This article was originally published in the August 2021 issue of 48° North. 

In 1981, a couple of guys bellied up on barstools and had an idea… 478 monthly issues later, the good ship 48° North continues to sail, flying the FUN flag high!

For 40 years, a group of people who live and love the sailing and boating lifestyle have been passionately sharing it with others in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. In print, online, and on the water, this group has stitched together the community quilt of readers, dreamers, racers, cruisers, writers, advertisers, industry pros, and everyone in between that make 48° North what it is.

The debut issue was called Latitude 48, but a few months later the name was changed to 48° North.

Plenty has changed about the world, about sailing, and about 48° North in the intervening years. Communication and media is certainly different, and so is the way we make the magazine. America’s Cup boats and lots of others now fly above the water on foils. Nonetheless, the most important stuff is steadfast. The waters and coastlines of the Salish Sea still inspire with their beauty, and there’s no better way to enjoy them than swinging lazily on an anchor. The life of adventure, freedom, and exploration still has tractor-beam pull. Boats of all types still present puzzles to solve and projects to tackle. There’s still ceaseless amazement and enjoyment in the simple fact that the wind can fuel our play and our travel. And as ever, spending quality time on boats with good company is the best of it all.

Any discussion of the 48° North history must center on sailing, and the founding principle of 48° North all those years ago: sailing is fun! In recent years, 48° North has welcomed as many PNW boat-folk on varied watercraft to the community as possible. But, it all started with sailing, and we’re still as sail-smitten as ever.

Today, no member of the 48° North staff has been alive as long as the magazine. No, your magazine isn’t being made by tweenagers, but that’s a pretty wild thought and highlights 48° North’s impressively long run. Accordingly, a lot of our history is best told by those who lived it, and portions of this article representing that history also appeared in our 25th anniversary edition from 2006. So, there’s only one place to start.

The Way-Back Machine

The longtime 48° North crew in the late 90s trying to “capture the essence of sailing in Seattle”. (left to right) Nancy Very, Michael Collins, Karen Higginson, Chuck Streatch, Jane Larson, Rich Hazelton.

48° North began as an idea in a “What if?” bar conversation between Chuck Streatch and Dan Schworer. Appropriately, the bar was the Sloop Tavern, and the conversation centered around producing a new boating magazine. It was in late June 1981, and Streatch, a veteran of 20 years in the newspaper business, could see that Cast Off, then the only boating magazine in town, was quickly fading.

“Dan and I thought there was room for a good boating magazine to make it in Seattle,” Streatch said. (Quotes from Chuck are from 1991’s 10th Anniversary article by Jeff Briggs). “Our unemployment was running out and, being over 50, I was unemployable. So after checking around with some different printers and potential advertisers, we decided to go for it.”

With the financial backing of David V. Harris, who was given the title of Publisher for his $10,000 loan, the two publishing entrepreneurs set about creating a Northwest sailing magazine. Less than six weeks after the conversation in the Sloop, the first issue of what was to become 48° North appeared in the brokerages and chandleries of Seattle. The debut issue was called Latitude 48.

“I did most of the production,” Streatch recalled, “and Dan did the editorial. It was a miracle that we got the first magazine out. We put the first issue out for $5,000. We didn’t get paid.” They printed 8,000 copies of Latitude 48 on newsprint and offered it to the boating community for free.

The first issue offered glimpses of the future. Columnists Bruce Hedrick and Stef Clarke wrote on racing and sails, respectively; John Carson drew on his vast sailing experiences to write another column. The section “Lowtide,” still a staple in  48° North, was a “potpourri” of news, events, classes, rendezvous, and other goings on in the sailing world. The slogans that would be familiar to most readers over the decades, “The Northwest Sailing Magazine” and “Just Like The Wind…It’s Free,” were on the cover. The tone was folksy, personal, and slightly irreverent.

From the inaugural issue, 48° North has contained a distinct philosophy that has remained consistent throughout most of its history: sailing is fun. Rather than try to offer something for everyone on the water, it concentrated from the beginning on sailors and sailing. With that focus, honing the magazine philosophy was easy, and it directly reflects the approach to sailing taken by the magazine’s staff since.

