Editorial January 2006 Issue

In Living Color

No, you have not fallen down a rabbit hole. Practical Sailor has gone four-color, and our new paper is glossy. Yes, we’re about ten years too late, but good things take time. To accommodate the switch to color and improve our product coverage, we will be publishing once a month instead of twice, so you’ll still be getting the full 40 pages of Practical Sailor you’ve been getting. Annually, that’s 480 pages of detailed, unbiased product testing and consumer information on boats, gear and everything in between, something no other sailing publication can deliver. Your expiration month won’t change. (Whether your subscripton ends on the first or the 15th of a particular month you’ll still get that month’s issue.)

The value of any good publication lies not in presentation, but the content. This is especially true with Practical Sailor. Our success depends solely on how well we provide you with the concrete information you need before you buy. I think you’ll agree that a review of color digital charts (check out our test in next month’s issue) is much more meaningful in color than it is in black and white. In addition to adding color photographs, we’ve revamped the design to better highlight key information.

One change you may notice is that our tables now feature three ratings based on our evaluations: “Budget Buy,” a relatively inexpensive product that meets our standards; “Recommended,” a high-quality product that stands out among others in its class; and “Best Choice,” a superior product that meets or exceeds our highest standards and offers exceptional value. All this in addition to our traditional “Don’t Buy” recommendations.

Bottom line: We hope you’ll like what you see, and we hope you’ll stick around as we sharpen our focus on the information that truly matters.

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This month, Dave Laska has the unenviable task of diving head first into the Bilge-O-Matic, a simulated version of the real thing that, much to Dave’s dismay, will be seeing a lot more hard service for Practical Sailor. Dave’s thorough testing and evaluation of the three most popular types of bilge switches (See “Bilge Binge”) yielded results that will likely surprise longtime subscribers to Practical Sailor. The test spotlights the tough task our testers, writers and editors face: In many cases, no single product best serves the needs of everyone.

The owner of a shallow-bilge boat will be more interested in getting a bilge switch that doesn’t cycle the pump on and off as waters sloshes, while the sailor with a deep bilge and sump might place higher value on a switch that’s easy to install.

As an incurable cruising sailor, my own preferences are for heavy-duty gear that is simple to maintain. I’m not impressed by gadgets that try to think for me. But that’s just me. In the months ahead, we’ll consider more ways to better accomplish our mission of serving all our readers, so now is an ideal time to give us your thoughts. I look forward to hearing what you’d like to see in your new, color Practical Sailor.

­—Darrell Nicholson

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