ISSUE NO. 283
November / December 2021
The McIntosh Brothers
The boat on the cover of this issue is a Piscataqua River Wherry, an icon of the river that defines the border between New Hampshire and Maine. It was designed by Bud McIntosh, who was also an icon of that region and a defining early voice of this magazine. Bud’s signature contribution to WoodenBoat was a series of articles on the construction of a wooden sailing yacht (see various issues between WB Nos. 11 and 91). Those articles, illustrated by Sam Manning’s incomparably accessible drawings, were eventually bound together to become the book How to Build a Wooden Boat.
Bud’s articles and book had a wide influence. I recall 25 years ago meeting an Australian cruising couple at the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend, Washington. They had built their boat, an impeccable 50-something-foot Alden design that had carried them to the festival, using Bud’s articles as a tutorial. They told me that the timing of those articles was perfect for their project—that just when they were, say, installing the bulkheads, an article on that topic would appear.
Bud’s brother, Ned (aka Mac), was equally influential in the world of wooden boats. He was an accomplished sailor and designer, his most enduring design being a 13' 6" daysailer called the Merry Mac—an ingeniously simple and fast Bermudan catboat. Mac’s seafaring career included stints in the Caribbean and a voyage to the Galápagos Islands. He had a vacation home in the Bahamas, and our regular contributor Randall “Randy” Peffer met him there more than 20 years ago. As Randy tells it in a profile of Mac in this magazine in 2017 (see WB No. 254), “I first met Mac 18 years ago while sailing a little cutter along the coast of Great Guana Cay, Abaco, Bahamas. I was running before a warm southerly when a blue, 14', hard-chined catboat came surfing up behind me and surged past on plane. “You wanna race, cap?” called her skipper. Mac was in his mid-80s then. The boat was a Merry Mac, and that moment cemented a lasting friendship between the two men.
Merrie and Don Eley were also dear friends of Mac. Don has contributed to WoodenBoat over the years (most recently to WB No. 280, describing the electrical system of the commuter yacht SCOUT , which he engineered). Merrie, who is Don’s wife, just happened to be one of the teachers in my daughter’s kindergarten last year, and in numerous pleasant conversations at dropoff and pickup times, I learned much about Mac—his fertile mind and hands and gentle demeanor.
One Sunday morning in early September this year, Don came by my boat to help me through an electrical issue. He was bearing the news that Mac had passed away the day before at age 105 (his obituary appears on page 19). It felt like a gut punch. Randall Peffer wrote in his 2017 article that “Just about everyone who has ever met Ned McIntosh comes away saying the man has shown them a secret or two about a life being well lived.” I never had the pleasure of meeting Mac. But through the words of my friends—spoken and printed—and through the images in our articles celebrating his life and accomplishments, I felt his influence deeply. The same goes for Bud: he died soon after my arrival at WoodenBoat in the mid-1990s, and I never met him. But his work grabbed me at a young age and the possibilities it exemplified helped to shape my life. It’s pure serendipity that a boat designed by Bud appears in the same issue that bears his brother’s obituary.
I don’t feel at all inclined to note that an era has passed with Mac. Rather, I feel hopeful that the influence of the McIntosh brothers, recorded in boats, words, and pictures, will echo through generations to come.
Editor of WoodenBoat Magazine