The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

RIP Good Old Boat Magazine

I have been a subscriber to Good Old Boat magazine ever since I had lunch with Mike, the then editor, while attending the 2019 Annapolis Sailboat Show.

I signed up first because I liked Mike and felt that he was a genuine guy who had done real cruising and really wanted to help get other people out there.

That said, I did kid him mercilessly about the magazine encouraging the inexperienced and unsuspecting into years-long bank-account draining refits. He kinda agreed by saying:

Yeah, I’m an enabler.

But, on the other hand, GOB inspired a whole generation to find an old boat that would otherwise end up on the scrap heap, fix it, and get out there sailing and cruising.

And, best of all, the boats they wrote about were simple, small, and mostly wholesome—that was my second reason for paying my annual subscription every year.

I’m guessing that literally thousands of people, who wouldn’t have otherwise, experienced the joy of sailing and cruising thanks to GOB.

There is so much cheap classic plastic out there that it’s now possible to buy a functional 30-foot sailboat for $1500 that will take a couple out for a weekend, and even as far as Catalina Island.

Michael Robertson, then editor of GOB, at lunch

And now it’s over. Another victim of the glib YouTube channels and, I suspect, today’s fixation on having it all, and living large, rather than just getting out there in what we can afford. I’m saddened.

But here’s a bright spot. Good Old Boat went out with class. Instead of just walking away from those who had unused time left on their subscriptions, like most mags that go bust do, they just sent us subscribers a huge 4GB Zip of every single issue of GOB since the beginning in June of 1998.

Worth every penny I have left in my subscription, and then some. The boat reviews alone are gold. I will treasure the archive.

Thanks to Good Old Boat, a class act to the end.

Further Reading

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Marc Holdwick

Long time GOB subscriber here. I only have three subscriptions, GOB, Practical Sailor and of course AAC.

Sad day.

I am very glad though that they have opened up their past issue library for subscribers. Now I can keep them all forever.

Carolyn Rosner

Farewell, Good Old Boat. They started as “The sailing magazine for the rest of us!” and had recently updated to “Inspiring hands-on sailors” — both accurate. They knew their audience! Each issue was well assembled, with high quality writing, photography, and plenty of variety to keep everyone interested. But nothing lasts forever, and magazine publishing is ever more difficult and expensive to pull off well.

They had a great run, and we will miss them.

Matt Marsh

Good Old Boat was an excellent publication. It may not be commercially viable in the current era – a substantial fraction, if not an outright majority, of niche publications are either barely hanging in or failing entirely – but its spirit will live on.

While we’re on print periodicals, I might add that I’m tremendously impressed by how WoodenBoat Magazine is hanging in there. Few periodicals are willing to pay fair wages to expert author-historians to spend a week on interviews and museum investigations in order to write up ten-page histories of disappearing industries and subcultures, but these guys still manage to pull it off.

Jane Anderson

I love Good Old Boat and I’m so sad to see them go.

Ben Logsdon

As an owner of a good old boat myself (1984 Sabre 34) that publication was a great companion resource to AAC. It’s unfortunate they couldn’t keep it going with the current trends in media consumption.

A similar publication, Practical Sailor, I’ve noticed is diving into video content headfirst. Hopefully they continue their good work.

I’m happy to pay the subscription to all the above mentioned media because the value to me as a DIY boat owner is an order of magnitude more than the cost of the subscriptions.

Colin Speedie

A shame – I wasn’t a subscriber (being in the UK) but did pick up a copy or two when in the US and Canada. It may well be that the changing world did for them, but if my concerns are correct, there may be a market for their sailing worldview yet.
That they went out with decency and dignity speaks volumes about the team there, and I can only wish them all the best for the future.

William Murdoch

I am a subscriber, have given gift subscriptions, and have bought news stand copies. The demise is a shame. I’ll miss the magazine.

I have three old boats. A 1957 Duracraft runabout, a 1981 Tanzer 22, and a 1988 Pacific Seacraft 34. Keeping them up and using them has been a 45 year pleasure.

