A New Site for a New Year


Phyllis and I are super-excited to roll out our new site design today. While it took us a month of very long days to put the new design together, the changes and improvements are the product of over a year of looking at other sites, thinking about what really matters, and note taking.

Sure, the site now looks way different than it did, with a clean modern design, but there’s much more to this update than that:


When designing a web site, it’s always easy to get seduced by the latest cool trend. We did look at eye-catching magazine type layouts but quickly realized that you, our readers, come to this site to read great content about offshore voyaging, not to be wowed by a sexy theme, so we stuck with a clean and simple layout.


Just about half of you read our stuff on tablets and phones—not to worry, that’s a general statistic from Google Analytics, we’re not spying on you personally—so the new site is fully responsive, meaning that stuff will move around to provide the best reading experience on each screen size from a phone to a giant computer monitor.


But, wait, it gets better. Not only is the layout responsive (like most web sites these days) but, because I was in the printing business in a past life and am passionate…ok, maybe a bit obsessed, about good typography, we took responsive to the next level and hand-coded the style sheets so that text sizes change to conform with the fundamentals of type legibility: measure, proximity and hierarchy.

You can read more about that stuff here if you are interested, but measure was where we really had to work hard, to make sure that no matter what device you are reading on, the number of words on a line stay optimal for legibility—45 to 75 characters per line, an immutable law of typography (why newspapers have columns) that you see violated far too often on the internet.

If you want to see how this works, view the site on a computer with the browser window as big as you can get it and then grab the edge of the window with your mouse and slowly drag to narrow the window as far as it will go while you keep your eyes on a paragraph of text…cool, huh?


We learned from experiments on the old site that you wanted pictures big, so we went with a wide content area. But we also know that many of you are out there cruising with small laptops, so the layout automatically shrinks (but still keeps the sidebars) for you, and for those on tablets viewing in landscape mode.

By the way, that’s why the type size is as big as it is on large monitors, to preserve optimal measure: In good design, smaller type=smaller pictures.

Retina Support


And for those of you who have seen the light (who said that?) and use Apple devices with Retina screens, we will be automatically serving all images in future posts at Retina native resolution.

Only What You Need

But wait, we also know that many of you are reading on an expensive mobile plan or crumby marina WiFi, so our software only serves the image size you need for optimal viewing on your device. (Did you know that many sites serve the full size of images to all users, thereby hosing many with way more data than they need or use?)

And over the next month we will be further optimizing all of the pictures on this site to make sure we use as little bandwidth as possible.

By the way, this issue is why the much requested photos in comments did not make it into this update. We are still looking at it, but the image optimization and performance issues are difficult to surmount, at least automatically.

Online Books

We have really improved the visibility of the Online Books in the sidebar and improved the navigation of a book once you are reading it.

Free Stuff

On the old site, the Online Book chapters and the free posts were all jumbled up together, which was frustrating for our readers who are not members. That’s now fixed with a special free article menu in the sidebar—over 500 entries!

(You can thank Phyllis for re-categorizing 900 articles by hand to make that happen.)


All of this will, we think, nearly double the speed of the site. But we are not done yet, and have lots more speed-enhancing stuff to install over the next couple of months.

More to Come

We also have lots more exciting features coming. For example, the tiled photo on the home page is just a placeholder for a planned slideshow.



We have improved countless details, which are best self-discovered, but I will point out two:

  • The site search box now has pride of place in the header.
  • We have moved the member login to the top right corner—a de facto web standard—and added an easy to use pop up login box.


As I’m always saying in connection with the Adventure 40:

Good design is more about what you leave out than what you put in.

And we have taken that to heart by dropping a few features that no-one seemed to be using. Having said that, if a feature you loved has disappeared, tell us in the comments and we will look at reinstating it.


Talking of comments, we are pretty pleased with what we have built here but, on the other hand, we are well aware that you, our readers, are the ultimate arbiters of success. So, if you have suggestions for further improvement, please leave a comment. If you are not a member and can’t comment, send us an email.


A huge thank you to Colin and Matt who alpha-tested the new site and made some great suggestions for improvement.

Also thanks to my son-in-law Ryan who, every time we got together in the last two years, beat me severely around the head and chest while yelling “responsive, you gotta be responsive, you old fool”. I’m visiting them next week so I knew I had to get this site published to avoid another beating.

No, seriously, Ryan is way too nice a guy to do that, but what he has done is provide lots of great advice, starting with the suggestion to migrate to WordPress five years ago. (Ryan is a gifted software designer and coder. You can check out his latest cool project.)

And, above all, thanks to Phyllis who put up with a very distracted husband for over a month, and countless discussions of what the new web site should look like for over a year, and then worked her fingers to the bone editing all the changes.

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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.

34 comments… add one
  • RDE Jan 12, 2016, 1:44 pm

    Hi John,
    I’m viewing the new site on a 21″ screen using Firefox as the browser. Even for my old eyes the font sizes are just huge. I have to resize the site down to less than half screen to bring the fonts into a reasonable 12-14 point size.
    Even then reading content requires a scrolling mouse and a lot of work on the wheel.

