Anyone who has been courageous enough to embark on the creation of a new publication will attest to the fact that it is a battle to keep the colors flying. In the Age of Sail a ship's colors (flags) were a principal means of communication at sea. It was during a fierce battle between the American vessel Bohomme Richard and the British HMS Serapis that Captain John Paul Jones declared, “…I have not yet begun to fight." Less well known is the fact that Jones was responding personally to the enemy captain, who had shouted over the din of battle, asking Jones, "Have you struck?” Striking the colors was the sign of defeat. During the same battle, the British ship's own colors had been shot away prompting her captain to nail them to the mast lest anyone think he had surrendered.
In the case of Waterway Guide, the first shot was fired in 1947 when planning began for a 200-page book that was printed by Marina Publishing House in Wilmington, N.C. describing places to stop along the Intracoastal Waterway from New York to Florida. The first edition was released in 1948. Those early Waterway Guides provided the standard details about marinas and towns. The books also listed information about liquor laws in every state along the way and included a "Guest Log of the Watch" with spaces for guests' names, summer and winter addresses, favorite foods, drinks and diversions. By 1952 there were Northern and Southern editions with black and white fold-out charts and aerial photos. Evolving to a respected publication, by 1962 it was awarding its coveted Bronze Plaques and Certificates of Merit to marinas voted as best all-around.
Enter the Wains
In 1969, at the suggestion of the renowned outdoor writer Jim Emmett, the rights to the name were purchased by a live aboard cruising couple from New York who were savvy in the world of public relations and publishing. Estelle and Sidney Wain are boaters who loved to cruise the Intracoastal Waterway. Boat builders were just gearing up to meet the growing interest in pleasure boats. "Yachting," as it was known at that time, was still very much the province of the wealthy. The Wains were serious boaters. In 1964 they had already been sailing for twenty years and decided they wanted a unique new boat. They worked with Naval Architects John G. Alden & Co. to come up with their dream boat. The Distant Star was a 57-foot ocean going diesel cruiser built at the Historic Hodgdon Brothers Shipyard in East Boothbay, Maine. The Wains wanted a boat on which they could eventually live with all the comforts of home. Those comforts included a tile fireplace brought from Scotland that burned wood, coal or charcoal. The Wains recognized the growing need for boaters to have a reliable guide that would provide detailed and updated information about all of the stops all along the way between New York City and Miami Florida. Their target reader was the year-round cruising yachtsmen who plied the ICW. The Wains had first-hand experience and they wanted their knowledge to be easily available to fellow boaters. In no time they were publishing the Guide from their headquarters in a house trailer. "We thought of the Waterway Guide as a retirement project we could do in our spare time, but it soon grew to a major enterprise employing 60 people," Estelle Wain said. Word soon spread that boaters traveling the ICW no longer had to rely on word-of-mouth for information about marinas. At the flip of a page, they could quickly learn all there was to know about a particular marina in a particular town. Word was also spreading to advertisers and before long the pages of Waterway Guide carried ads from boat builders like Chris-Craft and Hatteras.
After World War II, the nature of boating had been transformed from a leisure time activity for the very wealthy to a sport that could be enjoyed by just about anyone. Wooden boats gave way to fiberglass boats that were mass produced and affordable for middle class wage-earners. The new breed of boater included many who were used to taking car trips on long weekends and vacations at distant places. They were eager to discover new places they could travel to by boat and Waterway Guide provided the information they needed to plan and make trips in unfamiliar waters.
Producing the Waterway Guide is a unique series of challenges, which need to be conquered anew with each edition. It takes dedicated and accomplished editors, writers and boaters to bring each edition of Waterway Guide to press. A good example from those earlier years was Ken Steele. Steele started as art director in 1971, helping to craft each edition for the next 30 years. He is now retired and spends half the year in North Carolina and the other half in West Palm Beach, Florida. Steele is a boater. At one time he and his wife Gloria lived on their 70-foot Consolidated and later on their 65-foot Burger. Steele remained through a succession of owners and editors at Waterway Guide. He worked at many positions from art department, to sales and eventually to general manager. Going to boat shows was a glorious experience, he recalled, because in those days he and his wife went by train. Steele also spoke fondly of working with editors at Waterway Guide that went on to other notable positions. The late Cynthia Taylor, for one, who became Managing Editor and Senior Editor of Yachting Magazine. Steele also recalled working with Jim Emmett, who built his own boat and was a well-known character on the ICW who wrote articles for Yachting, MotorBoating and Outdoor World.
