Improving on Perfection, or How a Trolling Motor Changed My Life

9 07 2014

My son, John, and I took up salt water fly fishing five years ago. We started with 6 months of casting lessons from an 80+ year old retired Command Sergeant-Major, Green Beret with the patience of Job. Sarge taught us a variety of casts for normal conditions, windy conditions, around docks, etc.

About the same time, John bought a boat. Actually, it was an old and tired 14’ Sears Gamefisher with a 25 hp Mercury tiller motor. After gutting the boat entirely, he fabricated and installed resin infused stringers and ribs, put down a solid deck, mounted a bench seat, a center console and a fishing platform in the bow. He created a jack plate out of an 8” aluminum I-beam and mounted a Honda 40 hp, 4-stroke motor with cable steering from the center console. John affectionately named her “Greeny” after her white deck over green hull custom paint job. A stern mount, tiller trolling motor with 30 lbs. of thrust helped us navigate skinny water, and a Stick-It Anchor Pin held us in place when we stopped.

For the next four years, Greeny reliably delivered us to myriad fishing spots in the Indian River Lagoon from Vero Beach, FL south to the Saint Lucie Inlet in Stuart. We fished the Loxahatchee River, the Saint Lucie River (North and South), Bessy and Taylor Creeks, and occasionally ventured out to Lake Okeechobee.

When John found an immaculate, 19’ Hewes Redfisher with a 150 hp. Johnson motor, he decided it was time to move up. After bringing her home, John’s first addition was a Minn Kota Riptide ST bow-mount trolling motor with 80 lbs. of thrust and i-Pilot® GPS Remote.

Although we have only had two chances to fish with the new gear, the differences are so stark and obvious that it’s really easy to draw a comparison. While I expected the move up to a longer, wider, faster, purpose-built platform would be the biggest difference, in reality the trolling motor is far and away the most amazing, most significant improvement.

First and foremost, I no longer have to feel the pain of John’s almost constant frustration as he tried to put me in position for the “perfect cast.” I don’t have to hear him getting up and down over and over in order to adjust the trolling motor speed or direction. All of that can be accomplished with the remote.

When the ads say that you can, “Lock onto a fishing spot – and stay there,” they don’t give full disclosure to the importance of that feature. One of our favorite spots to fish is under the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart. The spot is not 50’ from the popular, highly trafficked channel used by boaters on their way to the inlet.

The wave action caused by passing boats was rhythmic and almost hypnotic in Greeny until the anchor line was drawn taught and there was a sudden “snap” as Greeny suddenly changed direction. That direction change couldn’t be anticipated and made standing in the bow a real challenge. The i-Pilot® takes the frustration out of that challenge, as the boat is allowed to ride up and down unimpeded. Once the disturbed water has passed, i-Pilot® simply returns the boat to its former position.

Fishing with John is my favorite pastime. The Minn Kota Riptide ST 80 with i-Pilot® has completely eliminated the least enjoyable part of that experience. Just imagine how much fun we’re having now!

A Recipe For Growth and Prosperity

2 07 2014

Select a group of three or four successful business people from a specific geographic area (a county, city, town, or village). Grow the group slowly through an application/member voting process, establishing firm guidelines for membership.  Meet every Wednesday for networking, breakfast, introductions, and brief presentations by a different member each week. Continue the process for 28 years.  After nearly 1,500 meetings, the results will be astounding!

Each week, a different perspective on business values is presented.  Members are given a chance to describe their business to the assembled group and in so doing, important business characteristics are shared.  An exterminator says, “I won’t accept a job that requires opening up walls, because I’m not a contractor.”  The group is reminded of the risks of overreaching.  A sales manager says, “I insist that sales people provide a rate card only after the value proposition has been established.”  The group is reminded that a quality product/service is more important than a competitive price.  A professional marketer says, “Accomplishment is more important than experience.”  Sixty businessmen find a new way to measure candidates for employment.

There will be some business people who will subscribe to the values and make them their own.  Others will perceive them to be flawed and will reject them completely.  Those people will ultimately leave the group in search of something more closely aligned with their business philosophy.

