John’s Thoughts and Photos—October #1

I want to try something new. For a couple of years now I have been feeling the need to write short informal posts with less structure than is our normal practice here at AAC.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do here and this new direction will not diminish or take away from that. I will still write the long form, carefully crafted, researched, and edited posts that have built this site.

But I also want to have an outlet for the quick one line thought or cool image that catches my fancy. Some of this stuff might not even be about voyaging.

In the last month I experimented with social media: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. At first it was kind of fun, but then I started to feel both constrained and manipulated. The bottom line is that these social media sites are all about maximizing revenue for themselves, not being the best outlet for the contributor’s creativity or helping small businesses to be successful.

For example, did you know that just because you like a small business’ page on Facebook that does not mean you will see their posts in your Facebook feed? No, not a bit of it. What you see in your Facebook feed from sites like ours is largely dependant on how much we bid for your eyeballs.

And then there’s manipulation: As first when I posted photos and thoughts, most people who liked our page saw them, but after a few days the numbers dropped off and each of my posts was annotated with a little note from Mark’s Boys and Girls suggesting that if I wanted readers to see it, I should pay…and pay. And as the days went by, the notes got more insistent and the number of people who saw my stuff got less and the amount demanded got larger.

And that pisses me off big time. If someone wants to see my photos and thoughts, they should be able to do so without interference. It’s between me and them. Sure, I’m willing to pay a reasonable monthly charge for a service like Facebook—I, of all people, understand that running a web business (large or small) costs money and should be profitable.

And we will continue to pay to promote Facebook posts that link to a new post here, as we have for years.

But I’m not willing to be constantly manipulated into conforming with whatever Zuckerberg’s latest grand plan to make more billions is, and to have my relationship with his company shift almost weekly as they scheme to get us to pay ever more…for ever less.

I thought Instagram might be cool, but then I realized that Mark owns that one too, and will undoubtedly start playing the same games. And anyway, it’s way too restrictive and smartphone-centric for me—I suck so bad at typing with my thumbs.

And then there’s Twitter, which restricts creativity at a whole lower level: 140 characters. And within two weeks of starting to post regularly there, they were gently suggesting that we need to pay to have my tweets seen…and you know it won’t be gentle for long.

One more interesting fact: Yea, I got lots of likes on my posts in the social world, but my efforts brought us no increase in traffic over and above our general use of social as a paid feed advertising our content…zip…nada…zero. Yea, I know, surprising. But if you look at the way social sites are designed to keep readers within each site’s boundaries, this becomes less of a surprise.

So then I thought maybe I should start a personal blog for this stuff, closely linked to this site but with a separate feed and email notifications, because I’m pretty sure many of you would not want to be deluged with two or three email notifications a day when the creative rush is on me, as would happen if I just short-posted here. And I liked that idea for several days and it still might be the best way.

But then I thought, wait a minute. The most important part of all of this is the people who make all of the wonderful creative endeavours that Phyllis and I get to spend our time on possible. Without you members who pay for the servers, the cameras, the computers, a share of our boat, and help put food on our table and a roof (or deck) over our heads, I wouldn’t even be having this quandary.

So surely you should have first look at any stuff I want to put out there? And surely all of our writing should be easy for you to find without having to flail around on some social media site controlled by a CEO with the goal of world internet domination.

So here’s my idea: I will put these short thoughts and photos in a single post, and then about once a week, Phyllis will give them a quick edit to make sure that at least the spelling is right, and we will publish them.

This approach will also make these posts a lot more timely than our long form content that typically takes weeks to  months from idea to publication.

And since each one will be titled “John’s Random Thoughts and Photos” followed by the month and number, if you are only interested in our long form content you can just ignore them.

And here’s the key point, these posts will be in addition to our normal content, not instead of.

Of course some weeks there may not be anything, and other weeks, particularly when we are out cruising, I may get really prolific. And yes, I may get tired of the whole thing and stop. But nothing ventured…

So let’s get started:

Oh, one more thing. Most of what follows, and much of the next “Random Thoughts” post, I used in my flirt with social media, so you may have already seen it. In future, you will see stuff here first…screw Mark and the horse…

Click on the pictures to enlarge.


One of the many cool things about cruising is the way we just seem to be in the right place more often than when landbound.


I’m loving our new battery monitoring system from Victron and will write a chapter for our battery online book as soon as I get my head around all the things it can do.


Great walk out to the light at Cape Negro Island today. Post from Phyllis coming soon.


Shared an anchorage with these guys. Endless entertainment, particularly when the tide is flooding  and each is playing King Canute as their resting spot gets ever smaller.


Even after 25 years of sailing her, this boat never ceases to amaze me: true wind 11.6 knots, boat speed 7.07 knots. Thank you, McCurdy and Rhodes.


Quiet morning in a Nova Scotia anchorage.


Caribbean? No, Carter’s Beach, Nova Scotia. And we had it all to ourselves for a morning walk.


Lunenburg first thing in the morning.

jhhomd1-9241502 jhhomd1-9241507

How did we back Morgan’s Cloud in here? A boat, like many, that does not steer in reverse? We will be sharing how…with video, no less.


I really, really want to know what you think of this idea, positive or negative—don’t spare my feelings…did I say I really want to know? Please leave a comment.

Like what you just read? Get lots more:

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.

73 comments… add one
  • Jo Oct 2, 2016, 1:42 pm

    It’s called a blog.

