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Bruce Kessler

A few weeks ago a mentor of mine, Bruce Kessler, sailed off into the heavens and I’m still feeling the pull of his powerful wake. He left behind an indelible impact on more people than he would ever know. If we are lucky, we realize it when we meet people in our lives who make a difference. Parents, teachers and friends are often the source of encouragement and inspiration.

I have been very fortunate to live much of my life around boats.  The seaside community is filled with a wide variety of interesting people.  The common bond is the joy of floating, whether pulled by sails or pushed by engines.  People who like to get out on the water seem to have a perspective that includes the sharing of experiences and a mutual fondness for learning.

Bruce Kessler, and his wife Joan, became parental figures for me in the business world of trawlers. We first met in the early part of this century when I started working for Nordhavn in Dana Point. Our relationship became much closer over the last decade.

Bruce Kessler

The Kessler’s participated (as visitors) in many of the boat shows and TrawlerFests I attended as a broker.  Always approachable, always inciteful, and fun to be with, Bruce became my trawler world father figure and I even called him ‘Pop’.

I can’t name anyone else I have known who has lived such a rich life.  His successes were not hyped.  His innate determination and inquisitive drive led him to celebrity in several fields.  Wikipedia does a good job of summarizing Bruce’s accomplishments, but he was so much more than an amazing achiever.  Bruce was a very caring person who would do anything for anyone from long-time friends to total strangers.  He loved to talk about his interests; cars, fishing, voyaging, but never from the position of the master that he was, but always conversationally with the listener as an equal.  The generational attitude of being humble was one of his strengths, he was just happy to be with people who shared his interests and his enthusiasm.

Bruce and Joan Kessler are pioneers in offshore cruising. They went on a fishing trip aboard their modified Delta marine trawler and set the wheels in motion for a new breed of power cruiser. Never seeking attention for their incredible boating accomplishments, they found acclaim and admiration from all who they interacted with – something I grew to appreciate even better at TrawlerFest events across the country. I was honored to join Bruce in several Cruisers Round Tables where his magnetism always attracted an enthusiastic response. We often met for dinner and the Kessler’s always welcomed my clients to join in.

Pam and I  also now look back at some amazing summer weeks in Maine with them aboard their Northern Marine trawler, Spirit of Zopilote.   There is a magical bond when you become  shipmates. Living aboard even for a short visit includes planning, time underway to talk, meals for more conversations and simply enjoying the ride.

At the recent Anacortes Trawler Fest we honored Bruce to start out our Friday afternoon Cruisers Round Table. This seminar was created by Bruce as a way to help out people who were new to the trawler realm. His concept; enlist a panel of experienced cruisers and encourage the audience to ask any questions they have about cruising and trawlers.  This has become a popular and lively event at TrawlerFests across the country and it will continue on in Bruce’s spirit.

After Bruce’s passing there have been many well-deserved tributes published online throughout  the numerous arenas he touched through his life.  It was my privilege to be able to speak at Bruce’s Celebration of Life at the Del Rey Yacht Club where so many amazing stories were told.   I’d like to share a short excerpt of my homage to Bruce (and Joan) here:

A life well lived.

What else could any of us ask for? 

How about this?

Grow up in Beverly Hills and become an international race car champion, then a movie and television director, fall in love and marry a movie star, become one of the most creative offshore sports fisherman of all time and later upend the recreational boating industry by converting a commercial fishing hull into a long range motor yacht to catch marlin all over the world and, in the process, end up being one of the first power boaters to circumnavigate the globe.

That is a broad overview and short summary, that merely points to an incomplete sketch of Bruce’s life story.  If you knew Bruce, you heard (or became part of) some of his stories.

Bruce’s departure is a reminder to me that there are special people in every life who make a difference.  We never truly know what we have until it is gone.  Remembering Bruce brings home the important message to me that the journey is often more fulfilling than reaching the destination.

Thank you, Bruce for your innovations, kindness and genuine friendship. The times we shared on the docks or at the dinner table are now everlasting memories.  No one will miss you more than Joan, but all who met you, will never forget you.

One of my favorite phrases that Bruce would often say was “Not to worry”.  That will now live on with me as fatherly advice and words to live by.