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Radio check, radio check

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.

Mary South

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.

“Excuse me, Bill. I just wanted to introduce myself and say how much I love Soundings,” I babbled. “It’s such a great magazine. Secretly, my favorite. Don’t tell anyone.”

“Oh, hi. Thank you. That’s nice to hear, thank you very much,” the would-be Bieber responded demurely. And that was that. He didn’t take his shirt off or burst into song, and there was no wild partying back in the green room. (Perhaps the whole Bieber comparison isn’t so apt, after all.)

But I may as well tell you: I don’t gush, I don’t babble, and I would probably cross the street to avoid meeting most celebrities. That’s just how much I admired Soundings and what Bill and his crew did, month after month.

So you can imagine my delight and honor to be following in Bill Sisson’s footsteps. I have worked closely with him in the last year, and it has done nothing to diminish my idolatry. Honestly, someone should tell that Justin Bieber to watch his back.

* * *

In more somber news, Carl Zimmer of the New York Times recently reported on the dire state of our oceans. I know, I know — you’d have to be living under a rock to have overlooked the reports on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or the damage being done by plastic microbeads used in cosmetics and dumped into the sea as runoff waste. And let’s skip right over global warming, rising sea levels, the opening of the Northwest Passage, the number of fish species that teeter on the precipice of extinction from commercial overfishing.

Yet this was a whole new level of ominous. Zimmer reported that scientists’ “groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them.” Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California Santa Barbara, concluded that “we may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event.”

The good news, however, was very good: It’s not too late for us to save the oceans. You can read the Times piece at for an overview and visit for more on what you can do to help now.

It’s fair to say we boaters love the sea more passionately than others, so let’s start by embracing the notion that as infinite as the oceans’ breadth and depths may seem, this is an illusion. The sea has its limits, and we’re pushing them. But as the great novelist David Mitchell reminds us in Cloud Atlas: “Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”

South, out and back to 16.

“It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first arose, should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life.

But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist; the threat is rather to life itself.”

— Rachel Carson,

The Sea Around Us

March 2015 issue