Dee's Boat

It’s been a few weeks now. Nothing has been heard, seen or found except his old worn out 26′ Mako. It did have a pretty new engine though because you can’t be out on the water everyday worrying about if you’re going to get back in every night.

I left Key West for a while in the 80’s but I would come back every winter, like any sane person would do if they had the chance, to fish with my Ex’s brother. I was pretty good at it and so was he, we made a pretty good team actually. He knew his way around the complicated channels and flats of the lower keys and I still credit him with teaching me all the shortcuts through and around the lakes passage west of Key West. I eventually found some new ones as time went by but he was my initial guide in the backcountry. We would fish for yellowtail snapper in the early spring and kingfish every winter, sometimes catching as much as 600 pounds of mackerel in a single day on 20 pound test using cheap rods and reels that were “throw away” quality. Because of the tremendous power of that many kingfish per day, the reels lasted only about a week. It just wasn’t worth buying better stuff, they didn’t last that much longer anyway.

Up early, load the boat with ice, drinks, very nutritious snacks from the marina bait shop and try to find the fish before anybody else did. Fish all day in whatever weather we had to deal with, make the long run in, clean fish, clean ourselves up , tie jigs until midnight for the next day and finally sleep. This is no big deal, fishermen still do this everyday, it’s just how you spend each and every day that’s fishable. Me, when the weather was bad, I painted on a painting or worked in my ceramics studio behind my house on Stock Island. Dee, he hit the not so glamorous topless clubs in Key West, worked on his race car which he sailed off the third turn in Daytona and immediately retired or spent the afternoon in the Boca Chica Bar right next door to the car shop.

I was out of town when he had the heart attack, some said it was because they sold the Boca Chica. He recovered, was assigned a shipload of pills to take like the rest of us and continued to fish and take care of his hundreds of stone crab and lobster traps strewn throughout the keys. That’s the way life was for Dee.

I have so many stories about our fishing together and all the insane stupid things that happened to us on a daily basis. It was hard work but we had a blast doing it.

Dee's Boat

Aground at Elliot Key south of Miami

So he’s gone now, without any fanfare, funeral or anything….just gone! An empty boat with no signs of foul play, wallet and cell phone still on top of the console where he always put it in case he fell overboard. Oh yeah, he was a witness in a federal case involving his participation in buying illegal lobster from a local family of criminal neer’-do-wells when China pushed the price of lobster up to $25 dollars a pound. All of his medications were gone from his house! Lots of other little things don’t seem to add up either. He could have had another heart attack and fell overboard, nobody knows and maybe never will.

This is what the ocean does to you. You live on it everyday or on the weekends and it’s magnificent, powerful, beautiful, stormy, peaceful and consuming all at the same time. If you’re married to the ocean like Dee was, divorce can be bitter.

I hope you’re hiding somewhere buddy.

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  1. I live in St. Augustine and was scrolling around trying to figure out where to eat for Valentine’s Day with my husband and stumbled upon your blog. You are a gifted writer. Your nostalgic recollections of the fishing life with your buddy made me smile. I hope he is safe. Take care.

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