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Team Approach to Seminars Introduced at TrawlerFest


We tried something new at TrawlerFest-Baltimore, a team approach to longer seminars, and it worked well, so we're going to keep doing it at TrawlerFests in Lake Park, Florida, and Anacortes, Washington.

Our most challenging was the diesel seminar, which involved eight experts teaching 39 students over two days. One of them was Technical Editor Nigel Calder, shown above conducting a hands-on electrical troubleshooting exercise at TrawlerFest-Baltimore. He's the guy that looks like he's surrendering.

I must confess, as a print guy my main focus has always been on the magazine. Yes, over the years I’ve been a TrawlerFest speaker, going back to the days before we even owned the event. But once I took over this editor’s job, and I was learning how to handle the magazine workflow, TrawlerFest seemed like a distraction, something executed by others with my role a cameo.

Not any more.

Beginning earlier this year, we decided to “reinvent” TrawlerFest, and I was asked to devise the seminars and choose speakers. We had come to believe our seminar series had become stale and reasoned that these kinds of decisions should be made by someone with cruising as well as editorial experience, as opposed to marketing or events staff.

That's when we came up with the team approach. Developing the engine course with Calder was Troubleshooter columnist Steve Zimmerman and reps from three engine makers and a maintenance monitoring company. Calder wrote the book on diesel engines (Marine Diesel Engines), and Zimmerman owns four boatyards in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.

We’d never done this as a group before, so there were some amusing moments. For one, Calder related some amusing anecdotes about how his inspired approach to engine repairs sometimes had gone awry, resulting in explosions! As the hours went by, the death toll for machinery mounted without a hint of embarrassment on the part of my lead presenter. That’s when I realized:

Blow up one engine, and you have a screw-up. Blow-up a bunch of engines over a lifetime and it’s research.

Feedback on our diesel course “professors” was overwhelmingly positive with this from one attendee:

“Nigel was excellent I believe he presented a great deal of information but did not drown us in the unimportant stuff. His presentation seemed to get at the ‘meat’ of the issue directly. Thus, he was able to cover more. He was entertaining and repeated: ‘You can do this’ many times which I found very supportive.

“Steve, your presentation was equally solid. I liked your approach from the prop forward and it was great to hear what shipyards see as the major problems.”

As I write this, the diesel team is planning its seminar for TrawlerFest-Lake Park (Florida, Jan. 20-25), and we’ve got some refinements that were not quite possible in Baltimore. The Museum of Industry, where we held our Baltimore classes, is a pretty cool venue, but as I was reminded, it is “first and foremost a museum.” Okay, so no coffee in class, let alone engine disassembly, both of which our attendees very much wanted. Lake Park, Florida, which runs Jan. 20-25, promises to be different in that we control the venues.

Besides the sold-out diesel course, we had several very popular talks about the Bahamas, the Great Loop and the ICW. We had a positively scary expose of the potential tax consequences of cruising the East Coast in a new boat.

One of my favorite TrawlerFest events was Dinner & a Movie Night, which featured the Emmy-winning documentary The Other Side of the Ice about a 2009 Northwest Passage transit in a Nordhavn. It was a thrill for me because we had the boat’s owner and documentary filmmaker Sprague Theobald with us as MC. When the lights came back on, Theobald took questions from the audience. We’re hoping to repeat this performance at TrawlerFest-Anacortes in Washington next May.

Theobald’s film is a vicarious thrill, but it may well convince you to point your bow southward once you break your bonds to civilization. And it may also convince you to think twice before you take on your daughter’s boyfriend as crew.

So whether you’re looking for the nuts-and-bolts information to begin the cruising phase of your life or inspiration to cross an ocean or see a glacier or two, our reinvented TrawlerFests are designed to provide fodder for your dreams. See you at Lake Park, Anacortes and on the water.