Peter Greenberg: CBS Travel Reporter

By Ann Dermody

To the CBS travel guru, bicoastal means having boats on two coasts.

Peter Greenberg might be America's most traveled boater. By airplane, that is. The multiple Emmy-winning CBS travel reporter and producer has certainly logged the miles. "I travel about 300 days a year and live in about six places," he says. One of those places is Marina del Rey, California, where he's lived on a 53-foot Hatteras on and off for the past 20 years.

His boating beginnings were somewhat humbler. "I've been a total nut about boats since I was 4 years old. My family wasn't even close to being a boating family, but we spent the summers on Fire Island off the coast of Long Island, and when you're growing up every summer on an island and have the ocean and bay right there, it's only a matter of time before you become addicted."

Greenberg's hankering for a boat fell on deaf ears with his parents, however. "It became such a hot-button topic in my family that by the time I was 13, I wasn't even allowed to talk about it anymore. I had boat on the brain." Finally, his father threw down the gauntlet. "He said, 'OK, you want a boat? Here's the deal. You've got to earn every last dime of it yourself, and you've got to become a certified captain.'" That summer Greenberg held down six jobs. "I never slept. I worked at a supermarket, I unloaded the freight boat, I delivered groceries, I was a camp counselor, I had a paper route. It was crazy!" But by the end of the season, he had enough money to buy a boat, and that winter he went to Hunter College, New York, at night to do the Coast Guard exam. "I got everything done so that by the time my 14th birthday rolled around, I could go out and buy my first boat, brand new! It was a 13-foot Boston Whaler and the minute I bought it, I put it to work as a water taxi and I gave waterskiing lessons. That boat was working 16 hours a day."

Photo of young Peter Greenberg on his Boston Whaler named Poor PeterThings have come a long way from Poor Peter, his original Boston Whaler. (Photo: Peter Greenberg)

Decades, and multiple homes later, Greenberg still has the Whaler, and last year he had it restored. "I spent a considerable amount of money, many times what it would have cost to buy that boat, but I restored it to brand-new status, and on July 14 it celebrated its 50th year. All those other boats that were given to kids by their parents? They're long gone. Stolen, trashed, forgotten." To mark the boat's 50th year, the kids who grew up with Greenberg got together and took it for a ride. Since that original Whaler, there have been several other boats. In New York where he also lives, he has a 29-foot Pro-Line center console, and a 25-foot Parker.

In his spare time (not that there can be much, given he travels every three or four days), he's an active volunteer fireman on Fire Island, and has been since he was 18.

"My rule of thumb, and I really do keep this as a mandate, is that if I'm not on the water every 10 days somewhere in the world, I'm taking hostages," he says. To illustrate, we talk on a Wednesday while Greenberg is in Atlanta. Two days earlier, Monday, he'd been on his boat in New York. He's leaving for Doha tomorrow, followed by Shanghai where he has already planned a boat trip on the river there on Sunday. Two boat trips and 15,000 miles in less than a week. By the following Thursday, he's back on his boat in L.A. again.

"I don't just live on it," he says of the Hatteras. "I take it out. We zip it down to San Diego, and Santa Barbara, and over to Catalina. We've been down to Mexico."

Given the exhaustive workweeks (in addition to regularly contributing to "CBS This Morning" and "CBS Evening News," he has his own show on public television, "The Travel Detective," produces several TV shows, writes for multiple magazines, and has a syndicated radio show). Does he ever think about giving it all up and heading off over the horizon on the Hatteras? "If I thought about doing that, it'd be on a bigger boat than the Hatteras. I wouldn't be retiring. I'd just be using the boat to go cover my stories that way. The one five-letter word that has to come out of everyone's vocabulary is 'later.' I've had to be tough on taking my own advice, too. You'll sleep when you die, and I'm really happy to figure out a way to make it all work." 

— Published: October/November 2014


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