More Than you Really Wanted To Know About Cruising Compost, Er, I mean Outpost!
#5 – Our Staff Infection. Those who toil…
By Bob Bitchin
This is my country, The land that begat me. These windy spaces Are surely my own. And those who toil here, In the sweat of their faces Are flesh of my flesh, And bone of my bone. Alexander Grey (1882-1968)
Looking at a copy of Cruising Outpost, you would think it was being created by a mega-magazine publisher with dozens of editors, copy boys (what the heck are those anyway?) and at least one red-faced, screaming publisher going on and on about how we need to make more money for our investors.
Would that it were true. But no, ‘tis not so. CO was created by, and is put together by a very small but loyal group of friends, most of which were the group that had created Latitudes & Attitudes, which was one of the most popular cruising lifestyle publications for over 17 years, until it was killed off and the crew was locked out of the now defunct offices.
You see, with the technology that is available today, a little bit of knowledge, and a whole lot of chutzpah (I think that means balls in Yiddish!) anyone can do whatever they want if they are willing to put their lives behind what they want to create.
As the dust settled around the crew members left adrift by the death of Latitudes & Attitudes, an idea started to coalesce, and with the help of our Founders Circle* it launched just 6 months after L&A’s demise. True, it was a very busy six months, but it was six months none-the-less.
First of all, to start a new business at almost 70 was nuts. To start a magazine in this day and age is just short of insanity, and to do one in the marine industry in this economy plain suicidal. But we did it, and it worked. See? Miracles do still happen!
So who are these miracle workers who gathered in the post-apocalypse era to venture forth and save the world of cruising? A truly diverse group of sailors, each with a special love for the cruising lifestyle.
In order to have a publishing business, one must first have a business. To this end two people stepped forward to fill the void. Al Saunders, an ardent cruiser and life-long biker who was sailing aboard his Endeavor 40 “Swansong” in Mexico agreed to head up this new endeavor (See what I did there? A double entendre?) and was elected President of the newly formed corporation, “The Bitchin Group.” The name was chosen in honor of he who had created Lats&Atts (Hey mom! He means me!). Since Jody & I were in Bankruptcy from the fact we were never paid when we sold Lats&Atts pretty much kept us out of the new companies ownership.
Then Heidi Benson came into the picture. Every business needs someone to watch the pennies. Heidi was the previous Advertising Director at L&A, and was most anxious to help. Living aboard her Tayana 42 “Sonho” in Alameda, California meant she knew the pointy-end from the flat side of a boat, and her previous experiences meant she knew the marine industry. Besides, someone has to keep track of the pennies, and be there to answer phone calls, mail, etc. Poor Heidi got stuck with that job! (I think she secretly loves it!)
No magazine can exist without an editor. Sue Morgan had been the editor at L&A for over half its life, and a good friend for over 35 years. When she’d been locked out of the offices she decided it was time for her and husband Mike to finally do what they had been planning for over 30 years; To go cruising. They were just finishing up a three year refit of “Because”, their Cheoy Lee 35 yawl, and Mike had just retired. The timing was right except for one small thing. We needed her to be the editor of the new rag. And so it was Sue agreed to be Editor-at-Large. I stepped in as a “consultant” to the newly formed company to become the Large Editor. (Get it? Editor-at-Large, Large Editor?… oh, never mind)
But wait, what about Captain Woody? He’d been a part of the family since about 10 years prior to L&A starting? What would he do? And then we remembered what he had done for the previous 17 years. Sailed. He’d run our Share The Sail division for years. Now that he was not a kid anymore (even though I still called him “The Damned Kid”) it was time for him to do his own thing. So what we had created as Share the Sail, soon became “Adventure Voyaging” and Captain Woody was in his element once again.
Okay, so now, how can you have a magazine without advertising? Someone had to be the seller of ads. Living aboard their Trawler “Traveler” up in the Puget Sound area of Washington were our long time compatriots and very good friends Darren & Lisa O’Brien. Darren was the co-creator and producer/director of Latitudes & Attitudes TV, which had aired nationally for five years (65 episodes) and Lisa had been the ad sales person. And so it was Lisa O’Brien became the Advertising Director at the newly created CO, and Darren, who was working on a film project for the state of Washington, became our Marketing Director and Creator of Ads (is that a title??).
There’s more. What about our website? No business can function without a website. Steve “Sailing Guitarist” Hall had been running our websites ever since our friend Greg Jacobs, who created the site, died suddenly of the big “C” about 10 years ago. Those of you who used the Forums may remember it was called “Greg’s Pub” in his honor. Well, Steve lives aboard his sailboat down in Marathon, so he was harnessed to do be our website technical guru. He also plays lead guitar at many of the East Coast parties and with the Eric Stone Band.
On the creative side of things, Richard Marker had been doing the “Close Hauled” cartoons in L&A for many years. In the midst of getting started he jumped in to help us create what we feel is the best website going for cruisers. But that’s not all we roped him into. It seems that his skill with art went beyond cartoons and websites, and by the time the first issue was ready to ship, Rich had become our Art Director. He has a great eye for art…and oh yeah, he sails too! Kim Paternoster, avid SF Bay sailor and computer geek extraordinaire, designed the original site and once it was up and running, she turned it over to Rich and Steve and went back to her real job running “Wicked Code.”
