We're all taking a collective breath after putting the final touches on this October issue. Timed for the string of major East Coast fall boat shows, it's the year's biggest, most jam-packed edition.

Here at Cruising World’s editorial offices in Newport, Rhode Island, the 10th month of the year may be the busiest of them all. The local sailing season is drawing to a close, and everyone seems either to be scrambling to get in those last, sweet autumn sails or pulling their boats out of the water and preparing them for the long, cold winter on the hard.

Meanwhile, we're all taking a collective breath after putting the final touches on the October issue you now hold in your hands. Timed for publication in conjunction with the string of major East Coast fall boat shows, it's always the year's biggest, most jam-packed edition.
We had a good time putting together this month's offering. Well, actually, some of us had a better time than others. Senior editor Darrell Nicholson and our electronics editor, Ed Sherman--with able assistance from colleagues Nim Marsh, Jeremy McGeary, and Dave Norton and from photographer Billy Black--will certainly be glad to have this one in the figurative rear-view mirror. Supported by a small army of industry representatives and volunteers, Nicholson and Sherman directed a week's worth of extensive (and, from all reports, exhaustive) testing of RIBs and outboards for our whopping 14-page gear review of the latest in hard-bottomed tenders and power plants. Their findings regarding the cruising sailor's equivalent of the family SUV begin on page 120.

For associate editor McGeary ("My kidneys still haven’t recovered"), this month’s issue was all about boats, and not just small ones. For the second straight year, he’s been the point man for our annual preview of new production cruising vessels. His 2004 report, "A Fleet Full of Flagships," begins on page 62. It is indeed an impressive collection of yachts, most of which debut at the Newport (R.I.) International Boat Show (September 11-14), the inaugural New York/New Jersey Sail Expo (September 25-28), and the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland (October 9-13).

It’s in Annapolis that executive editor Tim Murphy will accept the new-boat baton from McGeary to oversee the judging for our annual Boat of the Year contest, now in its 10th running. This year, however, the BOTY wheels will have been turning long before the judges assemble on the shores of the Chesapeake. For 2004, we’ve instituted a new nominating panel that will scrutinize the fleet at various venues prior to the Annapolis show, then present to the judging panel a select list of nominees in several categories based on size, price, and the purpose for which they were designed. The aim is to give the judges more time on the docks and on the water with the cream of the season’s crop. Look for a cover story on the entire competition and the year’s award-winning boats in our January 2004 issue.

Along with the winners chosen by our independent judging panel, we’d also like to know what you, our readers, feel are the top boats for 2004. If you’re attending the Annapolis show, please stop by our booth and sign up to be a BOTY Reader Judge. For more details, see page 66.

Also in Annapolis, we’re pleased once again to co-sponsor our popular sailing-seminar series in partnership with the U.S. Sailboat Show and the Annapolis Marriott. This year’s lineup includes such luminaries as TV commentator and America’s Cup winner Gary Jobson, CW columnists Bernadette and Douglas Bernon, Around Alone class winner Brad Van Liew, and noted author Jimmy Cornell. As part of the series, on October 12, recording artist and cruising sailor Eileen Quinn will headline a special performance. For more on Eileen, including audio clips, visit her website (www.eileen quinn.com). And for the complete list and schedule of speakers, see page 78.

At sea, on land, and between these covers, it all adds up to a monthlong festival of sailing and cruising. Who needs those other months when you’ve got October?