The Real McCoy


Bill McCoy was born in New York and graduated first in his class from Pennsylvania Nautical School. Around 1900, the McCoy family moved to Holly Hill, FL and started a boat yard. By 1918, having built yachts for the likes of Carnegie and Vanderbilt, he had earned a reputation for being a skilled craftsman.McCoy txt

During Prohibition, they sold part of their business to buy the schooner Henry L. Marshall. After a few good trips smuggling liquor, McCoy was able to buy the larger and faster schooner Arethusa. Placing Arethusa under British registry in order to avoid U.S. law, McCoy renamed the vessel Tomoka. The phrase, “The Real McCoy” came to signify fair dealing and quality liquor, and was later adopted as a common idiom.

The Coast Guard Cutter Seneca had orders to capture McCoy, even in international waters. When cornered, Tomoka attempted to flee. After shots were exchanged McCoy and his ship were eventually captured.

Bill McCoy pled guilty to smuggling charges and spent nine months in a New Jersey jail. He returned to Florida and invested in real estate. He and his brother continued building boats and frequently traveled along the coast.

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