I’m writing this on my sailboat in the Florida Keys, surrounded by 259 other live-aboard cruising vessels that range from 20 to 65 feet in length. Powered by wind, gasoline, diesel, solar energy or a combination thereof, each boat bobs serenely on a municipal mooring ball that’s securely screwed into the harbor floor. At least 1,000 other boats are anchored or docked nearby, not counting small runabouts, commercial fishing trawlers, kayaks, canoes and the little hard- or soft-sided dinghies that serve as family sedans buzzing to and from the Mother Ships to shore.
Story opportunities are as densely packed as the crab traps that blanket Florida Bay. For the nautically minded writer, opportunities abound wherever mariners are enjoying their boats – or not enjoying their boats, i.e.: treating stinky waste-holding tanks, fixing balky engines or extricating the entangled lines of those pesky crab traps from propellers.
Nautical magazines have weathered the current publishing climate with varying degrees of success. Some have folded (Latitudes & Attitudes), some that once paid don’t (Heartland Boating) and some once-reliables now appear incommunicado.
But several remain afloat, offering decent-to-excellent pay for shorts, product reports, boat reviews, features and technical articles.
Know the Niche
There are several boating-publication categories. Major distinctions include sail or power (sometimes referred to as “ragbaggers” vs. “stinkpotters”) and size, from luxury to Lilliputian. Categories are further narrowed into purpose or specialties: racers built for speed; cruisers built for comfort; trailerable sailers; vintage boats; houseboats; sport fishers topped with giant tuna towers, et al. Some publications are geographically based. Check out your boating scene at nearby marinas, piers or boatyards; ask local skippers which magazines are most often found in their cockpits and cabins. The annual boat show circuit at both local and high-profile ports including Miami, Chicago and Annapolis offers another way to glean the scene, and scoop up sample copies. Boater regattas, rallies and races also present a myriad of stories begging to be written.
You don’t have to be an Old Salt with decades of experience sailing the Seven Seas to write for boating magazines but you do need to establish marine cred by correctly using common boating terms, from stem (the pointy end at the front) to stern (back of the boat). These sites are among the handiest of references: National Marine Institute’s Nautical Terms and BoatUS.com’s Nautical Terms.
Not-to-be-used for navigation disclaimers are standard for all publications but double-check directions and clarify anything you don’t understand. For instance, keeping red ports to the left and green starboards to the right. Steer boaters in the right direction by always including water depths for approaches to docks, channels or other facilities.
Would-be and current boat owners are avid for details on the merits of various makes, models and floor plans. There’s an ongoing demand for reviews of both used and new vessels. Websites for specific brand-name boats are a useful source for specifications as well as potential interview contacts.
Space-saving or decorating ideas, clever gadgets, recipes, pet-care tips, hints for traveling with children aboard, health/fitness and other lifestyle pieces are welcomed by several magazines as part of larger features or shorter standalones.
Travelogues and Profiles
Avoid monotonous logbook-entry style features in favor of lively multi-layered stories that blend destination information, do-and-don’t tips and offer readers a flavor of what it’s like to be “out there.” A checklist ensures you cover the necessities: boat name; owner; mate and crew; type and make of boat; length; beam (width); draft (how much water needed under the keel to keep it afloat); weight; mast height; type and size of engine(s) and any unique characteristics. Profiles and travel features should include where cruisers are from; what they do for a living; where they’ve traveled; how they arrived where they are; and where they’re headed. Include details on children, pets, musical instruments or creative arts and hobbies conducted aboard. Finding out how they got their boat and how many boats they’ve had can also lead to entertaining anecdotes. Best and worst moments, improvement projects and things they’d do differently also shape compelling articles.
Features and reviews rely heavily on strong, sharp photography that imparts a sense of place. Photos suitable for cover or stand-alone art sometimes net additional pay. Choose action shots and portraits that tell the story in lieu of generic sunsets. Protect equipment with waterproof casing or zip-locked plastic bags. Brace yourself for nature’s waves and man-made wakes by following the boater’s rule “one hand for you and one for the boat.” I send photos raw or minimally cropped using the “straighten” button in my photo editing program as needed for horizon leveling. Before transmitting high-resolution photos refer to individual magazine guidelines for preferred procedures. Avoid large-batch sends that bog computer systems and irritate editorial departments. I often mail all contents, including story, photo and captions, on compact disc with a cover letter.