    I like the idea and I think it’ll be a good addition to the site..

  • Dick Stevenson Oct 2, 2016, 1:52 pm

    Hi John,
    Sounds like fun. This way you get to be as loose in your writing as many of us comment writers are at times (maybe not that bad). Oh, and the SM sites are impossible for those of us who are out cruising most or full time. Their gigabyte appetite precludes usage so I would hate to see content directed that way.
    My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    • Marc Dacey Oct 2, 2016, 2:54 pm

      Dick’s comment illustrates a real situation for the percentage of your readers/correspondents who are actually underway (a greater percentage, I would guess, than most cruising-orientated sites) or in places where wireless is parsimonious. The social media sites are bandwidth hogs. Not everyone knows how to tweak permissions and things like adblockers and autoplay disablers to shrink the data stream to manageable, or at least optional, dimensions. Social media is therefore not allowed aboard, even when it’s possible. Shoreside (or EXCEPTIONAL free wi-fi in an YC, maybe) only!

      I like the “hit ‘n’ run” posts idea, however. Lovely pictures. I think they are confirming that our decision to overwinter in NS before doing a trans-Atlantic is a good (if brisk) one.

      • John Oct 3, 2016, 8:25 am

        Hi Marc,

        You are right that social sites are hard on bandwidth when used on a computer, however they are very light when used on phones and tablets.

        Over the last month I have just been measuring data usage while out cruising and by far the largest hog is background software updates that kick off without the user even knowing. At some point I will be writing about tools to manage that.

        • Marc Dacey Oct 4, 2016, 12:08 pm

          I disable those even at home with excellent speed over a land line, because I want to learn if the update is truly necessary, given I customarily disable so much of my OS. If it IS necessary, I can defer an update until I’m ashore. It’s an interesting observation, however, John.

          • John Oct 4, 2016, 1:43 pm

            Hi Marc,

            Unfortunately, you may think you are disabling updates, but in fact you probably are not, or at least not all of them. There are a lot of very large updates that go on in the background that you simply can’t turn off unless you are using special software tools to do that, and even then it’s difficult. Must write a post on that.

    • John Oct 3, 2016, 9:22 am

      Hi Dick,

      Thanks for the support. I agree, there’s benefit, at least sometimes, in being a bit looser.

  • Dartanyon Oct 2, 2016, 2:48 pm

    Hey mate, I love the addition. I think ganging the random thoughts into a weekly digest kinda thing, is a good plan. I wouldn’t be as much of a fan of getting a new post for every random thought. I completely understand about social, although if someone/anyone wants to see the content there, they can “go” to your page and see everything, even if you don’t pay to push it into their feeds. For that reason, I’d like to see you keep posting there, even if it’s duplicated content, especially Instagram, which I seem to live on these days.

    • John Oct 3, 2016, 8:21 am

      Hi Dartanyon,

      Thanks for the support. Your comment that people could always go to our Facebook page brings up an interesting point: they don’t. One of the things I learned in the last month is that people consume social through their social feed, they almost never leave that feed. For example, in a recent and typical 28 days 23,834 people saw my FB posts in their feeds but just 37 visited our FB page. Wait, it gets worse. Of those 37 just 5 clicked on our “Learn More” button to visit this site!

      • Mark Oct 3, 2016, 12:16 pm

        I’m all for the extra posts. Great photos.

        With regards to the Facebook thing – I have a page for my clinic, but I don’t promote the posts. I read an interesting article about the whole “Facebook Like” thing — seems there is a little underground business where you can pay for “likes” to boost your page.
        In turn Facebook tries to block fraudulent account – so the fraudsters obscure their behavior by “liking” legitimate pages that are advertised. The problem is that these likes apparently skew your metrics and pull your advertising away from your target audience – making your posts show up even less for interested readers. I read a different article – but this link has some of the same arguments

        The net effect seems that advertising on FB can actually be counter productive.

        • John Oct 3, 2016, 4:11 pm

          Hi Mark,

          Just to clarify, we have never paid for likes, although I understand you are not saying that. So far the likes we get seem to be real sailors, but thanks for the warning.

          The only payments we make are directly to Facebook to increase the number of people that see our posts linking to articles we publish here.

          And paying FB that does work: we have the hard numbers. And if we don’t pay FB to promote those posts they slowly ratchet back the number of people that see them—feels kind of like thumb screws. One of the key things I learned in my month of social is that FB has pretty sophisticated algorithms designed to pressure page owners, and over the month I could watch those algos kick in.

          For example, after the first week, if I posted with an external link I would get 5 to 10 times less organic eye balls than a post that had no external link. The message is clear, if we as business owners want any juice at all, we pay. That’s fine, business is business, but its as well to be realistic about it.

  • David Wright Oct 3, 2016, 1:48 am

    The short bits a welcome addition. I do not facebook or twitter and I would rather support AAC than the mega-media venues anyway. Your solution will work great for me.

  • Klaus Oct 3, 2016, 4:20 am

    Hi John,

    great photos, entertaining content!
    I like it!

    S/Y Starship

  • Andy Oct 3, 2016, 6:26 am

    John, I love you but your points above scream DINOSAUR! Just because you don’t understand how other people use a service doesn’t mean they don’t use it, or that it can’t work for you. You’ve got to do a combination I believe. I look forward to our next media conversation!


