FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Marlin Bree, a freelance writer, lecturer and author of several boating books, has won the top award Boating Writer's International gives to a boating writer — The West Marine Writer's Award. Bree, of St. Paul, MN, received the award, consisting of a $5,000 check and a lucite tower trophy, from West Marine's Director of Marketing, Randy Barberis and BWI President Michael Sciulla, during the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show.

Bree's article, "A Solo Sailor Meets His Storm of the Century," published in June 2003 by The Ensign, tells the story of his encounter with a storm on Lake Superior during the summer of 1999. Weather conditions were benign when Bree set off for a solo holiday cruise aboard his 20-foot home-built sloop. Though he expected an easy run, he prepared the boat for the open waters of the big lake, closing hatches, tying lines and tightening rigging, setting marine radios, and buckling into a safety harness.

His precautions proved lifesavers as a powerful, "green storm" raced from shore with reported 110-mph winds resulting in one of the biggest blow downs ever recorded. Bree's lucid and stunning report of the battle to save his craft and himself provides a "pot-boiler" story and an account of survival when best-laid plans aren't enough.

Judges for the West Marine Writer's Award are associated with Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and have had careers in newspapers, magazines and broadcasting. They include: Richard J. Roth, associate dean and associate professor; Greg Stephan, adjunct lecturer at Medill; and Trish Richardson, a former reporter and editor and current senior director of development at the DePaul University College of Law.

The judges described the article as "A real page-turner. Compelling, engaging writing that is as fast-moving as the storm that engulfed this sailor on what started off as a clear, calm day on Lake Superior. The writing is vivid in detail about what the sailor was seeing, feeling and thinking — all of that providing insights and lessons for others who could as easily find themselves suddenly in the eye of a storm."

The judges cited two additional entries for special comment:

— Runner-Up: "The Measure of a Year," by Bernadette Bernon, published in Cruising World, February 2003. "This one takes the reader along on an adventurous, real-life cruise through Honduras, Panama and Columbia, where we discover information beyond boating itself: information about the cultures and people at every port along the way. A compelling, well-told

— Honorable Mention: "Father's Day Disaster," by Randy Scott, published in MotorBoating, October 2003. "Only eight of the 19 people aboard the Taki-Tooo survived when she capsized off the Oregon coast. This is their story, and the story of the importance of life jackets."

Bree's article was in the Seamanship, Rescue & Safety category earlier this year, one of 38 award winners in the 2003 Boating Writers International annual Writing Contest. The top three entries in each of 13 writing categories were automatically entered for this grand prize.

West Marine, Inc. is the nation's largest specialty retailer of boating supplies and apparel, with 365 stores in 38 states. In addition to its retail stores and Port Supply wholesale divisions, the company serves boaters in more than 150 countries worldwide through its mail order and Internet divisions. It maintains a number of resources for boating writers on its Web site,

BWI ( is a non-profit professional organization consisting of writers, broadcasters, editors, photographers, public relations specialists and others in the communications profession associated with the boating industry. Members include active marine journalists across the U.S., in Canada and around the world, supporting marine manufacturers and service entities, and associates in communication roles.

Editor's Note: Matt Trulio, Powerboat editor for is on the board of directors of Boating Writers International.