Seasonal and Subject Strategies
Editorial calendars fill quickly. Expect long lead times, sometimes a year or more, and submit articles on topics such as storing boats for the winter several months in advance. In the case of regional magazines content needs may ebb during quieter seasons (winter up north, summer down south). To avoid wasting your time, query on a specific locale to find out if it’s been done recently or is already in the pipeline. Destinations needn’t be exotic; stories can be found on close-to-home lakes, bays and rivers as well as the world’s oceans.
Pay ranges from $25-$1,000, dictated by article length, subject and department. E-versions of some magazines pay less than print editions but offer a foot in the door. PassageMaker, for example, pays $250 for a feature published in its on-line Channels while compensation may more than double for an article in the main magazine.
Study submission guidelines carefully to ensure you aren’t giving away your work; magazines that rely heavily on reader contributions including photos, sailing tales and tips sometimes pay in promotional stuff or not at all. Ball caps and contributor copies don’t pay the bills.
The listings below are as current as possible. Many a masthead is undergoing sea changes these days; re-check details and refer to a sample copy before querying or submitting. For more advice and insight, check out this Women and Cruising entry by one of the most accomplished writers and editors in the business.
PAYING BOATING MARKETS FOR WRITERS
Deputy Editor Elaine Lembo
55 Hammarlund Way, Middletown, RI 02842
Magazine website: http://www.cruisingworld.com/
Manuscripts or queries sent to this top-notch sailing-focused publication may be addressed to the generic cw.manuscripts(AT)gmail(DOT)com. I learned the hard way that Cruising World doesn’t accept articles previously submitted for consideration to other publications. Pay varies, from $25-$200 for shorts to $300-$1,000 for 1,200-1,800-word technical and feature articles.
Publisher Bob Bitchin
Box 100, Berry Creek, CA 95916
Magazine website: http://cruisingoutpost.com/
The former crew of the irreverent Latitudes & Attitudes magazine returns with new guidelines for all kinds of cruising stories, promising prompt payment for print articles but nada for contributions published in the magazine’s online version (send to submissions(AT)cruisingoutpost(DOT)com). You’re supposed to specify print-only consideration on the required submission form to make it clear you’re a working writer who wants to be paid (by check or PayPal). Editor Sue Morgan, who doesn’t handle incoming submissions, notes that the form was inoperable as of March 2014. She’s called that to Bitchin’s attention; in the meantime you’d either have to print out the form and mail it in or include the information in a cover letter or at the top of your submission. Pay ranges from $50-$250 for shorts to features.
Good Old Boat
Editor and Co-Founder Karen Larson
7340 Niagara Lane North, Maple Grove, MN 55311-2655
Magazine website: http://www.goodoldboat.com/
A magazine “for the rest of us” geared toward operations, maintenance, upgrade and repairs of affordable sailing boats with galleys, heads and other liveaboard amenities,” Good Old Boat guidelines spell out the very specific needs and pay scale ranging from $50 for short pieces to $700 for full-blown technical features. This niche is attractive to technical do-it-yourselfers who can lay out a project as well as boaters with harrowing “here’s-what-happened-and-here’s-what-we-did” cautionary tales to share.
Editor Brady L. Kay
360 B Street Idaho Falls, ID 83402
Magazine website: http://www.houseboatmagazine.com
The biannual publication pays $200-$350 for 1,200-1,800 word articles on the houseboating lifestyle, including destination features, family spotlights, vintage boats that have been refurbished (including before-and-after photos). E-mail for guidelines for both Houseboat and the more frequently published Pontoon & Deck Boat Magazine, http://www.pdbmagazine.com, which focuses on smaller, trailerable boats. Queries are preferred; pay is $200-$300 for 1,200-1,300 words.
Editor Lindsey Johnson
727 South Dearborn, Suite 812, Chicago, IL 60605
Magazine website: http://www.lakelandboating.com/
Query at staff(AT)lakelandboating(DOT)com or by mail with SASE, also the recommended method for unsolicited submissions. While I was unable to nail down current pay rates, the Great Lakes-focused boating publication has in the past paid in the $125-$500 range based on length and topic for departments including product reviews and Ports of Call that focus on specific harbors.
