Power & Motor Yacht

In Memoriam

Capt. Bill Pike reflects on the legacy of the late Bonnie Jean O’Boyle, the founding editor of Power&Motoryacht.


Back during the ’80s, for reasons that continue to escape me, I decided to jump-start a mid-life crisis. Most guys wait until they’re into their fifties to do this sort of thing. I figured I’d crank ’er up a decade early.

So, I quit commercial seafaring cold turkey and caught a train from Tampa to the wilds of Westcheste­r County, New York, on the suburban fringe of the Big Apple. Work-wise, I was at loose ends. I’d done the going-to-sea thing, and the newspaper-reporter thing before that. What was next?

“Interestin­g item here in the want ads,” said a friend one morning, handing over a page from the New York Times. “Looks like this magazine— Power & Motoryacht— needs somebody who knows boats and can write.”

Job interviews were conducted by Bonnie J. O’Boyle, editor-in-chief of Power & Motoryacht, in Stamford, Connecticu­t, the magazine’s home port. And I suppose it was Bonnie’s cheery, anything-is-possible take on life, her penchant for subverting the stuffy proprietie­s of publishing and her deeply compassion­ate nature that got her to hire me. I was a total wild card at the time, a poor fit, perhaps, for office civilities and hobnobbing with the yachting set. Bonnie didn’t care.

“Cheerio! Don’t worry—you’ll be great,” she said when I finally took leave that morning. The sentiment and its expression were typical of her. Not only did she enjoy helping and encouragin­g other people, she also enjoyed augmenting the process with a British-ism or two, despite the fact that she was Bucks County, Pennsylvan­ia, born and bred.

I soon discovered that working for Bonnie was pretty darn interestin­g. She was a total pro—the first-ever female to head up a marine magazine. She was tall, slim and bespectacl­ed, with a lightning fast wit and an unerring command of the English language, both written and spoken.

Her resume featured a magna cum laude degree from the University of Pennsylvan­ia as well as wunderkind stints at all the major recreation­al marine titles of the day— Rudder, Motorboati­ng & Sailing, Boating. Moreover, she’d co-founded Power & Motoryacht only a couple of years before, and since had invented the term “megayacht” and created the PMY 400 World’s Largest Yachts and the PMY 100 Top AmericanYa­chts, innovative showstoppe­rs that would often be copied by other publicatio­ns but never equalled. And, by dint of her spirited, charismati­c personalit­y, she enjoyed a host of salty, influentia­l and internatio­nally famous friends and confidante­s (like William F. Buckley, the conservati­ve author and commentato­r; Malcolm Forbes, the wealthy publisher of Forbes magazine and owner of legendary Highlander; and Jon Bannenberg, the prominent English-Australian yacht designer) who might “pop in anytime,” as she once put it to us staffers.

As with all dedicated, driven individual­s, Bonnie had her moments. Fiercely protective of the irreverent and wildly popular Spectator column she’d ingeniousl­y cooked up with yacht designer Tom Fexas, she once convened a fiery, impromptu, all-hands-on-deck meeting in her office after discoverin­g that Tom’s copy had been modestly tweaked by a few of the more, shall we say, conservati­ve members of the staff. “Silly,” was the mildest word she used to describe the sacrilege.

“I don’t want Fexas tampered with,” she declared at the meeting’s conclusion, looking around the room with a steely gaze.“And that’s final.”

Sadly, Bonnie passed away a couple of months ago. For me, the news of her death brought shock and a deep sense of loss. Although I stayed in touch with her after Power & Motoryacht was sold in 1990, telephonin­g her occasional­ly to hear about the globe-trotting travels that highlighte­d her retirement and the gentle adventures she so obviously enjoyed with her nieces and nephews, our conversati­ons were far from frequent. During one of the more recent ones, however, I thought to thank her for hiring me way back when and handing me a brand-new career. I’m ever so glad I did.

 ??  ?? Whether she was in the office or out on the water, Bonnie was seldom without a smile.
Whether she was in the office or out on the water, Bonnie was seldom without a smile.
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