The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

New Site Design

New Design

As you have probably noticed, things are different now. I have just installed the new custom theme I have been working on for the last four months.

What’s New

  • Tips are now interleaved with Articles on the New page, but also formatted to make clear that Articles are more important—everything new is now in date order in one place.
  • Tips by topic, for example heavy weather, now display as the full Tip, not just an excerpt, so you can read through quickly without clicking on a new page and then having to go back to the topic.
  • There is now an abbreviated table of contents (blue box) under all Articles that lists other Articles on the same topic. Previously this only worked with Online Book chapters.
  • If you click on any photo on the site, it will enlarge in a cool lightbox, that can be quickly collapsed with another click, rather than either doing nothing or opening in another window, as before.
  • We have implemented a more legible body text font designed for reading large blocks of text on a screen.
  • You may notice subtle tweaks to the text and headings spacing to improve legibility—easy to do in the new theme, hard in the old.
  • When in an Online Book chapter, clicking on the cover of the book will take you back to the table of contents.

Just The Start

The above is just the start of the improvements that are buzzing about in my head, now that I have got the heavy lifting of building the new theme done:

  • A special area that’s branded and designed specifcally for the Adventure 40.
  • A redesign of the About page to make it lighter and better.
  • A redesign of the page for each Article topic and Online Book table of contents to make them more compact when scrolling through looking for something.
  • More improvements to search.

Have ideas for other improvements? Please leave a comment.


I have sweated bullets to make this new theme bug free, but the chances that I have actualy swatted all the little blighters are slim to none.

So if you find something that does not work, please leave a comment either on the article with the bug, or on this article.

What Do You Think?

Please have a look around, and then come back here to tell us what you think, both positive and negative, in a comment. We really want to know.

Under The Hood

For those interested, here’s some techie stuff about the new theme:


Yes, AAC is built on WordPress, and has been for some 15 years, the open-systems content-management system that powers over 40% of websites in the world.

Why WordPress?

Many reasons, but the most important one is that Phyllis and I don’t want to be internet sharecroppers at the mercy of whoever controls a closed system.

With WordPress we have total control. Heck, a few years ago, we were able to change membership systems without you members even having to change your password or how you pay us.

And the WordPress community is full of thousands of cool motivated people all dedicated to two ideals: retention of content ownership and portability. No lock-in.

Yeah, I’m a bit evangelical about it, most of us in the WordPress world are.

Ground Up

Instead of using a generic theme and building on it, as we have always done in the past, and most all sites on the internet do, I built it from the ground up just for AAC, so it’s smaller and faster.

That said, a big shout out to the many contributors to the WordPress 2024 theme, which was my inspiration, and from which I swiped1 much of the code.

Built For the Future

Our new theme, like 2024, is built on the new Full Site Editing WordPress front end, rather than what we are now calling a classic theme, so it will be:

  • Easily upgradable as new features and capabilities are added to WordPress.
  • Much easier to tweak and change to make the site ever better.

Assistant Coder

Also a shout out to my assistant coder, ChatGPT-4. Yes, much of the new code that makes all this work was actually written by AI.

Working with the bot was one of the most interesting parts of the project. I learned we need to:

  • Clearly understand the structure of the code we want.
  • Break the problem down into small functions.
  • Understand the programming language being used and clearly specify exactly what we want the code to do and how—this only works if the person using it can already code.
  • Be able to read the resulting code to check it.

That said, because I don’t code much and I’m dyslexic, I make a lot of little mistakes when I do, so using the bot was a huge productivity gain for me. For a better coder the gains would be less.