Editor-in-Chief Peter Swanson
105 Eastern Avenue, Suite 203, Annapolis, MD 21403
Magazine website: http://www.passagemaker.com/
The magazine has a pay period every three months, with compensation ranging from $300-950 for magazine features of 800-4,000 words. Online e-newsletter Channels pays $150-$400 for 1,200-word articles. The associate editors handling submissions have changed in recent months and are not currently listed correctly in guidelines. Swanson is able to direct your work to the appropriate editor.
Power & Motoryacht
Editor-in-Chief Jason Y. Wood
10 Bokum Road, Essex, CT 06426
Magazine website: http://www.powerandmotoryacht.com
Focuses on the boating lifestyle for vessels 24 feet and longer, especially yachts in the 35-foot-plus category. Pays $500-$1,000 for features of 750-1,400 words. Note: the magazine has changed ownership since these guidelines, below, appeared so use contact information above and refer to the link below for content direction.
Editor Darrell Nicholson
7820 S Holiday Dr., Suite 315, Sarasota, FL 34231
Magazine website: http://www.practical-sailor.com/
A veritable amalgam of Good Housekeeping, Consumer Reports and Practical Mechanics this serious journal for serious sailors independently tests boat products, gear and processes. All stories are assigned to experts in a particular field, including experienced cruising sailors, retired engineers, etc. “We do take queries from such qualified people but we need to see queries first,” says Editor Nicholson, noting that rates vary greatly, starting at about $145 per page including photos. Writers are encouraged to contact me regarding a product test they would like to conduct.”
Editor-in-Chief Peter Nielsen
Editorial Department, SAIL Magazine, 180 Canal Street, Suite 301
Boston, MA 02114
Magazine website: http://www.sailmagazine.com/
Pay on acceptance varies according to article length and type. While I wasn’t able to locate exact rates, this is a publication with pay comparable to the other major sailing magazines based on article quality and length.
Executive Editor Erin Schanen
125 E Main St., P.O. Box 249, Port Washington, WI 53074
Magazine website: http://www.sailingmagazine.net
This oversize publication prides itself on quality photography and profiles all aspects of the sailing scene. Pays $50-$500 for stories ranging from 500-100 word shorts to 1,000-3,000 word features.
Editorial Director Liz Pasch
330 N. Andrews Ave., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301
Magazine website: http://southernboating.com/blog/
Regional columns for what’s billed as the South’s “largest boating magazine” run 500 words, technical, 800, and features including boat reviews and destinations are 1,000-1,200 words, with pay ranging from $100-$600 for the latter category, says Editor Pasch. “We rarely publish first-person accounts of cruising,” she notes. “We look for targeted pitches with specific angles.”
Publisher & Editor Steve Morrell
PO Box 1175, Holmes Beach, FL 34218-1175
Magazine website: http://www.southwindsmagazine.com
Primarily a sailing magazine that covers all aspects of the “water world” with focus on the southern United States, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Cruising trawler features are also welcome and there’s a continual need for boat reviews. Paychecks are issued like clockwork at the end of each month, with individually determined ranges from $25-$400 depending on length and complexity of material. Morrell responds to questions via e-mail or by phone.
Editor Matthew P. Murphy
PO Box 78, 41 WoodenBoat Lane, Brooklin, Maine 04616-0078
Magazine website: http://www.woodenboat.com/
This publication addresses a super-specific niche. The editorial department doesn’t accept submissions or queries via e-mail; there’s a submission form here: http://www.woodenboat.com/woodenboat-editorial-guidelines or send snail mail to the above street address. Pay range is $250-$300 per 1,000 words.
Award-winning newspaper editor, columnist and reporter Cyndi Perkins has been freelancing since the 1980s. She lives aboard her sailboat Chip Ahoy several months each year traveling the waters of the eastern United States from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to boating articles and chapters in the compilations “When the Water Calls, They Follow” and “Women on Board Cruising,” Cyndi’s publishing credits include fitness, garden, travel and business articles. She recently completed her first novel, “Loop Dee Doo,” a travel-adventure saga set on the Heartland Rivers, and is at work on a second, “Yoga for Smokers.” From polishing press releases for a holistic psychotherapist to guiding a young YA fantasy author to publication, Cyndi’s drawn to writing and editing projects that speak to heart and higher purpose. The creative director of the developing “Social Work on the Silk Road Project” blogs about everything from drinking with her characters to outing egregious public typos at cyndiperkins.com