Ocean Navigator Magazine

ON201_OV12_download_edition 1

Those of you who read AAC regularly will will know that I’m no fan of the current state of the sailing magazine industry. Just how many charter-in-the-Virgin-Islands-with-cheesecake, so-we-can-sell a-bunch-of-advertising, articles do we need? Boring, boring, dull.

But there is at least one shining exception to the above jaundiced view: Ocean Navigator magazine, which has always stuck with its goal of providing real information, written by real seaman who actually go to sea.

If you are planning to go ocean sailing, or are already out there, we highly recommend subscribing, you won’t regret it.

Ocean Voyager

One of the most valuable benefits of subscribing is their annual Ocean Voyager issue. Last year’s included not one, but two, interesting interviews with experienced cruising couples and technical articles on everything from lifeline replacement to water makers.

Real Sailors

Ocean navigator is published by real sailors who actually get out there themselves, not some corporation with a bunch of other magazines in their stable ranging from Needlepoint Monthly to Muscle Cars for Boneheads.

And Alex (publisher) and Tim (editor) have their interests aligned with ours, unlike some spreadsheet jockey trying to squeeze the last piece of short term profit out of a group of magazines (and their long suffering editors) who would not know a decent offshore sailboat if it fell on him or her.

Weather Tutorials

While I’m on the subject, Ken McKinley, of Locus Weather, has been writing some really useful weather tutorial articles over at the Ocean Navigator blog. What I like about Ken’s pieces is that he clearly explains how big storms originate and relates that to the 500 Mb charts, which we think is an important subject for offshore sailors to have at least some understanding of.

Disclosure

We had a sandwich with Alex a couple of years ago and stuck him with the tab, Tim has been kind enough to mention and link to several of our posts, and they send us a copy of the magazine as a PDF from time to time. Other than that, we have not enjoyed any special benefits from Ocean Navigator.

{ 27 comments… add one }

  • Robert Plante February 27, 2013, 11:46 am

    Kudos on your comments, I too find the sailing magazine industry uninteresting and for the most part irrelevent. In addition to Ocean Navigator Magazine, I found Living Aboard Magazine to be in a class by itself, featuring sailing articles by live aboard sailors. Having said that, Living Aboard was folded into a section within Lats & Atts last year. I hope that the spirit of Living Aboard lives on…

    Reply
  • Marc Dacey February 27, 2013, 12:33 pm

    As I am able to delve more deeply into the word hoard here, I am not surprised to agree with you on this, John. When I bought my first boat in 1999 (despite having an actual merchant seaman as a father, I had a lubberly upbringing), I did the typical thing and subscribed to SAIL, Cruising World, and soon after, Practical Sailor. While Cruising World had some occasional “how to fix it” articles, I quickly “outgrew” them and saw them mainly as new boat porn for those considering a dock queen on which to have crackers and gin following an anchor-themed place setting acquisition at West Marine.

    Harsh, perhaps, but yachtie culture has never particularly interested me.

    So SAIL and Cruising World went, and because I bought a steel boat I wished to refit in 2006, PS stayed, although it’s become increasingly borderline in my affections. ON came aboard around 2003, and irrespective of the successful completion of our cruising plans, I highly doubt I will live long enough to match the sea time and salty wisdom of many of its correspondents. Like you, perhaps, my first introduction to concepts such as “taking lines to shore in Patagonia” and “Spitsbergen for newbies” were introduced to me in the pages of ON, and I still enjoy the mix of offbeat cruising routes and solid technical information I find in its pages. Now, my “boat porn” is the annual Ocean Voyager…seeing the glorious passagemakers I will never afford doesn’t inspire envy so much as the desire to steal the great and often singular ideas I see in them.

    And if there is a more glorious cruising photo on a magazine cover than the one at the top of this post, I don’t know of it.

    One caveat I have is that, as a former editor and copy editor, I find too many typos in both PS and ON…and it gets up my nose as it breaks my concentration when I’m reading about some calm soul on her third circ in a stout 32 footer!

    Reply
  • Tim Queeney February 27, 2013, 6:45 pm

    Thanks for the nice post, John! And thanks for the comments from Robert Plante and Marc Dacey.

