John’s Tips Tricks and Thoughts—February

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Fifteen Tips, Tricks and Thoughts this month.

This area of the website continues to evolve. I started off with very short Twitter-type posts, mainly tips, and although I’m still doing some of those, I have found it’s also a great place for blog-style posts about boats, gear and techniques that I can write in a few minutes and publish without doing all the research and analysis that a full article deserves.

An example this month is another thought about vane gears.

I find this freeing, since this format lends itself to writing briefly about an idea, without having to reach a conclusion and support that—a point to think on, rather than a specific learning.

Useful Bits and Pieces

The area has also become a great way to add information in pieces as it comes to my mind, rather than aggregating a bunch of stuff together for an article, which might never see the light of day because of our already full publishing schedule.

For example, in recent months I have been dashing off a quick tip most-every time I use a tool that I have not written about before.

And, better still, we were then able to aggregate all the tool tips together as an added resource when we published the summary tool kit article in our Maintaining a Cruising Boat Online Book.

That said, I do need to figure out an elegant way to curate and include relevant tips in the Online Book. The good news is that the software architecture of the site will make that relatively easy.

Inappropriate for Articles

And, finally, the Tips area is a good place for me to write about stuff I would not feel comfortable bugging you paying members about in the article area.

This piece about our old boat being for sale again is a good example.


If you have any thoughts on the above, or suggestions to make the Tips, Tricks and Thoughts area better, please leave a comment.

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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 25 years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 20 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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Stein Varjord

Hi John,

I read this section with the same interest as the rest of the site. The shorter format is a nice alternative. I no suggestions for improvement. It seems pretty functional already.


I like your efficient use of words, concise writing and getting to the point. My only suggestion is to put a word limit to the comments as occasionally some are long winded.

Stein Varjord

Hi Ian and John,

Even though my comment above was short, I guess the French word “touche” would be appropriate here… 🙂 I’m certainly guilty of frequently pouring in loads of words. I try to split it up to make it easier to read, and I try to remove unnecessary details.

Could I do the filtering and shortening better if I was forced to by a length limit? Yes, definitely. Would that process remove value from my post? Hard to say. Occasionally it might, but my guess is that I’d spend more time compressing it without apparent loss, or split it in more than one post. Speaking for myself only, I doubt that a fitting limit would make a big difference. I’d just adapt.

I happily read long posts from others. Perhaps they could be made shorter, but I feel that a single flowing text can also bring me deeper into what the writer wants to explain. Sometimes the same thing explained in two different ways is what it took to make me to get the point.

If a limit is introduced, I think it would be smart to make it generous. One of the qualities of this site is the depth and thoroughness in the comments. That certainly doesn’t fit in a Twitter format or similar. The members here seem to have a longer than currently normal attention span. 🙂 Also, if introduced, I think it would be smart to have a counter showing exactly how far we are from the limit.

Stein Varjord

Hi John,

I really don’t know what would be a good limit. Some posts are too long with 20 words. Others are too short with a thousand words. I lean towards thinking that the benefits of a limit are nice but not essential, while the potential damage might be significant.

Anyway, there’s an automatic motivation towards limiting lenght, even without an absolute limit. Writing takes time and effort. If there is a limit, I would probably spend more time in total, editing to keep it inside the limit. I don’t really think that would influence my willingness to spend the time needed, but these things are influenced by emotions more than logic. What I think I’ll do isn’t necessarily what I’ll actually do. As you know, no person ever born was in control of their emotions. Especially not those who think they are. 🙂

Perhaps, rather than a limit, some sort of extra input on length could help giving awareness to the writer that novel level is approaching? Perhaps some progress bar? Or the text turning red? Or the letters becoming gradually smaller to illustrate that it’s also harder to read for others? 🙂 Maybe displaying the current number of words and a comparison to the average or the desired length could be a useful reminder?

Stein Varjord

Hi John,

Is it possible to have the character counter that turns red, as you mention, but still have no hard limit? The number would only be info that it’s getting longer than recommendable, while those needing a longer format can pretend to not see it and keep writing. I think many, myself included, might be influenced by that recommendation.

Greg Ator

Hi John,

Some people have a lot to say and it’s worth publishing. This site cultivates very experienced and thoughtful, commentators on the whole in my view.

One man’s long winded discourse is another’s opening paragraph on the topic. For better consumability, you could have an opening three or four lines and then a read more link out.

Jonathan Cohn

I vote for no limit on comment length.

John Cobb

Please do NOT limit comment length. The quality of the comments here are such that restricting comment length would be a huge disservice to your subscribers IMO.

Nicolas Dirr

I agree.

Rob Gill

“I apologize for such a long letter – I didn’t have time to write a short one.” Mark Twain.

Mark Young

A vote for long format here.

I find a lot of very useful titbits in the comments. I think the site would be the less for it if a short format in comments was enforced. If one doesn’t want to read a long post, then dont and move on.

There is much wisdom in the comments, would hate to lose it.

Charlie R

I really enjoy the tips and tricks… especially since it’s frequently updated and has little practical recommendations / advice that are easy to try out. Lots of value!

One thing I’d love to see is a link at the top of the site that goes to the tips and tricks page (along with “About”, “New”, “Books”, etc). I usually keep it open as a tab and reload but when I lose it it’s a pain to search through and find again.

Thanks for the great work! I learn something from your site with every post 🙂

Charlie R

Ahh that trick helps. Thanks for pointing me that way… I didn’t notice it on my own. Def understand wanting to keep this mobile friendly.

Charlie R

I loaded up AAC this morning and noticed the tips link was up there. Looks great! Thanks