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Not an April Fools’ Joke: Print Is Alive, and so Is Latitude 38

Faced with another grueling deadline, a meager paycheck, a few angry readers and no time to sail or live the life we write about, I considered ending it all as a Latitude editor. Despondent, I walked to a bridge and peered over the side into the abyss … and pulled out my phone to look for new jobs. Maybe I could be a truck driver? I’ll try my hand at coding, or go to school to be a dental assistant. Just please, God, don’t make me edit another issue of Latitude 38. Looking out on an empty, sailboat-less Bay, I wondered, “Who are we doing this for?” This is the most common thing I hear when I tell people that I work at Latitude (and this is true): “Latitude 38? I used to read that all the time.”

What would the world look like if there had never been Latitude 38 magazine? Would it be a dystopia of sailing-less-ness?

An empty San Rafael Bay as seen from our lone sailboat on a lonely sea.
© 2024 Nathaniel Bielby

For the past six April Fools’ Days, Latitude has written headlines that are both absurd and in the realm of probability — think of them as worst-case scenarios emanating from the current body politic. “State Proposes a Ban on Sailing” read one headline; “State Will Impose High-Impact Waterfront Development” read another. They were fun, clickbaity, shock-value stories to write that reliably garnered alarmed comments.

Ha ha, April Fools. Got you. Aren’t we sooo hilarious?

Following the semi-logical extension of real-world policy to its dystopian-for-recreational-sailing conclusion, we reasoned that waterfront development, well-meaning but ultimately draconian environmental laws, local governments’ lack of understanding about recreational sailing and marine businesses, and yes, the persistent declining participation in the sport and lifestyle would ultimately lead to the disappearance of sailing as we know it.

But sailing as we knew it — what we call the Golden Era in the ’70s and ’80s when a large percentage of middle-class families had 25- to 35-ft racers and/or cruisers — has been long gone for decades. It’s not just the lifestyle, but the middle class as well. The future of the sport or lifestyle is uncertain.

To be fair, though, the future always is.

We recognize that we don’t get to control it, nor are we entitled to lament and wax nostalgic about the good old days. The future is what you make of it, right? Our influence in these matters has, however, always felt a little thin, and propelling Latitude into the future has always felt like a puzzle.

But we enjoy the challenge, and above all, we love the community.

Richard Spindler on San Francisco Bay in 1976.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Latitude Archives

We’ve never satirized the challenges facing print media on April 1. I was tempted to write the headline: Latitude To Halt Printing Indefinitely, but that idea was wisely discouraged. Besides, no one wants to hear us bitch about how hard our jobs are or how unwise our career choices have been.

With that said, how would you have reacted, dear reader, if you had read that headline? What does Latitude mean to you? Where does it fit into your life?

When Latitude 38 was founded by Richard Spindler 47 years ago (to the month!), the sailing world was ripe for the picking, as was the publishing world. We were in that Golden Era (well, I was two years old), and the sailing world seemed to need an iconoclast, someone to raise their middle finger to the powers that be, especially the nascent state authority. (That’s you, BCDC.)

It wasn’t just Spindler’s searing prose and humor, and it wasn’t just the pages showing beautiful humans — mostly women, but a few men — in the buff. It was the media landscape. Latitude was a diamond in the rough — people lined up to get new issues on delivery days. Today, there are more diamonds (well, cubic zirconias) than rough. There are at least 10 Facebook sailing groups for every one page of our magazine. Everyone’s bandwidth is taxed. The media supply is infinite, while demand is lost to the infinity of the internet.

The Westpoint Regatta, 2018. I didn’t realize that capturing moments like this had been a low-key dream of mine until I worked for Latitude 38.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim Henry

Sometimes — but not often — we get slightly indignant emails from readers who are upset that we didn’t cover an event. Do people think that we have a full-time correspondent driving around to the many (many, many) regattas, seminars, visiting boats, and award ceremonies that take place each and every week, year ’round, not just here in the Bay Area, but all along the West Coast, including SoCal, MidCal, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Mexico and Hawaii? Do people expect us to be at each and every event, but also expect the magazine to be free?

Even in its heyday, Latitude 38 was a contributor-driven publication. We counted on people to send us photos and a handful of words. We would work our editorial magic, and presto, you would be in the magazine. We can only hope people realize that this is still the editorial model. If you’re part of a sailing Facebook group or other social network, we hope that you’ll consider keeping us in the loop.

