What a trip: Time flies when you’re having this much fun

Sandy, at his desk in the Points East Portland headquarters. Photo courtesy Sandy Marsters

March/April 2022

By Sandy Marsters

I’m pretty sure it’s impossible that this year marks the 25th anniversary of Points East. Fifteen maybe? Otherwise, that would mean I turned 71 on March 3, and that’s impossible.

Oh, wait…

So, I was 45 or 46 – about the age of my kids now – when Bernie Wideman looked at me across the desk at the newspaper we edited at the time and said something like, “Maybe we should start a boating magazine.”

I may have shrugged and said “OK.”

Oops. That couldn’t be true. According to my resume, I had left the paper in 1993 and in 1998, when Points East was launched, I was teaching. This is exactly why witnesses, especially old ones, can’t be trusted.

The other day Bernie and I met for lunch and tried to drill down into the history of the magazine. We didn’t get far before hitting bedrock.

Anyway, I know back then we decided it would be fun, so we did it, and we called it Points East. And by god here it is still around a quarter century later, a little different but remarkably the same.

Just like us.

That was a heady time. I remember vividly the feeling when I went to the locksmith to have keys made for our office on Newbury Street in Portland. I had never run a business before. Fortunately, Bernie had owned a newspaper in Maine, so I just walked in his shadow.

We became real at Phin and Joanna Sprague’s March 1998 Maine Boatbuilders Show. I was up very early that morning for a live interview at the studio of one of Maine’s TV stations. Big shot.

I don’t recall the interview. Perhaps I told her that I may have been destined at an early age to work at a boating magazine.

When I was a kid, I kept a tall stack of the magazine “Yachting” in my closet. I’m sure other kids had other kinds of magazines hidden away, but I was in love with boats.

I remember specifically an ad for, I think, an Owens cabin cruiser. The lovely boat was tied alongside a dock. It was night. Warm light glowed from the boat’s windows. On the dock, a young couple, about to board their boat, looked adoringly at each other. Overhead, the stars twinkled.

At that age – and for many years to come – it didn’t occur to me what might have gone on in that cozy cabin that night. I didn’t know what romance was. But I sure loved that boat.

Years later, as a young man, I recall standing on the fishing pier in Cape Porpoise Harbor on a late-summer evening and looking down on a sailboat – a yellow-hulled C&C Redwing 30 – that was refueling. The same warm light spilled through the ports and companionway as the crew discussed their plans to sail through the night to wherever they were going.

Oh, the romance. I was mesmerized.

Years later, my wife, Mary, and I would have our own succession of cruising boats. I learned what could happen in romantically lit cabins. Bernie joined us on many of those voyages, including an epic November voyage from the Chesapeake to St. Thomas in 2014 on our Island Packet 350 Skye.

And Bernie and I sailed together frequently on his various boats, including an October cruise to Grand Mannan Island on his Tartan 34 named – coincidentally, by the previous owner – Sandy.

Whatever boat we were on, you could count on us to get into trouble. Misidentified islands in the Bahamas. Spare fuel tanks washed off the decks in a storm off Cape Hatteras. Lost in a sudden squall in Boston Harbor. Groundings. Draggings. Snagged trap lines. Engine breakdowns.

Just the stuff we wanted our readers to write about in Points East.

“We think your fellow cruisers want to hear about your favorite cruises, funny experiences and hair-raising adventures,” I wrote in my first Editor’s column in the first issue, April 1998, the one we handed out at that March boat show.

Joining us in that issue were some true heavyweights of the boating world. Somehow, we had convinced them that we really intended to make this work.

Dodge Morgan, who at the time held the world record for a nonstop circumnavigation. Dodge would write for us for years with no compensation. Later, when humor columnist Tom Snyder joined us, gratis as well, he and Dodge would lob taunts and challenges at each other in their columns.

The late Abbott Fletcher, whose boat Majek dominated the Gulf of Maine Racing circuit, wrote about the magic of raising a family on a boat in Maine.

Sailmaker Win Fowler, who had introduced a very intimidated me to Abbott at a Gulf of Maine Ocean Racing Association banquet, shared some of the racing strategies that had earned him national recognition.

Bernie and I started Points East, but these are the people who made it work, these and so many others – deeply loyal advertisers, the lifeblood of a publication; sales reps; readers who picked up the magazine every month; editors; yacht clubs and restaurants and chandleries and marinas and other businesses that allowed us to dump our bundles of free magazines on them; delivery people; the contributors who shared their stories and photographs; and the many wonderful employees and volunteers who cheerfully did the grunt work of getting this thing published for 25 years.

Thanking is dangerous, because people will be forgotten. They are hereby thanked.

But what am I doing? Joe Burke, who bought the magazine from us, has been running it for longer than we did. What incredible luck that Joe came along and dedicated himself heart and soul to the project. And I should point out with gratitude that John Gold and Lynn Whitney have been driving forces behind Points East since the earliest days. Thank you.

And especially, a deep thanks to Bernie for his long friendship; his cruising companionship; his superb seamanship (usually); for holding down the fort while Mary and I went off cruising for a year; and for his deeply generous spirit.

Oh, and for coming up with the whole idea in the first place. What a trip.

Sandy Marsters was co-founder and first editor of Points East. He lives in Portland, Maine, where he explores Casco Bay in his 21-foot Tolman Skiff and writes a column for the Portland Phoenix.