And then we have the Boat Shows and Cruisers’ Parties. The tens of thousands of cruisers who have attended these parties in that past can attest to the fact that they are fun, BUT they are also a lot of work. The shows pretty much fall under the auspices of Jody “Bitchin” Lipkin. She schedules the shows, lines up the shirts (mostly designed by Rich Marker and Ron Tessensohn), and handles all of the little things that make the shows workable. She is also my official “bulldog.” When I have a particularly difficult problem, I give it to her, and she bites into it and starts shaking her head until it is no longer a problem.
Our BS Manager (one version of that stands for Boat Show Manager, we will leave the second meaning to your imagination!). Dave Dudgeon sails out of Muskegon, Michigan. Dave has been doing the boat shows and parties with us since he “volunteered” to help us about 14 years ago. We tend to hang on to “volunteers,” specially the good ones! Dave now drives the CO van and trailer from show to show, all over the U.S., organizes our famous raffle and convinces all of you to subscribe with gifts of “cheap and shoddy gifts.
For the Life Aboard section, no one fit’s better than our Life Aboard Editor Robin Stout. As the former editor of Living Aboard Magazine (which was shut down a month prior to Lats&Atts by the “Genius Business People” who bought and destroyed Lats & Atts without ever paying for it!) she is perfect for that job. She is currently cruising in Mexico with husband Mike, and also she is our staff racer, as she crews on go-fast sailboats. She has cruised extensively for years, as well as living aboard for over 10 years.
Tania Aebi has been part of our family for years. I fell in love with her as so many people did in the 80’s when she sailed around the world, and when I first met her almost 17 years ago I was still kind of in awe. But since then she has become like a sister to Jody & I, and we couldn’t think of doing this without her. She is a regular columnist in Cruising Outpost, as she was in Lats&Atts for 15 years.
Zuzana Prochazka was not only my co-host on the Lats&Atts TV show for three years, but she did double duty writing our tech pieces, doing feature boats and writing about new products for the mag. As she is one of the Innovative Product Award judges for the NMMA, she is well qualified for this. But she is also a 100 ton licensed captain, so we have had her as a skipper on many of our Share The Sail adventures, too.
What do I do? I get to have fun! You see, I have been creating magazines for my favorite lifestyles for almost 50 years. I created Biker Magazine when I rode and was living the Biker Lifestyle. I created Tattoo Magazine when I got into having pictures inked on me back in the 80’s. Selling these titles to Easyrider in 1986, I took off to Live the Dream and sail for the rest of my life. Who knew we would live so long?
When I created Lats&Atts it was just what I wanted at the time; a lifestyle magazine that was not about boats, but about the life around boats. Fortunately it became popular, and as the years passed, I became complacent. I spent more & more time sailing, and less time being creative. When I hit the age of Social Security (68) I decided it was time to sell and to get back out where I wanted to be. Living the Dream!
What I learned in the next two months was life-changing. When Jody & I learned that we had been bamboozled and had lost everything we had worked for over the past 50 years, I was hit with an epiphany. My dad, all those years ago, was right. Money is not the most important thing, in fact, far from it. You learn that when you lose all of your money, what is important is your reputation and your friends. You won’t ever lose those.
My friends gathered around and made me feel secure. And then the biggest surprise of all, hundreds of my readers came to our rescue. People I had never met, but who had followed my adventure from motorcycles to boats, who’s lives I had touched in some way, were still there, even though I had lost what I thought was everything.
Standing on the top of a hill you have climbed makes you feel good inside. Climbing out of the pit of hell, with the help of people who have never met, with your life’s partner standing beside you? There is nothing like it.
And then I learned what I really wanted to do. I wanted to create the perfect magazine for the lifestyle I love, for the people who made it all possible. The 700+ people who had the faith in me to buy a five year subscription to a magazine that had not been named and had not even been created yet.
And here I sit, looking at the fruits of our labor. My friends and I came together after a disaster and we created what I feel is a perfect magazine. I could never create a woman’s tennis magazine or a magazine for bicyclists, as I am not an enthusiast of these things. You see, truth be told, I have never been a publisher. I have been an enthusiast. I loved the freedom of riding a motorcycle across the US and Europe in the 70’s. I loved the lifestyle of the tattooist in the 80’s, and I have loved the sailing lifestyle ever since.
But now I found a new passion. Each day I sit at my computer and see how I can improve Cruising Outpost. In the old days we would get a story and fit it in three or four pages, and then make it fit. But no more. In a perfect magazine you run the photos as large as they should be. You don’t edit down the length of a story to fit. You expand the pages to make them tell the story in the best way. Now I get to do that. You can’t imagine the thrill I get when the Fed-Ex’d copies of a new issue are before me. It is an excitement that I used to get when I rode over the Alp’s. Or when I used to ride into Daytona in the 70’s, when there were just 1,500 to 2,000 bikers there, or Sturgis in the 70’s, with a few hundred people there to enjoy the lifestyle.
Now I get that same thrill when I finish an issue, and it is culminated when I open that box from Fed-Ex and get the first glimpse of a new Cruising Outpost hot off the press. I guess I have found a new passion at this late stage of my life. Who’d’a thought it would be doing something I’ve done all my life? I am truly blessed.
Next update on Cruising Outpost? Who knows. Probably when the muse visits me again.
- The Founders Circle is a group of people who helped us re-start the magazine when there was no magazine, and will remain Founders as long as they are part of our family. They are the ones I go to when I have a question on how our readers feel about things.