    Any suggestions for a more desktop-compatible presentation with this configuration?


    • John Jan 12, 2016, 2:03 pm

      Hi Richard,

      Yea, it’s a trade off, as I say in the post, we can make the text smaller, but the whole content area must get smaller so that we don’t get too many words on a line. This is the challenge with web design since we can’t use columns to get around the problem, as magazines do.

      What you can do is pull the side in a bit and the fonts will automatically shrink a bit too, but the sidebar will stay.

      What we have considered is adding some white space to the left of the text blocks so that the pics stay the same size (700 px) and the text is say (550px) which would take the optimal font size to 16px-18px from 20px (points are not used in web design).

      Anyway, before we make any changes I want to give it some time. It may just be that this is different, and therefore you find it looks strange to you. Many (perhaps most) modern sites are going over to larger fonts, so we are not alone in this.

    • John Jan 12, 2016, 2:17 pm

      Hi Again Richard,

      Take a look now. I made a small tweak to the typography and want to see if it makes a difference to you? Thanks

      • RDE Jan 12, 2016, 3:23 pm

        Hi John,

        Definitely an improvement! I’ll withhold judgement on the scrolling style navigation which I suspect comes with the territory of making t he site smart phone compatible.

        On the other hand as a Luddite who believes that on balance smart phones are the most additive and time-destructive drug on the planet, I’ll take some convincing. LOL (and where is my smiley frown when I need it?)

  • marty Jan 13, 2016, 10:18 am

    LOVE YOUR NEW SITE LOOK AND FEEL !!! I can only hope the adventure 40 turns out as well Marty

  • ChrisW Jan 13, 2016, 11:19 am

    Now I don’t have to hit CNTL+ anymore. Nice Work.

  • Stein Varjord Jan 13, 2016, 12:54 pm

    Hi John.
    I’m reading the site mostly on a 15,4 inch rather old laptop using Win7 and Chrome. Works perfect and the new site is an obvious big improvement. Seems faster and is clearly more tidy and easy to navigate. Much easier to find what you look for. The font size is also good for this screen. Sometimes I also read on a smartphone, but quite rarely, as that’s no addiction. 🙂 For me, it’s rather a time saver and facilitator.

  • Coen Jan 13, 2016, 7:08 pm

    Hi John,

    Great new site. When on my smartphone, I can’t see the list of latest comments, whilst on the tablet it is there. I like to check these a few times a day, so I do miss this. Coen

    • John Jan 14, 2016, 8:45 am

      Hi Coen,

      That’s strange. I just checked on my iPhone 5s and the latest comments menu is still there. What sort of phone are you using?

      On a phone you do need to scroll a long way down as the latest comments menu is all the way at the bottom.

      • Coen Jan 14, 2016, 9:57 am

        Hi John. I did not scroll down far enough. Thanks for the help and congrats on the site again.

    • Jo Jan 14, 2016, 10:08 am

      I had on my iPad a similar effect: When in portrait mode, I don’t see the new comment section to the right (it might be hidden at the end) but in landscape mode the list is there.

      That might be intentional. However it would be nice to have a dedicated “New Comments”-page in the Menu.

      • John Jan 14, 2016, 10:26 am

        Hi Jo,

        What you are seeing is mobile-responsive behaviour and is intended. When you turn your iPad to vertical (or use a phone) all of the information on the sidebar moves to below the content window. Scroll down and you will see it all of the sidebar menus directly under the post and any attached comments, keep scrolling and you will find the recent comments area, right at the bottom.

  • Terry Mason Jan 13, 2016, 10:14 pm


    Nice new site, but what happened to the subject areas across the top? Those were convenient for choosing a topic, I assume they are accessed another way now?


    • John Jan 14, 2016, 8:43 am

      Hi Terry,

      Good point. This was a trade off, and is an experiment.

      First off, we could not put the topics across the top because that would break the mobile-responsive design.

      Here’s what’s changed:

      • The old topic menu is now the “Free Articles” menu at the top of the sidebar.
      • The other change is that said menu now does not include chapters that are in the Online Books. The idea being that new readers got frustrated because free and premium content was all jumbled up in the old menu.
      • All of the online books are now listed in the sidebar “Online Books” just below the free menu.

      The key point being that everything is still there and accessible by the two menus, one above the other.

      We plan to try this for a few weeks and see how it goes. The idea is that if we make it easier for new readers to see what great free content we have, they will be more likely to sign up as members. However, if that doesn’t work, or the members find the new layout inconvenient we can revert to one topic menu (down the side) in five minutes.

      Please check it out and then come back with how it works for you.

      • Terry Mason Jan 14, 2016, 11:27 pm


        Thanks for explaining, it’s fine now I have become used to it. I’m what you might call a recovering Luddite.


