AAC Writers and Editorial Policy


In the second of his excellent articles on impact resistance, Matt, AAC technical correspondent, made a powerful case for watertight bulkheads.

On the other hand, while I like the idea of watertight bulkheads in theory, I think that emphasising them too much will have some undesirable outcomes that may outweigh their benefits.

But before we get into my reasoning I’m going to put my AAC editor’s hat on and talk about policy.

One of the reasons we asked Matt, who has never sailed offshore, to write for this site that focuses on doing just that, is because he has an amazing (and amazingly rare) clarity of thought and expression that is one hundred percent based on mathematical and engineering rigour.

This provides a completely different view than my own, based as it is on 45 years of going offshore. A level of experience that means that I can easily fall into the trap of stating opinions that are more based on the way I have always done things than fact.

Or to put it another way, Matt brings the check and balance of a fresh view and great training to bear on the opinions of a stodgy old salt-stained curmudgeon.

So where’s all this going you ask?

Well, when we used to write for sailing magazines, one of the things we really hated was the little known fact (outside of the freelancers) that most magazines have an editorial dogma that has built up over the years and any freelancer that disagrees with it in an article risks a blood-in-the streets edit.

Phyllis and I, the publishers and editors of this site, take a different view and have recently codified that in a new editorial policy that we want to share with you, our readers:

The editors and publishers of AAC will not in any way try to influence the writers, or edit their articles, to comply with our own opinions.

Having said that, we will always feel free to disagree with the opinions of the other writers, just as they should feel free to disagree with ours. We will be publishing my thoughts on watertight bulkheads in a few days.


If you have a comment on this editorial policy, fire away, but if you have thoughts on watertight bulkheads, please save them for for my post on that subject.

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Meet the Author


John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

16 comments… add one
  • Dick Stevenson Aug 17, 2013, 1:54 pm

    I like your policy. It reminds of another policy I rather admired: that of a boatyard that did very good work for me. I knew I was with sympatico people when I saw the sign saying (roughly). “Our insurance company took the position that no boat owner/visitor could view our workers doing their jobs. We fired that company and please visit all the work being done in the yard.” May you and AAC thrive by doing the right thing.
    Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

  • Stedem Wood Aug 17, 2013, 3:30 pm

    Well-considered policy will always help make decisions consistent with your beliefs and intentions. At the same time, your history and the decisions you make when your priorities are in conflict will “out” what’s really on your mind or in your heart. I’ve spent 20 years in the news business as publisher of a community-based daily newspaper. In that role, one’s ethics and a community’s trust are possibly the most important asset you have.

    You can do some things with this site that wouldn’t be kosher in my professional role, but create no conflict of trust or ethics in my view. Supporting friends or promoting businesses that have done a good job for you is valuable information for your readers and consistent with your intentions of informing people. Being clear about what you are doing and why you are doing it builds just as much trust as I’ve always striven to do in my role.

    I value your work and have benefited from your brutal honesty and clear disclosures. Providing different viewpoints for readers to consider is consistent with your history and previous practice. This is your site and I think you can do any damn thing you want with it. I also think you build trust by describing the thinking behind the decisions you make.

    Many thanks,

    Stedem Wood

    • John Aug 18, 2013, 8:01 am

      Hi Stedem,

      Thanks very much for the endorsement from a professional journalist—very comforting for this amateur.

      • Marc Dacey Aug 18, 2013, 9:48 pm

        If it’s any comfort, this occasional journalist also finds your policy far more “fair and balanced” than many that make the claim.

        Physics and math deal in absolutes. Seamanship is the art of working around those absolutes with enough skill to tie off at the other end.

        That said, I think you may consider (in the interests of balanced reportage, of course) offering Matt a position as unpaid crew on your next icy, windy passage to someplace far away, miles beyond SAR resources and West Marine-free. It would temper his theory with a little practice, something most technicians would welcome!

        • Matt Aug 19, 2013, 11:58 am

          I could go for that, Marc….

          • Marc Dacey Aug 19, 2013, 3:05 pm

            A life ring to match the iron ring…

  • John Armitage Aug 17, 2013, 4:46 pm

    Excellent !

  • Simon Fraser Aug 17, 2013, 6:25 pm

    Voltaire is often quoted (apparently incorrectly) as saying “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”
    This has become a symbolic statement of free press and robust debate.
    I continue to enjoy your robust debate.

  • Coen Aug 18, 2013, 7:56 am

    Hi John,

    I appreciate your policy, and wish more people will take that view. By the way, I refuse to have any workshop work on my overland vehicle if I cannot be present while they do it. And at the moment I have a struggle with the guy that I would like to build my boat. He does excellent work, but he refuses to listen to my ideas about cockpit depth, deck layout, and so on. I will have to see how I handle that problem.

    As to watertight compartments, I am looking at a boat under 8 meters, so watertight compartments are rather unlikely, However, local legislation insists that the boat, irrespective of what construction material, should float when holed. Imagine how little usable space there would be!

  • John Aug 18, 2013, 8:03 am

    Hi All,

    Thanks very much for the positive support, much appreciated as we feel and fumble our way from a hobby to real journalistic business with all of the responsibilities that implies.