    Reply
  • Dick Stevenson February 27, 2013, 7:26 pm

    Dear John,
    A different take on Ocean Navigator leads me to respond. I see it, in some respects, as not so different from the other magazines except that it addresses our cruising life more directly than Cruising World etc.
    I believe I see ON as too often pandering to the marine industry. It is not uncommon for me to feel like the new products short articles were written by the manufacturer’s advertising agency rather than by ON staff with critical consideration. One example (from memory) a year or two ago had the lead sentence of one article saying that one of those very expensive night vision spotlights was essential to safe operation. I remember it in particular as I wrote a letter to the editor pointing out my complaint and never heard a word in response. I would like to have ON be more responsible and critical in their editing.
    They have access to a rich talent pool who can and do contribute, but they need to take care of their contributors. Ginger and I were “featured” in their Voyager issue (2008, issue 169). We worked very hard on the article, felt flattered to have been sought after for the feature, were promised some payment for the pictures, submitted the article & pictures and never heard a word of thanks or appreciation nor were our inquiries into remuneration for the submitted and used pictures responded to. Others I have known who are “amateur” contributors have shared similar experiences. After initial flush of satisfaction, I was left with a bad taste.
    That said, ON is (with Practical Sailor) the only marine magazine I read with any consistency and I do appreciate some of its articles by just those knowledgeable cruisers, power and sail, amateur and professional, who you mention and that contribute regularly. I hope my experience as an amateur contributor was relatively unique. Others can judge directly for themselves whether they see the degree of catering to the marine industry that I observe. The boating world, I believe to be woefully served by those who carry the mantle of writing and reporting on it. ON clearly rises well above the average and I write in hopes that ON can address some of the above and become an even richer resource for the kinds of reporting and analysing that could synergistically join with AAC and what you, Phyllis and Colin are accomplishing.
    My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    Reply
    • Marc Dacey February 27, 2013, 8:15 pm

      I think that’s a very fair comment, Mr. Stevenson. At this rather narrow end of the cruising spectrum, word of mouth and treating people professionally go hand in hand. Think of how rapidly the word can go out over the cruiser grapevine about poor service or business practices or shoddy, overhyped product. While I can certainly understand, having co-published and edited a national magazine with a shoestring budget, that it is difficult to keep contributors happy, or even paid, it must be done as a normal part of business, particularly when the contributions have been solicited.

      As for the catering to the industry, the number of firms that both make items of interest to the cruiser market AND who have any sort of advertising budget means a certain degree of apple-polishing. It’s inevitable as ON can’t go to Coke or McDonald’s to take print ads.

      Maybe they could go to a rum distillery…

      Anyway, PS, which takes no ads in order to be free of such suggestions of favouritism, is criticized for not being ruthless enough in their testing, too, so some days you can’t win in publishing.

      Reply
    • John February 28, 2013, 9:52 am

      Hi Dick,

      That is a very disturbing story that worries me personally in that I have just endorsed a magazine that seems to have treated a great supporter of our efforts (you) very poorly. I have to admit that back in the day, when we wrote for the mags, we never submitted to ON, simply because they did not pay what we felt was an adequate price for images and words. On the other hand, we understood that they had a small market share and income was limited.

      But none of that excuses stiffing you after agreeing to pay for a piece. I will write to Alex and ask for a response in the fervent hope that it was just a misunderstanding that will be made right now.

      As to the advertorial nature of some articles, I think that this is acceptable as long as the piece is clearly marked as such and the entire relationship between the manufacturer and the publication is laid bare in the form of a clear disclosure paragraph. Having said that, it does not sound as if this kind of clarity was provided in the case(s) you mention. I have to admit that I only read ON occasionally–time is limited. Perhaps I should have been more diligent–lesson learned.

      This last issue of walking the fine line between supporting sponsors and maintaining editorial integrity is one we will have to struggle with from this point on, since we now have ads. I would ask you, and all our readers, to maintain a watching brief and speak up publicly in the comments if you think we have got the balance wrong.

      Reply
    • Twain February 28, 2013, 2:45 pm

      Sorry to hear of your experience with Ocean Navigator. As the former managing editor and long-time freelance writer, I can speak to the issue of payment and correspondence from both sides of the fence. First, as an editor we did our best to correspond with numerous far-flung correspondents, but we occasionally failed, notwithstanding best efforts on our part. We chalked this up to changing email addresses, varying customs of foreign ports and marina mail systems, and any number of communication problems with people on small boats in countless distant ports. And then as a freelancer, I’ve covered numerous topics off and on since leaving the magazine in 2002. I’ve always been treated well and always been paid. The editors are busy, but I can assure you–and everyone else reading this–that they do their very best to accommodate their writers and readers. Certainly no malfeasance.
      Respectfully,
      Twain