    • John Oct 3, 2016, 7:59 am

      Hi Andy,

      I maybe a dinosaur, but I’m a dinosaur with hard data. Keep in mind that I have done a lot of work with Analytics over the years and we do some very deep measurement of traffic and benefits from all sources including social.

      That data shows that, at least in our case, the claims for social are much overrated. I see what you are doing at 59 North and admire it, but I wonder are you measuring? And if not how much of your efforts on social are maybe not really doing anything useful.

      Don’t ever forget that likes are just…likes. They may make us feel good, but do they advance the cause of building our community or tribe, as Seth Godin would say? And in the end, what really matters, I believe, is the community.

  • Andy Oct 3, 2016, 7:07 am

    Now some random thoughts of my own on social media, which I look forward to discussing with you John. I’m learning as I go myself, and don’t proclaim to know the answers. But some of this has worked for me…

    -Social media should be FUN! Forget the corporate FB ‘page’ – post thoughts & photos from YOU, then share them to the Corporate page. YOU are the brand, primarily anyway – the website is named after your boat after all! If you don’t enjoy posting, nobody will enjoy reading it.
    -Don’t try so hard. Paradoxically, the best social media posts are ones which specifically AREN’T promotional, are from the heart – exactly what you’re trying to do with these shorter posts. Think of social media as a way to share your own perspective on the world, how you see it through your own eyes. That will in turn endear people to you, and bring them to this here website organically. That’s how – and why – social media works.
    -Most social media users don’t care about the money part – it’s free for the end user and that’s all that matters, no matter how much Mark Z wants to create an empire – that’s his genius. He created a product that is so seductive, so easy to use, and so integrated across the Internet that people give up all of their personal data to use it, and business advertising pays for it. They’re not going to relate to your ranting about it – they’re going to continue using it with or without you.
    -Furthermore, lots of sites are now using FB and Twitter profiles as ways of logging in, commenting, creating profiles, etc. Something I’ve recommended to you in the past. I use it myself – the ease of logging into a site using my personal data I already have on FB is powerful, and I often do it. And we’re just in the early stages of this. Integration with social media sites in the future, I think, is going to be critical to log-in style sites like this. If it’s not easy and seamless, you’re going to limit your audience right off the bat.
    -Most people in my age group (under 35), use social media ALL THE TIME. It’s my primary means of communicating with my friends around the world, it’s how I get my (sailing) news, it’s where I read cool articles, look at cool photos, etc etc. That’s reality, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.
    -As far as bandwidth when out cruising, I’d argue people just aren’t being smart enough about their cellular data plans. I use TING in the US (only $6 to keep my number when I’m away and not using it), and have an unlocked iPhone. I buy local SIM cards aboard to use with it. I tether that to my computer as a mobile hotspot and literally run my business this way. In most countries, including the Caribbean & almost all of Europe, data is FAR cheaper than the US – in Sweden, I can get 10GB for $30! In fact, I’m tethered to my phone as I type this!
    -Social media also has the potential for viral distribution. Not that it’s ever going to go nuts with sailing related stuff, but post some cool stuff that I’ll share to my friends and on and on, and you’ve got a huge potential net.

    The biggest point to make is that you’ve got to think of social media as something FUN for you personally to participate in. If you don’t think of it that way, it’s just a job, and the posts will reflect your disdain for it and not work anyway. There’s no point in using it at all unless you realize that. Furthermore, social media, to really be engaging (and to make it fun for you!), requires that you participate. Comment on stuff others post, for example (Marc Dacey you are the best at this!). Look at other sailors’ feeds for stuff you may have found interesting. Be engaged with your fans – and potential fans – and they’ll engage with you. You being you is what sets you apart from the mainstream sailing media.

    THAT’s social media.

    Let’s continue the discussion!


    • John Oct 3, 2016, 8:05 am

      Hi Andy,

      All true, but that brings up a point that you and I differ on: focus. You are all over the map with your efforts. That works for you…maybe, see my points above. But for me, the greatest fun comes from working on real problems for the offshore cruising community, like person overboard. Free form on social does little (not nothing, but little) to advance that. And the bottom line is I only have so much time and energy so I must use it where it does the most good. Experience and Analytics has show that is here at AAC.

      • Andy Oct 3, 2016, 11:32 am


        You hit the nail on the head with analytics. But I also think it depends on what metrics you use, and sometimes they’re subjective.

        For example: I actually enjoy using social media. In some cases it’s my own creative outlet (like this blog is for you). Like I just posted a short audio clip of my interview with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston that comes out tomorrow. That was fun to make! Will it translate to clicks & podcast subscribers? Maybe, but that’s not the whole story for me. I enjoyed the process to.

        I’ll admit I’m on the hamster wheel sometimes as a consumer! I have to discipline myself to jump off, it’s a problem. But ultimately I’m measuring my ‘all over the place’ focus mainly in creative satisfaction. I love the variety in my life & career and need that outlet. Everyone’s got to look at it personally.

        You’ve taught me to define my goals more than I had in the past, which is great. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a creative, it’s that nothing is ever wasted if you’re learning something.

        Bottom line, I love the creativity side of you scratching your itch. Keep doing it!


        • John Oct 3, 2016, 11:56 am

          Hi Andy,

          I think you summarized the constant internal battle for creatives perfectly. I agree with every word. By the way, I was too diffused too and it’s Phyllis that has helped me focus better, I can’t take the credit.

