A Typical Issue
The regular monthly departments include Blue Water Dispatches – information about all manner of cruising things around the world – and a column called Biewenga Offshore, which offers experienced sailor Bill Biewenga’s musings on useful gear and other cruising lifestyle necessities. The New & Noteworthy department highlights the latest in equipment, clothing, and personal gear for serious cruisers. Giesemann Onboard is another regular column written by a veteran woman sailor who often brings a personal perspective to all dimensions of the cruising experience. Finally, Blue Horizons each month highlights a favorite anchorage or harbor written by BWS readers.
Feature stories focus also on extended cruising and include personal stories, boat reviews, technical reports, and gear reviews. Here’s a sampling of topics covered in the last couple issues:
- Great food found on St. Martin
- Cruising from Norway to England
- Personal workouts onboard
- Cruising the canals of France
- Exploring the Azores
- Rebuilding the rig in Italy
- Adding an arch (for solar panels and gear) to your sailboat
- Coping with winter in an iced-in harbor
- Review of a cruising cookbook
- Experiencing the Marion-Bermuda cruising race
- Cruising the Canadian far north Atlantic coast
- Review of person-overboard equipment and techniques
- Review of the new Hunter 50
Pros and Cons
On the positive side, BWS avoids the sort of fluff stories frequently found in sailing magazines—the ones featuring beautiful photos and catchy titles, making you hopeful you’ll actually learn something you didn’t already know … but then all too often letting you down. Feature stories are usually long and detailed enough to get to the heart of the matter. For example, a recent article on cruising the thorny path from the US to the Virgin Islands—upwind and against the current for more than a thousand miles—taught me much about how to prepare for such an experience. These sailors experienced an almost constant wind on the nose and detailed the human and boat effects of being well heeled and bashed about for 12 days. Who’d have considered, for instance, how the constant vibration can shake equipment apart? A technical article in the same issue explained everything you’d need to tackle a fuel systems problem with your diesel, from cleaning the tank to polishing the fuel.
It’s also refreshing to read a magazine that is not so chockfull of advertising that you sometimes have trouble finding the stories. That, of course, also makes the magazine a little slimmer than some others—but it’s the advertising that’s missing, not the content.
On the downside, some articles may feel a little skimpy to truly serious sailors who can never get enough technical information. And some of the gear review pieces read more like press releases written not by objective sailors but by the manufacturer’s marketing department, though this is often the case in many magazines. When such a review is so overwhelmingly positive, you learn to take it with a grain of salt.
While Blue Water Sailing does not make full articles available online for free, the website does provide some useful information for both subscribers and nonsubscribers. Particularly of note is the Boat Review Archive section, where one can read over a hundred reviews of blue water boats published over the last six years. For those researching a certain type of gear or information on a cruising area, back issues since 1996 can be ordered. You can also view classified ads or sign up for the less expensive digital edition of the magazine.