As the group grows, its influence in the community will flourish.  Picture 60-70 businesses in any community that all display an American flag in front of their businesses on the 4th of July.  Driving through such a community would generate feelings of patriotic pride.  Imagine as many businesses sharing beliefs in character, honesty, integrity, fairness, respect…  The entire community would benefit from such an image.

Stuart, FL, has always enjoyed a reputation for uniqueness; as a desirable place to do business; as a great place to raise a family.  A group like the one described above continues to thrive and grow in Stuart.  As Martin County Business Exchange members strive to help each other succeed, the entire community derives benefit.

To the Woman Behind Me in Line at the Grocery Store

9 04 2014

To the Woman Behind Me in Line at the Grocery Store.

As our lifestyles and events cause us to become more isolated, the individual who reaches out to others with a helping hand becomes a beacon in the night, a bright, caring light in an otherwise dismal, dark existence.  That light has reached us through this story.

Our hearts are warmed, our souls comforted by the radiance of one person’s kind act and the recognition of its recipient.  While the consideration shown to a downtrodden soul is exemplary, that effort reached only one extremely grateful individual.

The subsequent public revelation of that act of kindness will ultimately warm the hearts of an entire world filled with people who have lost or never had faith in their fellow man, people whose jaded, cynical hearts cannot find room for generosity.  Pay it forward?  Andrea, you have done that monumentally!

12 04 2013


Captain Mike Daniel

8 02 2013
Captain Mike Daniel holding a ship's bell from Queen Anne's Revenge

Captain Mike Daniel holding a ship’s bell from Queen Anne’s Revenge

We first met more than 15 years ago when he made a historical presentation to the Jupiter Tequesta Juno Beach Chamber of Commerce on the exploits of Jonathan Dickinson.  In an area where the oldest existing structure was built in 1860, Dickinson’s 1696 shipwreck, subsequent capture by Jaega Indians, escape, and return to civilization is particularly significant.  Captain Mike Daniel’s attention to detail and relaxed style made a profound impact upon the entire audience.

Subsequent contacts with Mike have revealed a diverse background filled with achievements of historic proportion.  From Mike’s South Florida home, Mike has discovered a number of historically significant sites in the Caribbean, Florida, the Bahamas and the Carolinas.  Mike and author Robert F. Marx discovered the wreck of Nuestra Senora de las Maravillas in 1972.  This treasure laden Spanish galleon sank in the Bahamas in 1656. The gold, silver and emeralds contained in the wreckage are extraordinary in their quality.

More recently, Mike discovered the wreckage of the infamous pirate Blackbeard’s flagship off the coast of North Carolina.  Concorde, a French slaveship, was captured by Blackbeard in 1717. After renaming her Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard made her his flagship.  Within less than one year, Queen Anne’s Revenge ran aground, broke up, and sank but not before Blackbeard had successfully blockaded the port of Charleston, SC for nearly a week.  More than 275 years later, extensive research enabled Mike to pinpoint the wreckage and recover numerous artifacts.

Throughout his years of historical maritime research and undersea exploration, Mike has maintained a unique focus.  The significance of the Golden Age of Piracy has always outweighed any interest in treasure.  It is his profound belief that no one ever “owns” treasure.  Instead, treasure falls into the custody of “caretakers” for brief periods of time; quite often with painful consequences.

In between his various treasure-hunting exploits, Mike has worked extensively in the television and film industry.  Most recently, he created and served as the first curator of the Burt Reynolds Museum in Jupiter, FL. Mike and his wife, Nancy, also owned and operated a successful marine parts business known as Sea Chest for more than 30 years.

You can follow Captain Mike Daniel’s exploits on Facebook.

Thank you Alice…

9 05 2012

When was the last time you attended a church service?  Was your first observation upon entering the sanctuary that there was a preponderance of old people filling the pews?  Did it seem as though the church was a sea of white/blue hair with an occasional island oasis of brown, blonde or red?  A self-centered, cynical youth might get the impression that church is a haven for old people.  They are beyond fishing, camping, family excursions, and the myriad activities that fill youthful lives.  Old people have the time to attend church services.  Perhaps old people have a keener appreciation of their own mortality.  Attending church becomes a way to find the path to the pearly gates.  After a lifetime of activities that have led people astray, they suddenly find a need to get right with God before Judgment Day.

