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Capt. Jim O‘Neill of S/Y Dance Smartly dies at 51


Capt. Jim O‘Neill of S/Y Dance Smartly died on Feb. 5. The cause and location of his death have not been reported. He was 51.

Capt. O’Neill worked on the 107-foot Palmer Johnson for more than two decades, primarily sailing Caribbean, Florida and New England waters. He earned his captain’s license in 1985 and worked in the marine industry ever since, according to an obituary on He received a marine engineering degree from New England Institute of Technology in 1993.

James Richard O’Neill
Aug. 2, 1966 – Feb. 5, 2018

Two years later, he became engineer aboard the sailing yacht, a Ron Holland-design that was formerly named Shanakee and Nipara. He became captain when the boat was purchased by new owners and renamed Dance Smartly in 1999.

The online account described Capt. O’Neill as an “effective leader, knowledgeable engineer, excellent navigator and extremely capable sailor and captain.”

The obituary states: “This year would have been his last aboard the yacht, which recently sold and was to be delivered to its new owner in the Mediterranean in the spring. Jim would then finally have returned to Newport to rejoin his wife and family to begin the next chapter of their lives together. His passing earlier this month was unexpected and has come as a shock to all who knew him.”

He is survived by his wife, Freya Buckell O’Neill, and daughters Ocean and Skylar.

A celebration of Capt. O’Neill’s life was held Feb. 24 at Gurney’s Newport Resort and Marina in Newport, Rhode Island. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be sent to The James R. O’Neill Family Trust, which has been set up for his children.

To read the full obituary and see photos and videos, click here.

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