Editors Andy Cross (left) and Joe Cline (right) on their way to exhibit at a Wooden Boat Festival.

The 48° North Crew Over The Years

The trio of Streatch, Schwoer, and Harris soon grew. Michael Collins joined the team one year in, and would be the Advertising Manager (and eventually co-Publisher) for an impressive 36 years. Collins’ commitment to his customers was legendary, and he still says fondly, “The advertising team always worked really hard at making advertisers feel like part of the magazine family.”

By late 1984, Schower had chased a different dream out of town and the editor who succeeded him, Kay Walsh, went out on her own after a brief tenure — 48° North was looking for another editor. This one would stick. Rich Hazelton was hired as Editor that year and would stay in that chair for a few months shy of 30 years (and add duties as co-Publisher). Straight away, Hazelton understood what the magazine was about and enjoyed asking simply, “If you’re not having fun, why are you doing it?”

In the late 1980s, two more long-term staff joined the 48° North crew — Karen Higginson and Jane Larson. Higginson worked as Associate Editor until 2019, and was integral to helping sailors around the region keep up with what was happening, whether it was in a classroom or on a race course. Larson did the books, and then the classifieds, too.

The tenure of that core staff was extraordinary. Those five — Streatch, Collins, Hazelton, Higginson, and Larson — all had 20-30+ year careers making 48° North together. They had to be having fun to stick around like that! Aptly, Hazelton said recently, “Being 48° North’s Editor was just like sailing on a boat with a good crew. It was all about the enjoyment and the other people around you.”

Your 48° North team today should be so lucky! Joe Cline took over the Editor’s desk from Hazelton in 2014. Since 2019, Collins’ ad sales shoes are filled capably by Kachele Yelaca in Port Townsend. Supporting all the word work is Joe’s other-editorial-half, Editor Andy Cross, who hopped aboard when 48° North merged with Three Sheets NW. New to the team in 2021 is designer, Jacqie Callahan.

Lots of other staff have helped bring 48° North to the world through the years, and we thank them for the time they spent sweating deadlines and helping steer the ship onward during their time on the crew.

Just Talking Sailing

Author and columnist, Diana Jesse.

The magazine’s promise in its very first issue — “Meeting the needs and interest of Puget Sound sailors” — still rings true. Yet, this was honed through Hazelton’s innate ability to
“just talk sailing” with anybody. This down-to-earth approach found common ground no matter what kind of sailing giant he spoke with.

Hazelton’s conversations would be the envy of any sailor; but thanks to 48° North, he brought his readers along with him. Early interviews with solo circumnavigator John Guzzell and Olympian Carl Buchan; a talk with journalist, TV anchor, and long-time sailor Walter Cronkite — all set the tone for quality conversations with some of sailing’s luminaries in and out of the Pacific Northwest. He would also interview yacht designer Laurie Davidson; America’s Cup Skipper, Peter Gilmour; circumnavigators Karen Thorndyke and Lin and Larry Pardey; designer Paul Bieker; and racing stars like Jonathan and Charlie McKee.

Cline proudly carries the same spirit into his tenure. He’s had the good fortune to meet and share sailing talk with Volvo Ocean Race winning racer Damien Foxall; designer Halsey Herreshoff; Adrift author and survivor Steve Callahan; designer Robert Perry; America’s Cup sailor and host, Tucker Thompson; master youth program builder, Sarah Hanavan; and recent National Sailing Hall of Fame inductee, Dick Rose.

Behan and Jamie Gifford’s column has followed them literally around the world.

Hazelton, Cline, and Cross agree that it’s not the biggest names that make 48° North special, though, it’s our fellow sailors here in the Pacific Northwest willing to share a good story, a bit of knowledge, a one-of-a-kind perspective about cruising, or the details of an anchorage or a recent race. Often, the best stories are simply a reader offering a story unsolicited. Other times, 48° North’s editors have forged long relationships with writers, building strong connections between those writers and you readers.

