History

Marinalife - The 20 Year Story

FROM RESTORED BOATS TO PRINTED PAGES

By
Joy
McPeters

Creating Marinalife and making boating easy has been my passion for more than 20 years. Marinalife has been a huge part of my life, and the incredible road to its success is full of so many stories and wonderful people that it's difficult to encapsulate this journey into a few pages. But to celebrate two decades in print, I'll give it a try.

My husband Doug and I are life-long boaters and when we met, Doug owned and raced sailboats. I suggested we buy a powerboat, and we settled on a 1967 25-foot Owens that we could restore together. We fell in love with repairing old wooden boats, so we moved from the Owens (which won honorable mention at the Antique & Classical Boat Festival in St. Michaels) to a 1968 37-foot Egg Harbor. After a back-breaking year of restoration, the Egg Harbor was ready for its inaugural overnight cruise.

Joy in Bahamas | Marinalife | History

We chose Rock Hall on the Chesapeake Bay as our destination, because it was a straight shot from our home in Baltimore. During this first cruise in 1999, the idea for Marinalife materialized. I searched the Internet for marinas in Rock Hall, MD but came back with zero results. So, I called 411 (directory information) to get a number for a marina in Rock Hall, and after multiple phone calls and messages, we finally had a slip at a marina. Unfortunately, we knew nothing about the destination did it have a swimming pool, a restaurant on-site, any amenities?

During the cruise from Baltimore to Rock Hall, I told our friend Ed Kenny about my frustrations with finding and booking a marina. We wondered about a better way to locate marinas and make reservations. Hotel booking sites kept popping up, and we thought, Why not develop a central web portal for marina information and bookings similar to hotels.com?

After this trip, I joined forces with marketing veteran, Ed Kenny and IT expert, Tod Fishburne and original Board Member Hudson Parr to research whether Marinalife was a viable concept. We conducted a detailed survey and called thousands of marinas on weekends and after work, because we all had full-time jobs.

I hit the jackpot when George Bassett, long-time manager of Nantucket Boat Basin, agreed to spend time with me to critique the Marinalife idea. After receiving successful survey results and support from top-end destination marinas like Nantucket Boat Basin, we took the plunge and founded Marinalife in February 2000. Everything happened quickly after that, and I committed all my energy toward the fledgling company.

Doug and I decided that to understand marinas we should embark on a fact-finding mission. We knew if we took the long journey by boat it might take a year. I was too excited to launch Marinalife, so we jumped in the car and visited almost every marina from Hilton Head, SC, to Key West, FL. This ambitious undertaking taught us a lot about marinas, boaters and hotels on U.S. 1.

We returned to Baltimore, and I immediately began a campaign to finance Marinalife's launch. Our first office was in a dingy basement office building in Silver Spring, MD. When potential investors wanted to visit the office to make sure we were for real, we'd get worried, because we had a slight bug problem and flies often swarmed around visitors' heads. Despite the infestation, we got the funds we needed.

Our goal was to launch Marinalife at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show in the fall of 2000. We had our work cut out for us, and our team pulled all-nighters and worked weekends to get ready. Marinalife's original concept, which has not changed in 20 years, is to help boaters connect with the right marina using technology and concierge support. Our original product, the Slip Manager, was a web-based platform that allowed marinas to manage their slip inventory and accept real-time slip bookings.

During our launch at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, boaters understood the concept immediately and loved the idea of using one central web site to find marinas with detailed information and book slips.

On the other hand, marinas were slower to adapt, and some thought we were crazy. At the New York City Boat Show in the early years, our booth was next to Lorna Smith, manager of Treasure Cove Resort Marina in Riverhead, NY. To say that Lorna was skeptical is an understatement, but by day five of the 10-day show she started warming up to our concept. We ended up becoming great friends, and she's been a huge advocate for Marinalife throughout Long Island.

We had other early adopters who were essential to our success like Scott Zeien from Kingman Yacht Center, Mitch Nathanson from Coastal Properties, and Bill Flohr from Harbor East. And many loyal boaters spread the word about us such as Dick Riley, Richard von Lange and others.