Other stuff:

  • ChatGPT-4 (paid) is way, way, better than ChatGPT-3 (free), which is near useless for coding.
  • If we use it for research, we have to understand the subject well to phrase the query right and it’s important to verify the bot’s output.
  • The bot won’t cite its sources, which makes verification more important and more difficult.
  • While the bot is pretty good at coding, it makes nasty and potentially dangerous mistakes when researching—be careful.
  • For fun I asked ChatGPT-4 to write a couple of articles. The results were truly terrible and often plain wrong—I’m not fearing for my job yet!
  1. That’s OK, in fact encouraged, in the open-systems world of WordPress. ↩︎
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Nathan Moore

Congrats! It’s always a good feeling to get something out the door. 2 comments on comments: 1) It used to be possible to click on the word “comments” from the list of articles and go directly to the comments of an article. That was nice. 2) The comments used to change color when I mouse-over’d them, which made it easy for me to see which comments were new when I came back to read additional comments. I miss that feature.

I hope the new theme makes your life easier!

Glenn Pullen

As far as the new unread comment highlighting, something seems to have changed (as in the highlights are missing, but not always). I tested this with Safari on an iPad, and with my rather restrictive Firefox configuration on Debian 12. Both platforms had the same symptoms. For example, from today, none of the ‘New Site Design’ unread comments are highlighted (and never have been), but the comment ‘… review-of-spade/#comment-309606’ was highlighted (and just now, your reply to that comment).

Note this has always worked for me in past using Firefox. I did notice though that about a month ago?, the first comment I opened from the ‘… /recent-comments/ page (my way following along day to day with what’s new) was not highlighted, but all the other new to me comments were highlighted. As I assumed it was due to my rather strange browser setup, I ignored it. At any rate, thanks for the new site format changes.

Nathan Moore

Hi John,

FYI: new comments are now showing in blue for me again, as they used to. No idea if it’s something you did intentionally, side effect of your other improvements to the site, or my browser just decided to show them again. I suspect clearing my cache was the solution, as you suggested below. Regardless, I’m as happy as always to learn from this site, both you and the commenters.

Nathan Moore

Love it. Thanks! Clicking into the article first is a good compromise.

Yes, I was referring to the unread comments showing in blue. It used to work and it’s not working for me right now (none of the new comments were blue when I came back this afternoon), but I agree that the browser is probably the culprit there.

Charles Roberts

Awesome! I appreciate the improvements in readability already. One quick note… the “Reply to the comment above” looks a bit odd with different colors, fonts, and spacing, bolding, etc.

Charles Roberts

Also, on this page at least, if you scroll down the article about half way and then start scrolling back up… the title bar reappears and overlaps article content.

Screenshot-2024-02-05-at-12.07.43 PM
Charles Roberts

Also, comment attached image thumbnails seem to be pretty blurry and unhelpful. You get a nice image when you click on them though!

Carolyn Rosner

Congrats on the overhaul and launch! I’m noticing something nice right away here in the comments — the ability to format, embed links, and add images is… new? If so, great! If not, well, I guess I’m not very observant. xD

Here are some initial thoughts — I haven’t kicked the tires very much, or looked at this on a phone; most of my comments have to do with design. Keep or toss …

New design type treatment is really nice, with larger text overall!

Home page “what we do” section especially good, communicates exactly what you’re getting on this website. 

Homepage masthead suggestion — what if the 3 links were buttons, equally sized type, with “New content & members” first, then “I’m ready to join”, then “I need to learn more” ? The different sizes of type and button/not-button is kind of confusing, and the “new content” button is off on the left floating by itself. Does that make sense? I’ve attached a quickie mockup of what I mean.

Type hierarchy: I’d also suggest making “Attainable Adventure Cruising” the largest type on the whole page (h1), with “All About You going cruising” (h2) smaller below it … and then “What people say about us” a bit smaller than that (h3). (see attached)

In the Topics list, consider repeating this text after “Recently Updated” — “Articles and chapters that we have recently made meaningful updates and improvements to”. Initially when I saw that link, I wondered if I would not be able to find that content elsewhere, i.e., also within its topic. 

The little book icon and highlighting of the Books in the main Topics listing calls them out nicely.

Thanks for the opportunity to comment on the new look and feel! –Carolyn

Carolyn Rosner

One more thing: You may want to adjust margins and spacing on paragraphs here and there. Screenshot from iPhone 11.

Matthew Clark

Agree with Carolyn and Alex, need margin, and I think maybe a bit more space between headed sections on mobile. I’m on iPhone, Safari. Very nice work overall, seems like it will be well worth the effort far into the future.