In the early years, renowned author Diana Jesse wrote candidly about her commitment to great adventure in her recurring series, “Realistic Cruising”. The cruising lifestyle has been illuminated for the past 13 years by Behan and Jamie Gifford and their three children aboard the Stevens 47, Totem. This crew of five left from Bainbridge Island in 2008 and completed a circumnavigation a few years ago, sharing insight and advice all the while in their column, “Lessons Learned Cruising”. Andy Cross’s personal cruising and sailing lifestyle stories continue the legacy. Full-time cruisers with two boys under age 10 — in local waters, then the Inside Passage, and on to Alaska, and most recently Mexico — Andy and his wife Jill represent what could be for so many dreamers. Andy’s articles reflect his background as a sailing instructor, but they also fit perfectly with the magazine’s “sailing is fun” ethos.

Historian and artist, Hewitt R. Jackson.

For many years, Gunkholing gurus, Jo Bailey and Carl Nyberg gave 48° North readers detailed descriptions of favorite anchorages, sprinkled with a little history as well. Today, Bruce Bateau’s “Close to the Water” provides a small-boat adventuring vantage that unlocks dreams of undiscovered cruising grounds unreachable by larger craft.

Speaking of history, 48° North was honored to publish many articles by Hewitt R. Jackson, eminent nautical historian and renowned maritime artist. He was described by the magazine staff as, “Our favorite old man of the sea,” and his
historical articles were an important conduit to the past for 48° North readers.

Other regular columns have helped us understand our boats more thoughtfully and maintain them more proactively. Tom Averna’s “Ask the Surveyor”, Jack and Alex Wilken’s “How-to” columns, and more recent additions like Meredith Anderson’s “Diesel Deep Dive” and Steve Mitchell’s “Tech Talk with SeaBits” deepen our understanding and spur DIY boaters to tackle projects large and small.

Let’s not forget the stories of food and fun from the galley, which are often some of the best cruising yarns, too. Readers will remember Kathy Farron, who wrote the “Gimbaled Gourmet” for many years. Round-the-world racer and offshore cruising educator Amanda Swan Neal’s charm and skill shone for 16 years in “Galley Essentials with Amanda”.

When Cline started as Editor in 2014, he brought a “grow-the-sport” mindset and focus that he’d honed during his years managing Seattle Sailing Club. He continues to bring a desire for the magazine to push sailing to be more inclusive and more accessible, and proudly remembers when he could begin pointing out that half the pages in any magazine were written by women, half by men. He says, “I hope 48° North inspires people with varying backgrounds to think, ‘Sailing is for me!’”

On behalf of the editorial team over the last 40 years, thank you to everyone who has generously shared their stories with 48° North. And please, keep ‘em coming! We’d love to hear from you about the fun you’re having on the Salish Sea.

A Real Community

A happy raft-up in the Gulf Islands during a 48° North Cruising Rally.

Whether on the water, at various events under the 48° North banner, or in the magazine office, 48° North quickly became more than just a magazine, connecting those who love sailing in the Pacific Northwest.

In the early years, 48° North put together a tongue-in-cheek Plastic Fantastic Boat Show in response to all the wooden boat festivals that were cropping up. Around that time, Hazelton had been sailing the then-very-small Duck Dodge race on Lake Union and had the idea, “What if we made a tropical raft in the middle of the lake?” 48° North’s Tropical Night remains the biggest draw of the season.

48° North has brought its readers on exciting international chartering adventures in Tahiti, Tonga, Greece, Yugoslavia, the Windward and Leeward Islands in the Caribbean, the Whitsunday Islands in Australia, the Bay of Islands in New Zealand, and two recent trips to Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast; as well as barge trips to the canals of France. These made for some terrific magazine stories; but it also helped readers see more of the sailing world while forging lifelong friendships with others in the 48° North family.

In 2018, Cline worked with Chuck Skewes of Ullman Sails to create the 48° North Cruising Rally. This local rally seeks to connect community members in a similar way to the international charters, but it’s also a way for novices to enjoy some cruising alongside savvier sailors.

