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By Dorie Cox
Jane Buffington, formerly a partner with Fraser Yachts and one of the founders of the International Superyacht Society, died on Nov. 29 from heart congestion complications. She was 90.
Mrs. Buffington became an apprentice at Fraser Yachts’ San Diego office in 1975, according to Diane Byrne, editor of Megayacht News. Mrs. Buffington opened Fraser Yachts’ first Florida office and was considered “the catalyst for Fraser’s incredible growth,” according to the company.
In 2005, the International Superyacht Society (ISS) created the President’s Award to honor dedication to the supe
ryacht industry and the ISS. Mrs. Buffington was its first recipient, it is awarded sparingly.
Mrs. Buffington’s first two yacht sales as a broker with Fraser were Feadships, at a time when there were not many women in the field. She brokered the construction of M/Y Annaliesse, an 85m yacht, in 1999. She worked with Fraser founder David Fraser as partner and was instrumental in the sale of the firm in 2003, according to Byrne.
Vanessa Stuart, administrator at ISS, said Mrs. Buffington helped many people, including herself, get jobs and was an advocate for women in the field.
“We got off vessels and I needed to do something else, not back on boats,” Stuart said. “All she said was, ‘I have something in mind for you’.”
Stuart then got a call from American Yacht Institute, but said she didn’t return it because she was shy. Stuart eventually became one of the lead instructors at the school.
“She must have seen something in me I didn’t see,” Stuart said with a laugh. “She forced me into doing
stuff. You didn’t want to be on her bad side.
“She was a real entrepreneur, even to the end,” Stuart said. “She never slowed down.”
Yachting Matters honored Mrs. Buffington as “Lady at the Top” in an article in the early 2000s.
“She was a very positive, professional influence,” said DJ Parker, charter broker and founder of Neptune Group. “I would say she was a role model.”
Parker was working as a captain in the Caribbean when she met Mrs. Buffington at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in the early 1990s.
“She was somebody that I knew if I had a problem, she would help and collaborate,” Parker said.
And she had a tremendous sense of humor, Parker said.
“The last time I saw her she was joking when I asked how she was doing: ‘I’m 88 and I’m near the gate’,” Parker said. “She had her chin up and shoulders back. I am proud of her.”
One of things Parker said she admired most about Mrs. Buffington was her passion. If she had an opinion about something, she wouldn’t hesitate to speak up about it.
“Jane had a radiance about her of professionalism,” she said. “I think she was one of those folks that helped many captains in one way or another.”
That sentiment was echoed on Facebook with posts including one from Norma Trease, of Salamanca Marine.
“She mentored literally hundreds of crew, brokers, and fostered their careers,” Trease wrote.
The ISS stated that “her indelible mark has shaped the modern sophisticated superyacht industry and is most keenly etched in the career paths of crew and women” and said she established protocols for the modern yacht brokerage firm.
Colleague and friend of Mrs. Buffington, Jim Gilbert, former president of the International SeaKeepers Society and president of Christensen Shipyards, commented on her impact.
“I know of few people who lived richer, more dramatic, and more meaningful lives than Jane Buffington,” Gilbert stated in a press release. “Besides being a cornerstone icon, a leader and a trail-blazer for women in our industry, Jane was also a true old soul who for every day of the three decades of our friendship lived with a deep and sometimes brutal honesty, a dogged realism and a touching care for everyone she knew.”
In lieu of flowers or gifts, contributions in Mrs. Buffington’s name may be made to the International SeaKeepers Society at www.superyachtsociety.org.
Click here to read more from Megayacht News.
Click for books by Mrs. Buffington.
Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.