There is a woman who has made a career of helping people in their hour of need.  She meets one-on-one with representatives of every socio-economic stratum, of every race, and of every level of anxiety.  She does it five days per week, eight hours per day.  Each encounter varies in length from 20 minutes to an hour.  There are those she can aid and those who are beyond help.  The nature of her employment establishes strict parameters.  She cannot deny assistance to an irascible, unkempt, impolite, disrespectful miscreant.  Neither can she take that one delicate, sympathetic, kind, courteous, motivated person under her wing; offering moral support, comfort and sustenance.  There is always someone waiting, another person in need.  Her career is measured by efficiency.  How many people did she see today?  How many was she able to help?  What was the level of help?  Did the contact satisfy established standards?  Next!

First impressions provide an image of an attractive woman who takes pride in her appearance.  Her crisp, brightly colored dress reflects a genuine desire to brighten someone’s day.  Standing at the entrance to her cubicle with a warm smile and gentle, welcoming gesture, her appearance evokes a sense of appreciation for the circumstances surrounding the visit.  A quick scan of her neatly organized office reveals that this lady is not only pleasant, she is also skilled at her profession.  Three certificates indicate completion of three levels of training.  Next to the photo of her husband is a photo of her “chosen family” – her coworkers.  Above all that, a photocopy of a simple black and white document is tacked to the most obvious place on the wall in this otherwise austere place of work.

The meeting flows smoothly.  All the bases are covered in a style that proceeds uninterrupted from beginning to end.  She has followed this established routine a thousand times, yet there are no signs of boredom.  The tedious nature of her work is hidden behind a very real enthusiasm.  Excited by even the smallest partial solution to the issues plaguing her “client,” her attitude instills a sense of hope.  The encounter comes to a close.

A person’s path through life is marked by the footprints left in the sands of time.  The greater the impact of their work, the deeper and more permanent are the footprints left behind.  Alice, as she is known to the people she helps, is leaving footprints that will last a lifetime.

There is another reason for the age imbalance found among those who actively worship.  Experience.  By the time a person earns the privilege of wearing the mantle of white hair, he has experienced joy and sorrow, pain and suffering, anger, pride, frustration, deceit, satisfaction, and love.  Like steel, his soul has been tempered with the heat of overwhelming emotions.  A spiritual awakening occurs as he comes to appreciate the magnificent gift he has received through the hands of others.  Thoughtfulness, generosity, understanding, affection, kindness, support…  These unselfish gifts are our source of strength.  Only a deep and abiding faith can generate those random, unplanned acts of love for our fellow man.

Family – Fly Fishing – Fun

4 10 2011

There was a time when every weekend meant hours prowling the Loxahatchee River, the Intracoastal Waterway, Jupiter Inlet, and the edges of the Atlantic Ocean out to the Gulf Stream. Most often, it was our boat, but there were many times when a ride was hitched with friends. There were also numerous trips to Lake Okeechobee as well as infrequent journeys to the Everglades, Stick Marsh, and even the cooling ponds at the FPL power plant in Indiantown. A lot of time and effort was put into fishing, but catching? Not so much.

Times changed. Kids grew up. Kids built lives for themselves. Good times became fond memories. Tough times required serious commitment to families, jobs, and health. The boats were sold or simply stopped running. The rods were put away. Contact dwindled to occasional brief phone conversations or even less frequent email messages.

Then, the phone call came: “Hey Dad, I want to tell you something…” Six months later, the door that was opened has enabled me to pass into a world so precious it defies definition. John, my eldest, had stopped into John B’s Fly and Light Tackle in Stuart. He had heard that it was the place to go, that John B had a heart of gold and a burning desire to turn every man, woman, and child into a fly-fisherman. My two granddaughters had tagged along with their dad on this expedition and patiently passed the time sitting on the floor engrossed in fly-fishing magazines. When the hour-long process had culminated in a $3.50 transaction and my son gathered the kids to leave, John B insisted that they wait until he finished rummaging around in the back of the store. He finally returned with a juvenile rod and reel, which he offered to the sisters as a gift.

