Club Marine’s founding editor, Andrew Woodley was facing a dilemma. He had an upcoming trip to the US to report on an America’s Cup Challenge, and at the same time had to produce a new marine lifestyle magazine.
Thus started an unbroken relationship of 25 years between myself and Club Marine Magazine, or Marine Hull as it was then known.
Three publishers, four editors and something like 15,000 pages (plus covers) later, we are still going strong. The magazine began life as a six-page, in-house newsletter and when I became Designer and Production Manager, expanded to a 48-page marine lifestyle publication, which has continued to grow into the expansive and, some might say, impressive magazine it is today.
The first complete issue on which I worked had editorial pages in both black and white and colour, but was bound by an iconic cover. It carried a single iconic image, with no extraneous copy – just Alan Bond and John Bertrand holding aloft the America’s Cup.
After 25 challenges beginning in 1870, the ornate silver urn was finally wrested from the grasp of the New York Yacht Club in September, 1983. As one of our correspondents so aptly wrote: “The Super Bowl of Splash”, or the “Sail of the Century”, as some US sport writer dubbed it, “was a heart-stopper; a remarkable achievement by a small nation against the power and wealth of the US sailing establishment represented by the stuffy traditions of the New York Yacht Club.”
As many Club Marine readers will recall, after a long night of television, then-PM, Bob Hawke encouraged the taking of a ‘celebratory sickie’ by the nation’s workers. In reality, we needed one just to compensate us for the trauma of seeing ‘Hawkie’ on TV in that infamous flag-embellished chequered coat.
The Cup victory signalled the beginning of my association with the magazine and has provided a rich vein of content ever since. From the moment Ben Lexcen turned up in New York with a spanner to unbolt the cup, arguments have raged and controversies ignited over all manner of issues surrounding the Cup and ongoing challenges.
One of the many highlights during my tenure was undoubtedly the opportunity to visit Fremantle in 1987, with full media accreditation, to witness Australia’s unsuccessful Cup defence.
A particular highlight was having a quiet beer with members of the championship-winning Chicago Bears American football team. There was also an invitation – duly accepted – to a Budwieser hot dog night at the Stars and Stripes compound, where I met the enigmatic US skipper, Dennis Connor. I was privileged to have a close-up look at the ultimately successful boat – a strange mixture of masking tape and chewing gum combined with the, up ’til that point, secret ribbed plastic coating on the hull of Stars and Stripes.
And as a final comment, how could I forget the electricity added to the event by the huge local support for Iain Murray and his crew, even when three-zip down. This was best summed up after Connors’ victory by the large “Well done Dennis… You Bastard” banner displayed on the Fremantle foreshore.
Another highlight from the memory banks was my first cover shot. The photo, taken at night, was of the square-rigged Polly Woodside in the Yarra River, during the State of Victoria’s 150th anniversary celebrations in August, 1986. I have to say that I still get a buzz out of going back over older issues seeing my photography reproduced in the magazine.
Magazine articles would be pretty drab and boring without graphics or photographs to give them a lift and it gave me a sense of creative satisfaction from time-to-time that my own efforts behind the lense were deemed worthy of inclusion in Club Marine. In fact, I have always lived by the rule: “never go anywhere without your camera”.
An example was a photographic assignment, which will be long-rembered, to New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands on behalf of Noumea Yacht Charters (then owned by Club Marine). The experience of sailing a 45ft Beneteau by myself at night is as vivid today as it was back then. My memories are of a warm tropical breeze and a clear night, with the silence broken only by the guitar playing of Mark Knopfler on the yacht’s brilliant stereo system; all under a ceiling of stars the likes of which I’ve not seen before or since. All these elements combined to give me a deep spiritual experience, not felt since Collingwood last won a flag.
It was also while on this particular ‘assignment’ that I had a memorable encounter of the piscatorial persuasion. Previously, my only experience with a rod and reel was wrestling Port Phillip Bay ‘channel rats’, otherwise known as flatheads, to the boat. And, of course, doing what I do for Club Marine, I had also laid out plenty of pages of feature articles portraying editors and contributors as masters of the fine art of the angler. That was up until a day I spent sailing off Ouvea, in the Loyalty Islands.
“Let us zee vot zis babee can do,” is what our French skipper stated, before hoisting all manner of sail and ‘planting the foot’. Since it appeared that I was not needed to maintain the boat’s forward momentum, I thought I’d throw an old wooden fishing lure I’d found over the stern to see whether there was any wildlife in the area.
“Tres bon, but hold on,” commented our skipper.
Mere minutes passed before I hauled in a fish of unknown make, but impressive size – for me, at least – of two or three kilos, as I recall. Over the ensuing half hour, a couple of other specimens obliged and continued to make my day. Then all hell broke loose.
A quick description to set the scene: the Beneteau was now flying on a what seemed to me a very perilous angle, with copious amounts of water traversing the decks. I was perched barefoot on the stern.