  • Pete Worrell Oct 3, 2016, 7:29 am

    Whoa John this is GREAT. We had wonderful summer on the SW coast too. Love the pictures and the informal top of mind comments which for me are often the most valuable as they are the least edited. Good for you (and us!).

    Social media is in its infancy (and perhaps always will be). Our mass culture’s use of it will continue to evolve. I think one should ask if it is really authentic engagement, or just hamster wheel behavior whose beneficiaries are the social media site owners themselves? Many of us want to be engaged in energy creating communities. But it is not at all clear that the current iteration of SM sites results in that.

    Appreciate and value your continued independent thinking. It’s challenging to be counter-cultural, but keep the faith, brother.

    Pete & Kareen Worrell
    Portsmouth, NH, USA

    • John Oct 3, 2016, 8:06 am

      Hi Peter,

      Love “just hamster wheel behaviour whose beneficiaries are the social media site owners themselves”. That’s exactly what it felt like.

  • Stephan Oct 3, 2016, 7:32 am

    Hi John,

    The AAC cruising reference site is excellent & rightly named. A social media outlet is a good addition.

    S/V Slow by Slow

    • Niels Otto Wind-Jensen Oct 3, 2016, 8:43 am

      Fully agree with this viewpoint !
      Best regards,
      S/Y AUK

  • Michael McMahon Oct 3, 2016, 9:47 am

    enjoyed the feed. better than going to face book. I rarely go there.

  • Scott Dufour Oct 3, 2016, 10:04 am

    I dragged my sad Monday morning self into the office and snuck over to AAC. I started reading this post, thinking, “Ok, John. Whatever.”

    And then your photo of Lunenburg. And I swear I starting weeping a bit. You’re going to get me free of this desk and cubical yet, John. Three more years and you’ll see me anchored somewhere in Nova Scotia. I’ll be sure to say hi.

    • John Oct 3, 2016, 11:57 am

      Hi Scott,

      If ever there was a comment that summarizes the whole point, yours is it. Thanks.

  • Ed Finn Oct 3, 2016, 10:56 am

    Nice photos John, I like them please continue…

    Now you asked for the truth
    If I wanted a rant about the evils of social media,
    I would go somewhere else, not a sailing site…
    Now, Put that smoking gun back Its holster!

  • Mike McCollough Oct 3, 2016, 11:35 am

    I like it!?

  • Alan Bradley Oct 3, 2016, 11:38 am

    Hi John,

    I’m all in favor of the additional content, especially the photographs. I’ll be looking forward to the article and video on backing a boat that would rather do whatever it wants to when it’s in reverse.


  • Andy Oct 3, 2016, 11:59 am

    The explicit point I wanted to really make was – I hope you keep evolving to reach the next gen. of sailors. That’s what’s really important to me and behind all this.


    • John Oct 3, 2016, 4:26 pm

      Hi Andy,

      I agree, that’s the goal. And I really appreciate your input. But I have also learned over the years that intuition can be a bad way to run ones life. So the key question becomes does being on social get content like ours recognized by younger people? Everyone seems to assume it does, but I’m seeing some pretty hard data that says it simply doesn’t. And I’m not the only one.

      So I’m thinking about other avenues. Could I be wrong? Of course, that’s why I invested a month in social. Will I try again? Maybe. But what if there are better ways? If I just assume that social works for our kind of product, in the face of hard data that says it doesn’t, I may miss other things that will work—thinking about two of those now.

      Keep in mind that I have been told over the entire life of AAC that it would never work, that each step we took was wrong. But the basic fact is that we are the only viable player in our space (offshore voyaging) that actually makes a living from content, as opposed to using content to promote another revenue stream.

      • Marc Dacey Oct 4, 2016, 12:22 pm

        Yours is the only site I pay for, period, so you must be doing something right, as I’m cheap as hell. Interestingly, however, that “right” isn’t just you or Phyllis, given that your specialty of high-latitude sailing is fairly rarefied as an intro and even though your comprehensive experiences are very informative to any cruisers interested in the offshore path.

        It’s the fact that you have a VERY diverse set of contributors and, particularly, commenters that really hits the “value proposition” for me. I frequently mention things I read here to others, including pretty salty sailors, and it’s clear that they’ve never considered some approaches and techniques mentioned here, but they’ve certainly learned something worth discussing. Even the “newbies” here seem far more thoughtful and generally better sailors than any other place. The presence of many non-North Americans here is also very welcome, as I generally find that the level of seamanship of those not required to be licensed (as in RYA or ICC, etc.) is not what it could be for those trying to improve to a safe, offshore skill set.

        So I certainly hope all this effort sheds sufficient income to keep your interest up. It is indeed unique. Hell, I have a reasonably popular boat fixing blog, and I have yet to “monetize” it, figuring the light wouldn’t be worth the candle.

        • John Oct 5, 2016, 9:55 am

          Hi Marc,

          Thanks for the positive wishes. The good news is that AAC is now sustainable. The bad news is, but only just. So the key thing is that we stay focused and don’t make any stupid mistakes that cause our key members (like you) to go some place else.

