Since this is my first column as editor-in-chief of Soundings, I probably ought to take this opportunity to present myself in a flattering light — tell you about my nautical background, my professional accomplishments, my high IQ and my excellent parallel-parking skills. Instead, let me tell you about one of the dorkiest things I’ve ever done.
I’m not sure of the year — probably 2009 or 2010 — and I was at a media breakfast at the Fort Lauderdale boat show sitting with colleagues from Yachting magazine, where I was senior editor at the time. As the speaker concluded and people pushed back their chairs in anticipation of hitting the docks, I saw a familiar face at a nearby table.
Was it … could it be … yes, it was! Bill Sisson, the editor-in-chief of Soundings. I approached the man like a 12-year-old girl meeting Justin Bieber. I didn’t scream or faint or try to touch him, but I did gush a little.
When I first arrived at the waterfront publishing offices on North Cove in Essex, Connecticut, so many years ago, Soundings was indeed true to its tag line of that time: “The Nation’s Boating Newspaper.”
Reporters pounded out copy clickety-clack on typewriters and smoked packs of cigarettes at their desks. Pre-Web news cycles seemed as long as an epoch. You could actually “break” a story in a monthly boating newspaper. We had five zoned regional editions and churned out reams of copy to go around the flotilla of ads that came in on every tide.
Welcome to the era of the outboard-powered dayboat. Although that may not be breaking news, the two new 40-plus-foot quad-outboard boats (yes, that means four 300- or 350-hp 4-strokes) introduced at the recent Fort Lauderdale show are signs of where things are headed. And there are more to come.
This new generation of open boat appeals to folks who are stepping down from larger boats, strapped for time or looking for a big all-purpose craft with good performance — maybe all three.
It’s not every day that I get to have lunch with six longtime Soundings readers who grew up with the magazine and whose boating lives mirror the arc of so many of our loyal tribe.
The lunch gathering coincided with the opening day of the Newport International Boat Show, which this group of sailors and sailors-turned-powerboaters have been attending every year for 31 years.
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A 1981 Phi Beta Kappa journalism graduate, Bill has been writing about boats for more than two decades. His boating travels have taken him from the Persian Gulf to the Baltic Sea, and always back home to Little Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. As editor, Bill is responsible for planning and executing the publication's boating coverage each month, and his Under Way column starts each issue. Bill has been with Soundings for 20 years and in 1997 won the Moulton H. "Monk" Farnham Award for Excellence in Editorial Commentary.