      Reply
  • stefan decuypere February 28, 2013, 7:45 am

    I would like to remind people that you can read the pdf or online version of Ocean Navigator for free if you are an active member of sevenseas (ssca.org)
    Just follow the link in Members section, addtional publications.
    Stefan

    Reply
  • ted wasserman February 28, 2013, 10:55 am

    I have become somewhat disappointed in the sailing magazines that I have subscribed to over the years. It certainly seems that most of them appear to be struggling to survive. It’s very hard to publish a magazine that both tries to appeal to racers, seasoned and knowledgeable cruisers, and dreamers. And then there are the magazines that report and sell both Winnebago’s and proper yachts on the same page while being kind to their advertisers. I have been particularly disappointed in Ocean Navigator as of late. It seems as though they must be struggling for content. I am not aware that there has been any mention of the Ned Cabot’s loss in the current issues. I find this a bit odd. My sense is that the industry needs to combine and take their product from paper to the web. “Joshua Slocum – Sailing Alone Around the World” on You Tube and Jasmine is an example of what a sailing magazine’s content should look like in the future.

    Reply
  • Dick Stevenson February 28, 2013, 11:58 am

    John, Forgive me if I was unclear. The payment was to do with the photography only and I never expected more than a token of some sort so “stiffed” although accurate,is stronger language than I would choose. It was clear from the get-go that we were doing the article as an involved amateur writer with no remuneration. I was just struck by the lack of a “thank you” note if you will, which added to the lack of follow up on the payment, left me feeling a little taken advantage of. I may be from another era. Dick

    Reply
    • John February 28, 2013, 12:24 pm

      Hi Dick,

      Oh, that’s a relief to hear, although the lack of payment for the shots and a thank you note is disappointing. And, I guess if they said they would pay you for the shots, and did not, then “stiffed” is the word I would still use. But perhaps it was just a misunderstanding that will be fixed, let’s hope so.

      Reply
  • Darren O'Brien February 28, 2013, 3:05 pm

    Having worked in the boating/sailing industry, and specifically with a sailing/cruising magazine the past 10 years, I can tell you that not only is it one tough business to try and make money in, it’s also impossible to please everyone. That’s why publications that narrow their focus and relate to a certain segment of boating seem to find a loyal following.

    While I agree that ON is a good alternative to the more corporate/media conglomerate owned sailing magazines, there is a new one that definitely fits that mold: Cruising Outpost. It’s the new quarterly magazine from the mind of Bob Bitchin, with the second issue is on newsstands March 4. It very much focuses on cruising and the cruising lifestyle. The best part is Bob is sticking to being a subscriber supported publication, with a 70% content to 30% advertising ratio. Most other mags are the exact opposite and are advertiser supported. As well, the articles are written by real cruisers from various locations around the world.

    I fully realize most people either love or hate Bob’s stuff, but there certainly aren’t many magazines out there that had more than 3,000 subscribers before the first issue ever printed. He has a very loyal fan base, and most of them are either real cruisers or wannabes.

    And for those that don’t know the full story of what happened to Bob’s previous publication, Latitudes & Attitudes, he sold the company a year ago in January. The new owners subsequently locked the office doors and literally disappeared by June, taking subscriber’s money (and advertiser’s money) with them. Unfortunately, some people still think it was Bob’s company and decisions. While he was Publisher Emeritus, he no longer owned or ran the business.

    In the spirit of full disclosure, I am loosely involved with Bob and Cruising Outpost, but am spending the majority of my time on our own business. Nonetheless, I do believe what he has created in Cruising Outpost is very much worthy of at least a one-issue perusal for anyone who loves holding and reading a magazine dedicated to sailing and cruising.

    Reply
    • paul shard March 1, 2013, 9:44 am

      I will add another endorsement of Cruising Outpost. As Darren says, and as John admires, real cruisers writing about real voyages. Even if some are in the BVI! The BVI are a popular spot especially for people getting into cruising to learn the ropes in an easier venue.

      Best regards,

      Paul Shard
      SV Distant Shores II – Roadtown BVI

      Reply
      • John March 1, 2013, 10:31 am

        Hi Paul,

        Sorry, I did not mean to sound as if I had anything against the BVI. In fact I have enjoyed some lovely sailing there, although not for some years. And, as you point out, its a great place to learn the cruising ropes.