          • Marc Dacey Oct 5, 2016, 12:18 pm

            Well, I’ve got a couple of years left on the sub, so I’m a captive audience. You might wish to consider “partnering” with your contributors, such as Andy Schell and people like the Shards, who are very active at boat shows and online. Jimmy Cornell comes to mind, as well. It strikes me that their audiences for Distant Shores and 59 North overlap yours to some degree, but not so much to be subtractive or “self-cannibalizing”. I get the strong sense you are not the boat-show featured speaker type (I may be wrong in this), but some sort of incentivization that tapped into their existing subscribers/fans could prove mutually beneficial. I assume, again perhaps wrongly, that this hasn’t already occured to you and Phyllis, but it does strike me that the Shards work the tropic (mostly), Andy and Mia work the mid-latitudes, and you and Phyllis favour high latitudes, so it seems to make sense on a Mercator projection, at least.

          • John Oct 5, 2016, 1:02 pm

            Hi Marc,

            One of the things we are looking at is an affiliates program, so as to partner with others. The tradeoff is that affiliates programs often come with a huge admin load—it’s all tradeoffs.

  • Guy Erb Oct 3, 2016, 12:31 pm

    Hi John

    I certainly understand the experiments you have been running through as you try and figure out the best way to reach your readers and I see that there is a lot of support in the comments here for a weekly “thoughts and photos” and I don’t see anything wrong with that. I wanted to share a my thoughts on social media as well.

    It is true, Facebook doesn’t drive visits to your website and it doesn’t drive visits to your Facebook timeline either. Life on Facebook begins and ends in the feed. The data your have gathered confirms this and it is a hard blow in the learning curve of small business owners around the world (me included) as they grapple with how to leverage Facebook to further their business goals.

    At AAC you have gathered a true treasure of research and reference material, all professionally researched and polished, yet presented in an entertaining and effective manner. The comments are intelligent and well thought out, you are very responsive to your readers. In other words, the content is valuable and engaging content, it is a gold mine of data and experience.

    Here is my point for Facebook, you need to strive to find AAC’s “Facebook voice, it is not a tool to drive people to the AAC main site (though this will be a natural outcome for those seeking to know more). This “voice” could take many forms but at the end of the day its worth is measure by how well it consistently creates engaging, intelligent, stand-alone content that keep the user on Facebook and makes them feel glad that they stopped and took the time to read and look, they feel informed, entertained, connected, excited. Do you have to pay for this? No, not necessarily. It is an art but you know you will have had a glimpse of the possibilities the day that you make a post and it starts to take off, first getting hundreds of views and shares, then even thousands. That is the “social” part.

    AAC’s twitter voice will be a different voice. Again it is not a place to link back to a new article on your homesite. It is a place to engage in a conversation with your users and develop your brand, develop a “mouth-feel” of who and what AAC is. Communication can be more frequent here and less polished. Links would generally only lead to interesting off-site data you want to share, not necessarily stuff from the main site at all. But largely it is the craft of learning to craft those 140 characters nuggets of value

    Instagram is a visual feast, a new voice again. Again with the goal of creating a voice, creating consistent visual value and is yet another way of having a conversation with your audience.

    As you mentioned, there are only so many hours in the day and you need to choose how to spend your limited amount of time. In the case of AAC I feel like you have so much value to share that it would be worth spending more time thinking about each of these venues and how you might be able to participate in them. Just like sailing, it takes time, practice and experience to even start to get a glimpse of how much one doesn’t know about these new forms of social engagement.

    In all fairness, when I look at your social media accounts, I see you experimenting with all the things I have mentioned above so I don’t think I am sharing anything you have not thought about.

    I think if you can figure out a way to keep it light and fun for yourself then you should continue to try and find the individual strengths of each of these media outlets. Spend the time trying to find the voice that works for you in each of these situations, watch for organic growth without paid boosts as a measure of how well you are doing, practice and learn.

    I can remember the frustration I would feel when I would do a well thought out post on Facebook and it would flounder even with a paid kickstart then my daughter would do a rough, ill-conceived (in my mind) post and it would take off like wildfire. Folks didn’t know who made the actual post, it all looked like it came from our brand. But she wields social skills with a natural ease and innocent unawareness that I can’t even begin to fathom. Me, I gotta keep working at it 😉

    • John Oct 3, 2016, 4:46 pm

      Hi Guy,

      Great comment for the other side of the argument, with lots of good thoughts.

      But wait, is your argument perhaps missing something? What is the benefit for AAC and it’s members if social does not drive traffic to our site? The key point being that our site is our product, unlike say your or Andy’s business.

      And then the second question must be what would you suggest we cut in our present services to free up the time and resources to do this? Let’s take an example. You say I should engage on Twitter. I already spend as much time as I’m willing to do (over an hour almost every day, 12 months a year) in the comments here. And that’s before I address my email. And I have already found that there comes a point when I have spent too much time in comment interaction that I get impatient and glib. (A popular post can take 3-4 hours a day.)

      So, by definition, being available to talk to on Twitter will make me less available here. Is that a good idea? I would say no. And that’s just one of the many things you are suggesting. In fact, I would postulate that all the things you are suggesting would take up 50% of the time I put into AAC. But even if I’m wrong and that number is as little as 20%, that would still mean less posts, less time in comments, less editing of other writers, less web development to add features to this site that members want.

      And all of this loss for a benefit that is at best nebulous?

