Sea Ray owners gather for the annual Dominic Aunnunziata Memorial Rendezvous
What do a banker, a dentist, a tech wizard, an owner of a car dealership, the owner of a major pharmaceutical company, a lighting company mogul (and others) have in common? A passion for boating! I had the pleasure of meeting all of them at the Dominic Annunziata Memorial Rendezvous last summer in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
I attended the annual gathering with approximately 60 Sea Ray owners from North Carolina, New York, New Jersey and beyond, and last but not least, our Sea Ray Factory Captain, Rusty Higgins. Until that point, my main interaction with Sea Ray owners had largely been at boat shows or on my home docks in Tennessee — none of which prepared me for what I experienced in Atlantic City. This was a true window into the lifestyle of a fleet of passionate boaters, bonded by a love for the water.
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Captain Rusty, he is the Sea Ray factory captain with more 30 years with the company. He started in manufacturing, then customer service — evident in his interactions and depth of knowledge — and is now our tried-and-true captain. I wasn’t surprised by the number of accolades shared with me about Rusty and the customers’ experience with him. He has played a key role in how owners feel about Sea Ray and the confidence they have in the knowledge and support available to them. Rusty has attended this event for the past several years, and if I hadn’t known that in advance, it would have been made obvious by the countless hugs he received throughout the weekend.
Dr. Ron Lumachi, a prominent New Jersey dentist, and James “Rick” Boyles, a serial entrepreneur (currently president of Computer Networks Inc), were the hosts for this exciting event weekend. Their 8 years of hosting this event were readily apparent in how smoothly and flawlessly everything unfolded. Even a few rain showers couldn’t put a damper on the energy surrounding the event. In fact, the rain encouraged attendees to gather for docktails on one of the group’s many Sundancers, laughing and talking under the cockpit canvas.
The setting for the event centered around F-Dock, at Farley State Marina, located just outside of Atlantic City’s famed Golden Nugget hotel. Even with the glow of the casino lights, the real party was on the docks.
This annual gathering is a memorial for Dominic Annunziata, a fellow Sea Ray owner who passed away a few years ago. Rick and Ron met Dominic on Club Sea Ray, one of the online communities they participate in — in fact, this forum was the starting point for their offline community. One owner compared the forum to a dating website of sorts, except that instead of looking for love connections, owners are there to find friends who share the same hobbies and passions.
Over time, the event has grown from a few attendees at a group member’s home marina into a regional Sea Ray gathering that folks look forward to all year long. Ron commented, “Some people spend money on a big vacation once a year; for my family, we vacation every weekend in the summer on our Sundancer. This weekend is just a highlight on the summer vacation series.”
As a representative of Sea Ray, I was greeted with cameras, an event t-shirt, and a nametag carefully prepared, in advance, with my name on it. My goal for attendance was to make sure that our owners felt love from the brand, and I was surprised with the level of appreciation and care shown toward me. Boating has brought together these likeminded people for a lifestyle experience that has transcended the years.
Some of the attendees have been boating together for so long that their children have literally grown up together. I met one young man, Cory, whose father bought his first boat when he was a toddler; Cory is now 17. He spent time with the other 20-somethings in the group who he has known and “summered” with his whole life.
This weekend was about boating, kinship, friendship and fun. It struck me that “fun” is a word that is so small yet means something so large. Perhaps “fun-alicious-expialidocious” would be a better descriptor for the smiles on the faces of the boaters I met in Atlantic City. It was a chance to meet new friends, reconnect with old friends, and experience the feast affectionately known as the “table of the gods,” a family-style potluck buffet — fitting for an event that felt so much like a family reunion.
If this sounds like exactly the type of weekend vacation you have been looking for, now is your chance. Click here to see what you can expect at this year’s Atlantic City Rendezvous and click here to learn how you can register to attend.
Written By: Shelby Kirby, Sea Ray Director of Marketing