  • David Jan 14, 2016, 4:24 am

    Hi John,
    I build internet and mobile stuff for a living. I think the new design is absolutely great. Simple, elegant, and clean. And the images do look stunning on my retina laptop display. You completely nailed it. Now AAC has amazing content AND great design.
    Congratulations and thank you,

    • John Jan 14, 2016, 8:32 am

      Hi David,

      Thanks very much for the kind words, particularly valued since they come from someone who makes his living in the trade, not an easy thing to do, I know.

  • Ian Jan 14, 2016, 9:08 am

    My first look at the new site was on an iPhone, on a train, going to the London Boat Show. The site was great on my phone and now I’m at home on my desktop it is still great! As David from SV Tigress said “simple, elegant and clean”. It seems quicker too – great work!

  • Marc Dacey Jan 14, 2016, 12:46 pm

    While not a coder or website developer, I’ve paid for a few in my time, and I do pay for the boat habit via editing and graphic design. I think this is a big improvement in readability, and the sans-serif text font is very readable and, yes, due to choices with ledding, it’s “clean”. You almost make me want to activate net access on my smart phone to see what the mobile version looks like…almost.

    Well done to all concerned.

  • Patrick Genovese Jan 19, 2016, 10:11 am

    Hi John,
    I think i’ve hit a problem with the new site. I am frequently encountering situations where I get logged out. This typically happens when I click the read more button to read an article and the article is not shown in full unless I login again. Naturally I would have logged in previously. This happened using Google Chrome on a Win 7.

    The latest occurrence of this was when reading Phyliis’ latest article “From Icebergs to Palm Trees” I clicked the “Read More” and it was fine I then clicked link to the online book “Living the Dream” so far so good.. Once I clicked the read more button on the article “Lights Out” I was asked to login again. I managed to re-create the issue twice on chrome and a third time on firefox to make sure it is repeatable. Also both browsers are set to remember password for morganscloud.com

    • John Jan 19, 2016, 11:26 am

      Hi Patrick,

      Do you have cookies turned off on your browsers? If so, that will cause that behaviour since membership software uses cookies to determine that it is the same logged in user on each page load.

    • John Jan 19, 2016, 12:05 pm

      Hi Patrick,

      I have just added a help page to the site covering this: https://www.morganscloud.com/help-with-logging-on/

      • Patrick Genovese Jan 19, 2016, 12:15 pm

        Both remember password and cookies were turned on. I have deleted morganscloud.com cookies to force the browser to store new ones and will report back if the problem persists.

        • John Jan 19, 2016, 12:46 pm

          Hi Patrick,

          That’s a good idea. Please advise if that fixes it. If so I will add to the help page.

          • Patrick Genovese Jan 19, 2016, 6:53 pm

            Hi John,

            t looks like it … It has not re occurred so far on chrome. As a control I did not immediately delete the cookies on Firefox and it continued to act up until I deleted the cookies there as well. It might have been a local issue on this particular machine as on another PC it worked flawlessly and I could not reproduce the problem.

          • John Jan 20, 2016, 9:20 am

            Hi Patrick,

            First off, thanks so much for taking the time to get to the bottom of it. I will add to the relevant help page based on your findings.

  • Dick Stevenson Jan 21, 2016, 1:45 pm

    Hi John,
    General comment: my AAC emails are coming in with far more misc text than usual- 27 lines of boilerplate to the 4 lines of interest in the last- enough so that the actual content text in is obscured. Not the end of the world, but annoying and distracting and, probably, un-necessary.
    My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    • John Jan 21, 2016, 2:00 pm

      Hi Dick,

      Which emails are we talking about. The ones you get when we post, or the ones you get about a new comment to a thread you are interested in?

  • Dick Stevenson Jan 21, 2016, 2:12 pm

    The ones that come in to my email acct after I have expressed interest in a thread. Dick

  • Dick Stevenson Jan 21, 2016, 2:14 pm

    For ex., there were 25 lines of gobblygook to your 1 1/2 lines of text that came into my acct. D

    • John Jan 21, 2016, 6:38 pm

      Hi Dick,

      Please forward the email to me, and I will take a look, to see what’s going on.

      This is a new plugin that replaced the old one. It has a lot of nice features, not the least of which is that it works! There may not be anything I can do without tearing into the code, which I’m not willing to do since I would have to make the same changes every time the plugin was updated. But I can always bitch at the plugin author.

      Thanks for reporting it.

      • John Jan 22, 2016, 8:57 am

        Hi Dick,

        I moved this onto the post about the new site.

        Thanks for forwarding the email. I think that what’s happening here is that you have your email client set to not display HTML in emails. The result is that you see the raw HTML of the links for things like going to the original post and the new comment and managing the subscription.

        Look for an option in your client that will say something about “plain text only”.

        What email client are you using?

      • John Jan 22, 2016, 9:25 am

        Hi Dick

        OOps, looks like I was wrong, I’m now seeing the same problem. Very strange, I will get with the plugin designer and see what we can do.

      • John Jan 22, 2016, 9:40 am

        Hi Dick,

        OK, I think I got to the bottom of it. Very weird bug! I’m still testing, but it should be OK now.

        Thanks for the heads up and sorry for the confusion.

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