      • Marc Dacey Oct 4, 2016, 12:29 pm

        If you look as FB as a filter, and let your contributors use it as well, it will work to drive appropriate and self-selecting readers to this site. I would estimate that perhaps 1 in 40 or 1 in 50 recreational cruisers would see the value of this site, because the rest are on a lake, or on the ICW, or are drinking beer tied to a dock, and don’t sail below 10 knots or above 15 knots, and it had best be sunny. That’s the reality and, I would venture, that’s your realistic audience: small but enthusiastic. The proportion in Europe would be higher, of course, as the strength of the Atlantic and attached parts (not to mention stronger tides) means that even the worst European sailor has to be as competent as an intermediate North American sailor.

      • Ernest Vogelsinger Oct 5, 2016, 5:43 pm


        while I fully understand all your thoughts on (or against) SM, regarding Twitter, wouldn’t that be something Phyllis might enthusiastically take over?

        Actually SM doesn’t bring us, the members of your site, any benefit – the benefit should lie with you by making us more, allowing you greater freedom for your exceptional work.

        SM or not SM, I’m sold for AAC, And I tell everybody I know in conjunction with venturing near- or offshore. And I’m really looking forward to your rants, thoughts and whatever might condense here 😉

        Best wishes, Ernest

        • John Oct 6, 2016, 8:47 am

          Hi Ernest,

          Phyllis is simply not the Twitter type. Also, even though you don’t see her byline here as often as mine, she is just as busy as I am with her tasks here at AAC, she: Edits every post, does 90% of the member account support, most of the accounting and bookkeeping as well as the lions share of general administration. But that’s just for this site. On top of that she is the lead editor over at The Norwegian Cruising Guide, the other leg of the bipod that keeps AAC viable.

  • Stephen Narron Oct 3, 2016, 2:16 pm

    Good job John, Agree! Facebook is NO GOOD, sorry Suckerberg! Or not.

  • Richard Dykiel Oct 3, 2016, 3:27 pm

    Please continue this; good thoughts and great pictures. After all, all that hard technical stuff discussed on your site is the enabler to the joys of safe cruising. Thanks for sharing that part, too.

    BTW, I’d like to see you try snorkeling on that ‘caribbean’ beach of yours 🙂

  • Randall Oct 3, 2016, 6:17 pm

    I fully support your position re: social media. Full disclosure: I never use it. I have always questioned the intrinsic value of a website serving the need for people to post minutiae of their personal lives to attract friends… the whole premise is one I will not buy into. I would rather have a little life than a shallow one.
    You and Phyllis are iconic individuals whose choices and achievements set you apart. Your website and every article you write reflects that. Facebook is rife with more-detail-than – anybody-really-wants-to know trivia and shallow content. I question whether participation in social media – particularly on a pay per play basis – is not somehow akin to advertising in the National Inquirer…in my mind not really not consistent with your brand image. You are individuals, not lemmings…
    I surmise from your posts that feeding Facebooks insatiable appetite for your cash did not result in membership gains – so why do it…IMHO, Facebook was a con from day one, and tragically for some of the people who cling to it and defend it so desperately just may not have anything ( or anyone) more tangible to cling to … Just sayin…
    For those who need it, keep on with it. Enjoy it. This is a free continent ( unless of course you happen to be a visible minority…but thats another issue for another day…). But to them I say do not think for a minute that I should use Facebook, or have an y interest in wasting my time on it.
    Keep up your wonderful website and your new blog. Your annual subscription fee is an incredible bargain given the quality of what you turn out, and I look forward to reading each and every post.

    • John Oct 4, 2016, 7:52 am

      Hi Randall,

      Thanks for the kind words, support, and a clear view of the less-than-enamoured-with-FB group.

    • Flemming Torp Oct 7, 2016, 5:55 pm

      With a “Non-English (Danish) mothertongue”, it is difficult to formulate personal opinions on AAC and Johns new initiative.
      But Randall has “somehow read my mind”, and formulated my thoughts very well – i.e. much better, than I could do it myself …
      To me social media – FB – is primarily superficial entertainment and family/friends stuff.
      ACC is about sailing, learning, sharing of knowledge and expericences, serious, relevant and interesting stuff, worth reading, and worth every penny …
      My new anchor is a SPADE … I have rearranged my jacklines … I have changed my battery set up … I have spent three sailing seasons in Norwegian waters with NCG … and much more … all based on input from Phyllis and John in AAC … Thank you!
      I certainly like the actual format, and will be looking forward to more informal thoughts and nice photos from John. But I certainly hope, it will not be at the expense of the input you provide to AAC …

      • michael f Oct 7, 2016, 8:00 pm

        John and Phyllis, I am with Fleming and Randall on this.

        I am interested in high quality content pertaining to offshore cruising. Not general boating, general sailing, ICW cruising, etc. At AAC I can not only find information I am seeking, but also discover issues of which I was unaware and, through ignorance, previously not concerned. Your primary writing, editing, comment management and responses allows a multitude of valuable contributions and comments without topic drift.

        My time is valuable; and I appreciate the AAC resource as it allows me to efficiently consume information while enjoying the images that accompany the articles and the global perspectives submitted by members.

        I suspect that likely potential subscribers are those who have a focused interest in offshore cruising and are in the process of educating themselves in anticipation of an impending lifestyle change to include voyaging. Like me, they will be seeking specific information, and a Google Search will land them on the site. Perhaps there is more that you can do to bring AAC to the top of Google searches related to the AAC content.

        I suspect that those you reach through social media are not likely to subscribe to AAC to gain access to a narrow scope of detailed information and discussion. They are looking for social interaction that is generally related to a wider nautical scope. An internet searcher looking for information is more likely to subscribe, provided they find the site and recognize the value.

