In Me­mo­riam

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

Power & Motor Yacht - - WATERFRONT -

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.

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