SPOTLIGHT 

Spotlight – Boating Magazines

“There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boating magazines.” With apologies to Ratty, Alan Geere gets his feet wet in a buoyant publishing sector.

By Alan Geere

ALL AT SEA

What’s it about: ‘Britain’s most read waterfront newspaper’ – tagline under masthead.

Vital statistics: April 2016 issue: 48 pages of 370mm x 300mm. Tabloid format, quality newsprint, stitched. Free pick-up at ‘over 650 marinas, chandleries, sailing clubs and brokers across the UK’. Claims 100,000 readers per month. Published by All At Sea Publications Ltd in Hayling Island, Hampshire.

Cover: Big ads top and bottom, large pic of celebrities on Sport Relief boat. Three cross-refs to inside with pictures.

Content: Straightforward contents list on page three leading in to well-presented news up to page 10. Lots to read including holidays, experts, training and marina features plus a lovely piece on a couple who spent six years sailing around the world – and came back with a battered boat and two children! ‘Photos of the month’ is a neat idea, but a half page for three pictures feels a bit miserly.

Digital: A big, bright website at allatsea.co.uk featuring most of the goodies from the paper and a well-maintained news section. Link to Facebook with just 439 likes, although there is some current activity, and Twitter where 1,100 hardy souls are following an account that has been idle for five years. Just one click to read the paper via issuu.

What they say: “All at Sea is an institution around our shores and we will ensure it continues to inform and entertain all those with an interest in or an ambition to get on the water…” - Bob Satchwell, editorial director (aka Bob Satchwell, executive director, Society of Editors) quoted when the title changed hands in October 2012.

Verdict: The newspaper format is a welcome addition to the raft of boating titles. Reads well throughout and is neatly presented, although sometimes feels rather template driven. The big pages are ripe for big presentation, with the sort of spreads and picture treatments the big-boy tabloids use every day.

BOAT INTERNATIONAL

What’s it about: ‘Your definitive guide to superyachts and the yachting lifestyle’ – blurb on website.

Vital statistics: April 2016 issue: 254 pages of 290mm x 232mm x 14mm (the thickness) x 1.06kg (weight). Quality gloss paper, card cover, perfect bound. £4.99 cover price. Claims a circulation of 13,500, with 1,000 from digital. Published by Boat International Media Ltd in that boating Mecca, Wimbledon.

Cover: One boat. Well, not just any boat, but Eclipse, the world’s second largest superyacht (since you ask, owned by Roman Abramovich, although you won’t read that in the mag). Five coverlines, all in delicious tones of black, white and tangerine harbouring a thick card gatefold ad.

Content: As well as the obvious boats, there are ads for watches, wine, china, headphones, jewellery etc showing how BI is living up to its claim that “our paid for readership delivers the opportunity to reach the most important people in the world of luxury yachting – the owners themselves”. Well researched and beautifully crafted features complemented by lavish photography.

Digital: Scroll all the way down boatinternational.com to find links to Twitter (21.9k followers) and Facebook (20k likes), both well populated and probably deserving of more customers.

What they say: “Sad and lonely or delightful and liberating to be the ONLY one in the cinema on a Sunday afternoon? Discuss.” – editorial director Sacha Bonsor on Twitter. “From Kylie to Cara, here's 21 celebrities enjoying their vacations on superyachts.” – BI does Hello! on website.

Verdict: Sumptuous. Superior production values, high quality editorial, beautifully designed ads and those to-die-for yachts make this a magazine to be seen with – or in.

CLASSIC BOAT

What’s it about: ‘The world’s most beautiful boats’ – tagline under masthead.

Vital statistics: May 2016 issue: 100 pages of 300mm x 230mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £4.85 cover price. Claims “50,000 readers every month” in the 2015 rate card on website. Published by Chelsea Magazine Company in, er, Chelsea, London.

Cover: One sepia toned sailing boat, four coverlines including Classic Boat Awards complete with six sponsors’ logos.

Content: Easy to follow contents on Page 3. Delicious use of pictures across full double-page spreads. Some decent long reads, with six poignant pages dedicated to an ‘obituary’ of a boat destroyed by fire after the owner spent nine years restoring it. An addictive classified at the back, letters and dip-in sections like ‘Craftsmanship’ and ‘Getting afloat’.

Digital: Neatly ordered website at classicboat.co.uk with links to Twitter (4,215 followers) and Facebook (11,700 likes). Lots of opportunities to look at boats, buy a boat and find practical advice by following the tantalising link, ‘How to do anything’.

What they say: ‘Great Britain Watch…hand-engraved platinum with a sterling silver dial. £180,000.’ – from ‘Objects of Desire’ column. “What! No super yacht or similar on the cover? What's wrong?” – post on Facebook page.

Verdict: Boating meets history in a delightful mix of stories and pictures old and new plus rattling good reads given the time and space they deserve. And some lovely ads for boats you probably can’t afford.

PRACTICAL BOAT OWNER

What’s it about: ‘Britain’s best-selling boating magazine’ – tagline on cover.

