Maine Island Trail Association Interview with Scott Woodruff
Scott Woodruff is a boat broker with East Coast Yacht Sales, heading the company’s offices in Camden and Belfast. In his spare time, Scott provides essential support to MITA’s boat donation program by evaluating boat donation offers and managing listings. We asked him to tell us how he came into the boating industry, why he supports MITA, and what makes boating on the Maine Coast so special.
How did you get into sailing originally? Were there any particular people, institutions or moments that inspired you?
Growing up we always had sailboats and from a young age I was out with my parents cruising between the Block Island Sound and Maine. I also went to Camp Kieve in Nobleboro Maine for several years where I spent quite a bit of time on their sailboats. As my interest in boating grew, my parents sent me to Viking Sailing Camp in Cape Cod where I really got to hone my sailing skills. From there I raced in college and decided after school I would like to have boating become a bigger part of my life.
When did you start to think you could make a career out of sailing? How did you get your start?
When I was living in Baltimore finishing up school, I kept walking past this property in Fells Point that had a canal full of sailing dinghies and a marina with quirky boats. After a while I worked up my nerve and walked in to find out what was going on. The campus was the Living Classroom, where they used boating as a way of connecting with inner city children by teaching them small boat building and sailing on their dinghies, their Chesapeake Bay pungy schooner Lady of Maryland, and their newly built skipjack, the Sigsbee. I ended up spending quite a bit of time there, starting off as a volunteer with the small boat building team and then taking on a sailing instructor and counselor role with their summer program.
What brought you back home to Maine? How is Maine different from some of the other places you worked?
While I was at the Living Classroom, I met my wife of 19 years, Alex, who was working for Teach for America at the time. After she finished her teaching job, we moved back to Maine, where I took a job in Camden selling charters on the Caribbean fleet of Sun Yacht Charter. That eventually led to a seven-year sales position in Tortola, then eight years in Ft. Lauderdale selling catamarans, which had become quite popular. But Maine was home and where we needed to be to raise our two daughters. Five years ago we made the move back and have never looked back.
What advice would you give to someone interested in getting into sailing or cruising on the coast of Maine?
I never really appreciated how challenging our coastline was until I started sailing in other parts of the world. There are few cruising grounds that are more beautiful and more challenging. We have excellent programs and teaching skippers along the coast that help cruisers get prepared and ensure their safety while cruising. Our weather changes quickly and you always need to be prepared for any eventuality. So, my advice is: utilize the amazing resources that we have and make sure you are always prepared for what may come while you are enjoying this magnificent coastline.
How has the industry changed during your career? What does the future hold for recreational boating and sailing in particular?
Our industry is fluid and ever-changing. When I first started in the industry sailing was still very strong and it seemed like that the sailing and power market had some parity. Over the last 10 to 15 years, though, we have seen a significant decline in sailing. A close look at the market shows that young people are still learning to sail at the boat club level, but there seems to be a drop in the move to keel boats. As a sailor this concerns me but it also gives me hope as new groups and organizations are popping up to keep keel boat sailing relevant. I see the current trend to power continuing but hopefully leveling off a bit as good sailboats offer increasingly better value on the pre-owned market.
What inspires you about the islands?
For some reason I have always been drawn to islands and the shared community that people that lived on islands enjoyed. My wife and I were married on Monhegan Island, my youngest daughter was born on the island of Puerto Rico, we spent 7 years living and cruising on and around the Caribbean Islands, and I still long to return to island life. In Tortola, we learned to thrive in an island setting, cherishing every minute of raising our young family there. Now that we are back in Maine, I still have an affinity for the islands and hope that someday my wife and I will retire to one of the islands of Maine’s coastline.
What do you see as the value of donating a boat to MITA?
MITA is an integral part of our costal community offering access to islands that we would never be able to visit without their stewardship. Selling your boat is tedious and often expensive; why not turn this into a win/win and donate your boat to MITA. We’ll take care of the hard part, and you’ll feel good that you are doing your part in getting the resources that MITA needs while also enjoying a tax benefit. Neither I nor East Coast Yacht Sales takes a cent from this process and the full profits from the sale of your boat make a direct impact on MITA.
What are the best parts of being a boat broker?
This is the easiest question of them all. I am not a born sales person and I am normally uncomfortable around aggressive sales people. What I am good at is developing relationships and working with boaters on their boating needs. I have never looked at my success in terms of the numbers of boats that I sell or the amount that I make from selling these boats. What I do pride myself on is the relationships that I develop with members of the boating community and how I am able to streamline often difficult processes to ensure they enjoy the lifestyle they want. So the short answer is that the best part of being a yacht broker is the amazing relationships that I enjoy with fellow members of the boating community.
To learn more about the boat donation program at MITA that Scott supports, and to view current listings, visit www.mita.org/boatsforsale.