Brothers Rick and Ted Hood worked for many years for their old man, Ted Hood, who owned Hood Sailmakers, Little Harbor Custom Yachts, and Hood Yacht Systems, among other companies. For a period before the family sold its interests in The Ted Hood Companies 10 years ago, Rick was president of the corporation, based in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. After the sale, Rick moved on to pursue interests in web and graphic design, but stayed in touch as webmaster for the new parent, The Hinckley Company. His brother, Ted, and their younger brother, Bob, continued working for the yacht brokerage and boatyard divisions.
But the story doesn't end there, as the entrepreneurial Hood gene got a fresh boost from overseas. A few years back, Ted Jr. met Anne Vandromme, an entrepreneurial windsurfer from Brittany with years of experience as a professional crew, yacht agent, and, more recently, in creating and selling port guides. Then, in 2008, Ted decided to start a new yacht brokerage called Wellington Yacht Partners. Soon after, he decided to make things even more interesting. He and Anne got engaged.
Anne was working both in Europe and the States for another publisher and decided she needed more control of her products. Who could be a reliable partner and co-founder of Shorelink Publications? Voila! Enter Rick Hood, your typical bearded Western Massachusett-dwelling graphic designer...who sailed a Transatlantic race at age 17, picked up a Masters in engineering at MIT, and now lives part-time in Newport freelancing for marine companies.
Last week, I attended a party to celebrate the first year of Wellington Yacht Partners and, at the same time, the launch of Shorelink's first publication, the 2009 New England Yacht Insider's Guide. It's been an intense year for both start-ups, the former due to the state of the economy and the latter due to the pressure of creating a guide from scratch in time for the summer season.
In a matter of months, Anne interviewed more than 80 captains and crews of 60-plus yachts for the unique content of the book—the recommendations of professionals for their favorite restaurants, marinas, activities, things to do and other info that will come in handy when visiting more than a dozen of New England's primary ports. Meantime, Rick assembled photography from an outstanding group of marine photographers and laid out a design that's as enjoyable to look at as it is practical. Anne sold advertising, Rick finished the layout, and then as soon as it was off the press, Anne got in her car and delivered copies to all the recommended businesses from Mount Desert Island, Maine, to Westbrook, Connecticut.
Ted told me that in retrospect, any other time might've been a better time to start a new business than April 2008, but he remains positive about the business's prospects. Seeing the beginning of a turnaround in the brokerage business, he and his partners opened a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, office last winter. "I think now is an ideal time to expand your business," he told me, "and be ready to deal with what we hope will be some significant 'pent-up demand'...my three favorite words during a recovery and ones that rang true the last two downturns."
One of Ted's partners, Murray Lord, told me in no uncertain terms that there are still people interested in buying boats and that of a couple immediate deals they had in the works was a multi-million dollar closing for a client's new yacht in New Zealand. He wasn't saying there was easy money to be made in the business, but he wasn't spending any time singing the blues, either. As for the Shorelink team, there seems to be no looking back; Anne and Rick's first guide ended up in the black and, working with two authors in Europe, they already have a Western Mediterranean guide in progress.
As we were leaving, in the parking lot, we bumped into the guy who started it all. Age 82, Ted Sr. was pulling on his blazer and showing up to support his sons. Usually, he's a bit busy working on his own projects. If you check out his website at Ted Hood Yachts, you'll find his latest design under construction, the Expedition 66, a motorsailer that's succeeded the 55, which he launched a few years ago. But that's a story for another day. We'll leave it that seeing Ted was just another reminder to us that nobody in this family is slowing down.