        Social media for business development makes sense only if you enjoy the socializing regardless of whether it efficiently promotes the business. Otherwise, attract subscribers by advertising where they are currently reading and searching.

        • John Oct 8, 2016, 7:39 am

          Hi Michael,

          You hit the nail exactly on the head. The vast majority of our new readers and members come from search and only a minority from social. We have known this for some years and that’s a lot of why we put so much work into the new site design, particularly in speeding it up, last winter: Google loves speed.

          We continue to work on being search engine friendly and see it is our number two web development priority after making the site easy and fun to use for members.

      • John Oct 8, 2016, 7:34 am

        Hi Flemming,

        Thanks very much for very kind comment, makes it all worth while. And be absolutely assured that these new posts will not be at the expense of our normal content. We will still be publishing 6-8 in-depth posts a month, as always.

  • Steve Oct 3, 2016, 10:32 pm

    John, love the idea! Especially with photos….I’m longing for NS.

  • John Oct 4, 2016, 8:08 am

    Hi All,

    Just wanted to thank all of you for the well reasoned comments on both sides of the debate.

    All of this really helps as Phyllis and I decide how best to move forward.

    • Homero Oct 8, 2016, 12:12 am

      I have a suggestion: increase the yearly subscription by 50%. That will avoid you to waste time with other forms of SM and allow you to concentrate your time on the AAC, and keep researching topics that are so useful and important for your subscribers.
      We spend hundreds of thousands of $$$ on the boat. The advisers we get here about our safety for example, are priceless. $10 dollars more will not make you lose any subscriber. Just send the bill.
      Ps: I am absolutely not rich, but your advises can avoid break the boat, lose the boat or lose a life

      • John Oct 8, 2016, 7:43 am

        Hi Homero,

        Thanks for the suggestion. Many of our members have made also suggested a price increase and we are certainly considering it. The challenge is in recruiting new members at a higher price point. To do that we will have to do a much better job of communicating the benefits of membership quickly and effectively to a new reader, than we do now. That will be where a lot of our effort will go this winter.

        • Dick Stevenson Oct 8, 2016, 7:47 am

          Hi John,
          I do not follow the business aspects of the posts of AAC closely, so forgive me if this is out of line or previously covered. Does AAC promote itself as a magazine? People do not balk (generally) at magazine subscriptions. I believe a case could be made for you developing/perfecting a new form of “magazine” and ACC could be promoted as such. Certainly the content way exceeds by quality and quantity that which is offered by any conventional magazine.
          My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

          • John Oct 8, 2016, 9:34 am

            Hi Dick,

            I think that may be a very good idea. There is no question in my mind that we could be doing a lot better job with our positioning and your idea is certainly a good direction to explore. The great thing is that as part of our site rebuild last winter we installed the code to do A/B split testing, which will allow us to try each of these ideas in turn. Just have to get MC all put to bed, and then we will turn our attention to that kind of stuff.

        • Randall Oct 8, 2016, 9:27 am

          Re: your response to Homero, specifically ‘Thanks for the suggestion. Many of our members have made also suggested a price increase and we are certainly considering it. The challenge is in recruiting new members at a higher price point. ‘
          Pricing is a key element of your positioning in the market place. Price yourself low and the market will perceive you don’t have much to offer. For those of us who know what you offer, we have looked beyond your low price to the quality of what you and Phyllis do, and are committed readers and supporters. I wonder how it would look for you to price yourself similar to the main print edition sailing magazines – such as Good Old Boat, Sailing, or similar. I wouldn’t blink, and I doubt others would either. We all know that unless this is giving you sufficient financial rewards, you will discontinue…and that would be a tragedy. 2 cents worth…

          • John Oct 8, 2016, 9:30 am

            Hi Randall,

            That makes a lot of sense, thanks.

          • Mark Oct 8, 2016, 3:05 pm

            Setting price is tricky. I’ll admit that I waffled for quite a while about buying into the site. I’m so far away from actually voyaging that I’m here just to learn theory from experienced sailors – things I can apply on a small scale to my coastal sailing.
            I read everything free on the site, along with reading from a lot of other free sites.
            I didn’t (and really still don’t) have the knowledge to differentiate the quality of the information.
            But I decided to go for it and buy in – the inexpensive price helped that. Now that I’ve been following every post for the last year or more I’m hooked. I’ve used what I learned to anchor more effectively (just a month ago woke up after a wind shift to find myself still in perfect depth water).
            Now I see the value and wouldn’t balk at a higher fee. Maybe there is some way to draw in interested parties with a discounted entry fee – a teaser to get them in far enough to learn what this is worth.

          • John Oct 8, 2016, 5:22 pm

            Hi Mark,

            Your comment really zeros in on the problem. How do we communicate value up front.

            A low teaser may easily be the way to go. We will be looking at the whole price structure this winter, and that idea will be in the mix.

        • Homero Barros Oct 8, 2016, 3:17 pm

          When I was researching which boat to buy, I contacted Beth Leonard, and she was very helpful and besides other tips, she suggested that I subscribe to your site, which I did. You have been around for so many years, and have such a solid reputation, I am sure many people here would gladly write words of encouragement to potential subscribers. One of the advantage of your site, is the high quality of the people making comments. I learn as much from them as from your insights. So here is my suggestion: Have a page of referrals and suggest that people should read it before deciding to be a member or not.
          As I said before, the depth of the knowledge base of your site is priceless.

