A news venture launched on bay Magazine covers the waterfront of sailing life

November 06, 1995|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN STAFF

SpinSheet, a new magazine about the Chesapeake Bay, is not a high-gloss dissertation on yachting. It's more like a dockside chat.

"We want the story about the guy who finds a snake on his boat," said Mary Iliff, who helped found SpinSheet this fall. "This is a folksy magazine."

Ms. Iliff, 28, and Dave Gendell, 27, created the magazine with the hope of it becoming an indispensable part of the bay sailing world. The free magazine, which is paid for by advertisements, is available at more than 300 marinas, boating shops and other sailing haunts from Havre de Grace to Hampton, Va.

"We want to be a source of information for local sailors," said Mr. Gendell, the editor. "We want to be something that ties the boating community together."

The magazine features regular columns such as "Dock Talk" and "Ask the Spin Doctor" with tidbits about racing and cruising. Free-lancers write stories on local regattas and boating programs and trends.

While a nonsailor might be able to understand some of the more land-lubberly features, such as stories on bay vacations or hurricane damage, most of the magazine is meant for insiders. The "Scratch Sheet" column delivers news of the racing world -- but unless you know terms such as "chicken chute" and "keel bulb," you'll be in trouble.

Until this summer, Mr. Gendell and Ms. Iliff had worked for Rags, a free sailing circular that covered the entire East Coast. The two staffers were devastated when Rags folded in June after five years in print, so they decided to take a chance and open their own magazine.

The Annapolis natives hope to expand the approximately 60-page issues to 200 pages, but the focus will always be the Chesapeake Bay and the sailors next door.

"You see people talking about SpinSheet and handing it to one another and asking if they've read the articles," Ms. Iliff said.

"The first few people I saw thumbing through the magazine -- my stomach just went right to my throat," Mr. Gendell said.

The magazine is consuming its creators' waking moments. Since they started, the two have worked 80-hour weeks and pulled several all-nighters. Mr. Gendell has lost 15 pounds; Ms. Iliff keeps catching colds.

SpinSheet has invaded their homes, too. Financial statements and business plans sit in Ms. Iliff's bedroom. Photographs and half-edited copy are spread on Mr. Gendell's kitchen table, and his file cabinet takes up space in his bathroom. Hundreds of magazines fill the back seats of their cars.

At the end of each month, Mr. Gendell and Ms. Iliff drive to Philadelphia just to watch the presses roll. Then they drive more than 2,000 miles to distribute the magazines, sometimes returning to the locations that have run out of copies after a few days. Meanwhile, they have linked the entire magazine to the Internet, making stories available electronically.

The magazine has competition. The same month it began circulating, Wind, a free magazine aimed at the general sailing community, also opened. Chesapeake Bay magazine and Soundings, which are not free, are among the more established magazines.

Mr. Gendell and Ms. Iliff, who race together at least three nights a week, are drawing on their long-standing friendships in the community to put the magazine together. Every cover photograph has been shot by a childhood friend of Mr. Gendell. And most of the advertisers have known Ms. Iliff since she was a baby.

"It just seems like most of what we've done in our adult lives has been leading toward this magazine," Mr. Gendell said. "Maybe Rags closing really opened another door."

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