Eight Bells for Mac McGeary

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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 Sailor’s transition to color. Even after he became senior editor at Good Old Boat, he remained on board as a contributing editor until his death in July after a long battle with cancer. He was 71.

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

Mac sat within spitting distance of me when I was associate editor at CW. He and Nim Marsh were old salts among a young editorial staff, but you’d never know it by their demeanor. If the CW editorial office were a middle school classroom, they’d 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 Mac’s many stories about a boat delivery, crewed charter, or yacht design that didn’t 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 Good Old Boat called him an imp, and to that Id only add proper—for if there were such a thing as proper imp, Mac would be the archetype.

As the chief product tester 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, he’d 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?” he’d 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. Dive into any of his articles on the Cruising World or Good Old Boat website and you’ll feel the warmth of a good-hearted curmudgeon with strong opinions about what belonged aboard and what didn’t.

When the gear cabinet finally opened, he’d 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.

“I’m sure you’ll appreciate this,” he’d 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. When CW called upon him pick his favorites in 2011, Mac stuck with well-mannered cruisers- Nicholson 476, Peterson 44, Passport 40, Rhodes Reliant/Offshore 40, Crealock 37, and the Nicholson 35.

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 Nicholson yachts 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, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.

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