 2nd, “Motoryacht Boundless” by Lisa Overing and Rebecca Cahilly (ShowBoats International, Sept.); 3rd, “Guiding Light” by Alyssa Haak (Power & Motoryacht, July). Offered category chair Bill Sisson, “This is a solid, well-reported, well-sourced look at large expedition yachts. Design, propulsion, styling, materials, ‘green’ – it’s all here. And the voice is clear, balanced and authoritative. It was the top choice of each judge.” Merit selections: “Carpe Diem” by Rebecca Cahilly (ShowBoats International, June); “Calliope” by Kim Kavin (Yachting, Oct.).

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

1st, – The Marine Electronics Weblog, by Ben Ellison; 2nd, reports, podcasts and videos by Stuart Streuli; 3rd, by Bill Bishop. “Ellison obviously knows his subject matter inside and out, but never takes himself too seriously, actively soliciting input and contributions from his readers” said judge Marty LeGrand. “ provides candid assessments of the electronics Ellison personally tests and thereby gives its readers information they know they can trust.” Merit awards: by Tom Richardson; the NOOD Regatta Series on by Michael Lovett.

Grand Prize Award for 2010

Jim Flannery, senior writer for Soundings publications, has received the top honor Boating Writers International 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 BWI membership meeting at the Miami International Boat Show February 17. 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.”

Judges for this award are faculty at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications of Syracuse University, and all working magazine journalists: Professor Melissa Chessher is a magazine writer and editor and teaches classes in those disciplines; Aileen Gallagher is a former senior editor for New York magazine online and appears in various print and online outlets; Jim Shahin started as a newspaper reporter, became a humor columnist and currently writes the Smoke Signals barbecue column for The Washington Post.