Backstage at Attainable Adventure Cruising—Better, Faster, Safer


Last year at this time we published a post detailing what we had been doing over the preceding winter to improve Attainable Adventure Cruising. It was a popular post that sparked a lot of helpful discussion, so we thought we would do the same this year.

These posts give us a chance to share what’s going on here behind the scenes and also get input from members that helps us decide where to expend our time and energy next.

Getting this prioritization right is particularly critical since administration, marketing, editing, and site maintenance already take more of Phyllis’ and my time than writing content, the most important and fun part of our jobs—sad but true and the reason we are so careful about not taking on any unnecessary tasks or getting involved in, or even tolerating, off-topic conversations in the comments.

On to what we have been up to over the winter:

New Site

This year our big winter project was to completely redesign the site, which I’m pleased and relieved to say is now complete. We made the site:

  • Mobile responsive (phone and tablet friendly).
  • Much cleaner and more legible.
  • Faster.
  • Improved new member recruitment (still plenty of work to do there).


We also spent a huge amount of time squashing the bugs that inevitably raise their ugly heads as the result of changes like this. Most of these seemed to be related to member login, particularly with the Firefox browser, but we think we have got them all fixed now.

Having said that, if you are still having any problems using the site, please check out our Help pages and, if that does not solve the problem, drop us a line, we are happy to help.

Our apologies for the frustration that login problems cause. With four major browsers and four radically different types of devices and operating systems in common use, bugs are pretty much inevitable, but that don’t make ’em fun for you or us.

Improved Help

Talking of help, as part of the site redesign, we put a lot of time into further improving our Help pages, which has resulted in a further drop in the number of support emails we get, a win for us and you.

However, I have never yet seen a Help page that could not be improved, so if you found one of ours confusing or incomplete, please tell us.

AAC Near You

After we got the site design sorted, our next big project was to speed it up, particularly for our readers who are farther from our server and therefore were experiencing longer load times.

We got that problem solved with a Content Delivery Network (CDN), a service which stores all of the static site content—photos, code, styles—on multiple servers (see the graphic at the top of the post), so that over 90% of the data required to display our pages is now close to all of our readers around the world.

This also takes a huge load off our main server, freeing it to deliver dynamic content much more quickly.

Site Security

Although we don’t store, or even see, your credit card information, we still take site security very seriously, particularly since our site (like any but the smallest) is constantly being probed for a weakness by hackers trying to break in and install bad code that could do nasty things to our readers’ computers. And when I say constantly, I mean multiple attacks in every hour of every day.

To combat this we have hired one of the leading security companies in the world and installed their site-hardening software and firewall. They will also warn us immediately if we ever do get hacked and are there, if needed, to clean up the infection. (We have always had a security service but this new one is a big upgrade.)


Talking of security, if you take a quick gander at the URL bar in your browser, you will notice a padlock icon, or some such (depends on the browser), that tells you that all of your communication with our site is encrypted using the state-of-the-art Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

This was a particularly important upgrade for Attainable Adventure Cruising since many of you read our site over unsecured WiFi networks. Without SSL a bad person could insert themselves into the link between you and us and, for example, divert you off to a place where they could install all kinds of bad stuff on your computer.

The cool thing about this is that you can now safely use this site on an open WiFi hot spot without having to worry about messing with a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Just make sure you always see that little padlock.

As far as I know, we are the only boating site to have implemented SSL across the board.

By the way, Google is now penalizing sites in Page Rank that don’t use SSL, which tells you how important this is.

Security Downside

The downside of all this security is that false blocks are possible, particularly for readers who are traveling in some of the same places hackers hang out so, if you do get blocked, please contact us.

Two New Writers

You have already met Mick, who debuted here with a blockbuster first post, and in the next few weeks we will be publishing four posts from a deeply experienced new writer, who is younger than the rest of us (except Matt) and therefore brings a new view to AAC.

Writer Pay

Talking of our writers. Despite our revenue sharing plan that we came up with a year ago, and some improvement in this year’s payout over last year, our writers still get paid far, far less than their talents and efforts deserve.

This is not a sustainable or morally supportable situation and is something Phyllis and I worry about constantly—the fact that almost all writers get screwed these days doesn’t make it right. We are determined to fix this, although it will take time and lots more innovation to generate the revenue to do so.

A special thanks to Colin and Matt for sticking with us and continuing to share their knowledge and writing skills as we work to get their compensation to where it should be.


Despite having some of the best writers in the boating space, we don’t run Attainable Adventure Cruising as a blog in which a writer dashes off a post and then publishes it. Every article you see has been through a six-or-more-pass edit process, usually lasting several weeks and taking anywhere from four, to as much as 20, hours of hard concentration.

