Gerlinger owned The Log from 1975 until 1990 and was an avid boater.
SAN DIEGO—When Lou Gerlinger met William Roberts, Roberts was producing San Diego Log, a monthly publication with a circulation of about 5,000 copies, from his boat in San Diego. His office and news desk consisted of a long table by the fireplace in the dining room of the Red Sails Inn on Shelter Island Drive.
Gerlinger, a retired arson investigator for the state, was writing his adventures sailing from San Diego to Mexico – exploring and charting every port from La Paz to Loreto – in a column published in the monthly newspaper.
When the paper went for sale in 1975, Gerlinger and his wife Betty purchased it and moved the office to a small building in the back of their Point Loma home. The full-time staff included their daughter, Lise Grato and son, Lou Gerlinger Jr. Grato distinctly remembered the small size of the first office, saying it was about 12 feet by 10 feet.
“We’d leave school and go to work,” Grato said. “We’d get dinner and use a newspaper as a placemat then we’d go home and repeat.”
Grato remembered hanging the old ticker tape on their Christmas tree during the holidays, sailing on Lake Tahoe, watching the first moon landing in 1969 on a tiny black and white TV on the bridge of her family’s 35-foot Rawson in Alameda and the three springs her family spent sailing their Alegria from San Diego to Mexico.
“My dad passed along his love of adventure to me,” Grato said in an email. “Our trip to Mexico installed a love of travel.”
Gerlinger died on April 9. He was 98.
Gerlinger was born on October 31, 1921 in Portland, Oregon. He attended high school in California, graduating from Beverly Hills High School. Gerlinger washed planes at the Santa Monica Airport where pilots would invite him to fly and he eventually got his pilot license. The summer months of his teen years were spent in Oregon working for the Forest Service.
Gerlinger would later graduate San Jose State University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
He served in the Army Air Corp and Air Force, serving in World War II and earning the rank of lieutenant. He then served in the reserves in Sacramento, where he met his wife, Betty Elaine Edgar, who was in the Civil Air Patrol at the same base. They married in Sacramento in the late 1950s. They had a daughter, Lise (Elisabet Anne), in December 1960 and son, Louis Jr., in September 1964.
Gerlinger served as the Chief Arson Investigator for the California Division of Forestry for about 25 years and retired in the late 1960s at 50 years old. He returned to San Jose State to attain his Master’s Degree with the intent of teaching criminal justice at the university level.
Gerlinger was an avid boater and owned many boats throughout his lifetime, including a 22-foot Ensign, 27-foot Commander, 35-foot Alberg, 35-foot Rawson, 40-foot Newporter and an Alegria.
“In the mid 60’s, he [Gerlinger] started a company called Lake Tahoe Sailboats offering Pearson Yachts,” Grato said in an email. “Pearson Yachts was one of the first fiberglass sailboat manufacturers.”
In the 1970s, Gerlinger bought a home in San Diego and joined San Diego Yacht Club.
“That house was in Point Loma on Sunset Cliffs Blvd. overlooking the ocean he loved so much,” Grato said in an email.
In 1972, the family went on their first sailing trip from San Diego to Mexico, where Gerlinger met Vern Jones, which resulted in a partnership to revise Jones’s book, “Baja Cruising Notes.”
“His dinghy had come lose and the family retrieved the boat and started a friendship,” Grato said in an email.
The revised book was published in 1974, according to Amazon books, as “Baja California Cruising Notes” written by Vern Jones with additions, corrections and editing by Lou Gerlinger.
For three springs, the family cruised the coast of Mexico, sailing to La Paz, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Matalan and other ports on the west coast of Mexico. Gerlinger wrote columns about cruising in Mexico for San Diego Log and Pacific Skipper.
He also taught a course on cruising in Mexico.
“The family trip became an adventure charting and researching each navigable harbor from La Paz to Loreto,” Grato said in an email.
Grato said in 1975, her dad took a teaching position at Pima College in Tucson, Arizona, starting in the spring semester but in May, bought San Diego Log and returned to San Diego.
“He used his investigative talents to become an excellent, self-taught reporter and moved the paper to a strict AP style,” Grato said in an email.
Grato said she was 14 or 15 years old when her dad bought the paper and instead of going to work at a fast food joint like other kids her age, she got to work for the family business.
Grato sold advertising, wrote stories and worked on the boat shows, Lou Jr. worked on the technical side and Betty worked as the assistant publisher, office manager and bookkeeper until her death in 1981. (Gerlinger’s children both went on go to work in the newspaper industry.)
His friend of 38 years, Rosemarie Johnston, said he ran a tight ship.
“He was pretty strict with people,” Johnston said.
As for The Log, Gerlinger left his mark on the publication, delivering hard hitting news with each issue. Some things never changed – an article appearing on the front page of the final issue of 1985, for example, reported on the Coast Guard warning owners of foreign-built boats to provide proof of entry documentation. The article – written by Gerlinger himself – is reminiscent of more recent articles in The Log about Southern California boaters requiring certain documentation when traveling to and from ports in Ensenada, Los Cabos or La Paz.
There were also reports of boat collisions, boaters gone missing in the South Pacific, murder investigations – an editorial direction different from the current regime’s focus on policy and features. FishRap did not exist during Gerlinger’s tenure, and sailing stories co-existed alongside regular news stories. The front page had actual content, instead of teasers to a handful of stories, as is the current practice.
The Log also expanded beyond San Diego during Gerlinger’s tenure. He added a Los Angeles bureau, for example. It wasn’t long before The Log was covering San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles.
Also featured in The Log were photo spreads and gear reviews. Two issues of The Log had a commentary by John Rains – it was headlined, “Guns and Boats: A Special Report.” Rains wrote two editorials about the value of keeping a gun aboard one’s boat and h
ow to properly treat/respect firearms.
Everyone affiliated with The Log for the past 40-some years owes Gerlinger a debt of gratitude. He had a vision for the publication and realized it during his tenure as The Log’s publisher. Gerlinger continued to be involved with The Log, even after selling it to new ownership in the 1990s. He would regularly write news stories under the alias of “Log News Service.” His stories often focused on sailing or broad boating news stories from abroad.
The Log wouldn’t be what it is today, but for Gerlinger’s tireless efforts. He was a pioneer and visionary.
After his retirement, he moved to Alpine where he enjoyed his days with Johnston.
“Hardly a day went by we weren’t together,” Johnston said.