The Unsinkable Maggie Brown: The Story of Body Glove Cruises and its President
Some people seem to have a professional destiny, usually borne of family pedigree. Maggie Brown, President of Body Glove Cruises, is one such person.
Brown’s great-great uncle, Captain Asa Meade Simpson, founded Simpson Shipyard in North Bend, Oregon, in 1855. Her brother owns Sea and Go Boating magazines and produces boat shows in Newport Beach, California. “I learned how to swim when I was two years old," she said, “and ever since then I’ve been passionate about anything that has to do with the ocean.”
Growing up on the Long Beach, California waterfront, Maggie would sail almost every weekend to Catalina Island on her family boat. That ritual ended abruptly when she ran away, literally, to the Big Island on a scuba adventure when she was 15 years old. “I escaped to the Big Island 40 years ago and I’m still here," she laughs.
Born Margaret, she adopted her nickname, Maggie, and engineered her new life. First she found a home on a live-aboard dive boat - where she was crew, cook and stand-in diver for four years. After that she worked for multiple ocean businesses, including the startup of Atlantis Submarines. “In my pre-teens, I bounced around in many foster homes, never graduated high school and ran away to Hawaiʻi to change my life. I became a workaholic to prove I could be a success. There’s not a day in my life I don’t thank my lucky stars that my life turned around.”
Brown joined Body Glove as Director of Marketing in 1988. “It started as a good idea, along with a $50,000 investment and resulted in the Kanoa, a 55-foot catamaran certified for 90 passengers.”
Enter Maggie Brown. Add more hard work, a great ocean experience, the best crew on the Island and what is the result? The Kanoa II, a $1.7 million 65-foot state-of-the-art catamaran that takes Body Glove guests out on the water in style. “Kanoa II is equipped with a 20 foot water slide, high dive platform, two swim platforms, flat-screen televisions and underwater lighting for evening cruises,” explains Brown, “and can hit speeds of up to 22 knots per hour.”
Anyone feeling courageous jumping off the high dive may get their ego checked by crew who witnessed a 97-year-old gentleman from Washington take that exact plunge. But Maggie’s favorite nonagenarian was Bob, a 95-year-old kamaʻaina who wandered away from his assisted living home and into Body Glove’s office. “It took hours to figure out where Bob lived," recalled Brown, “and in the meantime we became good buddies. Later Bob and his family came out for a cruise and I remember so vividly how happy he was on the boat, a big smile on his face, dancing the night away. He passed shortly thereafter, but I’m glad we shared that ocean family experience.”
When asked about her best guest experience ever, Brown reflects on a more youthful adventurer. “Our Make-A-Wish Child Program. What could be more gratifying than making a child’s dream come true? One reason Body Glove can be so active in the Make-A-Wish program is that the Kanoa II is the most wheelchair friendly boat of its kind in the State of Hawaiʻi. I just love seeing keiki (kids) getting to experience something they had no idea they could do.”
"I'll see your humpback and raise you a swine"
It’s no secret why Body Glove Cruises are so successful. They offer something for everyone - a Deluxe Snorkel and Dolphin Watch, a Captain Cook Dinner Cruise and a Whale Watching Cruise, just to name a few. So one has to ask, what is the most amazing encounter at sea to date? “That would have to be when our crew rescued a pig swimming in the middle of the ocean”, Maggie states matter-of-fact. “As incredible as it is to see a pod of humpback whales breach near the boat, or a pod of spinner dolphin swim alongside, one cannot fully appreciate the pure spectacle of a paddling pig miles from land.” The pig, named Salty by the guests, was rescued by a crew member and released.
When questioned about people we might recognize who have experienced the aloha hospitality of a Body Glove cruise, you see Maggie start to tap her fingertips as she counts along to the names that roll off her tongue: “Stephen Spielberg, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Lisa Marie Presley, Frank and Kathy Lee Gifford. Oh, and…Big Bird? “Carroll Spinney, the voice of Big Bird, Grouch and Snuffleupagus, lives in Kona and joins us on many of our cruises,” explains Brown.
And the answer is?
It’s only natural to wonder what kinds of questions guests have posed over the years and Maggie is quick with a list of her favorites (reporter’s answers in parantheses):
“Does the water go all the way around the island?” (Usually)
“What altitude will we be snorkeling in?” (Very close to sea level)
“What keeps the island from floating away?” (Um…)
“What if we hit an iceberg?” (Then you’re pretty far off course)
Then there were the guests who showed up at the dock in formal wear and suitcases in tow, thinking they were boarding an actual cruise ship. “Given our pricing that would be quite the deal”, Maggie concludes.
Spending a day or evening on a Body Glove Cruise experience will create unforgettable memories. This is what keeps Maggie Brown going. “We have the best crew of any boat I’ve ever been on. That’s what separates us. I get to work with my family. I’ve fulfilled my dream of building a state-of-the-art guest boat.”
“I am blessed.”
Sounds like a pretty great 40-year adventure.
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