Editorial July 1, 2004 Issue

Getting Underway

Greetings. Over the past several months I’ve been gearing myself up to take over a role that Doug Logan, Dan Spurr, Nick Nicholson, and Jeff Spranger have each occupied before me. If Logan's departure leaves you feeling a little at sea, I share that. It's both an honor and daunting to be stepping into this position. As one close observer put it, my predecessors "leave big Topsiders to fill," and I couldn't agree more. Both Doug and Dan are friends, and I've long admired their journalistic abilities. The prospect of assuming the duties they both managed so ably is not only sobering, but a little strange as well. Though my publishing background is almost entirely in sailing, I've concentrated mostly on feature work for glossy magazines. And, I've always favored sneaker-style deck shoes.

A little background is probably in order. Like so many who work within the realm of sailing, for me, the vocation is borne of avocation. My father first offered the gift of sailing. A man of the sea, he presented his children with an El Toro early on, but none of us sailed actively until we were adults; then we jumped in feet first. During grad school, I co-owned a wooden Bear Boat (Hull No. 26) on San Francisco Bay, and then bought a Cal 25, which I lived aboard in the U.S. Virgin Islands off and on for much of the early '80s. The former we pampered, lovingly maintaining it, but the latter my brothers and I rode hard. I gutted the interior, making ongoing renovations; first to make her a better home and later to make her a better performer.

In those liveaboard days, I served a loose apprenticeship and gleaned a great deal about sailboats from a number of people. Dick Avery, the proprietor of the first bareboat charter operation in the Caribbean, was my employer at the time and an early mentor. An artist, sailor, boatbuilder, and accomplished tinkerer, his Down East sensibilities had been tempered by years in the tropics, and he offered guidance not only about sailboats and their systems, but a few life lessons as well. And Dan Neri, a sailmaker and racer of some note, imparted the rudiments of optimizing performance under sail, along with a healthy sense of skepticism.

I later spent almost a decade as an editor at Sailing World magazine, actively covering a range of topics including boat design, the singlehanded arena, and grassroots regattas. The breadth of that experience taught me that, invariably, it's the people you encounter in sailing that render this pastime so worthwhile. Whether racer or cruiser, addict or dilettante, by and large you're apt to meet folks that you genuinely enjoy, with a shared passion that often cuts through superficiality. I've been fortunate to cross paths with a few of the sport's luminaries, including the late Irving Johnson of Yankee fame and Isabelle Autissier, the reknowned singlehander. There's much to be learned from folks like these, and I'd say the same of many sailors whose names we'll never read in print (except perhaps in PS's "Mailport").

Already, in my brief time at PS, I've begun to gain renewed appreciation for the ongoing education fostered through sailing. It's refreshing that this magazine's principal mission—the sharing of opinions and information—takes place not only via feature articles, nor solely in our words, but is manifest just as importantly in your letters, calls, and e-mails. It's not simply a one-way communication, and that is vital. Through collective experience and persistent interaction we arrive at a view of what is safe, sensible, and desirable for time spent on the water. To me, that's a worthwhile enterprise. And with that in mind, I look foward to discharging these duties with you. Let the investigations continue.


-Dan Dickison

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