From 1977 thru 1981, I was chief engineer at Magnum Marine, on Thunderboat Row. I was hired to build the 53’ Magnum high speed cruiser. My experience of engineering the 49’ Cary Fast Diesel put me in good stead with the new owners of Magnum, Ted and Katrin Theodoli. They had been the Cary dealers in Europe, and had sold most of the 49 Carys to the cream of Italy’s boat crowd. The Magnum 53 was a vision of Don Aronow, who, despite all the naysayers (including me), came up with some amazing boats. Among our non-experts (non-naval architects), Don was the first of our gang to realize the validity of scaling up a good design and achieving an excellent result. When Magnum stretched their 35’ model, originally designed as the 35’ Donzi, by Walt Walters, to 38 feet, it was a lot better. It ran slightly faster with the same power, got on plane easier, etc. It was later stretched to 40’, then to 44’, and it just got better and better. Using that concept, Don used the 40’ drawings, and expanded them by 1.25 times, resulting in a 53 foot long, 15’3” wide superb boat. Later, the 53’ would be stretched to 63’, which would be stretched to 70’. There is apparently no practical end to it. We finished the first 53’ mechanically and electrically, with no interior, and tested it with a pair of 8V92’s with 140mm injectors. It ran 40mph (fast for the day) beautifully, first time out. Ted immediately got a space at the Genoa Boat Show.
In that period, drug smuggling had mutated from a bunch of hippies hauling grass, to a bunch of killers hauling God-knows-what for millions. The latest permutation at that point was the hijacking of suitable craft, murdering the crew and making a couple of hauls. Ted figured out, in no time, that the 53’ Magnum might just be a plum for that bunch. In order to make the Genoa Boat Show on time, we needed to get the first 53’ to Mobile, Alabama immediately to meet a ship. He authorized me to get a crew to ride shotgun (literally), and I hired a couple of local ruffians, Joe Clifton and Pete “Elephant Ass” Wisser. I never quite understood Clifton’s plan, but I know that we had to take two strippers for some reason. We loaded a suitable quantity of beer, arms, babes, charts, etc. and headed for the first stop at Plantation Yacht Harbor in the Florida Keys. We reached our destination unhijacked. So far, so good. One thing I had not anticipated was Clifton inviting everyone in the bar for a ride in “his boat”. With local guide, Captain Al Flutie, navigating, we took about 50 drunks for a thrill ride, exacerbated by two nekkid girls dancing on the foredeck. We ejected the last minute revelers at 7AM and headed for Mobile. Our course took us though the Keys to Marathon, Florida, where we departed the Keys, and headed for southwestern Florida via some small islands. The passage from Marathon to Naples (no, Florida) is too tricky for a ‘greenhorn’ to navigate without a proper chart. We were loaded with charts, and had no problems. I had run that portion of the trip many times, and had excellent local knowledge. When we reached the far end of the passage, we were on a course toward a boat coming the opposite way. We saw it a long way off, and made up a little defense plan. Joe and Elephant Ass went below got their 30-30 Automatic rifle and a 12 gauge shotgun. I had .44 Blackhawk revolver, and the girls both had a pair of 36C’s. Our plan was that if they hailed us down, I would approach them from their stern, alone on deck, lined up fore and aft. If there was a situation, I would beep the horn, at which time the boys would whip out their weapons, and the girls would whip off their tops I don’t recall how we came up with that last part, but it made sense at the time. Kind of sounds like the start of a porno movie….
Anyway, sure enough, they hailed me down. I crept up behind them, and took a look. A bunch of rough looking guys on the bridge of a 40’ sportfisher. “What’s up?” I asked. “We apparently don’t have a chart for this part of the voyage. We figured that you had one, since you just came that way. We would like to buy it.” I told them that they could have it. Three of them jumped onto my bow. I told them to get back on board their boat. They hesitated, and I laid my Blackhawk on the foredeck. They picked up considerable speed getting off the boat.
About that time, a girl came out of the cabin of their boat and said ”Brownie, is that you?” It was another stripper, who was friends with our strippers. Small world. We relaxed our posture, and the guys on the fishboat said that I was vulnerable. I don’t think so, I told them. I bumped to horn button, and Joe and Elephant Ass threw down on them. They were speechless. I gave them the chart, and sent them on their way. We cruised on up the West Florida coast, and put into Boca Grande to fuel. We arrived at the apex of the Tarpon season. If you have never been there, it is an amazing sight to see dozens of 100 pound silver kings rolling on the incoming tide. Joe Clifton bought a rod and reel for a couple hundred bucks, and some live mullet, the bait de jour. We dropped the hook for a 30 minute lunch break. Joe hooked about an 80-90 pounder, and fought him all lunch break. Trying to juggle a beer, a sandwich and a very big fish, he lost the whole mess overboard, including himself. I considered gaffing him, but I hadn’t brought a gaff. We finally reached Mobile Bay, only to discover that the ship was late. We checked into the Grand Hotel, and overspent my unlimited budget for the week on the first day. The head stripper, “Slippery”, had an affinity for a drink called a “Mudslide”, and consumed a large number of them. She also had an affinity for skinny dipping in the huge pool. Nobody noticed until she would get out to get another Mudslide. I must say, she was quite a piece of work. Her full name was “Slippery when wet”, which I thought must have been a hoot at her First Communion. We finally got the boat loaded on the ship, got it finished in time for the show, and sold a bunch of them. On our trip back to Miami, we had shipped the armament back on the company truck, and we got reservations on National Airlines. We got 1st class seats. Before takeoff, I asked the stewardess if it was a non-stop flight. “Better than that! It’s FIVE non-stop flights!”