A MAN WITH A PLAN
This boat-loving, Jaguar-driving, government-fighting 84-year-old warrior is retiring this summer.
Sort of. Our editors sit down with the founder of BoatU.S.
Richard Schwartz, enjoying one of his favorite places on earth.
WITHIN FOUR DECADES, Richard Schwartz has changed the face of American recreational boating. Through his efforts and those of BoatU.S., the membership organization he founded in 1966, boats are built to more stringent safety standards, boaters’ rights are defended from coast to coast
through the BoatU.S. Government Affairs office, and boaters who have problems
with boat and product manufacturers have an advocate, BoatU.S. Consumer
Protection, that will go to bat for them.
Richard, tell us about your
first boating memory.
I tell people I was born in the bilge of a boat,
but I really wasn’t. I remember going out in
a rowboat in Bronx Park with my dad, little
sister, and brother, and loving it. After that, I
began looking for friends who owned boats
and hitched rides whenever they’d invite me.
He and his team also created the nonprofit BoatU.S. Foundation For Boating Safety and
Clean Water; BoatU.S. Marine Insurance, one of the largest and most comprehensive marine-insurance operations in America; TowBoatU.S., the on-the-water towing company with over
300 locations and 600 boats all over the U.S.; and BoatU.S. Trailer Assist, offering unique
roadside-assistance service for trailerable boats.
Richard is 84 now, full of energy, and still as engaged and proud as he was 47 years ago,
particularly whenever he meets BoatU.S. members — at boat shows, in airports, or when
he and his family are out on the water. He comes into his office in the BoatU.S. Alexandria,
Virginia, headquarters every weekday, as smartly dressed as ever, a jaunty handkerchief always
in his jacket breast pocket. Recently, our BoatU.S. editors had fun sitting down with him for
an intimate conversation, after he made the announcement that he was “retiring.”
You rarely talk about your
childhood. What was it like?
I grew up in Mount Vernon, New York. My
father had a gas station and tire shop next
to a butcher shop owned by an African-
American family. Their son Luther was my
best friend. I became part of my dad’s busi-
ness as soon as I could pump gas. By the
time I was 10, I was the fastest tire changer
in town. My dad worked from sunup to
sundown while my mother worried mostly
about my brother Lenny, who died at 13