Our initial marketing was very grass roots, so we relied on boaters' help. Doug and I also named all our boats Marinalife, so we could cruise the mid-Atlantic with our chocolate lab Cally (and later with our rescue poodle-mix Lucy Goosey), meeting marinas and boaters in the Chesapeake Bay and beyond while telling the Marinalife story. We had crazy adventures on our marketing trips. Once we went to Hyatt River Marsh Marina in Cambridge, MD, to meet the new general manager for the first time. Right after we docked, our dog Cally proceeded to throw up a whole fish at the manager's feet.

Marinalife Team Early | History
Barb, Joy, Anna and Olivia in Baltimore

We also faced challenges while growing Marinalife. First of all, the boating industry in 2000 was male dominated, and when I attended marina conferences, I was often one of the few women to sit on a panel or present. However, many industry leaders took me under their wing, mentored me and bolstered Marinalife, including Bill Anderson, President of Westrec, and Jim Frye who ran the marina association.Technology also presented an uphill battle. Our web-based product required a reliable connection, and many marinas still used dial-up internet, because that was often the only option in rural areas. Boaters had already adopted the latest technology from mobile phones and navigation systems on their boats, so they were the easy part.

We heard over and over from boaters that Marinalife gave them peace of mind on the water, because we offered reliable information in one location such as marina ratings and reviews from a trusted source. Back in 2000, reaching marinas was challenging, because most were family-owned and not yet consolidated by groups such as Suntex, Oasis and Safe Harbor Marinas.

But we were determined and continued to find ways to add value for the boaters. In 2001, we acquired Nauticard, a Chesapeake Bay-based membership and rewards program. Through this acquisition, Marinalife built a membership and loyalty program called the Cruising Club. Benefits included reservation services (now with hotels, marinas and rental cars), discounts on dockage and fuel, towing through our partner Sea Tow, and other value-added perks.

For the new Marinalife membership program, we needed to publish a directory of partner discounts and savings. The first version was a 6x9 black and white directory with no stories or advertising. After the first issue, a marina called and asked if they could place an ad in the next directory. Surprised, we said Are you sure? From there Marinalife magazine started and quickly expanded to full size with cruising stories, destination articles, marina spotlights and lifestyle content.

ML Crew at TrawlerFest | History | Marinalife
Marinalife and Oasis crew at TrawlerFest Baltimore

We're fortunate to have many long-time contributors such as Jeff Werner, Susan Elnicki Wade and Bob Arrington who tell stories that make Marinalife the successful boating lifestyle publication that it is today. Our hard-working team is the core of Marinalife and the reason we continue to grow. Barb Barrett, Karinne Crossland, Olivia Schleicher, Anna Barthelme, Tom Couteau, Joey Gensor, Julie Dael, Kalie Walter, Yesha Hayes and others worked long hours and weekends at our office on Key Highway handling reservations and hauling cases of magazines to boat shows.

During the years, we expanded the benefits and offerings to boaters and marinas, but our core mission of making boating as stress-free as possible has remained unchanged. Marinalife now connects with more than 500,000 boaters throughout the world via our web site, magazine, social media and partners.

In 2017, I was fortunate to meet Dan Cowens, CEO of Oasis, and we partnered with Snag-A-Slip, a marina reservation system, and immediately saw the synergy in bringing these companies together. In late 2017, Marinalife was acquired by Oasis, which created a corporate umbrella of three entities Oasis Management, Snag-A-Slip and Marinalife. Joining forces has positioned Marinalife for an amazing future, and we are excited about another 20 years!

For our 20th anniversary, I'm feeling nostalgic, so I pulled out some of my favorite covers as well as one of the Chesapeake Bay special edition covers.We hope you enjoy the memories.

Related Articles
Hurricane Hunters
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Hurricanes are nature’s grandest, most ferocious storms. They fascinate us, and they repel us. As a radio news and weather reporter in Miami for 30 years, my grandfather was obsessed with hurricanes. (Confession: I am, too.) Using colored pencils and a wooden ruler, he meticulously plotted their paths onto an enormous paper map tacked up on the wall of his study. It was a beautiful and mesmerizing record of these ferocious and complicated storms that somehow feel alive as they zigzag and wobble across the ocean like drunken sailors.

Science has improved dramatically since my grandfather’s era. A fleet of Earth- observing satellites providing real-time data now help thousands of scientists around the world answer three age-old questions: Where and when will the hurricane hit and how strong will it be? Modern forecasts are pretty accurate. Long gone is the day when a storm could sneak up and hit without any warning. Here are the stories of three men who helped pave the way.