        Reply
  • Dick Stevenson February 28, 2013, 3:31 pm

    John and everyone,
    I wish to report that Tim Queeney of ON wrote me to say that a check had been sent to us in Turkey and even sent the check #. As Twain suggests, communication clearly can be a not-sure-thing and more persistence on my part might have cleared up this portion of my concerns earlier.
    Dick

    Reply
  • Ocean Navigator February 28, 2013, 4:33 pm

    We were pleased and flattered to read John’s endorsement yesterday on Attainable Adventure Cruising, a website brimming with great info and insight on cruising topics. We are fans and supporters of the Adventure 40 concept and we are also fans of the writers and contributors to AAC.

    Regarding Dick and Ginger Stevenson, Dick was such a gentleman that he never mentioned to us that he had not received his check (we wish he had!). We sent his check to Turkey and never heard a word more about it. Most writer checks go to addresses here in the U.S. including U.S. mail forwarding services such as St. Brendan’s Isle in Green Cove Springs, Fla. (www.sbimailservice.com). We will follow up on uncashed checks in the future. We are fans of Dick and Ginger and want to thank them for their excellent participation in our interview series and will follow up with reissuing their check.

    We’d also like to extend an invitation to other cruisers to submit articles to us. The folks out there voyaging have accumulated a wealth of knowledge that can benefit all voyagers. Please contact Tim Queeney (tqueeney@oceannavigator.com) and we will help share your hard-won voyaging savvy, helping all mariners voyage more successfully.

    Reply
  • Dave Benjamin February 28, 2013, 10:55 pm

    John,

    I’m glad you made this post.

    Major boat shows and mass media are exclusionary when it comes to small independent businesses. It’s prohibitively expensive to participate so what gets promoted is generally whatever is produced by the big brand names. Gullible sailors take to heart what they read in the magazines. I had a conversation with a well known sailing journalist and I asked him what the toughest part of his job was. He replied that it was reviewing new boats because he had to come up with nice things to say about them regardless of his real impressions.

    My company produces sails built to a much higher standard than the major brand name competition. Yet some people are hesitant to do business with a company that doesn’t advertise in Sail and Cruising World. What they don’t realize is that production standards are lowered in the interest of keeping money in the ad budget. Fortunately we’ve managed to grow organically through steady repeat and referral business. Still, it’s frustrating to see how so many in the sailing public are like sheep. One reason we advertise on AAC is that we know the readers and participants are a bit more skeptical and more detail oriented than 90% of the sailing public.

    Reply
  • Scott Bannerot March 1, 2013, 4:21 am

    I can see that the misunderstanding over the check to Dick Stevenson has been cleared up. I just wanted to add that I have been privileged to contribute to Ocean Navigator and Ocean Voyager in various forms a number of times over the last 16 or so years, and that I was meticulously paid on each and every occasion at exactly the contracted rate. I have maintained the same Florida post office box and same email throughout our travels, which likely facilitated communications and transactions. I’ve had interactions and contributing arrangements with a number of other magazines since the 1980′s, and ON/OV are with several others at the very top of the list for payment and fair and loyal treatment. One thing that stands out about ON is the editorial staff’s willingness to think outside the box, feature material that may not conform to paradigms, and to invest in clear diagrams and illustrations that may assist readers to follow an idea or strategy. I have always been a fan of the magazine, their entire approach, and I have learned a great deal from the material of their contributors. On a personal note, editors like Twain Braden and Tim Queeney are fantastic to work with. They are both veteran authors and mariners, they know how to voyage, they know how to write, they take great pains to stay in contact even if you happen to be at sea or in a remote area, and they are honest and straightforward. They are also fine human beings. I highly recommend their books as well (In Peril–TB; George in London, The SHIVA Compression, The Atlas Fracture–TQ). I’m an unabashed fan of Navigator Publishing, the people who make it what it is, and their publications. Thank you for the opportunity to comment, respectfully, Scott

