William W. Robinson, editor of Yachting magazine from 1967-1978, died last week at the age of 88.
At Yachting, Robinson presided over what was the world’s largest sailing publication. In 1978, he joined Cruising World as editor-at-large and added a dozen new titles to his list of books, bringing his lifetime total to 27. His favorite among them was “A Sailor’s Tales,” a piecemeal autobiography that he dedicated “to my grandchildren, to save them the hours of having to listen to their grandfather in his old age.” His lone novel, “Destruction at Noonday,” was based on his uncle’s heroics as a ship captain during the Yokohama earthquake in 1922. With his late wife Jane Dimock Robinson, he lived in Rumson, New Jersey, from 1946 on. For most of retirement, the couple spent winters aboard their sailboat based in Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Though he enjoyed racing, cruising was his passion, and most of his writing focused on adventure under sail.
Born William Wheeler Robinson on Oct. 4, 1918, he was the only child of Henry and Clare Wheeler Robinson. His half-sister, Helena Robinson Carter, predeceased him. He began at The Pingry School, Elizabeth, N.J., in first grade and graduated in 1935. He lettered in track and football and was sports editor of the school newspaper. He won the 1902 Emblem, the school’s highest annual award. At Princeton University, he played freshman football and lacrosse, managed the student travel agency and wrote for Theater Intime, which produced his original play From Another Country. He majored in English and graduated in 1939. At the outbreak of World War II, he was commissioned skipper of a 110-foot wooden Navy sub chaser. His ship, SC 743, convoyed troop ships and freighters across the Pacific and participated in the Arawe, New Britain, and Hollandia invasions. For SC 743’s performance under air attack Lt. (jg) Robinson received the Bronze Star with gold star.
Before joining Yachting, he was a sportswriter at the Newark Evening News and then the Newark Star Ledger. He developed a nationally syndicated boating column and began covering Princeton football; he continued to cover games at his alma mater until failing knees in his 80s prevented the climb to the press box. He played squash until he was 76. Once, when a rotator cuff injury flared, he took up playing left-handed. By the time his shoulder healed he had regained “C” level rating with his “off” hand. He once reached the finals of the National Seniors Doubles Tournament.
He coached scout teams, served on the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional School Board, was on the board of Sea Ventures (a “fresh air” camp at Fort Hancock for inner city kids) and was instrumental in beginning the junior classes and racing program at the Shrewsbury Sailing and Yacht Club in Oceanport. The Sea Bright Beach Club (for which he wrote a centennial history), New York Yacht Club, Cruising Club of America (historian), Princeton Club of New York (president 1984-’87), Corinthians (Master Afterguard), Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (life member), and the SSYC (past commodore) stood out among his affiliations.
He is survived by his son, William Wheeler Jr. of Marshfield, Mass.; daughter, Martha Robinson Bliss of Spring Grove, Pa.; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. A third child, Alice Clare Robinson, died in 1999.
A gathering in celebration of Robinson’s life is planned for Friday, July 6 at the SSYC. Worden-Hoidal Funeral Home, Red Bank, is in charge of arrangements.