Vital statistics: May 2016 issue: 112 pages of 300mm x 215mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £4.40 cover price or bundled with Yachting Monthly for £5.95. Combined ABC of 24,087, with 1,448 from digital. Published by Time Inc in Poole.

Cover: One boat next to an iceberg, five cross-refs with pictures and four other coverlines. Lots of wires and a man in overalls give a clue to what’s inside.

Content: Contents pages include a shot of the cover with page numbers on the cross-refs, very useful and even more worthwhile is having a number on nearly every page. Newspaper-style news, letters, comprehensive insights (ie five pages on ‘31-33ft cruisers’), seamanship, gear test (cordless drills?), destination guide (Torquay), maintenance, practical projects by the make-your-own-bucket-load.

Digital: Website pbo.co.uk promises “Boat maintenance advice, sailing and motor boats, practical advice” and that’s just what it delivers, all in an orderly package that incorporates the necessary ads without too much confusion. Links to social media where there are 10.9k Twitter followers and 4,600 likes on Facebook.

What they say: “A small boat will cost way less than one family holiday and open up a life-time of adventure” – columnist Dave Selby writing on his blog. “Don’t overgrease your winches” – some practical advice from ‘Tip of the Day’.

Verdict: Does what it says on the tin of antifouling paint. Plenty for the enthusiast – aka Practical Boat Owner - to get stuck into. Has an old-fashioned, almost retro, feel which is just how they like it. Nearly 25,000 buyers every month can’t be wrong…

WATERWAYS WORLD

What’s it about: ‘Britain’s best-selling canal & river magazine since 1972’ – strapline on cover.

Vital statistics: April 2016 issue: 116 pages of 297mm x 211mm. Thinnish matt paper, heavier glossy cover, stitched. £3.99 cover price. Combined ABC (July-Dec 2015) of 9,211, all from print. Published by Waterways World Ltd in Burton-on-Trent.

Cover: Full-bleed picture of narrow boat passing some swish apartments in Leeds, small pic of an old ad. Six coverlines and a very nicely constructed masthead that makes light work of accommodating all those Ws.

Content: Clean contents spread thankfully early on pages 2 and 3 (although to us purists, it’s actually 4 and 5 as they choose not to number the cover) signposting the watery goodies inside. Everything is done with commitment and what even feels like love: TEN pages of newsy news rather than regurgitated handouts; New boat test runs to six pages; Eight-page canal profile could be pulled out; Four pages of letters (remember them?) and lots of historical, nostalgic looking-back type stuff. All bookended by 20 pages of ads which feels like a whole magazine on its own and could be where a lot of readers start.

Digital: Signposts to waterwaysworld.com from the folio lines where there are opportunities to subscribe and buy a boat. No visible links to social media and with just 3,800 Twitter followers (the editor has tweeted five times since November 2011) and only 2,000 likes on Facebook, this is clearly not a priority.

What they say: “Who, in their right mind, spends time and energy in writing to a waterways magazine to admonish its readers for liking boats of a certain style?” – reader’s letter, headlined ‘Dull and tedious’. “We never publish poetry or fiction,” – advice in Notes for Contributors.

Verdict: From the ads to the news to the profiles and advice, WW just feels really useful. It is a satisfying read, well put together and neatly displayed. Who cares if the digital revolution seems stuck at the lock gates? Answers on a postcard, please…

YACHTING MONTHLY

What’s it about: 'For the cruising sailor' – tagline on cover.

Vital statistics: May 2016 issue: 112 pages of 299mm x 214mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £4.60 cover price, or bundled with Practical Boat Owner for £5.95. Combined ABC of 22,192 with 1,801 from digital. Published by Time Inc in Southwark.

Cover: Big picture of yacht sailing into St Lucia, three smaller pix of yachts. Eight coverlines, including two exclamation marks! and two question marks?

Content: Dense page of contents right up front divided into ‘Sailing skills’, ‘Cruising’, ‘Gear & boat reviews’ and ‘Regulars’, which includes everywhere-woman Libby Purves and ‘The Confessional’, where readers own up to their sailing sins. Lots to read, well illustrated and designed to give the features room to breathe. Healthy classified section of boats for sale.

Digital: Prominent links to yachtingmonthly.com take you to a big, busy website. All the content you would expect plus podcasts from the headline contributors and a link to a 'free weather tool for sailors'. Some big, rather obtrusive ads, but hey we've all gotta eat. Just 5,000 Facebook likes and 22.6k followers on Twitter. ‘Easy to download’ iPad and iPhone editions.

What they say: “You can have too much stowage,” – editor Kieran Flatt in ‘View from the helm’. “Working from home today…feels a little lonely. And now reached new levels of sadness by actually cooking lunch for my cat,” – website editor Stef Bottinelli on Twitter.

Verdict: Obviously knows its readership after 1,323 issues. Detailed, serious and not for the dip-in wannabe sailor. Lots in it with words and pictures galore, sometimes a bit too much which makes it feel rather cramped.