  • Matt Boney Oct 4, 2016, 12:58 pm

    Hi John, good luck with your new Viltron Battery Monitor, but beware of comments I have posted already on this site re. Battery Monitors and the much more accurate SmartGauge.

    I would advise everybody with a shunt based Victron type Battery Monitor to disable the “auto sync to 100% full” feature! This can be done by setting the syncing voyage to 16v – which the system should never see. This resync feature is just one of the problems that make battery monitors so inaccurate.

    I look forward to reading your assessment of the Victron.

    • John Oct 4, 2016, 1:39 pm

      Hi Matt,

      You are right that as it comes from the factory the sync feature does not work well. That said, once the unit is properly programmed for the boat’s installation, and each boat will be a bit different, the sync works fine and the unit is accurate. I will share details on how to program it in the post.

      Also, while the Smart Gauge is way cool, it is also lacking in a lot of features that are required to properly manage a charging system on a voyaging yacht. More on that too in the post.

      • Matt Boney Oct 4, 2016, 2:06 pm

        There is a “Gotcha” with solar that means the sync feature can never work. You can never programme the sync feature to work – I could write a book about this – I am doing that at the moment!!!!

        • John Oct 4, 2016, 2:20 pm

          Hum, can’t see that, but let’s sort it out when I write the post.

  • Ian Oct 10, 2016, 10:37 am

    It’s amazing how threads diverge from their starting point. So a quick dart back to John’s Random Thoughts and Photos – Fantastic! I love it. I love the photos and the “chat” – very social media. All that’s missing is the antics of a ship’s cat!
    Don’t get too hung up on Facebook – if you’re aiming young – late teens, early 20s, I think they’ve given up on FB. They like and post pictures – Instagram and videos – YouTube…
    I’m too old I read top class websites like AAC.

  • Chuck B Nov 3, 2016, 3:30 pm

    Hi John! Since you’re into analytics, here’s an idea (which you may have already considered!). Survey your existing paying customers to find out “where they are.” Then focus on seeing if putting effort into those avenues helps lead to more paying customers.


    P.S. As another data point, I too am not averse to a subscription price increase. Your site and the info and conversations here are an amazing value proposition!

    • John Nov 4, 2016, 7:22 am

      Hi Chuck,

      That’s an interesting thought, and easy to do since we already must put the data together as part of our sales tax reporting. That said, I’m not sure I can see a cost effective way to promote to a specific geographical location. Maybe I’m missing something.

      • Chuck B Nov 4, 2016, 10:43 am

        John I must apologize for being unclear. I mean “where they are” in an abstract sense — really, where their eyeballs (or earballs!) are. Magazines? Web sites? Forums? Podcasts? Which ones? (Perhaps not Facebook or Twitter!) Then you can put yourself in front of similarly-minded eyeballs who may be similarly inclined to benefit from and pay for your service. That’s the theory anyway. 🙂

        I’m pretty sure I first found your site through a Google search, but I don’t remember what search phrase I used. Maybe there’s some opportunities around that.

        It’s all a bit of work with uncertain outcome though…


        • John Nov 5, 2016, 8:57 am

          Hi Chuck,

          Oh, OK, now I get it. What you are suggesting is called “attribution” in the Analytics world, and we already do that at a very high level of detail. That’s the reason we know that social is near-useless at bringing in new members. The exception is YouTube, which does bring in a few. By far the largest share of our new members originally found us through search (like you). The second source, but a fraction of search is referrals from other sites and forums.

          I think the key take away here is that if you want people to give you money for content you must give them hard actionable information that can solve real problems for them, not just entertain them like on social. That’s what we do, and the way that people find that hard information is search.

          This is also the reason we give away as many posts as we do: you can’t expect people to pay until they see the real thing.

          I should add that the actual numbers are more complex than that. For example, we get quite a lot of traffic from FB, but almost no new members.

  • Ann Nov 7, 2016, 1:06 am

    I love this idea and look forward to the posts. As Jo commented, what you’re describing is a blog. One thing I’ve wrestled with when writing my own blog is placement of descriptive text around photos. I’ve found that placing the text above the photo being described introduces the photo and helps with readability. Depending on what type of device you’re reading with and the size of the photo, placing text at the bottom can result in scrolling down to read the text and then scrolling back up to have a closer look at the photo. Just a thought…

    • John Nov 7, 2016, 8:32 am

      Hi Ann,

      Glad you like it. Actually it’s in many ways a return to this site’s roots since we started it some 14 years ago as a blog, although we didn’t call it that.

      Interesting point about text and picture placement. One issue that jumps to mind is that the WP standard is to place the caption under the photo, so I’m guessing that’s where most readers instinctively look for it. That said, your point is a good one, particularly with larger photos, and in this format I’m not using captions anyway.

  • Dick Stevenson Apr 30, 2018, 1:50 pm

    Hi John,
    My venerable Link 20 battery monitoring system is on its last legs. It gives me what I want: accurate digital voltage and amps in and out for 2 banks, house and starter. Did you ever write about your Victron system: a search did not find it on the AAC site. If not, are you still happy and which model did you get? Any other thoughts/comments would be appreciated.
    Thanks, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    • John May 1, 2018, 7:29 am

      Hi Dick,

      I’m just working on some new electrical system articles and one on the Victron battery monitors will be part of that but the short answer is I’m still very happy with them.

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