Before you enjoy Brownie’s latest tale, a reminder that Allan “Brownie” Brown will be in the PBN booth at the Miami Boat Show telling tales and signing autographs. Now back to regularly scheduled programming…
Unlike many social strata situations, racers of all kinds worked and played together on a friendly field for a time. Owners of large companies don’t usually ‘hang out’ with the guy from the stockroom, but offshore race boat owners often did. A camaraderie existed that encouraged the two sides to play together. Don Aronow, Bill Wishnick, Merrick Lewis, Dick Genth and others were genuinely friendly with scum like me, and treated us with friendship and respect. For the first 15 years, from 1956 to 1970, we were one happy family. In 1970, Bill Wishnick had won his wings, to be principal driver of a top offshore boat. Bobby Moore and I had taught him well, and he was a competitive sumbitch. At this point, Wishnick bought a 32’ red Bertram race boat from Mr. Kiekhaefer of Mercury Marine fame, with the first ever set of #3 Super Speedmaster outdrives. He named it “Boss O’ Nova”. It was probably the best offshore race boat in the world at that time, but it had one tiny idiosyncrasy. King Kong could not steer that boat with one hand, and throttle with the other. All the power for the steering came from Mr. Wishnick’s right arm, which was accustomed to nothing heavier than a Mont Blanc pen. For most races, just Bill and Bobby Moore crewed the boat, and in the 1969 or 70 Houston Channel Derby Race, from the San Jacinto Monument to the Texas City Dike (I think her name was Marge), they went around the south checkboat four times before Bobby could help pull it out of the turn. The birth of the throttleman.
This stretched the fabric of the relationship between owners and throttlemen, as most throttlemen demanded huge sums for their services. From the day of inboard boats, that seldom jumped all the way out of the water, and steered themselves in a straight line when unattended, when one might have difficulty finding someone to ride along, now we had uniformed professionals who throttled, trimmed the drives, sometimes navigated, took the prize money and occasionally played horsey with the owner’s mistress (No, no names. Waiting for one more to die). One throttleman in particular, whom I hired away from Kentucky Fried Chicken, was Harold “Smitty” Smith. Nobody wanted to win more desperately than Smitty. He worked harder than anyone, honing his skills, learning the job, doing anything he could to get a top ride. He got several good ones, had moderate success, and secretly despised most of the owners.
Some of the throttlemen were earning three or four times my salary as President of Cougar Marine. A few of the owners felt that the salaries were skyrocketing out of sight. They formed an association called “FORCE” or something like that. They now had a common ground to do a little price fixing. Smitty went ballistic. He tried to organize the T-men, and made the mistake of asking me to help him with some publicity and to name his organization. Always trying to help, I came up with “Society to Heighten Income for Throttlemen and Navigators” or “SHITMAN”. Didn’t seem to help. As the boats went faster and faster, it became absolutely necessary to have an experienced pro in the copilot seat. Owners tended to come into the sport, hire the best throttleman available, win a championship or two, and move on. A few of the better T-men had long and successful, lucrative careers. None was better than Bobby Moore. Bobby came to Miami from Holman and Moody in Charlotte, NC. He was the brother-in-law of Robert “Pop” Meekins. Pop is way high on my list of favorite characters, as funny as he was talented. He wrenched on my Holman Moody race engines, and provided comedy relief for difficult situations. “You want the good news or the bad news?” after working all night in the pits at St. Pete Beach. “The good news”. “There isn’t any”.
The year that Tommy Sopwith brought his turbocharged Aluminum Enfield to the Miami Nassau race, 1969 or 70, he won, but was disqualified for not having legal engines. We were in the Poop Deck Bar, in Nassau, after the race, and Tommy and his partner, Pascoe Watson, were pontificating about the race. Pascoe was the image of a Brit. Obviously never in the sun, you could see his teeth through his cheeks, blond, fair, never tipped, and a really nice guy. They were discussing the pace of the race, which was record-setting fast. Pascoe: “We could have run considerably fahster had the competition been a bit more keen”. Bobby Moore was standing nearby, still chapped from getting thrashed in the race. Bobby: “I’ll tell you one thing, you marshmallow lookin’ m**********r! You bring that tin piece of s**t to Key West we will show you what “keen” is! Good old Bobby, always promoting American goodwill.