By Carol M. Bareuther, RD
Manning the helm of a sleek sportfisher while hunting big billfish and lots of ‘em is a living-the-dream job come true. Every morning, the horizon’s the limit on what might bite that bait or be teased in by that lure. Likewise, every day is a bucket list adventure, and every night brings dreams of the next day’s record catches and bragging rights. Sometimes, though, life takes a turn. It might be voluntary. Terry Robinson, who captained Tyson’s Pride for over two decades and is now Bass Pro Shop’s saltwater specialist, wanted to spend more time ashore with his wife and son. Other times, a career change comes after the hard knock of a curve ball.
For Capt. Jimmy Beason, who ran charter and private sportfishing boats off Florida, the Gulf of Mexico and the Bahamas in the 1970s, it was a major car accident. Afterward, the daily deep sea pounding on a 40-foot sportfisher proved painful, so for nearly thirty years, Beason has served as the respected harbormaster for Alabama’s Orange Beach Marina. Either way, what Robinson and Beason, and many other former sportfishing captains like Joe Dougherty, Charlie Hazouri and John Blumenthal who have crossed the line, have learned is that their helm-gained education has parlayed into equally fulfilling, and oftentimes just as exhilarating, 2.0 careers.
Communication—the Gift of Purposeful Gab
Knowing how to communicate has served Robinson well, he says. “My parents owned a 20-slip marina, Robinson’s Anchorage, in Manasquan, New Jersey, from the time I was six years old. We lived on the property. That meant every time I opened the door, I was face-to-face with boat owners. I learned quickly what the wealthy expected, how to speak to people and how to show respect for an owner’s investment. It’s a fine line between taking care of a boat like it’s your own but understanding it’s not yours.”
Robinson made a career out of fishing from a young age. He mated for members of the Manasquan River Marlin & Tuna Club and others who docked at Robinson’s and nearby, baiting hooks for everything from fluke to blue marlin, seabass and small and giant tuna. By the age of 23, his career led him to a job as a mate on poultry giant Don Tyson’s Tyson’s Pride. Six years later, miles earned for a 100-ton Captain’s License, Robinson took the helm. First, it was Tyson’s 65’ Merritt, then a new 72-footer. They traveled the world catching and releasing billfish.
Keeping Up With the Community
“I met John Morris on Tyson’s Pride. He was a friend of Don’s and would fish with us as an angler. He and I became friends too. Later, my wife and I both worked on Tyson’s Pride. Then, she got pregnant. It’s easy to get caught up with all the running, the traveling and going after all the fish, but we realized it was time to change gears,” Robinson explains.
Robinson’s friendship with Morris led to a position at Bass Pro Shops overseeing the Springfield, MO-headquartered company’s Offshore Angler saltwater tackle business. The career was a perfect fit for someone who put tackle to the test on near granders almost daily for two decades.
“One of the biggest takeaways from my years as a captain is that I can communicate with the saltwater community authentically,” says Robinson.
Hands-On Know-How Pays Off
A young captain docked his 30’ Custom Island Hopper in a slip at Orange Beach Marina and sought out Beason, better known as “Mr. Jimmy,” for a recommendation. “He wanted to know what technician to call or what yard to go to. I told him the problem was his stuffing box. He didn’t know what that was. So I grabbed a wrench, and two minutes later, I had it snug. Problem fixed.”
A greater reliance on technology today doesn’t make hands-on know-how obsolete by any stretch, says Beason. The Savannah, GA-native started mating at age 12, ran landing craft boats in Vietnam while in the Navy and came home to run his own sportsfishing boats out of Destin and the Florida Keys. His travels on the helm included runs across the Gulf of Mexico with only a chronometer, no GPS and chart plotter, and a delivery from Atlantic City to Miami without any electronics.
“What I learned was to always do it the right way,” says Beason. “The captains in Destin were older than me. They were legends, and they were sticklers for detail. One thing that sticks with me is what one of them, Capt. Cloud (Andy Anderson), who ran the Cloud Nine out of Destin, told me. He said, ‘success in fishing doesn’t happen if you’re sloppy with parts. Or if you don’t know how to use them.’ Years later, I had friends that were over at Chub Cay. They broke down, and I told them to check with Andy. He was one of the first boats out of Destin to travel. Sure enough, he had what they needed.”
Learn Something New Every Day
Education never stops. That’s what Charlie Hazouri, a longtime sportfishing captain who now is a marine surveyor with Offshore Marine Inspections and Jones Marine Surveyors & Consultants, Inc., in New Orleans, LA, and beyond, has mastered over the years. In fact, Hazouri’s specialty in non-destructive survey techniques is something that led him back to school after the helm.