Andy Schell

Sad day indeed, having been both a subscriber and contributor to GOB over the years. I think we have to admit though that both AAC and what we’re doing at 59° North have contributed to their demise. Not intentionally of course, but as a side effect.

I just listened to a really great episode of the ‘Search Engine’ podcast about the changing media landscape in general, and while they focus on mass news media, the episode was very relevant to niche media like AAC, GOB & 59° N, and actually pretty bullish on niche publications that serve a very specific audience very deeply. Give it a listen.

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
And GOB might also be a victim of my casual observation that the younger crowd starting cruising are not benefitting from the wealth of well written, entertaining, and informative cruising and sailing literature that exists. I am self-taught in this sailing/cruising realm and relied greatly on the many books I absorbed in those early years.
For me, books leave room for imaginative contemplation and scene-playing-out in one’s head that does not occur, or occur so naturally, when one is watching a video demonstration. Reading stimulates imagining yourself into the book in a way that allows one to make the learning personal: watching video is more like being spoon-fed recipes. Not to mention the time-sink of video vs reading when learning. There are times when a picture is worth a thousand words, but those times are relatively rare when compared to well written instruction.
I will allow that perhaps the above is a generational thing, and I have considered this, but I don’t think so.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Matt Marsh

I agree, Dick.

The time required to create the content is a significant factor here. A detailed, well-written article of the type found here on AAC takes many hours of research, writing, revising…. illustrations must be made…. calculations must be checked…. technical standards must be reviewed…. it takes time and effort, a lot of time and effort, to distill a complicated concept down to the essential written words and present it in a way that conveys all the needed information in five minutes.

A good, efficient educational video is just as much work, if not more. Figure on a full day of planning, scripting, setup, recording, and editing to make a passably decent 5-minute educational video. You can ratchet that workload up five- or ten-fold in short order if complex animations or VFX are involved.

But you can record, edit, and publish a crappy-ass lame 5-minute video in only about 10 minutes. And YouTube’s “Up Next” algorithm won’t know the difference. Hence, thousands of gigabytes of utter shite video content.

The art of writing books and articles of this type is about how to convey a huge amount of information, teaching the reader a great deal of new material quickly, in such a way that the reader thinks they’re dreaming about sailing off to some tropical paradise and doesn’t consciously notice that they’re effectively in school. It’s satisfying, when we get it right. But it’s a tremendous amount of work, and a lot of modern “content creators” are not willing to put in that work.

Colin Speedie

Hi Dick and Matt

I agree with both of you. Books are the best, carefully crafted articles are trenmebdously time consuming and videos are well, either heaven of hell.
The good ones are great. I have become a kind of ‘go to guy’ in our remote location as the man to bring dead small machines (chainsaws, etc.) and without the good YouTube guys who fix these obscurities, I doubt I could fix a thing….
BUT – some of the rubbish ones are lazy, ill-conceived and often plain incorrect! Ditto the sailing content. Use at your peril. There is something wrong with a business model that allows any old ‘content’ to be put out there as in the current situation.
And don’t get started on’ influencers’ – just don’t!
Best wishes

John Cobb

I think it surprised even him when PS hired him to do those videos. I’m concerned about the credibility of PS now.

Iain Dell

There’s a saying in the medical world: “if a patient has Google for his doctor then that doctor has a fool for his patient”.

Applies equally well to much other stuff out there; used with appropriate cynicism it can be a good guide towards those with real knowledge. Used badly, it can lead you into a swamp – or over a cliff. One good thing about reaching a certain age is that you get a nose for BS or lightweights pretending they know more than they do.

I do enjoy ‘Practical Sailor’ but we’re fortunate on this side of the pond to have ‘Practical Boat Owner’ and ‘Yachting Monthly’ magazines, both of which seem to be doing well. They do videos but these augment rather than replace the written content.

