Category: Blog

19 Jun


Themed Issues —by Joshua Colvin



This might come as a surprise to some of you, but the selection of articles in each of our issues is more-or-less coincidental. Any apparent “theme” is mostly happenstance, as we typically run the articles in the order they were accepted. Whatever curating we do happens, for the most part, when we select and edit the original submissions.

Of course we’ll sometimes rush to print a time-sensitive article or rearrange the schedule of a few articles if we feel we need a little more regional diversity or more “how-to” or “adventure,” for example, but each magazine is mostly comprised simply of the next batch of articles in the queue.

I mention this only because we find it interesting that a lot of our magazines end up with an unmistakable theme anyway. Last issue (#110) was a good example. It so happened we had articles on human propulsion, a pedal-powered boat, a solar-powered boat, and a power-sailer—a sort of “Alternative Power”-themed edition was born. While it was a tinkerer’s dream, not everyone liked the esoteric content and shortage of sailboats. This helps explain why we avoid overt themed issues, as by their nature they please fewer readers. (Better, we think, that you occasionally skip a page or two you don’t find interesting, than receive a whole magazine focused on something you find uninspiring.)

Similarly, when we’re asked, “Why don’t you do more articles on (fill in the blank)?” our answer is usually, “Because we’re not getting any articles on (fill in the blank).” While we occasionally generate or solicit articles on a particular topic—like we did recently with Perfect Prams and Best Places to Sail—we’ve found the best material is generally whatever’s on the mind of those of you who contribute to this magazine. It certainly makes editorial direction simple: What topics do our readers want us to cover? The same ones covered in the articles they send us.

Speaking of themes, we’ve also noticed over the years that specific words or references sometimes appear multiple times in a single issue. Once it was Tinkerbelle—the boat and the book—that came up in a bunch of articles, then more recently it was Swallows and Amazons. For whatever reason “Huck Finn” made multiple appearances last issue. Maybe these repeat references aren’t so surprising—in fact they might do a better job explaining what our magazine is about than anything else we could come up with. Any fan of Tinkerbelle, Huck Finn or Swallows and Amazons will probably feel right at home with Small Craft Advisor. —Joshua Colvin

11 Apr


The Child Inside



My boat already beached, I sat in the warm sand and watched my friends’ boats sail toward me, an easy breeze rippling the water. As they landed, skippers and crews hopped overboard and walked ashore, anchors and rodes in hand, dragging the vessels a little farther up the beach and setting temporary hooks.

We stood around admiring each other’s boats for a few minutes, pointing out various modifications made or planned, then shared a community chocolate bar and recounted—with appropriate poetic license—highlights from the day’s sailing so far. Next came debate and strategizing about the best route back on the afternoon’s rising tide and contrary current. Someone suggested they might row while under sail, another planned to walk their boat upstream by the painter and push off around the point. Someone else was lobbying to stay put and make camp.

At 45 years old I was the youngest in our group, and not by a little bit. Among those gathered were two former military pilots, a construction company owner, a doctor, and a retired professional designer—all with vast experience, nautical and otherwise—all serious and capable people. But now here they were, pants rolled up like Huck Finn, one of them showing off his new camp stove, another fiddling with his phone’s navigation app, and everyone laughing at each other’s corny jokes. It occurred to me then that what we were, fundamentally, was a group of twelve-year-old boys. We had our wooden rafts and bed-sheet sails, our binoculars, our sleeping bags, and a longing for adventure. All that was missing were a few comic books and maybe a slingshot or two.

Something magical happens when we climb aboard a little boat and push off to explore. If we relax and allow ourselves, we return to the age where such adventures first appealed. A tiny boat really is a time machine, revealing the boys and girls we’ve never fully stopped being. Aristotle said “Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.” I say give me a 70-year-old and a small boat and I will show you the boy. —Joshua Colvin

Filed Under: Blog

05 Oct


How fast can you go in a small cruising boat?



Gerry Spiess and Yankee Girl arrive in Honolulu. Pic by Marlin Bree.

“When it comes to small boats,” my friend Gerry Spiess was explaining to me, “all the rules go out the window.”

Gerry is the champion small-craft sailor who set two world’s records by sailing his 10-foot homemade plywood sloop, Yankee Girl, across both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.

On the long reaches across the Pacific, he took only 34 days to sail 2,539 miles from Long Beach, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii. He had averaged 74.5 miles per day—an extraordinary run for a heavily laden boat with only a 9-foot waterline. Much larger sailboats do well to average a little over 100 miles per day.

He was bettering his North Atlantic record run. He had sailed out of Virginia Beach, Virginia, heading eastward to England. That sail took him an elapsed time of 53 days, 5 hours nonstop to Falmouth, 3,780 statute miles. He had averaged 60 miles a day an average speed of 2.5 miles per hour in storms, high waves, doldrums, and some good sailing. His best day’s run was 84 nautical miles.

Out of Honolulu and in the South Pacific’s trade winds, Yankee Girl began hitting 100 miles per day under her twin 29 square foot jibs.His best day’s run: a whopping 138.09 miles.

He abashedly jokes about his little boat’s speed: “I was asleep a third of the time.”


Marlin Bree ( is a contributing writer to Small Craft Advisor and the author of numerous boating books. He has twice won the coveted Grand Prize Award in Boating Writers International’s annual Writing Contest.

07 Jun


R2AK III Kicks Off


Photo Debra Colvin

An assortment of links to articles and media on this year’s Race to Alaska.—Eds

The R2AK homepage where you’ll find updates and team info.

Here’s the CBS Sunday Morning segment on R2AK by Luke Burbank.

A nice audio report from Nevada Public Radio.

An article focused on a team sailing a 27-foot O’Day.

Cruising World article on the race.

Here’s a newspaper article on Team Sistership

Today’s R2AK “Ruckus”