Crossing The Bar

On February 11, 2015, at the age of 85, BoatUS founder, Richard Schwartz, passed away after a short illness. If Richard hadn't been who he was, hadn't had a vision and pursued it, hadn't been passionate in advocating for the rights of boaters, you would not now be reading this publication, would not be insured with BoatUS, would not be part of a membership organization that works tirelessly for the interests of boaters. Richard truly was the heart and soul of BoatUS. He defined who and what we were for almost 50 years, and he remained the Chairman of the Board and read just about every word that went into BoatUS Magazine right up until his death.

It all started more than 50 years ago, in the early 1960s, when Richard was invited aboard a friend's boat, and, soon after departing the dock, the Coast Guard stopped and boarded the vessel, and ticketed the owner for improper engine compartment ventilation — over which the owner had no control. This may have been the first time Richard used his soon-to-be-stock phrase, "That's outrageous!" with respect to boating. At the time, Richard was working as an anti-trust attorney after graduating from Yale Law School. He asked his boating friends if there was anyone fighting for their interests — and the answer was no. The idea of BoatUS was born, and the reality followed soon thereafter. A few years later, Richard's testimony to Congress proved crucial in the passage of the watershed Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971 which gave the U.S. Coast Guard the power to hold manufacturers accountable for certain safety standards — including engine compartment ventilation — and created the U.S. Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety, saving countless lives.

But he didn't stop with legislation. The BoatUS Marine Insurance program, started in 1967, offered the first recreational boat policy in clear, understandable language rather than the unintelligible, centuries-old, commercial ship language. When Congress directed the U.S. Coast Guard to stop providing routine on-the-water assistance in the 1980s, Richard created the largest on-the-water towing service in the nation, the red boats of the TowBoatUS towing fleet. He also created the nonprofit BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water, which, among other initiatives, provides a free Online Boating Safety Course, life jacket lending for children, and EPIRB rentals.

Richard is gone, and his loss is deeply felt. But Richard's legacy lives on in a strong organization that has been forged around his deep commitment to boat owners, and the employees who share Richard's passion for helping people enjoy their time on the water.  

— Published: April 2015

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