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 here 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 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 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 Cruising World called him an “imp,” and to that I’d 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, 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. From a meticulous translation of solo sailor Guy Bernadin’s round-the-world adventures, to his key role as writer/editor of US Sailing’s essential primer for new sailors, Jeremy’s 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 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, we’d 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.