Out of the blue, into the mix

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I climbed down from the Travelift at Brewer Dauntless Shipyard in Essex, Conn., as the engine clattered to a stop. It was the end of a long, hot day in late August 1993. I went to the employee head, washed up and changed into khakis and a short-sleeved shirt. I brushed my hair and hoped to look as presentable as possible under the circumstances: I was headed to a job interview at Soundings, “The Nation’s Boating Newspaper.”

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It was one of those out-of-the-blue kinds of things. Bruce Freeman, the yard shipwright, was fishing buddies with Bill Sisson, senior editor at the time. On one outing, Bill mentioned there was an opening for a writer, and Bruce mentioned that he “knew a guy” in the yard who might be a good fit. I got the word through him. “You should go over there,” Bruce said.

The Soundings office was on the Dauntless grounds, and as I mounted the stairs to the front door I wondered what the chances were for a 44-year-old boatyard worker with no college degree and no formal writing training. Oh, well, nothing to lose — and it was a short walk.

Soundings publisher Jack Turner moored his bulk behind a big desk in his office, and he was dressed in his signature attire: polo shirt, khaki shorts and boat shoes — no socks, of course. I introduced myself and we went through the usual preliminaries. No, I hadn’t finished college, but I’d been covering high school sports and sailing in my own column with the regional weekly newspaper for 13 years. I’d written for radio, too — ski and beach reports, ad campaigns for national firms. I’d won a few awards, too. OK, not bad — but what else?

“Well, I’ve been working in boatyards since the late 1970s,” I added. “In fact, I started here at the Dauntless back in 1978. We used to varnish masts in the basement of this building. I remember working on your trimaran, Foxy.”

Foxy was a boatbuilding project that Jack undertook on the premises. His demeanor changed at the mention of his beloved boat. I remember it as big, wide and unwieldy, but the yard crew knew it was “Jack’s boat” and deserving of extra care. We spent the rest of our time talking about boats, boaters and boatyards, trading names and stories and opinionating.

At one point he rose from behind his desk, reached out a big genoa jib of a hand that engulfed my own, gave me one of his wide open grins and said, “Welcome to Soundings.”

I “signed articles” on the spot, and it’s been my pleasure to have sailed these last 20 years as part of Jack Turner’s crew, writing about the things I love — boats, boaters and boatyards.

Steve Knauth was a staff writer for Soundings from 1993 to 2003 and now freelances for the magazine, writing the “Just Yesterday” column, the “Used Boat” review, and the text for “Classics” and “Seascapes.”

See related articles:

- 50 years of Soundings - Jim Flannery

- Forever grateful - Eric Colby

- From ad sales to J/Boats - Rod Johnstone

- Pioneering at Soundings - Keith Taylor

- Heart and soul - Charles Barthold

- Soundings flashbacks - Bill Tuttle

May 2013 issue