Our friend Nim

Connecticut River small boat trip, near Essex, CT

I hope you’ll indulge me. In the last issue of this magazine, long-time editor Nim Marsh announced that, effective immediately, he was stepping down. He did so halfway through one of his finest editorials, and no doubt some of you choked on your coffee and re-read the sentence several times to be sure you weren’t imagining things. Nim’s been at the helm for 13 years, and his presence was a comforting one. Reading his editorials always felt like entering a safe harbor in the midst of this crazy world. He wrote expertly on all things boating-related with a sense of humor and one philosophic eye trained on the past. The magazine he produced each month was lively, interesting and belied his meager budget.

Like me, you probably considered him a friend. Because he so rarely injected himself into his writing, I think it’s safe to say he’s remained fairly enigmatic. Nim’s not just stepping down from the magazine – he’s retiring from a 55-year career in the marine-publication business. So, before he runs off to chase the horizon aboard one of his small boats, I’d like to use this space to make him a little less mysterious (sorry, Nim!).

I first met Francis Marsh III (no middle name; in order to avoid household confusion, Francis Marsh II called his son “Nim,” short for Nimrod, who in the Book of Genesis is described as “a mighty hunter before the Lord”) in the offices of “Cruising World” magazine nearly 20 years ago, where he’d essentially been shanghaied into a third term there. He swears this is true – that he never asked for any of the jobs. In an office full of characters, Nim stood out. He struck me as a cross between Charlie Brown and “MAD” magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman (What? Me Worry?), and each day he looked for the moment of absurdity that would make us both laugh. We’d egg each other on until, after a series of loud guffaws, and beet-red, Nim would take his thick glasses off to wipe away tears.

In an office of constant stressful deadlines, Nim kept me sane. Each day, the then-60-year-old Nim scooted out the door at precisely 5 o’clock to catch his favorite show, “The Simpsons.” I admired Nim’s adherence to principle, his abilities as a writer and an editor (he was, and still is, Speedy Gonzales-fast), and the seemingly effortless way he glided through each workday.

Besides three tours of duty at “Cruising World” and a short stint as a beat reporter at the “Beverly Times” (Mass.) newspaper, his resume includes “Salt Water Sportsman,” “National Fisherman,” “Motorboat” and “Blue Water Sailing.” In between and during these gigs he spent a lot of time on the water power-boating and fishing. He sailed the length of the U.S. East Coast and to Nova Scotia aboard various boats, and to Bermuda and the Caribbean. He boat-bummed around the North Atlantic, making it as far east as England and Spain.

My favorite Nim story, though, of which I’ll only tell you the end, concerns a three-day sailing trip he and good buddy Jeremy McGeary made on Nim’s Bristol 27. Referred to as the “Jack-’n-’dines Cruise” (provisions of Jack Daniels and sardines only), it ends with proper Englishman McGeary, in his cups, falling like Chris Farley in a “Saturday Night Live” skit through the recently installed galley table, reducing it to kindling.

Nim always takes his glasses off in the re-telling of that one. I never get tired of it.

While reading Nim’s last essay, which is ostensibly about sailors following in the wake of their predecessors, it occurred to me that mariners aren’t the only ones: That is, as a writer and editor, I mean to carry Nim’s torch (albeit with my own spin). Who am I? There’s a lot of space to fill here. Be sure to check back.

Nim often says he’s wandered aimlessly through life, even comparing himself to a stray dog that, once inside, never leaves. Years ago, in an email to a mutual friend and me, he wrote, “I have never believed I have been anything more or less than a child of the universe. Much of my life, I have felt like a leaf in the wind. But through subtle stimulus-response patterns, I am still here, still happy, still productive, still loved, and, in my own mind, still immortal.”

Immortality? Nim, you’ve got that in the bag, buddy. The body of work you’ve left behind, and those of us following in your substantial wake, will see to it.