By Dorie Cox
Capt. Ryan O’Meara loved the water, his yacht crew, and his work on M/Y Pipe Dream, a 112-foot Westport. He was in the midst of it all when he died of a heart attack in Chub Cay in the Bahamas. Stew Katie O’Meara found her husband in their cabin. The yacht’s crew as well as crew from nearby boats tried to resuscitate him but he was dead on May 27. He was 40.
“He loved being the captain of this boat,” Katie O’Meara said. “When we got asked, ‘Who’s the captain?’ he would say, ‘I am’ and people would question, ‘You’re the captain?’ I guess he just looked like he was having too much fun.”
Capt. O’Meara enjoyed scuba diving, snorkelling, paddleboarding, everything in the water, but he was “not a big fisherman.”
“He loved the water, some type of ocean, that was it for both of us,” O’Meara said. “Even when we were off work, we always took our vacation on the water.”
The two had worked as a team onboard several yachts, including M/Y JusMad, an 80-foot Ocean Alexander, M/Y Petrus, an 88-foot Leopard, and M/Y Southern Star, a 95-foot Burger, for more than 10 years cruising the United States, Bahamas, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. On vacations, the couple chartered a sailboat in the Virgin Islands, visited Belize, and in April spent time snorkeling in Maui.
Capt. O’Meara started his career on larger yachts in 2003 and worked on M/Y Arrowhead, a 112-foot Palmer Johnson, M/Y Savannah, a 118-foot Intermarine, and M/Y Big Zip, a 93-foot Cheoy Lee as mate.
He was born in Germany into a military family and moved several times in the United States including Texas, Virginia, and North Carolina. Highlights of his youth were the family’s boats, trips to the beach and sailing camp, said his wife. The two met in 1999, in Raleigh, North Carolina, near where he attended Louisburg College. They began dating in 2003.
“He told one of his best friends, ‘If I’m ever going to marry anyone, I’ll marry Katie’,” she said.
One of Capt. O’Meara’s relatives let him do a boat delivery to the Virgin Islands and it was there he lived on board a sailboat and learned about the yacht industry through yacht crew working in St. Thomas.
“When we hooked up, he was coming to Fort Lauderdale to do yachting, he had gotten a job on Petrus,” O’Meara said. That was when she left her work in accounting to start as a yachtie herself.
“I’m fortunate he dragged me into it,” she said. “People in my town think I’m on a cruise ship.”
With the 1600-ton master oceans mariner’s license that he earned two years ago, Capt. O’Meara could have run larger boats, but the 112-foot Westport was his favorite, she said. The two had recently finished a refit on M/Y Pipe Dream.
“He wanted to run a 112, he liked the smaller, family feel,” she said.
As a United States resident, an autopsy was required by the Bahamian government, so the yacht stayed in the islands for a week awaiting results. O’Meara and the close crew are still on the job, even after the loss of their captain.
“The core group is still here now,” she said by phone in late July after a trip.
“I think he would like to be remembered for his smile and his laughter,” she said. “You could hear his laugh from a mile away. He loved his people, he was good to everyone, from contractors to friends. People would talk to him about their life, including me. He listened and would give advice and help. He cared about people.”
Friends do remember his smile, including a former yacht industry couple, Tehane and Andy Brady.
“Ryan always had a big smile on his face and a big heart,” Tehane Brady wrote in a message. “He was welcoming and friendly to everyone he met, well liked by everyone who was lucky enough to have him touch their lives, and he will be missed dearly.”
“He always had a smile on his face and was one of the most gracious guys I have met in the industry,” Andy Brady wrote. “From helping out with problem solving to opening up his house for holidays.”
Katie O’Meara said she is grateful to the yachting community for their support, including a group of 40 friends waiting to offer condolences at The Treasure Trove, a Fort Lauderdale beach bar, when she returned to Florida.
“We have an amazing group of friends,” she said.
And Capt. O’Meara fostered those relationships.
“He had Epic Adventure days for crew,” she said. “He said, ‘It’s your day off, but don’t sit on your bed’. The last epic adventure was to St. Lucia on an all-terrain vehicles through woods. He made memories.”
Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments are welcome below.