A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Trade Show
Today, the power of social media can produce profound results. We know that when our communities incorporate the latest technology into their organizing efforts – they can do anything from crowdfunding relief efforts in the wake of a local tragedy or natural disaster, to launching national awareness campaigns. At Lumitec, we never expected our social media network to catch a boat thief in the course of one weekend.
“Again, thanks everyone who contributed to the very quick recovery of this vessel. Sorry for the delay in the update but as you’d imagine there were a bunch of things that needed to be buttoned up,” began Lumitec CEO, John Kujawa on his company Facebook page.
For a saga which unraveled over the course of multiple days across niche boater Internet forums, shared screenshots and texted tips, Facebook was a fitting mouthpiece for the post-mortem directed at all those who had contributed to, or simply followed, the weekend-long online boat hunt.
“Here is a start-to-finish recap of what transpired.”
In the late hours of Friday, September 23 – the unlikely happened.
Lumitec Lighting had just transferred its flagship Intrepid 375 down to a Delray Beach facility in order to prepare for the International Boatbuilders Exhibition and Conference, or IBEX, the largest gathering of its kind among marine professionals in North America – then, one week out.
The unveiling of the Intrepid 375 promised to be a collaborative triumph – seven years in the making. Not only did it house Lumitec’s own experimental Power Line Instruction (PLI) technology but the end result featured a Mastervolt intelligent power management system, Yamaha Y-COP theft deterrent and GOST security installations, as well as a beautiful contribution from Blue Water Towers.
In fact, the team behind the state-of-the-art boat had proudly and meticulously recorded each step of their hands-on manufacturing process: pictures detailing the beauty of the bow and the tower, a technician wiring the freshly molded console, a craftsman measuring beams.
“Hi all,” one of the designers posted on The Hull Truth – a popular forum among boat enthusiasts. “I work for Lumitec, and we’ve been working on a new Intrepid 375 center console for the Miami show and some tournaments. We’ve done a lot of custom work and trying to do some new stuff with system integration and controls along with a power folding mini-tower, so I thought I’d share some photos. I’ve watched several of the build threads on here and always enjoy them. Let me know if you have any questions.”
The boating community in Florida is a tightknit one—and the response was immediate.
“That mini tower is going to be awesome. I know you guys and all of the team at Bluewater put a lot of time into it. I can’t wait to see it at the show,” wrote SeaShot; to which Latebreaker added, “Now we’re talking! Subscribed.”
Nearly a year and a half later, Lumitec’s IT Systems Manager took to the community forum with a much different update to share concerning the very same boat:
“At roughly 11:45 PM last night in Delray Beach, FL., our boat and truck were stolen off our loading dock. This is a boat we use to demonstrate our products at trade and boat shows. We have reason to believe the thieves might be heading south into Broward or Miami Dade County. Security footage screenshots are attached. Thank you in advance for any information/support.”
And with that, in show of support true only to social media– the chase was on.
Hours earlier, Company President John Kujawa had woken up to a series of texts alerts from the GOST system installed on the missing boat notifying him that the geo-fence had been breached and the boat, moved. Kujawa immediately logged into the GOST tracking interface which revealed a “sickening breadcrumb trail of the thieves heading south.” Fortunately for the Lumitec team, the onboard security system also provided high resolution footage of two of the thieves.
While Kujawa enlisted the help of a chartered helicopter and the local police, the Lead Designer and IT Systems Manger hastened to the Delray Beach office to review security footage from the night prior. Screenshots in hand, the office team posted what leads they’d wrangled up on social media–to their online community. And did the community ever respond in a time of need! In the hours following the Facebook post had over 67,520 hits, 564 likes and 221 shares. And over on the Hull Truth message board there were 74,721 views and 192 replies from the worried, yet determined boating community “I got dozens of emails and texts from throughout the state and beyond, even the Bahamas, from people who jumped into action,” says Kujawa, at the time still fearful that they’d lost the boat to a Cuba run.
Following the outpour of support and advice on social media and a local evening news story which played a clip of the recovered security footage –tip number one rolled in. Early on Sunday morning, a post accompanied by a photo taken on a smartphone claimed: “”I found ur boat!!”
Here’s what happened.
Jeff, the man behind the tip and an avid boater, himself, caught a glimpse of the Intrepid 375 wedged in between two charter buses nearly 36 hours later and 60 miles away in a parking lot in Miami. He thought its location was odd for such a nice, new boat. Flipping through a handful of message boards later that day, he got chills: “I couldn’t believe had I found it…”
He then proceeded to return to the site where he waited for 3 hours next to the boat until Kujawa could retrieve it. Only then did more clues begin to pour in and solidify the story of the previous two days.
“I think the truck and trailer shown in the video you posted belongs to my friend – Call me,” wrote a second user on The Hull Truth.
“I know who stole the boat,” wrote another social media user.
“As we’re standing in the otherwise empty lot, evidence just falls into our laps,” recounts Kujawa. “It was like an episode of Scooby Doo where you could faintly hear ‘…and we’d have gotten away with it if those meddling Internet people hadn’t gotten in the way.’””
In the last decade alone, social media has revolutionized the way people connect with each other. Without the help of the dozens of users who added their tips on The Hull Truth forum, The Man Cave, Facebook, and all the other Internet sites which pitched in to help – the Intrepid would have been lost.
Thanks to those “meddling Internet people,” as well as the team at Lumitec and its engineering partners, this year’s unveiling of the Intrepid 375 at IBEX 2016 still promises to be a collaborative triumph – only now one much larger in scope.