From a small shed beside his father’s boat yard in Tasmania to receiving the Australian Marine Export Industry Hall of Fame award in 2013, John Muir has become a towering presence in the Australian marine industry.
His company Muir Engineering, founded in 1968, manufactures world-leading marine anchor winches and windlasses, deck equipment, anchoring and docking systems for superyachts, pleasure craft, ferries and commercial vessels.
Riviera owners know the Muir brand well. It is embossed proudly on the capstan top of the anchor winch on every Riviera and Belize, whether it be a 3600 Sport Yacht or a 68 or 72 Sports Motor Yacht.
Now writer and broadcaster Mike Swinson has published “Blood, Sweat & The Sea”, a comprehensive biography of Muir, his family and his business. It is 400 pages of stories, photographs and memories of a man, his family and the Muir name that is seen on the foredecks of many thousands of boats across the world, from 10 metre cruisers to megayachts, naval vessels and ships.
As well as a lovingly written biography, the book is a fascinating view into the development and growth of the Australian marine industry, detailing the relationship between Muir and many well-known Australian brands and boat builders including Riviera which is, today, one of the company’s largest customers globally.
The book documents in great detail John Muir’s long family marine heritage. Great grandfather William Jenkins Muir, born in Dundee, Scotland, in 1857, emigrated to Tasmania and took his first job in his new land as an able seaman aboard an intercolonial schooner before a career as a lighthouse keeper. Grandfather Ernest Jenkins Muir, too, turned to the sea, working on schooners. He encouraged his children to take up dinghy racing. Ernie and his three sons sailed in the 1947 Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race. Their boat was second across the line and won the race on handicap.
Father Jock was a boat-builder as well as ocean racer so John’s die was cast.
He worked for his father for a time before deciding to set up on his own, initially offering engine and general marine maintenance. He soon began building winches for customers on a one-off basis.
Then one of his mentors, Russell Duffield, suggested that John specialise in winches after he built one for Russell’s yacht Trevassa.
John’s father, Jock, had some simple advice: “Build the winch stronger than the foredeck on which it sits, so if anything fails it is the foredeck, not the winch.”
Riviera began its relationship with John Muir and his Muir winches when the motor yacht builder began exporting in the late 1980s.
Riviera CEO Wes Moxey is continually impressed by John Muir’s ongoing dedication and hard work. “Wherever I was in the world, I would see John at trade or boat shows peddling the Muir brand with passion and commitment,” says Wes. “I have the utmost respect for him.”
In the introduction of his book Mike Swinson offers a quintessential quote about Muir and his company.
David McQueen, a megayacht boat builder, says: “This remarkable equipment has come out of a little place called Tasmania, which half the world doesn’t even know exists; out of a place called Kingston, which people definitely don’t know of; and it’s sold by these funny Tasmanians who are dogmatic, passionate, and brilliant at what they do. They’re the ultimate product.”
John Muir sold out of his company in 2016.
“Blood, Sweat & The Sea” by Mike Swinson is published by Forty South Publishing and is available to purchase online at https://www.muirby.com.au/store. The book is priced at $79 or $89 for a limited edition copy.