Eight Bells for Jeremy ‘Mac’ McGeary


This summer we said goodbye to Jeremy McGeary. For four years, Mac and I shared a corner of the editorial office at Cruising World, and when I joined Practical Sailor in 2005, he was a key contributor during Practical Sailors transition to color. Even after he became senior editor at Good Old Boat, he remained on board here as a contributing editor until his death in July after a long battle with cancer. He was 71.

Ive waited to write about Mac because I was waiting for him to get out of my head, as they say. But Ive given up waiting. Apparently, he has made himself at home in the aft cabin.

Mac sat within spitting distance of me when I was associate editor at CW. As our token Brit, he brought wit and a deep historical knowledge of all things related to North Atlantic sailing. He and Nim Marsh were old salts among a young editorial staff, but youd never know it by their demeanor. If the CW editorial office were a middle school classroom, theyd be the mischievous best buds in the back row.

It was fun time. I don’t think I ever laughed so loud as I did at the end of one of Macs many stories about a boat delivery, crewed charter, or yacht design that didnt go according to plan (do they ever?). He often had some game in the works, and Marsh was usually egging him on with glee. Marsh, in his tribute to Mac in Cruising Worldcalled him an imp, and to that Id only add proper-for if there were such a thing as a proper imp, Mac would be the archetype. (For only a proper imp would carry a cricket bat in his trunk.)

As the chief product reviewer for Cruising World, Mac held the keys to the gear locker where all manner of sailing gadgets were held for future review. With the beginning of each new magazine cycle, hed make a small ceremony of opening the cabinet. He made sure I was around when it happened.

Why don’t we have a little look, Darrell? hed say reaching for the
cabinet handle, already having in his mind the widget he wanted to show me.

Mac had a background in just about every maritime trade you might imagine-from yacht designer, to boatwright, to delivery skipper. And his literary range was just as broad. From a meticulous translation of solo sailor Guy Bernadins round-the-world adventures, to his key role as writer/editor of US Sailings essential primer for new sailors, Jeremys influence extended well beyond magazines. Fans of Erskine Childers’ classic spy novel Riddle of the Sands, will know Mac as the wonderful narrator of the audio version that he produced for Good Old Boat. Dive into any of his articles for PS, or on the Cruising World or Good Old Boat websites, and youll feel the warmth of a good-hearted curmudgeon with strong opinions about what belonged aboard and what didnt.

When the gear cabinet finally opened, hed sort through bells, whistles, radios, wind instruments, binocular, circuit relays, hats (he wore an ever-present Tilly) . . . etc. About 20 percent of the stuff was of marginal use, but Mac-who was always tinkering with an invention of his own-gave everyone a fair shake.

Im sure youll appreciate this, hed say with a wink as he handed me the next best thing. Can you imagine needing this? Sometimes I wonder if any of these people have ever been on a boat.

Life was easy when Mac was around. He was what the Internet should have been. Whenever we needed to identify a boat in a photo, wed call Mac. It was no surprise to me that when CW called upon him pick his favorites in 2011 (see “Old Boats for an Old Salt“), Mac stuck with well-mannered cruisers- Nicholson 476, Peterson 44, Passport 40, Rhodes Reliant/Offshore 40, Crealock 37, and the Nicholson 35.(Probably the most widely read article he wrote for Practical Sailor was a thinly-veiled rant against contemporary yacht designs.)

There was probably some personal bias at play in his preference for Nicholson yachts, due to his design work there. I don’t know how many boats he had a hand in shaping, but there is no question about his influence on this Nicholson.

And for that, dear friend, I am forever grateful.

Darrell Nicholson
Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 50 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. You can reach him at darrellnicholson.com.