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She Speaks 'Gearhead'

An innate curiosity for all things mechanical blended with a love of language empowers Lucy Berg to translate technical jargon into English.

Middle-aged brunet female in a blue shirt standing in front of heavy machinery.

Courtesy, Lucy Berg

She learned how to turn a wrench from her father, then the military trained her on heavy machinery. But it was the degree in English literature that set Lucy Berg apart and launched her new career in boating.

“Dad had a tank of a boat, but it had an old two-stroke,” she says of her introduction to the watery world. “You had to pump the fuel bulb to get the engine going. We spent a lot of time working on it and also spent a lot of time under the hood of his car, with me mostly watching, handing him tools when he needed them,” she explains. “So I grew up with a curiosity about how these things worked.”

Growing up near Knoxville, Tennessee, the 55-mile-long Fort Loudoun Reservoir on the upper Tennessee River was their main boating playground. And the fascination with engines and boats stuck with Berg right up until she decided to enlist in the U.S. Air Force.

“I had a choice of what I wanted to do, and I thought working on heavy equipment would be more challenging than something like automotive,” she says. “I found out the military has great training methods, from the theoretical to the practical, and the training is a collaborative effort, not a competition.”

As her military training progressed, she moved from turning wrenches to teaching others how to do so. Eventually, Berg found herself traveling the globe as a trainer with the Air Force. Her goal, however, was to get a college degree via the G.I. Bill – which she eventually accomplished at the University of Tennessee after her military discharge.


What’s one thing Lucy would like boaters to know? To be more careful about their fuel. “Probably three-quarters of the calls we get are fuel-related problems,” she says. “Our outboards are rock solid, but the fuel is not. The biggest mistakes people make is letting it sit all winter and failing to use the proper fuel additives.” — L.R.

“My degree in English literature might seem like a funny choice,” she says. “But that degree allowed me to combine my experience with machinery with communications. I began working for the military as a civilian, writing content for things like Mine Resistant APV [ambush-protected vehicle] technical manuals, so our men and women in the military could keep them running out in the field.”

After starting a family, Berg throttled back on work. When her three kids hit school age and she had more time, she felt the itch to get back into the technical world.

Yamaha marine had a job opening for a tech trainer,” she says. “It was quite a change going from giant diesels to in-line four-stroke engines and learning the ins and outs of outboards.”

But before long she was teaching other engine techs how to troubleshoot and maintain outboards. After becoming a supervisor, Berg moved to the technical marketing team and once again began combining wrenches with writing. This time around, fun on the water was part of the mix, and she found herself collaborating with everyone from engineers to product management as they introduced new outboards to the boating public.

Middle-aged woman wearing a navy ballcap, navy jacket and red life jacket driving a vessel on the open waters.

Lucy enjoys one of the perks of working for Yamaha – spending the day with her family on Lake Allatoona aboard one of the company’s loaner boats. Courtesy, Lucy Berg 

“I’m still doing what I love,” she says, “which is communicating to help others understand what’s going on inside that motor. That it’s not just a block of metal when you know what’s going on inside there.”

And there’s a big perk: Yamaha’s “loan pool,” which consists of a half-dozen or so boats, including pontoons and jet boats, on Lake Allatoona, near the company’s Kennesaw, Georgia, headquarters. “I love that I can ‘check out’ a boat and enjoy a day on the water with my kids,” she says. “We tool around the lake, check out the coves, and go swimming. My boys love it when I hit the throttle and they feel the wind in their hair – my heart just glows when we’re all out on the lake together.”

Berg says her next goal is to attain the Yamaha Master Technician rank, something she’s just a few classes (and tests) away from.

“We’ll see where I go from there,” she says, “but I can’t believe how lucky I am to play with new outboards and boats all the time, and then work with everyone, from customers to builders to techs. It really is a very special ­opportunity.

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Lenny Rudow

New Boats, Fishing & Electronics Editor, BoatUS Magazine

Top tech writer and accomplished sports fisherman, BoatUS Magazine Contributing Editor Lenny Rudow has written seven practical boating books, won 30 awards from Boating Writers International — many for his marine electronics articles – and two for excellence from the Outdoor Writers Association of America. He judges the NMMA Innovation Awards, and is Angler in Chief at FishTalk, his own Chesapeake-based publication. A great teacher and inspirational writer, Lenny hosts many of BoatUS Magazine’s very-popular how-to videos, which can be found on the BoatUS YouTube channel, or at