Editorial — A Well-Earned Retirement for a Boating Advocate

After 47 years of heading up Boat Owners of the United States — better known as BoatU.S. — organization founder and chairman Richard Schwartz has decided to retire. Schwartz, now 83, has been a major influence in the boating world, and the pastime is better for his efforts.

Schwartz graduated from Princeton, studied at Yale Law School and became an antitrust attorney. So, how did he end up helping to start a boaters’ organization?

It all started with one boat ride.

One day in the early 1960s, Schwartz took a ride on a friend’s boat. But after they left the dock, his friend was stopped and given a ticket for having “improper engine compartment ventilation” — even though the fault was in the construction of the boat, not the way it was being operated. His friend explained that there was nothing they could do but pay the fine. Schwartz was shocked that no group existed to represent the interests of recreational boaters — leaving boaters without an advocate to represent their concerns before state and federal government representatives, regulatory agencies and the marine industry.            

Schwartz decided to do something about it — and the result was BoatU.S. Schwartz went on to testify in support of the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971, which gave the Coast Guard the power to hold manufacturers accountable for certain safety standards — including engine compartment ventilation — and created the Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety.

BoatU.S. went on to attract one-half million boating members, who could turn to the organization for a variety of services, along with its strong lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C.

Boaters’ concerns and recreational boating issues would never again be ignored by government, agency regulators or manufacturers, even though there were many battles ahead to get representatives to support boaters’ interests. It’s hard to ignore a half-million people, united in a single goal — especially when they are also voters.

At the beginning of this month, Schwartz turned over day-to-day operational duties at BoatU.S. to president and board member Margaret Bonds Podlich. However, Schwartz will remain as chairman of the board of directors and the Boat U.S. National Advisory Council.

Thanks to Richard Schwartz for nearly a half-century of support for boating — and boaters. We wish him a happy retirement, and we salute his countless efforts on behalf of recreational boaters nationwide.

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