In that process Phyllis copy edits—spelling, punctuation and style standardization—and then we both do the much more important (and often neglected in other publications) content edit to make sure that what the writer meant gets communicated in the clearest and shortest way possible while still preserving the writer’s own style. This last part is vital as good editing should be invisible.

After that the piece goes back to Phyllis for a second-pass copy edit, and then to me for photo optimization—yup, every photograph is hand-optimized to be as good as it can be—and layout, and then back to Phyllis for a final check before publication.

Phyllis and I are constantly working on improving our editing skills and while we know that we still have much to learn, we do feel that we took it up another notch over the winter.

Online Books

Somehow, in all of this, we managed to publish three new Online Books:

And continued the ever-ongoing process of improving and editing the existing Online Books, two of which we did a major makeover on:

EditedWe are also constantly tweaking and updating chapters across all the Online Books. Talking of which, you can now see when a chapter was last updated in the header.


There’s more to report but I’m getting tired just reading the above and reliving the ten hour a day, seven day a week, four month push that made it all happen, so I’m going to leave it there for now.

I will close by saying that we will now put Attainable Adventure Cruising up against any web site or magazine in the boating industry and feel confident that we will come away from the comparison looking favourable on all fronts, and most of all in the quality and depth of our content.


Having said that, we know that there’s always room for improvement, so if there are changes or additions you would like to see, please leave a comment. We are all ears.

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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.

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11 comments … add one
  • Alastair Apr 22, 2016, 2:38 pm

    This is a good resource that you host. I enjoy the clear and precise articles and appreciate the absence of debate and opinion that exists in other formats such as a forum. The writing quality is equally as important as authors experience, the combination of which delivers good information in an easily digested manner. Thanks for your efforts and enthusiasm, it’s really appreciated.

  • Erik Apr 23, 2016, 12:17 pm

    AAC is a high value site which I frequently recomend ( to what effect, I cannot say), and pretty much the only site site of this nature for which I pay. Gladly, I may add. All of the efforts are treasured by me, and the site re-do is very well done.
    To the writers whose efforts benefit all of us: thank you and please continue on, you are valued, and this is indeed a different endevour. Well done!
    To the members: spread the word, that is the best way we can repay the efforts.

  • Prentiss Berry Apr 23, 2016, 3:57 pm

    I really enjoy the site. It is the only site for which I pay and gladly (as mentioned by another comment). I also appreciate the editing. I much prefer a concise, well written, interesting article over a wordy article that leaves me wondering what the point was (getting paid by the word?). I have found that I re-read articles on AAC which I believe is a good thing. Thanks to all.

  • Marc Dacey Apr 23, 2016, 5:52 pm

    As an active writer and editor, I applaud your efforts. As a Firefox user of some years, I have had very few issues with the site, so whatever you’ve done on that score, it’s working. I read information and comments here of both consistent utility (in that they are rarely brought up outside of fairly technical books) and great experience. AAC remains my sole paid-for website subscription.

  • Geir ove Apr 24, 2016, 2:55 am

    I have recommended this page a lot, on forums in Scandinavia and my FB page. I would not do that just to any web site.
    This is one of the best.
    Thanks a lot.

    Geir ove

  • John Apr 24, 2016, 8:11 am

    Hi All,

    Thanks very much for the thoughtful and very kind comments. Phyllis and I really appreciate the time you took to express your satisfaction with the site. Your comments also motivate us to keep working at it.

  • Ian Apr 25, 2016, 6:37 am

    John and Phyllis,
    Thank you both and your excellent authors. You have created a wonderful website that informs and entertains. I look forward to seeing your updates in my inbox, which is a lot more than I can say for most of the email I receive. Thank you again!

  • Hans Apr 27, 2016, 1:40 pm

    Yes, your site is extremely good and useful and always fun to read. One of the few things that are worth more than one pays for. I recommend it at every possible occasion.
    Thank you !

  • Dirk Jacobsz May 1, 2016, 9:09 am

    John and Phyllis, and of course Colin.
    Aah may you have calm seas, following winds and a good internet connection. Thank you for the site and all you guys do. I love the site and the information on it.

  • michael feiertag May 21, 2016, 12:50 pm

    During my first few hours as a subscriber to AAC, I became thankful for the quality of the editing of the content, and to the structuring of the comment sections.

    After reading “Backstage” 4/2016, I understand why I have been so impressed with AAC from the start of my subscription less than 10 days ago. Articles and books with valuable content, well communicated, and with uniform quality regardless of authorship; a product of diligent editing. Comment section, properly structured, and with author interaction, vastly enhancing the primary content. Site design is clean, without distraction, and easily navigated.

    Your efforts are appreciated. Thank you!


    • John May 22, 2016, 9:43 am

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks very much for the kind words. Much appreciated!

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