All my life, I have lived by the belief that there is goodness in every person. A young person sometimes has difficulty grasping that concept especially after struggling mightily to find success and happiness. That day, my son became a believer.

John B had told my son that a friend of his gave free fly-fishing lessons every Saturday morning at Indian Riverside Park in Jensen Beach. “Do you want to go with me this Saturday?” The stars were properly aligned. The wind was in the right quadrant. Everything fit together perfectly, and the park became my Saturday morning destination.

Even with no expectations, the experience was a continuing series of surprises. John and I arrived nearly 1/2 hour early to an open expanse of grass on the edge of the Indian River, which seemed like as good a place as any to wet a line. The day was off to a beautiful start. While some shy from the sun and heat of an August day, I thrive on it. Even at 8:30am, the temperature was poised in the high 70’s on its way to a real scorcher. The heat had stolen the wind leaving a dead calm weighted with humidity. My kind of day!

The slate gray Suburban with US Army, Stars and Stripes, and Airborne stickers rolled into the parking lot and backed lazily to the curb. Finally settled into place, the tank’s door popped open and belched out our instructor. There was no doubting ownership of the vehicle, as his belt buckle carried the same military theme with the impressive winged parachute front and center. A body that had experienced one too many low altitude jumps in full gear was twisted like a pretzel. It didn’t slow his gait. Gigantic hands formed a grip that did not hide their strength. The voice was clear. The gaze was sharp. Our instructor was a force to be reckoned with. Introducing himself as “Sarge,” we quickly learned that he was a retired Command Sergeant Major, an original member of the Special Forces, and was in his mid-80’s.

His sidekick who arrived shortly thereafter is a retired Air Force colonel who is fighting the vagaries of Agent Orange. I was stunned to discover the depth of Sarge’s warmth, his innate ability to simplify a complicated process and his patience as we struggled to duplicate his effortless cast. Instead of fish in the river, we were casting to bare patches in the grass. Typically, 15-20 feet of line ended up in a pile within 10 feet of where we were standing. Sarge can drop a perfect, straight/taught line over a squirrel’s back at 90 feet! We had a long, long way to go.

The hour passed too quickly. The following week passed equally fast, but with one exception: multiple phone conversations with John reviewing the events of that fateful Saturday, discussing fruitless practice sessions, and planning the next excursion. The weeks and months have marched inexorably onward with mundane work and life experiences punctuated with entertaining fly-fishing classes. If I can somehow learn to stop bending my arm, the endless pushups might come to a halt. Each week, others have joined us, but none have remained. John and I continually return, more for the contact with a truly wonderful old soldier than for perfection of our cast.

John B died. He died way too soon, way too fast. No one was ready to let him go. The memorial service at that same park was attended by hundreds of family, friends and acquaintances. John and I were there. We shared the grief. We laughed at the stories. We marveled at the tightness of the fishing community in which he thrived. While we frequent other similar stores, we try hard to make our purchases where they will in some small way help John B’s family.

John and I talk nearly every day. Once a week we meet at his home and work on a 14-foot johnboat that we plan to use this summer in quest of snook, trout, and redfish. John’s brother, Morgan, has a new “best friend forever.” Dan is the salesman in the Orvis store in Alexandria, VA, Morgan’s home. During his infrequent visits to the area, the three of us manage to squeeze in some time to try a new stream, canal, or pond.

It’s not like “old times.” Everything has changed. John and Morgan’s mother, my first wife, is fighting cancer. Morgan is battling a chronic illness. We all seem to have a fair share of dents and bruises, but we have also found a place in our minds and hearts where we can escape to lie back and immerse ourselves in the comfort of relationships that are totally devoid of rules, exceptions, or disruptions.

Fly-fishing has opened the door to a world populated almost exclusively with John Bs, Sarges, Colonels, and other equally warm, generous, good people. The space that world has provided for my sons and me cannot be defined. We are learning to simply accept it with the deepest gratitude.

This story was originally posted on 2/13/10 at: