The founder and chairman of Southern Boating magazine, George Lyle “Skip” Allen, died on March 23 after a short battle with lung cancer. He was 84.
Mr. Allen was remembered by family and friends as a man with a cause, and that cause was always recreational boating. In his monthly column, “View from the Pilothouse”, Mr. Allen took on regulations that seemed overbearing, rallied support behind issues, and shared stories of his family’s life on the water.
Mr. Allen began his publishing career in New York City in the 1960s with Charles Chapman at Motorboating, later called Motor Boat and Sailing. He moved to Florida in the late 1960s to work as vice president of sales and marketing at Bertram before starting Southern Boating in 1972.
“He was active with a pen,” said his son Skip Allen Jr., publisher and editor of Southern Boating. “He was single-minded about his passion; it was all about yachting.”
Mr. Allen used his column to oppose what he considered excessive laws on recreational boaters, including speed zones introduced to protect manatees and mandatory personal flotation devices (PFDs).
“Regulators picked on the weakest link instead of bigger impacts from commercial, the Navy, the cruise industry,” Allen Jr. said. “It’s like the PFD regulations. They would make everyone wear a PDF at a formal party on the dock in gowns.”
To Mr. Allen, boating was about people, how they interacted with boating, how their boating was affected by rules, and how they were treated by authorities.
“He was easy to talk to, but could be a curmudgeon,” his son said. “He had a crusty exterior but there was a softer heart in there.”
Mr. Allen had long-time friends and many of his closest were boating pioneers such as Jim Wynne, a prominent boat designer and speed racer. Sparkman & Stephens broker Peter Grimm met Allen in 1961 at the New York Boat Show.
“Skip was honorable, a characteristic that was more prevalent back in those days,” Grimm said.
“If he knew you and liked you, it was a handshake. We never had a contract, just a handshake, and that is not typical today.”
Mr. Allen’s magazine weathered several recessions, but even so, he often looked for ways to help others.
“During those times, it was not uncommon for him to call a business that was having a hard time and say, ‘Look, I know you can’t afford to advertise right now. How about you send us over an ad and we put it in to see if it helps generate a few calls,’ “ Allen Jr. said. “Since he died, lots of people have said, ‘Your dad did so much for me when I was starting out.’ “
Mr. Allen and his wife of 14 years, Helen, lived aboard their 58-foot trawler M/Y Press on Regardless at Lauderdale Yacht Club in Ft. Lauderdale and spent a lot of time socializing.
“The boat was an open house,” Helen Allen said. “He loved to talk about yachting with anyone.”
“Everyone knew him,” said Grimm, who stopped by the boat four or five times a week. “He was a fixture on the waterfront, at shows, race weeks, regattas. Whether janitor or president, they all knew him.”
A creature of habit, Mr. Allen was always in khaki pants, top-siders with no socks, a golf-style shirt and aviator glasses that he wore both indoors and out.
“He never wore a watch or wedding ring, he didn’t want to be fettered,” his wife said.
His strong beliefs about boating carried through to the way he ran Southern Boating. He never had partners — and said he never would — and the company never took out a loan. And he has a policy against writing boat reviews because, “a magazine that accepts revenue for profit won’t write unbiased results,” his son said.
“He said, ‘Who are we kidding? This is a recreational sport. It’s for fun. You’ll never read a bad boat test,’ ” Allen Jr. said of his father. “Dad said, ‘What we are doing is to benefit the builder and to share the fun.’ “
Bottom line: Mr. Allen wanted people to enjoy boating as much as he did.
Besides his wife and son, Mr. Allen is survived by daughters Cathryn Allen-Zubizarreta, Jody Lewis, and Paige Conlan; son George; and seven grandchildren. His previous wife, Joanne, and son Frederick George “Rick” Allen predeceased him.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Bahamas Air-Sea Rescue Association (BASRA) at basra.org.
Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at email@example.com.