Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Harbor Report: Where there's a Wills, there's a way

Harvey Wills of Western Marine Marketing

By Len Bose
November 28, 2014 | 1:43 p.m.

This week, I had a chance to catch up with my good friend Harvey Wills. Wills and his wife, Patty, along with his son, Whitney, run Western Marine Marketing, which represents everything marine-related from vinyl flooring products to Pettit boat-bottom paint.
I met Wills my first day polishing boats in 1979, when I ran into him at the local marine hardware store. I asked someone in the cleaning product aisle which wax he would use on his boat. After a couple of quick questions, he handed me the best cleaner for my task and went on his way.
Wills' grandfather Wes Smith of Newport Beach co-founded the Southern California Yachting Assn. His father, Harry Wills, owned a boat-building business in Santa Monica and became one of the first distributors of Pettit boat-bottom paints. The family had a 28-foot Herreshoff, which they would use for weekend racing or trips to Catalina.
Harvey Wills' first job was maintaining boats in Santa Monica before there were slips and boats were kept on moorings. Wills then went to work for the Newport Supply Co. in Santa Monica and eventually moved to Newport Beach to run a store for the same company on Mariners Mile. He then was picked up by the Andrew Brown Co. and started selling different boat-bottom paints.
In 1978, Wills started Western Marine Marketing.
"When my feet hit the ground every morning, I am calling on marine distributors, marine dealers, fuel dock owners and boat yards," he said enthusiastically about his daily routine. "Every six weeks, I drive to Northern California and visit every shipyard from here to Napa."
Over the years, I have seen Wills at every boat show I have ever attended, and we have always shared our observations on the marine industry.
"Boat shows are still a great venue for face-to-face contact and a chance to touch and feel the boats and receive information on what product best fits your needs," Wills told me.
When it comes to bottom-paint questions, Wills is my go-to man. He has seen everything at every shipyard up and down this state and across the country.
When I asked him how the marine industry was doing, he replied, "The level of business is growing. We might be a bit slow in California. The market seems to generate from the East Coast to the West Coast. People are buying boats again."
I thought it would also be a good idea to ask Wills about some local harbor issues. "The most important issue is making sure our harbor is user-friendly," he said.
We then went on to talk about the fact that we only have one launch ramp in Newport Beach.
"It's a nice facility," he said. "It's a great facility, but on a holiday, it's a mess over there. You can wait over a half an hour to launch a boat."
We agreed that is not an indication of a friendly harbor. In fact, the owners of the launch ramp have been known to just close the ramp during special events and tell people to go to Huntington Harbour or Dana Point to launch their boats.
We also talked about stacking boats in large racks like at the Newport Harbor Shipyard and the importance of the mooring being affordable for people to be able to own a boat.
Harvey and the rest of the Wills family are among the best folks in town, and I always look forward to running into them.
Sea ya.

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist

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