Three Who Paved the Way for How We Track & Predict Hurricanes Today

Father Hurricane

When the regime of Queen Isabella II of Spain collapsed in 1868, many who supported her thought it wise to flee the country. Father Benito Viñes, a Jesuit priest and educator, was one of them. He emigrated to Cuba and found a position as director of the meteorological observatory in Havana. Shocked by the damage hurricanes regularly inflicted upon the island, he made it his mission to learn everything he could about them.

Within five years of arriving, Father Viñes knew more about hurricanes than any living person. He was the first to discover that the cloud pattern and the behavior of the wind well in advance of a storm could be used to track it accurately. Using this information, he designed the “Antilles cyclonoscope,” a kind of slide-rule that could estimate from a considerable distance the current position of a hurricane and calculate its likely path. Up until then, weather observers could tell when a hurricane was coming but not where it was going.

His first forecast was published in a Havana newspaper on September 11, 1875 — two days before an intense hurricane ravaged the southern coast of Cuba. Many lives were saved because of the timely warning. Throughout the 1880s he exchanged hurricane information with other weather observers across the Caribbean via telegraph. It was the first hurricane warning system and a model the United States. Weather Service later emulated it. Father Viñes was so well-respected that for a short time hurricanes were even called Viñesas and identified numerically. The pronunciation, however, was difficult for Americans, so the practice ceased. Father Viñes died in 1893.

The Aerial Acrobat

Len Povey

Len Povey was a self-taught pilot who flew with the new U.S. Army Air Service until 1922 when he left to pursue a more “colorful” career testing race planes, flying bootleg liquor and barnstorming over the Great Lakes as a headliner with a flying circus. His aerial acrobatics at the All-American Air Maneuvers show in Miami in 1934 caught the eye of a Cuban Air Force official who hired him to train Cuban pilots and serve as the personal pilot for Fulgencio Batista, the chief of the armed forces and later president and dictator of the island nation.

When Cuba’s Weather Service detected a storm intensifying several hundred miles east of the island in early September 1935, Len Povey volunteered to help pinpoint the location and movement of the storm. He jumped in his Curtiss Hawk II, an open cockpit biplane, and flew over the Straits of Florida where he located the hurricane farther north than predicted and moving northwestward toward the Florida Keys. The Cubans dispatched a warning, but it was too late. Later that same day, the storm roared ashore at Islamorada, FL, with winds of 200 m.p.h. and a 20-foot storm surge that drowned more than 400 people, mostly Army veterans who were building the Overseas Railroad.

Povey later joined the faculty at Embry-Riddle, a private Florida college focused on aviation and aerospace programs, where he was a tireless advocate for aerial hurricane patrols. However, the type of reconnaissance mission he envisioned didn’t happen until July 1943, when Air Force Colonel Joe Duckworth flew a plane directly into the eye of a hurricane churning toward Galveston, TX. Len Povey died in 1984. His obituary claimed he survived a mid-air collision and an encounter with a turkey buzzard that sheared off a portion of his plane’s wing.

The Data Cruncher

One of the most recognized voices on hurricanes in the late 20th century emanated ironically from a mile-high lab at Colorado State University. That voice was Dr. William Gray, a professor of tropical meteorology from 1961 until 2005.

Bill Gray grew up in Washington, DC, wanting to be a baseball player. He was a standout pitcher for George Washington University until he hurt his knee. During service in the Air Force, he turned to a career in climatology. He once told the Los Angeles Times he was inspired to study hurricanes after he flew a plane through one off the east coast of Florida in 1958.

Dr. Gray was an outlier when it came to hurricanes. He eschewed computer modeling, focusing instead on observational science: historical storm data, old maps featuring storm patterns, and statistics on wind speed, water temperatures and other meteorological factors. He was the first to determine that the intensity and frequency of storms in the Atlantic was cyclical and that likelihood of a hurricane reaching the East Coast of the United States depended on a variety of factors including the amount of rainfall in Africa and the impact of El Niño (the periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean that produces powerful winds that shear off the tops of storms developing in the Atlantic). In short, he figured out Mother Nature’s recipe for powerful storms.

In 1984 Dr. Gray unveiled the first Atlantic seasonal hurricane forecast and quickly became a hurricane superstar and media darling. He, however, considered his greatest legacy the students whom he taught and mentored, many of whom went on to become leaders in weather research and forecasting. He died in 2016.

