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Weather router Hack dies at age 59

Walter Hack specialized in powerboats and was the router for the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally

Walter Hack, who transformed a career as a corporate meteorologist into a private business as a weather router for recreational powerboaters, died Sept. 20 in Fernwood, N.J., of pancreatic cancer. He was 59.

Hack’s Ocean Marine Navigation Inc. provided weather routing for the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally in 2004, during which 18 trawlers and more than 100 individuals crossed the North Atlantic. His work through Pacific Asian Enterprises, which builds Nordhavn trawlers, included weather routing for the Nordhavn 40 that set a record circling the world in 2002.

“Walter was a rather shy, retiring guy,” says his friend Milt Baker, former owner of Bluewater Books & Charts in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “He never met personally any of his clients, with one exception.” That exception was Bruce Kessler, one of his first clients and somewhat of a pioneer in circling the world in a recreational power vessel.

A graduate of Villanova University and a Navy officer for five years during the Vietnam War, Hack used a graduate degree in meteorology to land a job in 1973 with Bendix Corp. in Teterboro, N.J., doing weather forecasting and routing for commercial shipping. Kessler came to Bendix in the early 1990s for weather routing for his circumnavigation aboard his 70-foot passagemaker, Zopilote.

“Bruce made it a point [to meet Hack],” Baker says. Kessler wouldn’t “let go” until Hack agreed to have dinner with him, he says.

When Bendix decided to get out of the weather business, Baker says, Hack took his Bendix customers and began his own business in 1994. He got new customers through “the old boy network,” Baker says. “He knew people who had Nordhavns and he was doing weather routing for them, and through that he met some of the principals in Nordhavn. One thing led to another, and they began using him exclusively.”

Hack wasn’t a boater, but he enjoyed boats, Baker says. When Hack and his wife of 36 years, Marcia, traveled to Bermuda (a favorite destination), “They always ended up down at the waterfront, looking at boats,” says Baker, who was among those who never met Hack.

Because sailors need wind and powerboaters prefer other weather conditions, weather routers tend to specialize in sail or power, explains Baker, who from 1995 until he sold his store in 2000 kept a daily clipboard with Hack weather forecasts for cruisers crossing from Florida to the islands. “He did mostly powerboats,” says Baker. “He was much more comfortable with powerboats.”

Hack is survived by his widow; a son, David Walter Hack; a daughter, Jennifer Hack Collins; and two grandchildren.

Ocean Marine Navigation Inc., (908) 322-1215, continues to offer weather routing services under the direction of Hack’s associate, Bob Jones, who was his stand-in for more than six years, and who assumed an increasingly greater role during Hack’s illness.