I’ve been in, or near, the boat business since my 16th birthday, June 5th, 1951. I actually did boat stuff before that. I started fishing with my dad at two years of age. I never wanted to do anything else. I had three boats, including a brand new D Utility Speedliner racing boat with a Mark 55H Mercury before I owned a car. I have lived aboard boats on and off, for over fifteen years. Living aboard is a hoot. Folks who live in houses or apartments in larger towns seldom get to know their neighbors. That never happens with live aboards. Camaraderie must be standard equipment on all boats. I have lived in my current house nearly five years, and so far, I have never had a neighbor in my home. That never happens to the boat gang. People on boats actually wave at one another from time to time, using ALL THEIR FINGERS!
Having been an engineer and or an executive starting in 1956 at Challenger Marine, then Donzi Marine, Nova Marine, Cary Marine, Magnum Marine, Flight Marine, Alpha Z, Cougar Marine, Cigarette Racing Team, Gentry TransAtlantic, Stainless Marine, Holman Moody Marine, and a few others, you can bet that I have met some lulus. A string runs through the Company names. They are all high-buck, highly rated companies. Our clients had something in common. They all had lots money. Many of my clients have become personal friends. A few have been recipients of the famous “Brownie Raspberry Award”. As usual, I must be cautious, and not insult any of those assholes.
My job at Magnum Marine, starting 1 January, 1977, was titled “Chief Engineer”. Mind you, I was a chief with no Indians, but it sounded good. I was actually there to prototype the all new Magnum 53’. I had done essentially all the development work on the Cary 49’ Diesel boats, so it was a logical step to beautiful new 53’. The prototype went well, and I was invited to stay for a while. I loved Ted Theodoli, who, with his fiance’ at the time, Katrin, had just purchased the company. The 53’ project had been started by Don Aronow, and was in early development stage when the company was sold. Old news for some of you, but still interesting (at least to me). The 53’ was essentially an expansion of the original Wynne/Walters 35’ Donzi hull. The 35’ boat and molds had been given to Aronow after the sale of Donzi Marine to Teleflex, Inc. as sponsorship for his racing as Donzi Marine. What could possibly go wrong? Anyway, at this stage, the 35’ Magnum (Nee Donzi) had been stretched to 38 feet. Surprise! It ran faster, carried more load, and rode better than the 35’. Their architect, Bill Nielsen, took the Magnum 38’ hull drawing and added two feet of length on the hull. He then changed the scale of the drawing so that it was “blown up” by 1.25 times. This resulted in a 53’ long, 15’3” wide hull that was to revolutionize the “Diesel Runabout” market.
We built Hull Number One at the old Thunderbird Houseboat plant, at 141st Street and Biscayne Blvd, in North Miami. It was January, cold, (it actually snowed one day), and we worked long hours to make our deadline. The first boat called for a pair of Stewart and Stevenson Detroit Diesel 8V92 engines, figuring to push the boat about 40MPH. They did, light, and the boat ran beautifully. Everyone was happy with the performance, and several were sold right away. One of my favorite customers for the new boat was Victor Borge, the piano playing comedian. Victor already owned a 38’ Magnum, and had owned a couple of others. He got a white 53’ with a hardtop, and the standard 8V92 engines. We delivered his new boat to his home in Connecticut in 1978, I think. After owning the boat for a year or so, he called the company and asked to have the boat picked up, and delivered to Miami to be used as his home during a performance down here. The timing was short, and the boat could not just cruise slowly down the Intracoastal Waterway. It was late November, and running “outside” was dicey. None of our usual Captains were interested. Ted asked me if I would do it. “Hell, yeah”. I enlisted two more offshore racers, Harold “Smitty” Smith, and Tony “Black Beauty” Azzara. We flew to Connecticut to meet Victor and pick up the boat. It was docked at the famous “Showboat” restaurant, right behind the Presidential yacht, “Honey Fitz”. Wasting no time, we blasted off, heading down Long Island Sound, the East river, and out around Sandy Hook, into the blustery North Atlantic. That course comprised half of the “Around Long Island” marathon race. Luck was on our side, and, although the seas were big, they were quartering from the port stern. It was a 30 knot sleigh ride to Cape May, New Jersey. We ran outside most of the way, and except for a small engine problem, easily fulfilled Mr. Borge’s wishes. He came to town and did his shows. Upon leaving, he asked me to personally see to his boat. “Use it like it was your own. Go to Key West, I don’t care. I want it fresh and running when I pick it up in the spring”. “All righty then”!
Our local powerboat club was sponsoring a local offshore race, with laps from Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale, to Government Cut in Miami and back several times. The club asked me to take the check boat people out with me in “my” 53’ Magnum. “Sure”. When I motored up to Pelican Harbor Yacht Club to pick up the troops, I was deluged with about three dozen race watchers and hangers on. We loaded up the people and coolers and headed for the Government Cut Sea Buoy, our station. The race was for smaller classes (read: Boring), and racing in the smallest and most boring class was my best bud, David Gillmore. Gilly was throttling for Roy McCullars in a 25’ Cary Marine boat with a pair of stock V6 Volvo engines. 10MPH slower, and they could have trolled for Wahoo. My fellow Magnum Marine Engineer, Brian Van Den Breen, was the race official for this end, and he instructed “Everybody yell numbers”! Like a scene from Laugh-in, everyone started yelling random numbers, until he started hitting us with his hat.
Finally, after every other race boat had come by, Roy and Gilly crept by. Blah. “This is boring. Let’s moon them the next lap”. Still running dead last, Gilly smiled at the “Cheek salute” of a dozen or so mooners, male and female. On the next lap, Gilly and Roy mooned us, we mooned them, and nearby fishing boat mooned all of us. The next lap had all the previous players plus a Coast Guard boat and the photography helicopter (No small feat). Next lap, all them plus a passing Head Boat (Bottom fisher) and two race boats that were lapping Roy and Gilly. On the last lap, we added most of one side of a cruise ship out of the Port of Miami. We were pretty much mooned out, and headed for home. One the way home, the port engine belched up a valve. The next morning, I called Victor to tell him. “I have good news and bad news, blah blah.” Victor said, “Get the engines gone through, and keep it in use every week until I get down there”. “Well, okay, if I have to”.