Tow Bitts Editor Retires after Long Career in Maritime Journalism

By Jenny Rose Ryan

In the past 19 years, the maritime industry has changed a lot. Foss Maritime has continued to shift with the industry, grow the business and expand its geographic footprint and service offering. In that time, this newsletter has changed as well; going full-color in 2006 and increasing to six issues per year. One thing that has stayed the same, Bruce Sherman leading the way as editor, reporter and cataloger of all things Foss over the years.

Bruce Sherman, right, with Foss President and CEO John Parrott at a recent company social gathering.

From his first issue at the helm in spring 2000, Sherman has covered the projects, changes and fleet of Foss like he once covered the beats he was assigned as a reporter. After nearly 20 years, Bruce is a master at telling interesting stories of the maritime industry’s work and its people. But now, with the publication of this issue – his 88th– Sherman is officially retiring from his maritime reporting duties.

Covering this changing landscape has come naturally to Sherman, who was born into a newspaper family in Newport, Rhode Island, and got his start in the region at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He first worked at the family business, the Newport Daily News, after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in architecture. Then, he moved to Seattle in 1976 and started at the night desk at the PI – calling law enforcement agencies all over the state to get details on cases, and otherwise tending to the big news that happened overnight.

“It was a great job for a 25-year-old,” he said.

From there, he moved to the business page, then the marine beat. In total, Sherman spent 13 years at the PI before he left in 1989 to start his business, working mainly with ports and maritime companies.

The best part of the job with Foss?

“Being on the water,” said Sherman.

Watching the people who run things and how they operate heavy equipment and complicated vessels has also been fascinating for Sherman.

“It’s interesting, logical work. Plus, mariners are often multiple generations and they love to tell stories.”
Sherman has a few stories of his own, including one of his most memorable experiences on the job for Foss, which took place on San Francisco Bay.

“We were under the Golden Gate Bridge. The tug I was on was going to do a tanker escort, so I had to transfer to another one. They backed up stern to stern, and just as I was about to take a step, a wave came,” he said.

It was a close call, but he managed to keep himself and his camera equipment from taking an unwelcome plunge.

He also fondly remembers time spent offshore at the Pacific Area Lightering Zone, which is serviced by Foss.

“I spent a couple nights on a tanker where I observed lightering, interviewed the skippers, and then rode the tanker back to shore. It really gave me a sense of the scale of what Foss is achieving every day, and the importance of being safe as this work is completed,” he said.

Over the years, the job has taken him to all corners of the Foss business – from christenings to personal profiles – as Sherman followed scoops and gathered information for articles. He’s worked with the same designer for layout since the 2006 – Barbara Hoberecht – and has enjoyed watching the business change and respond to market forces.

When asked what he is most looking forward to in retirement, Sherman is quick to mention his upcoming Van Isle 360 yacht race around Vancouver Island and the sailing he plans to do on his 24-foot keel sailboat on Lake Washington. In the winter, he teaches skiing at Summit West. He also plans to spend time with his three grown children and grandchild.

“It seems the only thing that stays the same at Foss is change,” said Sherman. Gary Faber used to talk about reinvention a lot, and how necessary it is to stay relevant, and I think Foss continues to do that.”