A small Japanese car then hit the lure and proceeded to drive off in the opposite direction. Much French was yelled, along the lines of “what the...” and after being thrown some gloves with which to hold the line, I was instructed to hold on and start hauling.
Twenty minutes later, the largest fish I had ever been attached to was dragged, hand-over-hand, on board, leaving me to massage my tired and sore muscles.
Many other highlights spring to mind that, over the years, have made the journey with the magazine interesting, challenging, stimulating and memorable.
THE GERMAN EDITION
In the late ’80s, and with Club Marine having indulged in a brief partnership with a German boat insurance company, we even produced a magazine with duplicate German language sections for distribution in Germany. With a surname like mine, it was suggested that I proof-read the said sections, but thankfully this odd period did not last long.
I have to say that when I look over my quarter of a century with the magazine, I am amazed by the technological advancements we have reported on and the sheer scope of our coverage of all things nautical.
We have been gamefishing from Cairns to Costa Rica, conducted underwater explorations using everything from flippers to submarines, tested road-going vehicles from mopeds to Maseratis and even a memorable stint on motorised surfboards in 1984. I had a wry smile when I scanned through out early issues and found an article discussing new electronic devices that scanned the depths and the horizon. The only trouble was the depth sounders and radar units of the day looked more like large bar fridges and likely weighed as much.
All manner of triumph and tragedy has graced the magazine, from Sydney Hobart races and round-the-world yachting events to powerboat racing and our own annual Club Marine Southern 80 ski classic.
While reminiscing about the content and presentation of the magazine, I can’t forget the many front covers that were enhanced by a comprehensive and diverse, but always appealing array of young women of a nautical persuasion. While these covers may have had their day in the sun in these politically correct times, the search for new front cover images to usurp our previous efforts throughout much of the ’80s and ’90s brings back many fond memories.
SHIRTS OF SHAME
Articles from ‘left field’ that displayed a tenuous link to anything nautical, to say the least, have always personally appealed, with an all-time favourite being a report on the history of the Hawaiian shirt. Having had a lifelong love of shirts of a ‘loud’ disposition, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was not alone in my appreciation of sartorial splendour, with such luminaries as US President Harry S Truman and actors Ernest Borgnine and Tom Selleck also displaying a similar discerning taste in fashion.
Over the years, most of Australia’s top boating, fishing and travel writers have contributed to the magazine. Two who readily spring to mind are Warren Steptoe and Bill Bachman, if for no other reason than that both have been associated with Club Marine for almost as long as I have.
Warren has been testing tinnies and photographing fish since Noah was in business and as an interesting sidelight, longterm readers would have seen the Steptoe sons grow up year after year in the pages of Club Marine, in the process making their catches appear to shrink in direct proportion to their own paths to adulthood.
Bill Bachman’s passionate and evocative images of Outback Australia are seen through lenses of unsurpassed technical quality and the eye of a true story teller. Bill’s sweeping landscapes, intimate portraits, natural still lifes and extraordinary detail have enhanced our magazine for many years. An extensive retrospective of his work from both Australia and overseas will appear in our first magazine of the new year in recognition of his contribution to our ongoing success.
Technology has also come a long way since my shift began at the magazine. At the time, fax machines were the latest thing, but only used by the most ‘techno-savvy’. The internet and, indeed, cyber space were merely the nerdy rantings of Arthur C Clarke and Co.
Typesetting was done on a computer, but at the time they were just were just glorified typewriters and not the sophisticated touch screens we see today. And Photoshop ...? It was but a mere twinkle in some graphic designer’s eye.
I truly believe – and I hope readers will agree – that Club Marine has earned its reputation for photographic quality and presentation. And it is in this area of publishing that I have witnessed a real quantum leap in technology and delivery over the last 25 years. During this time, it has been my job to select images and oversee their faithful reproduction. The rise of the digital image and the corresponding demise of both paper-based prints and film-based transparencies or slides has had an enormous impact on the images we receive and how we deal with them.
It has been a long and, at times, painful road to achieve the quality in digital images that we used to see in the more traditional formats. I have to say now, though, that digital technology has well and truly achieved parity with film and print.
High quality editorial illustrations and extensive colour map renditions began to enhance the magazine in the early ’80s and continue to be a part of the magazine today, albeit digitally created instead of by hand as they were in the past. I note with some satisfaction that the Derwent coloured pencils which were used by us on so many maps and illustrations are still available in the ‘Antiquities Aisle’ at Officeworks. Those pencils, along with draughting pens, scalpels, cutting boards, French curves and good, old Letraset have mainly gone the way of the dodo, but somehow we still manage to retain the little hand-done touches in the magazine, that appear here and there from time to time. It helps reinforce the feeling that I have a very strong ‘stake’ in the magazine. Every issue still contains a piece of me and will continue to do so, hopefully, for a few more issues yet.
Twenty-five years is a long time, but I have to say it’s been a great ride. To all our readers, can I just say, thanks for occupying the passenger’s seat.