Editorial September 2006 Issue

Dale Nouse: 1921-2006

Last month, Practical Sailor lost a good friend, a crotchety editor and talented writer, who reminded us that beneath the ceaseless stream of devices, gear, and boats that grace these pages, there lies a story. If you’ve ever been amused and entertained, or educated on matters of music, art, history, or science while reading Practical Sailor, the article was probably written by Dale Nouse.

PS Executive Editor Dale Nouse collects data for the winch test that ran in our May 2006 issue.
He put out more valuable copy in his 80s than many produce in their prime. Meanwhile, he sculpted, he tinkered, he counseled, he learned. He became a walking Google.

Where others saw winches, he saw early Egyptians and their levers. Jazz guitarists became metaphors for rope clutches. His testing was often unorthodox, but his conclusions were rarely challenged. Most remarkable, though was the story he wove around his findings.

So it is only fitting that we share a slice of his own story here. A personal reminiscence from Dan Spurr, former editor (now contributing editor) and Dale’s best friend, appears on the back cover, where Dale’s words so often resided. Dale was, in all senses of the word, our PS Advisor.

Dale Nouse was born Feb. 12, 1921. After his father left the family, his mother ran a boarding house, and Dale grew up during the Great Depression, the middle of three brothers.

At the University of Michigan, he began his studies in architecture but switched majors following a summer internship, complaining that the builders of buildings weren’t very receptive to creative ideas. So he switched to journalism, and after graduation found a job first with the Ann Arbor Daily News, and then as crime reporter for a newspaper in Michigan City, Ind. He made friends with the local cops, one of whom gave him a handgun with the serial numbers filed off, advising, "If you ever need to use it, just wipe it and throw it away."

Next stop was the Detroit Free Press, where Dale made a name for himself as a top gun reporter. His feature-length reports on education won him several national awards as well as appearances on television news shows. He interviewed every president from Eisenhower to Carter.

He began racing one-designs at the Grosse Point Yacht Club in Michigan. As the years passed, Dale grew into larger boats, first a 26-foot sharpie designed by Howard Chapelle, and then a beautiful 32-foot Mariner ketch. When he became editor of Cruising World magazine in 1977, he moored Coup Fourré in Newport harbor. From that excellent location, he and his wife Sylvia and son Kyle cruised the nearby islands. Age and circumstance didn’t allow for adventures farther afield, though he always thought they would.

At age 72, after serving as editor for several years, he opted for retirement, only to find it boring. Sylvia heard about an opening at Practical Sailor and urged Dale to apply. So began an 18-year run as part-time writer and editor for the magazine, for which we will always be grateful.

Darrell Nicholson

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