ISSUE NO. 285
March / April 2022
It’s been a busy and eventful several months here in Brooklin, with a group of old friends and colleagues entering well-earned retirements—and an associated change of watch.
WoodenBoat’s origin story is the stuff of legend now, but it deserves review here: Jon Wilson founded the company in 1974 in a small cabin in Brooksville, Maine. A fire in an office location in Brooksville caused that early crew to relocate to nearby Brooklin in 1977, where they eventually found a home on a former 61-acre seaside estate. That’s where I’m seated as I write this, and that’s where, in 1981, Jon founded WoodenBoat School, which this coming summer will offer more than 90 courses in boatbuilding, traditional seamanship, and related crafts.
A magazine was an unlikely endeavor for Jon, because he was a boatbuilder and repairer before founding WoodenBoat, and had no prior experience in publishing. But his careful curation of the subject matter—and careful choices of contributors and staff—gave rise to the enterprise that Jon recently said, “still leaves me in awe.”
One of those carefully chosen staff members was Jim Miller, who signed on in 1985 as business manager, and who for more than two decades has been the company’s president. Jim has worked tirelessly—and often behind the scenes—in tending myriad operational details. He was the first WoodenBoat staff member I met when I traveled, starstruck, to Brooklin in late 1991 for a job interview. (I was 10 years old when WoodenBoat magazine began publishing, and it’s been a big part of my life since my early teens.) At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, Jim’s retirement from WoodenBoat Publications, along with Jon’s, became official.
Rich Hilsinger has been the director of WoodenBoat School since the spring of 1986. He was slated to retire more than a year ago but, with the onset of the pandemic, agreed, for the sake of stability, to stay on for another season. That decision to postpone his retirement is characteristic of Rich’s selfless stewardship of the school from a relatively small endeavor to a program that has become a cornerstone of many people’s lives—and launched uncounted boatbuilding careers. Last June, Rich’s successor, Eric Stockinger, joined our staff, and Rich worked alongside him, as did the school’s business manager, Kim Patten, teaching him the nuances of the program. (Eric, having been the executive director of The Apprenticeshop in Rockland, Maine, at a crucial time in that program’s evolution, brings deep experience in boatbuilding-school administration to his new role.)
We also bid farewell to Rose Poole with this issue. She has been with WoodenBoat since 1996, most recently as our research librarian—and much more, having over the years tended details too numerous to list.
Along with all of these changes comes one for publisher Andrew Breece and me. We are the new owners of WoodenBoat Publications, the company that includes this magazine, its sister publications Professional BoatBuilder and Small Boats Magazine, WoodenBoat School, The WoodenBoat Store, and The WoodenBoat Show. I’m excited by this partnership.
Andrew brings deep passion to the topic. Here’s a small illustration of that: A few years into my tenure as editor, in 1996 or so, he wrote to me, out of the blue, volunteering to be a judge in a design contest. We were seeking a training sailboat for kids (see WB No. 128), and Andrew, who I didn’t know at the time, exuded an air of confidence in that letter when presenting his qualifications for being a judge: he loved wooden boats, was an avid reader of the magazine, and was a member of the demographic at which we were aiming this boat: He was 10 years old. A business lunch ensued, followed by a long day of reading plans and commenting. He’s been in the WoodenBoat orbit ever since—through college, through early career stops at Mystic Seaport Museum and the Maine Island Trail Association, and, most recently, as publisher of WoodenBoat’s magazine division for the past seven years. He’s lost none of the enthusiasm of that kid-judge, but today is a skilled business leader deeply versed in every aspect of WoodenBoat Publications. Andrew will become the chief operating officer while also remaining publisher; I’ll be chief content officer—while also remaining at the helm of WoodenBoat magazine.
We are exploring new ways to deliver the lessons and lore of wooden boats. But we don’t intend to stray from the core idea incubated in that cabin in the woods nearly 50 years ago.
Editor of WoodenBoat Magazine