  • Alan Aug 18, 2013, 2:03 pm

    Hi John,
    certainly support your editorial policy of “telling it how it is” unlike most of the marine media which is very much of an advertorial nature.
    I have a comment in relation to Matt and his writing. First is great to see a graduate engineer working towards attaining his professional status, in my biased view if there were more engineers and a few less of a certain other profession (take a guess) the world would be a better place.
    However Matt needs to be careful how he is represented on this site -according to Professional Engineers Ontario his status is “Non – Practising/Engineer Intern training/Engineering Physics”. So as yet he is not a licensed engineer and he actually has no academic training in the subjects he is writing on this site. Why do I bring this up – well his first section on impact resistance was poorly written when he started discussing Cored Construction, using a sweeping generalisation “engineers start to get nervous” and then using a very dated article from Dave Pascoe to support his point – not a reasoned argument by a long shot (if one of my graduate engineers presented a draft to me written like that it woud have received the red pen treatment). I did not respond to this but in reading it a few engineers came to mind, ie Russell Bowler, Richard Downs-Honey, Brian Jones, and Nina Heatley (amongst many others) all of whom have significant experience and recognition in this field who most certainly would not see it that way.
    At the end of the day Matt has training in engineering in his given discipline, just as I have, however neither of us are professionally qualified to give an “engineer’s” opinion about the subjects discussed here, just present our “lay” opinions.
    I have always admired the Canadian Engineering Licensing system in that it very clearly sets out who is entitled to call themselves an Engineer and polices same, unlike alot of other western countries where there is no control.

    • John Aug 18, 2013, 7:37 pm

      Hi Alan,

      You are way off base in accusing Matt of misrepresenting himself a professional engineer and owe him an apology for making said accusation without doing your homework. Matt is scrupulous about always describing himself as engineering trained, not as a professional engineer.

      Having said that, you can be forgiven for making this mistake because I, not Matt, have in the past made the error of referring to him in terms such as “one of the engineers that add so much to this site”. I will try and be better about that in the future, until his professional designation is ratified. (As I understand it, he has successfully completed all his exams for professional designation, which, I’m sure, will come in the fullness of time.)

      I’m not going to get into a debate about engineering here, because I’m simply not qualified to do so. But what I would say is that Matt has a very rare ability to explain complex engineering issues to simpletons like me so that we can understand them. This is talent that that all the designations in the world don’t confer. Before being so critical perhaps you should recognise that Matt is not writing a professional papers here at AAC, which would simply put me and our readers to sleep and teach us nothing, rather he is trying, and succeeding, to interest and entertain and thereby teach. Maybe if more engineers had Matt’s communications skills and interesting and entertaining way of imparting technical information we would, in turn, have more engineers.

      I should also point out that there are several engineers that are long term readers and contributors to this site. I’m sure that if Matt was technically off base one of more of them would have stepped in with a counter argument. Perhaps, if you disagree with Matt, that course would be a better use of your time than making baseless accusations about engineering designations and comments about red pens. In other words, if you know better, or spot a technical error in anything we publish, we are all ears, but no finger wagging please.

  • Alan Aug 18, 2013, 9:22 pm

    I refer you to my specific words
    “Matt needs to be careful how he is represented on this site..”.
    I have not made any accusation or suggestion that Matt has misrepresented himself. Your 2nd paragraph is a fair response in that respect.
    I standby my view that the referenced section in his article was technically lacking. Maybe a subject for further discussion later.

    • John Aug 18, 2013, 9:57 pm


      You have still not substantiated with facts and cogent argument. You comment “I standby my view that the referenced section in his article was technically lacking” is another assertion with no technical argument to back it up.

      Do it again and I will delete your comment and ban you.

    • Matt Aug 19, 2013, 12:22 pm

      Alan, John,

      I do not, at present, hold a PEO licence and I do not use the title “engineer” or “professional engineer” in my work. I have never, to my knowledge, claimed to be a fully licensed engineer. I do hold two engineering degrees from CEAB accredited programs and am currently awaiting a licensing decision. And I do have formal training, and design/fabrication experience, in advanced composites (particularly in ultralight carbon/kevlar/nomex sandwich structures).

      If you disagree with something I’ve stated, then by all means post a comment on the article in question. In the cored construction case, for example, I did point out that there are many cases where cored composite is an appropriate choice. The technical point I was trying to convey in that section- that, in a point impact scenario, the core crushes and the point impact is borne by the outer skin alone- is, as I understand it, common knowledge and not really in dispute. (Please correct me if you are aware of some mechanism by which the inner skin of a panel can share in the impact load after the core has failed.)

      Pretty much all of the composites specialists I know are somewhat less than thrilled about the idea of building a cored structure on a tight schedule and tight budget with limited QC and then relying on it to survive impact stresses after decades soaking in saltwater- even if they are very much in favour of the technology in, say, a race boat application. And I do see, even at current boat shows, many composite hulls that are “value engineered” to the point where they wouldn’t survive a hard grounding. I could write a detailed treatise on the crushing strength of various core materials, fracture propagation in E-glass laminate, entrapped water pressurization under slamming loads, etc. but that would not be the right kind of article for this site.

      John does not edit my articles, except for the occasional formatting tweak or adding a picture.

  • paul Mills Aug 25, 2013, 2:35 pm

    Hi all,

    I too like AAC’s editorial policy and would read articles here before my favourite mag – yachting monthly – any day. I like the accessibility and the combination of real life experience and technical expertise. I also like the variety and seeing how comments and feedback develop the discussion and peoples views.

    I also like reflecting on what individuals contributions ‘say’ about the person writing them; what is important to them, and how they live their lives. So often what we communicate is mostly information about ourselves rather than judgments about others. For example, in writing this I made six spelling mistakes (even allowing for the weird US spell correction …) and pondered on several of my punctuation choices …. knowing that after pondering several might not pass muster;which simply says that were this an English class my status as a writer would rightly be called into question!


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