Stay The Course
I always wanted BoatUS Insurance coverage, but they didn’t offer guide coverage. My desire was based on my bass buddy Jim Wrenn’s experience. His outboard had blown a power head three times in 6 months. At the end of his patience he contacted BoatUS. They went to bat for him and the outboard manufacturer stepped up with a new engine. While this was commendable, it happened about 2 weeks before the manufacturer filed for Chapter 11 protection. The engine manufacturer likely was aware of the impending bankruptcy, but with BoatUS looking over their shoulder, they did the right thing. BoatUS Founder Richard Schwartz created the only Consumer Protection Bureau for boaters seeking redress with manufacturers. I was impressed, but continually disappointed as they had not entered the bass guide market.
In the BoatUS Alexandria Headquarters lobby, a wall map displays colored lights indicating customer location and numbers. Missing was the inshore boater. Big boaters were aware of BoatUS, the Association, the insurance and Towboat US/Vessel Assist. Inland boaters were small fish to most insurers. BoatUS was prepared to make a big splash in the small boat pond. Mike Pellerin, then Fishing Division Director, asked a boatload of questions. Aboard my Skeeter, he noted rods, lures, and special fishing equipment. The BoatUS ANGLER Program was created and, to my delight, a top-notch guide fishing policy!
Richard Schwartz created the Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) and for the past 47 years advocated for boat owners and operated a nationwide discount marine retail chain with 62 BoatUS retail stores. In the early 1960s it wasn’t much of a stretch to visualize Schwartz, a young Princeton and Yale Law School graduate and anti-trust attorney, establishing the nation's largest and most influential recreational boating organization. While a guest on a friend’s boat, the friend was given a ticket for something Schwartz felt was unfair and not the boater’s responsibility. Discovering there was no one fighting for the interests of boaters, BoatUS was conceived, adopting a mission of "service, savings and representation."
Listing his accomplishments would take away from boating time. Anyone enjoying time on the water owes Schwartz a salute. His Capitol Hill testimony resulted in the watershed Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971, giving the US Coast Guard the power to hold manufacturers accountable for certain safety standards. It also led to the creation of the US Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety, a life-saving move!
Schwartz sought legislation to legally protect boater rights, contributing to the passage of the Recreational Boating Safety and Facilities Improvement Act of 1979 that directed taxes and fees paid by boaters to support boating programs. He opposed the luxury tax (1992) and diesel fuel tax (1997), both repealed! The Granddaddy of boating legislation, the 1984 federal Wallop/Breaux Trust Fund Amendment that now returns over $650 million annually to federal and state boating and fishing programs, has been credited to Schwartz!
The pearl of Schwartz’s tireless efforts influenced boating safety on a national level with the BoatUS 501(c) 3 nonprofit BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water. This program ranges from free Online Boating Safety Courses to the only nationwide Life Jacket Loaner Program for Kids and EPIRB rental programs. BoatUS Magazine has become the largest boating magazine in the country with over half a million circulation. Schwartz also changed insurance policy gobbledygook when introducing BoatUS insurance in 1967. The most recognizable mantle of BoatUS services are the red BoatUS Towing boats replacing the Coast Guard’s on-the-water assistance in the 1980's when Congress ordered cessation of Coast Guard tows! Last year, BoatUS halted an effort by a company petitioning the Government to implement a new wireless band. Sounded good until BoatUS revealed this would be a disaster for GPS, a system boaters rely on for navigation safety.
This living legend has a locker full of accolades. At 83, Schwartz says BoatUS has become the largest US boat owners organization by fighting boating battles! Life is better and safer for boaters who have access to services that make the boating experience better.
On July 1, Schwartz turned the rudder of the nation's #1 boat-owners advocate to BoatUS President Margaret Bonds Podlich. "He proved that boaters…could unite to solve their challenges. It is an all-inclusive approach to recreational boating issues that got results and this philosophy will remain the core of BoatUS. There are so many of us who have benefited from his range of work and expertise."
Schwartz remains on board as Chairman of the BoatUS Board of Directors as well as Chairman of the BoatUS National Advisory Council. BoatUS continues to keep both oars in the water on a steady course to float everyone’s boat.
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