Boatyard offering free Internet seminars

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Online technical advice, Q&A provided by Zimmerman Marine available to boaters in September

Online technical advice, Q&A provided by Zimmerman Marine available to boaters in September

Boaters who want to understand those seldom-seen but vital systems that keep their power- and sailboats moving can, beginning the first week in September, click on to a series of free Internet seminars. Online they can get technical advice about topics ranging from steering systems to shafts and props.

Zimmerman Marine Inc., a boatyard on Virginia’s Mobjack Bay, will “conduct” these classes with audio and animated video presentations for about 14 weeks, according to Steve Zimmerman, the company’s founder and president.

“The intent of these lectures is to be very technical and almost academic about it,” Zimmerman says. “It’s not advertising. It’s really a lecture.”

The voices giving the talks will be those of Zimmerman and his vice president of operations, Steve D’Antonio, whose name is familiar to participants in US Sailing’s Safety at Sea seminars in Annapolis, where he is a featured lecturer. Zimmerman says he and D’Antonio “have given a number of lectures over the years. We thought this would be something interesting to try.”

The first lecture in the series, which will run Sept. 2-16, will deal with the critical but easily overlooked subject of through-hulls. Boat owners who have registered on the Internet for the seminars will be able to ask questions by e-mail. Their questions will be posted online, along with the expert answers, Zimmerman says.

The second seminar, running Sept. 17 to 30, will consider deck and cabin structural issues. This will be followed by lectures dealing with a boat’s shaft, propeller and related issues; engine rooms; hull inspections; fuel systems; steering systems and, finally, from Dec. 10 to 16, windlasses and ground tackle.

“Our customers tend to be knowledgeable people, detail people who want to know those things,” Zimmerman says. While not all seminar attendees will use the information to work on their own boats, he says, “at the very least it would make you better informed for whichever yard is doing [the work] for you.”

The seminars are “not a marketing pitch for Zimmerman Marine,” he says. There is “nothing in there that markets our services.” But the purpose of the free lectures remains the marketing of the boatyard, he says.

“From a business point of view, we have learned over the years that the best way to [gain] a customer is to engage in a conversation with them about their boat, and that gives you an opportunity to show your level of expertise,” Zimmerman explains. “The question was: How can we engage people in that kind of conversation that benefits them and benefits us.” The answer, despite its far-flung reach, was the Internet, he says.

“We hope that it will show that these guys really know their stuff,” he says.

Zimmerman’s home, Mobjack Bay, is on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, just north of the York River. The yard is ideally located for snowbird cruisers, and about half of the company’s business comes from these itinerant boaters— both power and sail — who schedule annual work at the facility, he says.

“Our primary business is repairs and refits to cruising sailboats and power boats, mostly in the 35- to 60-foot range,” he says. The company also builds the Zimmerman 36 and Zimmerman 46 powerboats.

Boaters wishing to attend the Internet seminars can register by visiting http://www.zmiseminars.com .