    Reply
  • Ellen Massey Leonard March 1, 2013, 8:05 am

    I’m glad that the misunderstanding over Dick Stevenson’s check has been sorted. Like Scott Bannerot, I also wanted to add that I have had unfailingly positive experiences as a regular contributor to Ocean Navigator and Ocean Voyager since I submitted my first article in 2010. I have consistently received accurate payment for my pieces immediately following publication. Tax season leads me to say that Navigator Publishing has also provided 1099s in plenty of time every year. My communications with Tim Queeney and Larissa Dillman (who tracked me down when I changed addresses) have always been marked by friendly professionalism. I find the magazine a great pleasure to write for.
    I was very pleased to read John Harries’s remarks about Ocean Navigator, and to see how many people agreed with him here in the comments. The magazine has always stood out to me for its highly informed technical articles that go into the depth needed to understand a topic thoroughly. Nigel Calder’s excellent piece on batteries in the March/April 2011 edition comes to mind, as does Harry Hungate’s engine mount article in the November/December 2012 issue. I think the same could be said about the voyaging articles, which go beyond destination pieces and give offshore sailors really useful information. Knowing that my husband Seth and I planned to round the Cape of Good Hope on our circumnavigation, I hoarded an old issue whose feature was about voyaging around South Africa. The article proved a helpful guide to the ports along the way, the weather to be expected, and the country’s bureaucratic protocol (not onerous, but not to be taken lightly.) Finally, kudos to the editors for their excellent, clear layout, which doesn’t distract the reader’s concentration by trying to cram too many short-attention-span pieces on one page. I am also an unabashed fan of Ocean Navigator. Sincerely,
    Ellen

    Reply
  • Dick Stevenson March 1, 2013, 10:12 am

    Dear All,
    I am pleased to report that I have been put in renewed and pleasant contact with Ocean Navigator. The comments above from other ON contributors I am sure reflect the reality of ON’s relationship with its writers, amateur and professional, much more accurately than my experience would suggest. Thanks for bearing with what evolved into a mini-drama which I hope has had the unintended, but fortuitous result of generating more light on ON’s positive relationship with contributors than might have happened otherwise.
    Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    Reply
  • Dick de Grasse s/v Endeavour March 1, 2013, 10:33 am

    K athy and I have been sailing something for 55 years. The last 25 years we’ve sailed our Tartan 34 ENDEAVOUR to Europe and back and we’re still out cruising. I’ve contributed many pieces to Ocean Navigator and have always been paid! We know when you cruise to remote foreign ports mail can get lost; in fact we’re always amazed when it finds us.

    Reply
  • John March 1, 2013, 10:37 am

    Hi All,

    Well, all of these great comments have certainly confirmed that the people at ON, not only put out a great publication for voyagers, but are good to deal with and fair.
    Thanks to all.

    Reply
  • Tom T. March 1, 2013, 5:36 pm

    As an aside, there is a nice article on squalls by Lin Pardey in this month’s CW.

    Reply
  • John Kettlewell March 18, 2013, 2:59 pm

    Here’s another long-time contributor to Ocean Navigator who has always been paid on time, unlike what has happened to me with some other magazines and publishers mentioned in this thread. Even the advertising staff there are experienced boaters. I have worked a few boat shows for them too, and it is very interesting to talk to ON readers who have often just returned from some interesting place, or are headed off over the horizon.

    Reply
  • Michael Robertson April 2, 2013, 4:45 pm

    I recently wrote my first article (“Balancing Speed With Fuel Consumption”) for ON and the check was in the mail before I saw the article in print. Tim Queeney was a pleasure to work with (replies quickly to emails) and I’m working on a second story for ON now.
    It is interesting to note that the magazines in this niche buy stories differently. CW, SAIL, and Blue Water Sailing all require signed contracts be returned for each transaction, whereas ON, Good Old Boat, Pacific Yachting (Canada), and Yachting Monthly (UK) do not–agreements are more informal, made simply and directly via email. I do like the latter approach.

    Reply
    • John April 3, 2013, 7:50 am

      Hi Michael,

      That’s good to hear. You are right to stay away from those contracts pushed by the magazines you mention. Not only are they very one sided, to the point of being predatory, by signing them the poor freelancer takes on huge liability in exchange for very little money. Such contracts are the main reason we stopped writing for the magazines.

      Reply
      • Michael Robertson April 3, 2013, 3:16 pm

        Thanks John. I don’t know how much liability the contracts impose, but they do result in very little money. Nonetheless, to be clear, I write for all the pubs, whether they use contracts or not. Unfortunately, two of the contract-using pubs (CW and SAIL) also have the highest circulations and so do pay a bit more. As a poor freelancer–emphasis on the poor–I will sell to them what they’ll buy. But the counterpoint in favor of selling to the lower circ pubs is that they are often eager to buy longer stories about subjects that are less worn. I recently sold a story about the history of Japanese sailboat production that I loved writing, but never pitched to CW or SAIL because it doesn’t fit their model. I sure enjoy your website–it’s an excellent resource.

        Reply

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