Carolyn Rosner

Wow, no more CSS media queries, now that’s progress! Good luck with the various minor adjustments, I’m now tempted to try FSE for my next site. WordPress keeps getting better and better.

Alex Borodin

Hi John,
on my phone, there’s apparently zero left margin, both in Brave and Opera mobile.

I can confirm that the percieved legibility has improved – good job on that!

I chuckled at your comments about job safety. As I had explained to some anxious colleagues, I can type the code for free and faster than it would take me to explain to some AI what exactly I need. It’s making all the decisions that is hard and what I charge for, not coding.


José Alejandro Regojo

Hi John and all:
Congrats for the improves; nice and easy to read.

Sometimes, I need to print in paper one article, to read it in places where I don’t have Internet access.

What happens, most of the times, when I try to print an article, is that there are some boxes in the beginning of every page (About, New, Books, Topics…) which hidden the first or the two first lines of every page, so I cannot print them.

Is it done intentionally for not allowing printing them? Is it something that can be fixed?


José Alejandro Regojo

Hi John:

Yeah that´s it. Couple of scrollings and they disappear,


Matt Marsh

Firefox’s “Reader View” is an easy option if that’s how you want things formatted. It simply displays the page’s body content with all the menus, buttons, etc. stripped out. Rendering engines tend to panic and make weird layout errors when they’re asked to reformat a dynamic web page for hard-copy or PDF.
It’s my understanding (although I haven’t tested it exhaustively on AAC) that this should also play well with Pocket for queuing up articles to read offline on your e-reader.

Matt Marsh

It’s looking pretty damned fine in both Chrome/Blink and Firefox/Gecko on Android 14, and is equally good in Edge/Blink and Firefox/Gecko on Win10 now, in both dark and light modes. The only noticeable glitch, to my eye, is that the line spacing below an H2 or H3 is a little bit compressed relative to the rather large spacing between lines of a paragraph.
Bringing the short tips & tricks into the main feed is a huge improvement. I used to miss most of them until many days or weeks later. Now they’re where they belong. It’ll make for better discussion on them, I’m sure.
Nice work, John.

Emile Cantin

Hi John,

After using the new design for a little while, I have but one complaint: on bigger screens there is a lot of “wasted space” left and right, and I think I’d like the actual content to be a bit wider (I tried 800px instead if the 600px you currently have, and I really like it. 1000px is too much.)

Other than that, it looks nice and clean, and I really like the new place for the tips! I often missed them, too.

Emile Cantin

Yeah, it’s much better! Thanks!

John Cobb

I seem to be having a bit of trouble with the search feature. If I tap the magnifying icon, the text box will open up and accept any text I type, but when I tap the search icon again, the text box collapses and no search results show up. I’m on an iPad using Safari with the latest IOS updates.

John Cobb

Easy peasy. Thanks.

Eric Klem

Hi John,

FYI, if I click on the link from the recent comments page, I often don’t end up at the right comment. For example, looking at the 5 most recent comments, Stein’s reply to Jim and Jim’s question to Stein both go to a comment stream between you and Mal. However, the other 3 from Jesse, Jesse and Jim all go to the correct comment. I have noticed in a few instances that it goes to the correct comment then quickly goes to a different one. I have tried this on 2 browsers (chrome and firefox) as well as from a phone.

I think I noticed this starting maybe 2 weeks ago although I have been away a bunch recently so there have been some long periods where I haven’t logged in.

Just trying down most of the comment stream, it seems to be working fine for tips but not for articles. Not sure if this is really the correlation but I got 100% correlation on the ones I tried.


Dick Stevenson

Hi John, I also experienced needing a meandering path to get my comment to a comment in the correct place. Dick

Eric Klem

Thanks John, it works as expected now for me.


Charles Roberts

It’s been about 2 months since the site update. Just wanted to drop by and let you know that it’s really improved usability from my experience. I’m especially enjoying the single thread of articles and tips together. Thanks again for your hard work!