The "Dead End Canal Yacht Club" is full of characters, you should know because you are one them! They include every style and shape, including bankers, lawyers, cops, judges and plenty that have appeared before a judge. A real cross section of society; most of them respectable. We even have a couple of airline pilots, one retired and one working and that affirms our open mindedness.
Twenty-six years ago there were just as many, if not more but they didn't have an organization. In the old days the shrimp fleet was larger because the Yankees weren't buying Vietnamese shrimp from Publix. The shrimp boasts were a great source of characters if you dared get that close. The Fort Myers Beach shrimp fest was run by shrimpers.
At Casey's Alley, the bar was full of fishermen who ran long and fished deep, and there were fishermen who fished short and fairly shallow. The short turnaround boat had real fresh fish when they came back to the dock in just five days. Back then they unloaded at Snug Harbor when it was a great seafood restaurant. That tradition is still carried on at the Fish Monger but there aren't many characters, only Milt and Nick.
In those old days you really had to stand out to be a bonafide character. I didn't know all of them because I didn't hang around Casey's Alley enough. That place was full of characters, overflowing in fact. My favorite ones had to have a boat and accomplished something in their past. The farther the fall, the better the character.
The names have been changed to protect the innocent or not. You figure it out. You didn't really have to go to Casey's back then, San Carlos Island was where they lived and worked. Chicago Wayne was a big time commodity broker who chucked it all to go sailing. He was six years removed from the big money when I met him. and he had traded in his too expensive wife for a new one who was just as pretty and a little younger. Whenever Wayne split up with her, he was inconsolable and drowning his sorrow with alcohol.
Wayne became a kindly old marine junk dealer with a streak of generosity a mile wide and a mean streak just as wide. His two goals in life were to win back the new wife or stay totally drunk. Once you knew his circumstance you could either dismiss him or laugh with him.
He and Cap'n Rick decided to refurbish an old double end-er Navy Ship's Launch. It was made of aluminum with a small diesel and tiller steering. Cap'n Rick was a disabled airline pilot who had the worst luck with women. They plowed Rick's disability into the restoration between bouts of boozing and further lovesick episodes. Being a great character didn't always mean a happy ending. After years of struggling they moved on.
Places could be characters, too! Compass Rose Marina had 30 live-aboard slips that were occupied with characters. Most of them were good people, some were very strange, and a couple were bad. Never mind the bad, eventually the good ones won out. There was a real Renaissance in the 90s. Almost every slip had a great tenant with a great story.
Many of the tenants were either tradesmen or waitresses and a few professional women. They owned their own sailboat homes and came to Compass Rose Marina because it was cheap and unregulated. The owner had one hard rule, No cops. There were, but rarely. For over 20 years they never did a background check on new tenants so a few bad apples slipped through.
The yard workers were young and tough and very protective of their jobs because they knew the owner was trying to sell the place. A bad scene might make the next offer seem reasonable so just a look from them was enough to straighten out a rowdy. Force was implied but never used.
The most interesting people came down that canal and quickly became friends. Everyone eventually told their stories and some were doosies but most were about failed marriages, failed business or an overwhelming need to move on. Most never left for 10 or more years, and we watched children grow and dogs come and go.
The dogs were a redeeming quality for most. Even the biggest complainers or loudest drunks could be forgiven if they had a good dog. Several tenants were evicted because their dogs wouldn't play nice. There was one, Sweet Corazon, a young female Boxer pup that traveled with Captain Lee who would play catch with a Frisbee until the sun went down. The yard workers had to take turns throwing it less the arms fell off. If no one was around, she would play with a coconut for hours.
So sorry to see that era end.
Boatguy Ed is a retired anti-fouling bottom paint maker, Super Shipbottom, www.supershipbottom.com. Send comments to boatguiEd@aol.com and visit the "Dead End Canal Yacht Club's Facebook page often. and further love sick episodes.