Check out Marinalife's recent article about How Hurricanes Get Their Names.

Hurricane Tracking Apps for Your Phone

You don’t need all six of these apps, but we’re certain you’ll find one here that you like. All are available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

THE WEATHER CHANNEL

Rain radar, storm tracker and severe weather warnings help you prepare for hurricane season, as well as storms and heavy rain. Monitor live radar updates, an hourly rain tracker, storm radar news, and local weather forecast on the go. Free. Available in English and 30 other languages.

NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER DATA

Official data, custom graphics, updates and maps from National Hurricane Center (NHC) experts. Considered the grandparent of all hurricane trackers. Free. Available in English and French.

WEATHER UNDERGROUND

Reliable, real-time and hyperlocal forecasts combining data from 250,000+ personal weather stations and a proprietary forecast model provide an incredibly accurate local forecast. Interactive radar and customizable severe weather alerts. Free. Available in English and 30 other languages.

CLIME

Previously called NOAA Radar, this is a good hurricane tracker app, because it lets you overlay rain, radar or satellite images on top of the tracker. This gives you a detailed look at what’s happening in the storm. Add multiple locations to the map to get alerted if you’re in the path of a hurricane. Free. Multiple languages. Paid upgrade packages available.

RADARSCOPE

If you’re willing to spend some money on an app favored by weather nerds and professional storm chasers, then check out RadarScope. The learning curve is steeper than with others, but it features high-resolution radar data sourced from NOAA’s next generation radar and Doppler Weather Radar. Available in English, French, German and Spanish.

HURRICANE – AMERICAN RED CROSS

Monitor conditions in your area or throughout the storm track, prepare your family and home, find help and let others know you are safe. Free. Available in English and Spanish.

Read More
How Hurricanes Get Their Names
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Historically, hurricanes in the United States were referred to by their time period and/or geographic location, e.g., the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900. In the West Indies, they were named after the particular saint’s day on which the hurricane occurred. A colorful Australian weatherman named Clement Wragge began assigning Greek and Roman mythological names to Pacific cyclones in the late 19th century. He later began naming them after politicians he particularly disliked.

During World War II, U.S. Air Force and Navy meteorologists plotting storms over the Pacific needed a better way to denote tropical cyclones while analyzing weather maps. Many began paying tribute to their wives and girlfriends back home by naming the cyclones after them. In 1954, the National Weather Bureau officially embraced the practice of giving hurricanes women’s names. Because America led the world in weather tracking technology, the practice was adopted elsewhere.

In response to pressure from women’s groups, the National Weather Service and the World Meteorological Association began using both men’s and women’s names starting in 1979. More recently, the lists of names, which are predetermined and rotate every six years, have been further diversified to reflect names used in the many regions where tropical cyclones strike. Names of devastating storms, such as Katrina in 2005, are permanently retired.

Read More
The Fishy Side of Ocean City, MD
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With its sandy beaches and boardwalk attractions, Ocean City is the quintessential family summer vacation destination. It’s also a popular spot for sport fishermen and boaters traveling up and down the East Coast. But it wasn’t always that way. 

Ocean City was established on a barrier island called Assateague that extended 60 miles from the Indian River Inlet in Delaware to Chincoteague, VA. The section of the island belonging to the State of Maryland had no outlet to the sea, and early visitors came to bathe in the surf and take in the fresh ocean breezes. These travelers arrived by ferry boat from the mainland until 1876 when a wooden trestle train bridge was built. 

In its younger days, Ocean City was half resort town and half fishing village. The fishing was “pound fishing,” a style I’d wager few people today have ever seen. It was practiced originally by Native Americans and became popular in the 19 century along the East Coast from Maritime Canada to the Carolinas.

Pound fisherman used wide nets attached to wooden poles to catch fish. They drove these tall poles into the ocean floor about a half mile from shore, creating permanent structures called pounds. When fish entered the open end of a pound, they were then corralled by the nets and couldn’t escape. 

With no passage into the Atlantic, crews of Ocean City fishermen needed to launch 40-foot boats from the beach directly into the ocean and row out to the pounds. To harvest the fish, the crew would remove the ends of the nets from the poles and pull them up by hand. The fish were then brought back to shore, carted across the island, packed in barrels of ice and shipped via railroad to fish markets in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York.

