Posted on 23 February 2009
Written by William Sisson
A refit for Soundings as we chart a new course
Soundings will turn 46 this spring, quite an accomplishment for a magazine that was started by three colorful characters sitting around a kitchen table, sharing a bottle of gin and dreaming of building a different sort of boating publication.
The vision (and the gin) was supplied by the late Jack Turner, the smart, larger-than-life renaissance man who would serve as publisher and creative dynamo until his retirement in 1997. And how he would have rolled his eyes at a term like “visionary,” even though that’s what he was.
The first issue was eight pages and consisted of ads for about 150 boats, tide tables and some nautical cartoons. Jack viewed himself and his crew as “wildcatters … the Flying Tigers of marine publishing.”
We’ve traveled a long way from that kitchen table and the days when the “boating newspaper” was delivered by station wagon and distributed for free.
Like all long voyages, we’ve had our good stretches as well as our share of heavy weather, times when it seemed all hands were called upon to man the pumps. But once the sun came back out and the winds shifted, we’d race off once more, rail down, spray flying, hellbent for leather.
Change has always been the constant — on the water, with our boats, in the magazine.
This latest issue of Soundings carries forward the tradition of change and evolution that started with Jack Turner. We’ve given our venerable old cruiser another upgrade. We’ve added new content and freshened up the look with different fonts, layouts and colors. We reduced her mast height by one inch and left her beam as it was.
We’ve added a new feature called “Talkin’ Boats,” which each month will showcase a noteworthy boatbuilder, designer or boater. We’ve also brought back our Tech Talk column, written in this latest iteration by technical reporter Frank Kehr, a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to anything mechanical or electrical.
You’ll also see a regular focus on rehab and refit projects, which seems appropriate, given the number of folks hanging onto their boats (or looking for project boats) during these difficult times. This month we’ve published a piece on upgrading your electronics. Next month we’ll look at repowering, both outboards and inboards.
The process of redesigning a magazine is a good one, because it forces all those involved to closely examine what they’ve been doing and why. Legacy practices, sacred cows and other hidebound traditions are questioned — and sometimes challenged.
We’d pose the question: “Why are we doing such and such this way?” There were a number of correct answers. And one sure wrong one: “Because that’s the way it’s always been done.” The first priority of this ongoing process has always been the same: to produce for you, the reader, the best boating magazine we possibly can.
The changes to Soundings magazine also coincide with the launch of our redesigned Web site, which we built entirely in-house. I encourage you to visit the site — www.soundingsonline.com. It has fresh content daily, along with audio, video, tides, marine weather, a strong story archive, a boat search and sale function, and more. And when something of real note happens in our corner of the world, we hope to have it on the Web in as close to real time as possible.
Plenty of changes, with more on the horizon. Jack has been gone for some time, but his imprint is still felt on the magazine. He believed in accurate and objective reporting. He valued good writing. And he didn’t mind covering stories that some of his competitors steered clear of.
We think he would have liked the latest changes both in the magazine and online. We hope you do, too.
Please let us know what you think. You can contact us at Soundings magazine, 10 Bokum Road, Essex, CT 06426; e-mail
; or call (860) 767-3200.
“The ship was a live being, full of strange wiles and impulses.”
— Edward H. Dodd Jr.
This article originally appeared in the March 2009 issue.