Hazouri’s first saltwater life lessons started in the late 1980s under the tutelage of his uncle, who ran a 54’ Stryker, then 70’ Stryker out of Cancun, Mexico. “We were an all-around deal,” says Hazouri, originally from Jacksonville Beach, FL. “We lived on the yacht, but we did fishing, diving, booze cruise charters, the whole spectrum. I learned about fishing, and how to serve and be cordial to guests.”
Captain’s license in hand, Hazouri helmed a couple of progressively bigger Strykers. The programs grew to include stewardesses as well as mates, cruising and cocktails, all while catching fish from the Northeast U.S. to the Bahamas, Mexico, and then off to the Mediterranean. It meant learning and excelling in everything from captaining to even cooking. The tide started to turn on Hazouri’s career trajectory when he took on dual roles as skipper and project manager on new builds and complete refits of a 73’ Donzi, 95’ Heisley and 132’ Horizon. After that, he undertook eight months of instruction to become a marine surveyor. For the last decade, he’s become a master at infrared thermal imaging of structures to find failures.
“My grandfather always said the poorest excuses were ‘I forgot’ or ‘I didn’t think.’ I learned my respect for the sea from him and my uncle and also that it’s important to learn something new every day. That’s huge,” says Hazouri.
Been There, Done That Knowledge
Respect, leadership. These are two lessons, Joe Dougherty, now a yacht broker for Palm Beach Gardens, FL-based MacGregor Yachts, learned from his sportfishing captain’s career.
“As a captain, I learned the invaluable skills of respect and leadership. These are essential to success as a team because every person respects each other’s unique abilities and has something to bring to the table,” says Dougherty, a Northeasterner by birth whose family moved to Jupiter, FL when he was young. He started mating, then took the captain’s chair by age 24, running boats out of Palm Beach County, before moving on to fishing in Mexico, Bermuda and throughout the Caribbean, concentrating on offshore billfishing in tournaments. “As a yacht broker, I carry over that same sense of respect for all parties involved in the search for a client’s dream vessel that I did when operating those same vessels as a captain.”
One of the whopper learnings for Dougherty has been the firsthand knowledge of many boat makes.
“My career as a captain provided me with extensive knowledge of all different models and sizes of boats, how they operate and how they perform under various conditions. This allows me to provide my clients with firsthand expertise and a professional knowledge base to assist them in finding the vessel best suited for their needs. It’s nothing they can get from simply reading a listing.”
Nets Are for Working
Like Dougherty, former sportfishing captain John Blumenthal brings a boatload of knowledge to his nearly two-decade career as a broker for United Yacht Sales. Based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL., Blumenthal, born an Aussie and raised a Kiwi, was a sailor first, before being bitten by the sportfishing bug in 1976 in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands. He vividly remembers the date September 27th, 1983.
“It was 8 a.m. in the anchorage at Lizard Island and we were listening to a live broadcast of the America’s Cup race on 4CA AM radio. It was the deciding race over in Newport, RI. It was also the start of black marlin season on the Great Barrier Reef. Australia won, breaking the Cup’s 132-year winning streak by the New York Yacht Club! We were so proud and jubilant and thought the day couldn’t get any better. It did. We set a record ourselves by landing the first grander of the season, a 1,220-pounder for our U.S. clients that same day.”
Today, Blumenthal’s network of cultivated customer relationships spans from Australia, New Zealand and the U.S., the latter of which he’s called home for 30 years.
“As a mate (‘decky’ Down Under) and captain, I had the opportunity to learn and hone my skills by virtue of an ‘around-the-clock’ apprenticeship. I was able to experience all aspects of boating. The depth of knowledge and experience that I was fortunate enough to acquire was invaluable. My clients love that I’ve run all types of vessels and know them from bow to stern. And it’s not only about finding the right boat and making the sale. I can help my clients set up places to visit and fish, having already done all of that in my career.”
A Career Change, but Not a Sea Change
Even though Blumenthal has crossed the line into a second career, he’s an excellent example of how it’s still possible to enjoy those “sea spray in your face, wind in your hair” days like when in the captain’s chair. “My client purchased a 64’ Viking in Cabo that was to be shipped from La Paz to her final destination in Miami,” says Blumenthal.
“Unfortunately, there was a shipping issue that delayed the delivery date for several weeks, much to the disappointment of the buyer. I suggested we make the 1,800-mile journey to Costa Rica ourselves and ‘chug on down’ to get the ball rolling. My client would then be able to fish Costa Rica on his new boat and then ship her back to the U.S. before the anticipated date of the delayed delivery. Two other captains along with myself and my son Andy crewed on the trip. Not only was it a great experience for the owner, but it’s a good example of going the extra mile for a client. Everything I have learned as a captain has definitely helped me as a broker.”