Alastair Currie

Reading is powerful, no doubt about that, but it is also distracting and can be quite poor at explaining concepts and giving instruction. This latter point is widely accepted now and there are very precise ways of writing to ensure that human factors are given prominence when writing instructions, commonly known as “procedural discipline”, with quite a few standards now in place to address the shortfalls of writing instructions.
Human beings are stimulated and learn from visual queues, significantly more than the written word, especially when interacting with other human beings. I think this is where the likes of quality media tutorials or instructions hosted on the likes of YouTube provide a superior solution. When combined with a written guide, you have the next best thing to a personal tutor.
None of this is easy, as there are all sorts of psychological factors at play. I don’t think of it as generational, rather it is transitional. The optimum way of delivering information in a productive manner is likely variable and has still to be invented. Having said all that, I have a huge collection of old technical books and marine engine manuals, from a time when these books contained both excellent written descriptions and detailed cross sectional drawings. I agree that imagination is also key to developing concepts and understanding, pretty sure that is hard wired in to all humans.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Alastair.
Not sure I agree I agree with your comment:

Reading is powerful, no doubt about that, but it is also distracting and can be quite poor at explaining concepts and giving instruction. This latter point is widely accepted now

Nor have I seen this written elsewhere. Certainly, technical writing is a skill and a very demanding skill, and there is bad writing certainly to be found. But I will generally take good technical writing over a video any day.
Nor am I on board with:

Human beings are stimulated and learn from visual queues, significantly more than the written word, especially when interacting with other human beings.

I suspect some of the differences may come with one’s ability to imagine oneself into the writing. In this way good technical writing coupled with a well-done video may give the teacher the best shot at conveying the work at hand. But, I do believe that imaging oneself into the writing is very important to learning and absorbing: video is too much like being spoon-fed.
All that said, I repeat my earlier observation: there are times when a picture is truly worth a thousand words. It is when the written instructions fail to enlighten me that I turn to video and the combination usually does the trick.
In my experience, writing usually suffices and video is too much of a time-sink to turn to first.
My best, Dick Stevenson 

Drew Frye

As the author of much of Practical Sailor’s content over the past 12 years, I suggest you write-in requesting hard-nosed testing and DIY topics. The owners have been studying search metrics and determined that video and boat review generate 90% of the clicks and that readers, apparently, have short little spans of attention. I don’t think that represents any of you, and I believe that detailed, well-researched content, like that here at AAC, is what drives retention. Maybe not clicks, but retention, so John, please keep up what you are doing, just the way you are doing it.

Interestingly, the last two videos on systems (electrical stuff) and products (vinyl window care) were condensed narrations of print articles with no fresh material. Yup, those are photos of me and I remember what I wrote … 6-10 years ago in the case of these articles. I had test panels on my roof for 6 years.

I don’t see myself making videos. It’s not in my skill set or nature. Maybe that’s wrong. I remember in college that with some teachers that lectured from the book, attendance was optional, and you could either “read the book or see the movie.” Some material I could learn well from a teacher that amplified the points that, over the years I suppose, had generated the most questions or the best questions. Other materials I learned better reading the books or in the lab. And yet I scarcely ever look at a video, even though some are quite good.The only time I search out video is when it relates to a specific physical task, perhaps replacing a window, where seeing exactly how something goes that you can’t do-over is a benefit.

The future is here.

I spent plesant hours, the last two days, skimming though the GOB archive. Lot of good stuff and people I will miss. I wrote something like 80 articles for GOB, including a humorous one listing excuses to delay cruising, and a dry suit test during which I spent 6 hours in 32 F water. I learned a lot in the process.

Charles Roberts

For those like me who were wondering if there’s a way to purchase the full archive it’s available here:

Pretty steep price ($499 USD atm). I’d be interested in hearing from folks who already have it: would you have paid that much?

Paul Cheney

I was really sad to learn and wished I had been subscribing, not just for the archive. It is good to support good things even when you may not need it.