Off the water, 48° North has sponsored or facilitated events like the famous 48° North/Fisheries Supply Boaters Swap Meet, free boat rides at the Lake Union Boats Afloat Show, and the “grinder” displays (from both Harken and Lewmar) at boat shows.

48° North also played a crucial role opening communication between the US Coast Guard and race organizers. A while back, there was a worry that, between traffic safety concerns and unrealistic requirements for the number of safety boats on station, the Coast Guard was considering shutting down sailboat racing on Puget Sound. The first annual 48° North meeting between the Coast Guard and race organizers built critical shared understanding, specifically helping the Coast Guard see the way that racing sailboats can assist one another in rescue situations.

It’s in the DNA of 48° North to bring Pacific Northwest boating enthusiasts together, strengthening bonds, building understanding, welcoming newcomers, and living the dream of boat life in communion with one another.

The Modern Era

In 2018, publishers Michael Collins and Rich Hazelton passed the torch in an unconventional manner. The magazine had
been for sale for a number of years and they had offers, but never the right offer. They were protective of the future of the magazine.

Through covering Race to Alaska (R2AK) and exhibiting at Wooden Boat Festivals, Editor Joe Cline had developed a friendship with Executive Director of the Northwest Maritime Center and co-creator of Race to Alaska, Jake Beattie. These two cooked up the crazy idea that 48° North, which had always been a private for-profit business, could join the non-profit Northwest Maritime Center (NWMC).

The idea took shape, and was an incredibly good fit. An oft-repeated phrase in those discussions was, “48° North serves the mission of the Northwest Maritime Center by its very existence.” That mission, by the way, is: to engage and educate people of all generations in traditional and contemporary maritime life, in a spirit of adventure and discovery. On August 1, 2018, its 37th birthday, 48° North became part of the NWMC.

Cutting the wedding cake at the marriage of Three Sheets NW and 48° North.

New energy and resources catalyzed a magazine redesign. The magazine had almost always had paintings on its cover, a tradition that goes back to founder Chuck Streatch who said, “Mostly, I just liked the artwork…” but also, “I saw it as a way to be distinct….” With the new design, the difficult decision was made that photographs would more clearly tell the story of the magazine, especially to new readers.

Not long after, discussions began about revamping 48° North’s digital presence. Another donation/merger would help set a new bar for what could be. Three Sheets NW, the most notable boating news website in the region for nearly a decade, was looking to expand its reach. With a template similar to the one that brought 48° North to the NWMC, Three Sheets and 48° North got hitched — there was even a wedding cake. A new website and shared digital content vision was unveiled in early 2020, and it has grown by leaps and bounds. With ever-growing website visits to add to the stable print distribution, more people than ever are reading and connecting with 48° North.

More important than the magazine reformat or the web platform upgrade, however, is the philosophical shift about who and what 48° North is in this modern era. 48° North is still heavily sailing focused, and we all know sailing is fun! Yet, we’ve added another guiding principle: that people who love being on the water are much more aligned about the important stuff than we are divided by our mode of transportation. Accordingly, 48° North has welcomed the paddle and power communities to the 48° North fold.

The future of 48° North won’t forget or jettison its 40-year legacy, but we do see the opportunity to add new readers, while recognizing and honoring new ways to get on the water for the next generation of boaters around the Pacific Northwest.


No history of 48° North would be complete without an enormous and heartfelt thank you to the family of advertisers who trust this magazine (and website) to get the word out about their products and services, and connect them to this community. Many, many of our advertising businesses have put this trust in 48° North for decades. As ever, we are grateful for this relationship of mutual support. Please support them!

As Joe wrote in his editorial this month, all of this has been possible because of you. Thanks to you readers, writers, advertisers, friends, and faithful members of the community, 48° North has a bright future and is looking forward to the next 40 years.

Cheers to 40 years, and thanks for keeping it fun!

Help Us Celebrate!

Please join us for an open-house-style happy hour at the Wooden Boat Festival and raise a glass to 40 years of 48° North!

Where: Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, (NOTE: venue change) Balcony Bar

When: Friday September 10, 2021, from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.