It was laborious work, and for years local businessmen petitioned state and federal agencies to create a manmade inlet to connect the bay directly to more fertile fishing grounds farther off the coast.

A Fierce Storm Carves Out a New Inlet

In August of 1933, a hurricane came ashore in Norfolk, VA, and then tracked up the center of the Chesapeake Bay, bringing up to 10 inches of rain per day and flooding the back bays to the west of Ocean City. Oceanside, wind and waves destroyed homes, hotels and businesses on the town’s boardwalk. 

When the storm subsided, the railroad bridge and fish camps had been washed away, replaced by an inlet 50 feet wide and eight feet deep that formed when built-up water driven by high tides rushed east over the barrier island from the swollen back bays to the ocean. Mother Nature did what governments wouldn’t do, and it changed Ocean City forever.

It didn’t take long for officials to take advantage of this event and enlarge the inlet to ensure its permanence. As a result, a commercial harbor, marinas and docks began sprouting up around the inlet and across the bay on the mainland. Most fishing was commercial in those immediate post-hurricane years, but a few captains realized the recreational fishing potential in the shoals and fertile canyons offshore that were teaming with billfish and other species. During World War II, a lack of fuel and the presence of German U-Boats in the Atlantic virtually shut down offshore fishing. Things picked up after the war, and by the late 1950s and 1960s more and more fishermen were coming to Ocean City. 

But it was the white marlin that really put Ocean City on the sport fishing map. A challenging fish known for its beauty, the white marlin wows anglers with its speed and jumping antics. These fish travel in packs and are prevalent in Maryland waters in late summer and early fall. 

Sport fishermen have been chasing white marlins off the coast of Maryland since 1934 when President Franklin Roosevelt visited and caught two of the feisty billfish. To celebrate this exceptional fish and attract more attention to Ocean City, local fishermen launched the White Marlin Open in 1974. Fifty-seven boats entered that first year. By contrast, the 2021 Open drew 444 boats, more than 3,500 contestants – including NBA superstar Michael Jordan – and awarded $9.2 million dollars in prize money making Ocean City the undisputed “White Marlin Capital of the World.”

Ocean City today counts eight marinas, 20 fishing tournaments and numerous charter boats. According to the city council, boating and sportfishing are significant economic drivers bringing tens of millions of dollars annually to the local economy. 

So, whether you’re a hardcore sport fisherman, casual angler or a boater who simply enjoys a cocktail dockside at sunset, there’s something for everyone “Goin’ downy O, Hon!” as native Marylanders like to say about a visit to their beloved Ocean City.

Check Out Three World-Class OC Fishing Tournaments

Ocean City Tuna Tournament
July 8-10, 2022

Entering its 35th year, this has become the world’s largest tuna tournament with more than 100 participating boats and a record payout that eclipsed $1 million in 2021. 

White Marlin Open
August 8-12, 2022

First held in 1974, the WMO is inarguably the highlight of the Ocean City fishing tournament calendar. Now the biggest and richest billfish tournament in the world, the WMO drew 444 boats and 3,500+ contestants last year.

Poor Girls Open
August 17-20, 2022
Launched in 1994, this is the largest ladies-only billfish release tournament benefitting breast cancer research. Despite its charitable overtones, the tournament is all about the fishing, and the hundreds of boats and hundreds of competitors take it very seriously.

The Orange Crush: A Cocktail Born on the OC Docks

Orange Crush | Susan Elnicki Wade

The Orange Crush is a staple cocktail in most Maryland bars. It’s basically a screwdriver with a shot of triple sec and a splash of lemon-lime soda. The secret to a good one, though, is fresh-squeezed orange juice. And there’s no place better to try one than the Harborside Bar & Grill in Ocean City where the cocktail is said to have originated on a slow night in 1995 when a couple of bartenders were bored and playing around with a bottle of orange-flavored vodka.

Harborside is a wooden establishment whose backside opens onto the commercial harbor in West Ocean City. Gritty is the word that comes to mind. As you would expect, the sign out front boldly announces the home of the Orange Crush, as do newspaper articles framed on the walls and t-shirts for sale. Inside, people pound crabs and watch the Orioles play baseball. Ceiling fans whirl, and it smells of Old Bay and French fries. White lights strung across the ceiling add a festive touch. It doesn’t get more Maryland than that. 

To try your first Orange Crush, visit Harborside Bar & Grill, in Ocean City, MD, 410-213-1846.

Read More

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