Best Blogs For Boaters

John Konrad
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January 13, 2010

Too early to start thinking about the boating season?

Well gCaptain does have loyal readers in Argentina, Australia and South Africa but, yes, it is entirely too early and gCaptain doesn’t even cover recreational boating but lessons can be learned from all that share the waterways. This is especially true of marine electronics. Why? Most of the electronic gear on the bridge of a commercial ship requires approvals from countless regulatory bodies to assure that it’s safe for navigational use. These approvals take time and require that innovative ideas are tested prior to implementation but the makers of electronics for boats don’t have these hurdles. If a new idea is presented to them they can implement it in the very next product cycle. The result is many cool and interesting ideas that will be seen on ships in the not too distant future.

So, to keep your eye on the future of electronics and to better understand the mindset of the average boater, we have asked Mad Mariner contributor (and friend!) Tim Flanagan to share with us his favorite boating blogs.


Got Blog?

By Tim Flanagan

It’s a new year, and I’m feeling thankful and thoughtful. For the last three years or so, my life has been a lot less stable than it was when I worked at Microsoft (“The Mothership”, as we call it). Despite the uncertainty, though, in many ways this has been a very rewarding time for me, as well. Navagear, in particular, has been the source of much in the way of intangible rewards, particularly new and valuable friendships.

This blog means a lot to me, and I’ve been thinking about what makes it worthwhile, both to me and to my readers. I’ve been managing editor for Navagear since early 2007, and in that time I’ve seen lots of boating blogs launch. Some never really get started; I’m responsible for a few of those myself, so I understand how this happens. Some establish themselves and build a following, but then they go away for one reason or another (anybody else remember Ask Jack Rabbit?) Some just go stale, as the owner shifts his or her attention elsewhere; again, something I can relate to.

A few – actually quite few – stick around. I’m glad that Navagear is in that category. Woody Allen once said that “Eighty percent of success is showing up,” and I believe this applies especially to blogging. Navagear isn’t among the successful boating blogs because we’re “better” than anybody else. It’s successful because we keep showing up, week after week, year after year.

So what do I read when I sit down at my computer in the morning? Who do I see “showing up” consistently, sharing content I want to see? Here they are:


BitterEndBitterEnd: During the summer, Captain Richard Rodriguez writes about the boats he attends to in his role as a Vessel Assist skipper operating out of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. These reports constitute a body of educational case studies that are also quite entertaining; so amusing, at times, that I feel the term Schadenfreude applies. During the winter, he offers punditry and commentary on all kinds of maritime news.

I’ve enjoyed Captain Rodriguez’s BitterEnd blog since I first encountered it in the spring of 2007, during a much-publicized Coast Guard rescue on the southern shore (almost literally “on the shore”) of Lopez Island; a rescue in which he participated. When I covered that incident at Navagear, I wrote that “Captain Rodriguez maintains a blog of his own, which includes a discussion of this incident. Another ‘good friend’ to know, it appears!” Indeed, since that time Richard and I have become good friends.

NomadnessNomadness: I rediscovered Steve Roberts in October of 2007, when I wrote about his newest boating project. In that post, I said “We’re a ‘gear and gadgets’ blog, but if you really want to explore the absolute bleeding edge of gadgety boating, head over to Steve’s Nomadic Research Labs site.” Since then, I’ve taken to calling him “the original over-gadgeted technomad”.

His approach to sailing – well, to everything, really – involves applying available electronics technology in the most powerful ways he can imagine, even when doing so is difficult, cumbersome, extravagant, and, some would say, unnecessary. Very few cruising boaters will want to follow in Steve’s footsteps, but over the years, we’ll all benefit from the work he does. And in the meantime, his trials and tribulations make great reading!

Steve has become another good friend, and once again Navagear served as the link that allowed that to occur.
Three Sheets Northwest

Three Sheets Northwest: This is like a really good “neighborhood blog” for Pacific Northwest boaters. Deborah Bach and Marty McOmber launched Three Sheets Northwest about a year ago, and it’s taken off around here. Now that I’ve become accustomed to it, I don’t know what I would do without it. Does every boating region have an online news and community site as good as this? I doubt it!

USCG Pacific Northwest: Another blog of mostly regional interest. I’m including it here not because it will necessarily interest boaters in Annapolis or Miami or San Diego, but because I want to recommend that you find your own region’s Coast Guard blog. USCG Commandant Admiral Thad Allen has spearheaded an effort over the past couple years to expand the Coast Guard’s online outreach, and at this point every Coast Guard district has its own blog. Find yours.

PanboPanbo: It’s difficult to imagine any Navagear reader who could possibly be unaware of Ben Ellison’s Panbo, which covers marine electronics in a lot more depth than we do. Ben and I don’t always agree on everything, but if I ever meet him face to face, I’d like to buy him a drink. Panbo is a must-read when you’re in the market for any marine electronics product.

Boat Bits: Hey, it’s another boating gear blog! Why read it when you could just stick with Navagear? Because Robert Wise brings his own perspective, and it’s one I think many boaters will appreciate. A bit more “traditional?” No, that isn’t it, exactly. “Down to earth?” I’m not sure that helps, either. Bob is different from me, and his values and priorities make Boat Bits different from Navagear. Add it to your RSS reader and see if you like it.

Capt’n Pauley’s Virtual Boatyard: Hey, it’s another do-it-yourself boating blog. Navagear does a lot of do-it-yourself content, so why bother? Because Paul Esterle takes on much more ambitious projects than the little fabrication projects I typically do. Plus, he documents his solution with cool digital “sketches.”

gCaptaingCaptain: Is Captain John Konrad’s gCaptain off topic for us? Maybe. It’s oriented toward professional (primarily commercial) mariners. Nevertheless, a recreational boater can learn a lot at the gCaptain site, and even when the information doesn’t apply directly to your situation (I won’t be boating off the coast of Somalia anytime soon, for instance), it’s entertaining.

There are plenty of other blogs I visit periodically, or when a headline catches my eye. But those I’ve listed here are the ones I always read. I’m open to suggestions, though! If you know of a blog I ought to be reading, let me know about it, and I’ll give it a try!


Many thanks to Tim and the nautical blogging team at Mad Mariner. You can find more from Tim at his websites Navagear and Puget Sound Maritime.

To find a complete list of top boating blogs gCaptain also suggestions the Boating Blogs section of AllTop!

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