The Way We Were

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A Brief History of Power & Motoryacht

PMY Staff in Montana circa 2004

The Way We Were

By Capt. Bill Pike

Was it pretty? Well, not totally. But hey, the early years of Power & Motoryacht were a whole lot of fun.

There are more than a few pundits around these days who’ll tell you the term “megayacht” was invented years and years ago by Bonnie O’Boyle, a very blue-stocking sort of lady who was Power & Motoryacht’s first editor-in-chief. If you pin O’Boyle down about it though, managing a few moments between her upscale social engagements in New York City and her evening piano practice, she’ll likely become just a little evasive.

“You know, Bill,” she says, “I don’t really remember—I might have. I might have come up with the term. But then I don’t know that I’m comfortable saying it was actually me. Who knows? Maybe it was Jeff.”

Jeff, of course, is Jeff Hammond, the marine-magazine wunderkind who, with O’Boyle, founded Power & Motoryacht in 1985 and became the magazine’s first publisher (see After Word on page 176). An exceptionally savvy business type, with a confounding ability to think outside the box, Hammond was an old hand at marine magazines way before he began thinking about starting a new one. Indeed, prior to the creation of Power & Motoryacht, he’d served as Editor-In-Chief of what used to be Motorboating & Sailing and was still Boating’s publisher when he began tinkering with the notion of borrowing a very profitable paid-circulation model from direct-mail advertising and using it to crank up an all-powerboat marine publication.

But, given all the fast-paced financial stuff Hammond was always playing around with, did the guy actually have the time to come up with the term megayacht, which is now almost universally used and understood throughout the entire marine industry?

Well, let’s just say that, as a long-time employee of Power & Motoryacht—O’Boyle hired me in 1988, mere months after I’d relinquished a job on an oceangoing tug to look for a more routine, not-gone-for-months-on-the-high-seas form of employment—I feel duty-bound to award O’Boyle the honors, given her flair for the original and my loyalty to her for handing me a career I’ve mightily enjoyed now for some 27 years. And besides, Hammond thinks O’Boyle deserves the honors too. “I’m sure of it,” he says.

But in any case, considering that the magazine tended to focus from the start on a burgeoning fleet of almost inconceivably immense (at least at the time) megayachts, high-end naval architects with very prestigious, European-sounding names, fishing tournaments with rollers so high they’d make your nose bleed, and a vast, overall milieu that stretched opulently from Mexico to Monaco, lots of people, readers and advertisers alike, figured its home base simply had to be posh, prosperous, and palatial.

Ironically, this was not the case. In fact, Power & Motoryacht’s first digs in Mamaroneck, New York, on the waterfront, just down the road from Derecktor’s bustling, clanking shipyard, was a rather small-potatoes affair.

“It wasn’t much bigger than 600 square feet,” O’Boyle remembers, harking back with obvious fondness. “And we were all in one room—there were windows—we were on the second floor I think—but the view was not especially good.”

The wild-and-crazy quirkiness that’s always characterized the magazine, at least internally, surfaced in short order. As the incredibly small, original staff—there were just eight people in total, according to O’Boyle—began putting the first issue of Power & Motoryacht together in the late fall of 1984, the sales contingent (which featured just two guys, Chris Donahower and Dan Merritt) was spurred on with a sort of auditory vengeance by the entire editorial department, which consisted solely of O’Boyle.

“Because there were no dividers or cubicles, you could sort of hear what everyone else was doing at any given moment and it was perhaps a little distracting,” she laughs, “and I had this little buzzer in the top drawer of my desk—I’d press it—buzzzzzzzzzz—every time Chris or Dan would sell an ad.”

“And I had a beeper too,” she continues, still laughing, “which was louder and I’d beep the thing when we sold a bigger ad—beeeeeeppppp! And then I had a horn, a big horn that made a big booming sound—I’d blast it when we sold an even bigger, full-page ad. It was exceptionally loud and inspiring.”

One way or another, I came to Power & Motoryacht well beyond the buzzer/beeper/big-booming-sound era, not long after the magazine had moved to a downtown office building in Stamford, Connecticut. For me, the transition from wheelhouse to desk was a tough one. With O’Boyle’s guidance, however, I began tentatively dabbling in a world that was so wholly different from the one I’d inhabited as a commercial seafarer that it scared the daylights out of me sometimes.

But life in the office was truly stunning. Fabulous people came and went with breezy regularity, people like Monk Farnham (an editorial wunderkind in his own right, who, in his 70s, set a record for being the oldest person to single-hand across an ocean), William F. Buckley Jr., Farley Mowat, and a raft of other luminaries, dignitaries, designers, builders, and entertainers, who came by to trade jokes and gossip.

“It was such a great time—those first years,” concludes O’Boyle, who’s now retired from magazines and publishing, “It was such a magical time. Such smashing good fun.”   

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