It has been two years since boatbuilder Jon Wilson, 31, started his own magazine, gambling $10,000 in savings on a hunch that, somewhere out there, there were enough purists to keep it afloat. His publication is now 12 issues old, and it seems safe to report that defending an old maritime tradition has its rewards. The circulation of The Woodenboat, whose credo is that power corrupts but plastic corrupts absolutely, has grown from two subscribers to 20,000.
An unabashed buff magazine, Woodenboat is printed on good glossy stock and is as handsome as a newly varnished deck. Wilson's young staff puts it together in Brooksville, Maine with obvious love and a chatty, straightforward editorial style that is blessedly free of jargon. High-quality photography shows off the boats at their best, proving that if wood's performance can be duplicated by fiber glass and aluminum, its esthetic qualities cannot.
In addition to providing designs for everything from square-rigged barks to Peruvian balsa-log rafts, the magazine insists on "boat sense," the ability to choose a reasonable project that one can complete in a lifetime. For the less patient, Woodenboat has offered a quickie punt plan—a mere 24 hours of labor from start to finish. And for those with staying power but not quite the talent to tackle a homemade Tancook Whaler, the magazine has published a step-by-step account of how to build a small, graceful round-bottomed boat just for fly-fishing: lofting, backbone setup, planking, framing, trim and finish—212 hours and $450 worth of materials.
Wilson, who is both editor and publisher, stirs in fiction, book reviews and classified ads with articles on all aspects of boatbuilding, including such spellbinders as "When the Keel Drops Off' and "How I Almost Used My Kayak As Firewood." There are also tips and detailed instructions on how to use hand tools, and homemade remedies get equal play with technical advice on such topics as how to stop nailsickness, that perennial destroyer of wood.
The staff's spirited campaign to maintain a grand tradition infuses the subscribers. The readers of Woodenboat are passionately involved, exchanging lengthy comments in the letters section on such topics as "Is butt-seam planking a villain?" Woodenboat costs $9 for six issues per year, and can be obtained by writing P.O. Box 268, Brooksville, Maine 04617.