It’s not always smooth sailing, but it’s always rewarding, and always worthwhile, here at Latitude 38.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim Henry

Standing on the bridge, I put away my phone. No, I do want to be a Latitude editor, which is to say that I want to be part of this community. Everyone who works here wants this glorious art project to succeed, to resonate, to reach an audience, and to connect you, dear sailors, with one another. We want to connect you to the wonders of nature and the joy of sailing. We want the magazine in your bathrooms and heads and living rooms and saloons. Once you’ve read it, we want you to tear up the mag for boat maintenance (“It’s great for keeping oil off the deck when I service my winches,” said one reader), to start a bonfire on the beach, or — God forbid — if you run out of toilet paper … well, you know what to do.

You can support Latitude 38’s commitment to West Coast sailors and sailing news when you click here.

14 Comments

  1. Robert Goldberg 3 weeks ago

    Could not live without Latitude 38 as a SF Bay sailor!!!! Not fooling around! Every April1, May1, etc is a very important day to look forward to!!!
    Thank you! Fair publishing winds and following readers , contributors and advertisers!

  2. Andy Graham 3 weeks ago

    Great ponderings indeed. I sail a couple of times per week and over the last 40 years (I arrived in California on April Fools Day 1984!!) I have noticed less and less sailors on the water. And that’s AOK by me!!

  3. Brad 3 weeks ago

    The irony of looking at your phone to ponder the value of your life while lamenting not having time to sail was not lost on this reader

  4. Jim Weaver 3 weeks ago

    It is a fantastic magazine put out by some amazingly fantastic folks who truly love sailing and the west coast sailing scene. Reading it makes me feel connected to the sailing scene here in California and the west coast. Reading the well written stories about cruisers is always entertaining and I learn new things about far away lands and people. Keep up the good work

  5. Rich Brazil 3 weeks ago

    Ok, I’ll bite. You don’t have roving reporter’s? No Lois Lane looking for a sailing scoop? (I almost wrote, sloop) No limousine waiting outside to whisk you to lunch at Scoma’s? “Holy Bat Cave!” I say. Well, I guess we readers will need to get off our collective duff’s and send dribbles and drab’s your way!

  6. David Paul 3 weeks ago

    Your team has made my life. Thank you.
    Since issue number 1.

  7. David Henry 3 weeks ago

    I’m still a hard copy subscriber. I love the feel of the pages on my hands. The ability to leaf back or forward at will. To tear out a page to keep as a reference. Please never joke about not printing the monthly Latitude 38.

  8. James Lane 3 weeks ago

    John,
    Real heroes are rare and thin on the waves. The crew of L38°N are those heroes…Please, please… don’t write code!

  9. laurin long 3 weeks ago

    Excellent 4-1. keep them coming

  10. Mark 3 weeks ago

    I started reading Latitude many years, many dreams, many boats (and a few wives) ago and sometimes I was as despondent as the editor but I would always grab the new Latitude and somehow reading it would get me through it all. I still dream of casting off and going somewhere and still feed that dream with each new edition. I read the hard copy and I must say that it is sometimes frustrating that there printed continuations to on-line stories but I don’t go on-line to see what I missed. Please keep printing a hard copy

  11. milly Biller 3 weeks ago

    I was working at a boat yard 40 years ago, and John Arndt was the the guy that went around to businesses to gain their subscription to advertise in Latitude. We were kids and that is how long he has been with Latitude. I don’t have every hard copy, but I have most. Now that I live north of the Bay Area, I cherish Latitude even more than I already did, for the connection and the wonderful writing. Keep it up you guys !!!!!

    • RJG 3 weeks ago

      Hi MB, 40 years ago, I too was in Bay Area boatyards. If you have the L38 hard copies, there’s 1 page I’d love to get a copy of. Could you please let me know how to contact you.

    • John Arndt 3 weeks ago

      RJG – though it’s not the same, you can find digital scans of all of our past issues on our website here: https://www.latitude38.com/magazine/archive/ – some are pretty hard to read but they’re great if you don’t have the printed copy at hand. Check out this story on ‘Milly the Magnif’ in the March 1979 issue: https://www.latitude38.com/issues/march-1979/#55

  12. Tony Bindel, no dock like O Dock Santa Cruz 3 weeks ago

    In 1978 when I started reading the magazine, I could only think that it compared to the Berkeley Barb. I have flown to every corner of this world with my latitude, 38 as my reading, as I cruised along in the airplane.

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