Cronkite Comes Aboard
Steele enjoyed working and sailing with the legendary CBS television anchorman and avid sailor Walter Cronkite, who exercised his muse in the preface to each Guide. Referring to the purchase of Waterway Guide by Whitney Communications Corporation in 1979, Cronkite wrote, "It seemed a logical extension of [Whitney's] interest and expertise in boating to acquire Waterway Guide, already by far the finest publication in its field, with an unusually excellent staff." It was the first of 18 prefaces "the most trusted man in America" would write for the Guide. Cronkite, who had been a long-time ocean-racing sailor, truly enjoyed slowing down and smelling the roses along the ICW. In 1983, he wrote about those all too common passages in which a stubborn captain's drive to get to his destination despite weather or sea conditions makes everyone aboard swear they'll never get on his boat again. "The answer is simple and known to everyone," Cronkite explained, "but it takes will power to recognize and act upon it: To plan our trips with shorter passages and more stops, allowing more time to take comfortable tacks, to arrive dry and friendly, and also to see even more of the fascinating ports that line all our shores."
Doziers' Deepening Involvement
In 1975, a perky go-getting sales representative named Craig Dozier joined the Guide and started breaking advertising sales records. It didn't hurt that she and her husband, Jack, were avid boaters very much like Estelle and Sidney Wain. Jack Dozier had been using Waterway Guides since the 1950s when he cruised on his father's boat. Over the years, the Doziers logged more than 100,000 miles on ICW trips, many with their two dogs, Molly and Scooter. Primedia, the largest special-interest magazine publisher in the Southeast, bought Waterway Guide in 1998 and moved its offices to Atlanta. A few years later, Primedia decided to sell the book. In hindsight it seems natural that Waterway Guide's best salesperson and her marina-owning husband should take over the business. That happened in 2002. "I was once, very briefly, a stockbroker, and then I decided to get back on the water where my real interests lie," said Jack Dozier, who was in the marina business for years before his passing in 2014. He recounted in this interview in 2007 that it was challenging, of course, “but mostly it was a great deal of fun. Most enjoyable are all the boaters we met over the years, the people who regularly cruise the ICW and know what they need in a guide. Craig and I wanted to give it to them.”
On to Annapolis
"When we bought Waterway Guide, we moved the operations to Annapolis to be on the water and to have access to people who understood the specialized nature of our guides," he said. "We took only the name, and hired a completely new staff, bought new hardware, software, redesigned the layout and added new Great Lakes and Bahamas guides, digitized the books, and expanded the page count over the following three years from 380 to over 500 on average." As Ken Steele said, "What could be a better testimonial than the fact that the publishers were actually advertisers long before they owned the Guide?" The Doziers made many alterations to the Guides, including spiral binding to allow them to lay flat on the helm station, heavier paper stock and detailed navigational information geographically organized for quick and easy reference. Perhaps the most popular change was adding an inside back flap. Milt Baker, founder of Bluewater Books and Charts, wrote, "[It] not only folds over to keep the pages clean and dry, but also has printed on it select ICW bridges and waypoints...This makes for super easy access to bridge information you will need while cruising up and down the ICW, without having to read the fine print on the chart."
Waterway Guide Media
Waterway Guide was purchased from the Doziers in 2014 and is now owned and published by Jeffery and Kathryn Jones of Richmond, VA. Waterway Guide Media has embarked on an aggressive transition into delivering its content using mobile, web and other digital platforms. The foundation of the company remains its printed guides, which are painstakingly updated and revised every year. From that effort, Waterway Guide data is pushed onto interactive charts, maps, and satellite images in a web based application called Waterway Explorer. Downloadable mobile apps display information about marinas and services that boaters can access anywhere at the touch of an icon on their smart phones or tablets. Sharing data with other chart and navigation developers further disseminates Waterway Guide information to boaters and long-range cruisers. A new guide to boating along Cuba’s north coast and a magazine are included in the lineup of the 7 printed guides that the company publishes annually. Publisher Jeff Jones says, “I believe that the future of Waterway Guide lies with the hundreds of thousands of boaters who use us and who have trusted us to provide insightful information to them over the decades. In the years ahead, our delivery of that information across the different communications channels that boaters use will assure our position as the Cruising Authority.”
It has taken almost 70 years, and much hard work by dedicated people along the way, but today's Waterway Guide comes very close to meeting the publication's initial goal to reveal "All About All the Stops All Along the Way. What would cruising be like without Waterway Guide? Countless boaters can be grateful for people like Jim Emmett, Cynthia Taylor, Jack and Craig Dozier, Ken Steele and Estelle and Sidney Wain, who had the courage to persevere in what was, at times, a very risky battle indeed. Their commitment to meet the challenge is proof that the Waterway Guide colors are still flying true.
- Bob Cerullo
Bob Cerullo and his wife, Marilynne, live on Jackson Creek in Deltaville, VA, and cruise their 46 Bertram Cabin Cruiser Patrick Sweeney. A licensed Captain and certified master mechanic, he has anchored various radio and TV shows and currently writes for several automotive and marine publications, including House and Home magazine. He authored the book What's Wrong With My Car.