I grew up in Florida most of my life. When you’re a kid there are always events in your life that you remember. These are pinnacle moments that shape you and these events even bleed over into your adult life. These moments in time are forever etched. My father was a Chief Boatswain Mate in the United States Coast Guard. There were two aspects of life that my father really loved, one was running boats and the other was fishing.
This one weekend my parents and I decided to fish offshore on a shipwreck that my dad knew about. This wreck was further than we normally went offshore, however the weather was perfect. We owned a 24ft Hydro Sport and plotted a course approximately 38 miles off the Tampa Bay Coastline. In all it would take us about one hour and thirty-five minutes to get out there. I was very excited because I loved fishing wrecks and being a kid, if I wasn’t catching fish or driving the boat it would be the worst vacation ever!
We got to the wreck, low and behold there was a 55-foot Hatteras already there with lines in the water fishing. The wreck was 150 ft barge so there was plenty of room to fish for everyone. It would be common in some cases to find up to six boats fishing the same wreck. My dad anchored us on the opposite side of the wreck to give as much space as possible to the other guys fishing. One thing my dad was good at was fishing, whether we were trolling with a ballyhoo rigged for marlin or bull dolphin, he knew how to bring them up. Since we pulled in, the other boat hadn’t even touched a fishing rod, however we could see the three guys onboard drinking beer and pacing back and forth. After my dad rigged our rods, my mom and I were reeling up Amberjack, and a few grouper.
This wreck had proven fun for our family, however, our neighbors who were drinking and who also seemed pretty drunk did not find the same happiness for our success. In fact, the climate rapidly deteriorated and the yelling started, to the point that my dad told my mother and I to ignore them and not say a word. After my mom brought up another sixty-five-pound amberjack, that’s when the yelling got worse and more violent in tone. Then they started their engines and started raising their anchor. My dad immediately told us to start reeling in the lines and told us we were leaving.
What I never told you in the beginning of the story was our boat was having carburetor issues and was a bear to start. Now since we’re marking time you've realized we’re running out of it. It doesn't take that long to move a 55ft Hatteras. My dad told me to get up on the bow, which is the front of the boat, and raise the anchor as he started the boat, but yet again no joy. I was trying to break the anchor free, but the anchor needed the engines to maneuver the boat to do it and it wasn't starting.
I pulled my knife and opened it, my dad wouldn't allow anyone on our boat without a knife in case of emergencies. He didn't expect people to bring one he just expected them to wear the one he gave them just in case. (My dad’s the kind of dad that I wish wrote a book on life because it would be a best seller) My dad saw I was about to cut the anchor line when he said, “Stop! Go down below and get my 45 out of the cabin.” I was 16 at the time and had been shooting competitions that last year and doing really well, so I was always in charge of packing his gun.
My heart rate spiked, I remember going from the bow and jumping the window like I was doing hurdles. The yelling was getting more violent and they were now on the move. I grabbed my dad’s old Remington 1911, 45 caliber gun, and handed it to him. He chambered a round and tried to start the boat again, but no luck. My dad told me to throw him a rag from below, which he used to cover up the gun with his hand on it. I’m not going to lie no one was coming to our rescue, whatever was going to happen, was going to be over in the next 1 minute and 30 seconds.
That day, my dad was my mom and I’s secret service detail. My dad was his own special agent in charge of his family. He told us both that no matter what don’t move or say and word. I knew my mom could handle the don’t move but my mom had a mouth like a sailor so that part scared me. With my mom and I on the opposite side of the boat and my dad in between us and the other boat, which had pulled up about 2 feet off of us. They were all screaming at us and my dad told the guys very calmly that we were leaving and having engine problems. I remember watching them and they looked like they wanted to jump on the boat to hurt my dad. I watched my dad’s hand tense up thinking it’s about to get loud.
These were big belligerent drunk guys that were being violent towards a family. Somewhere they lost their morale compass but were about to set course off the planet un be known to them. Through constant submitting on my dad’s part, that he was by no means obligated to do, they backed up and the roar of the engine fired up. Those guys don’t understand, probably to this very day, the only reason they are alive is because of the grace of God and my dad. I jumped on the bow and raised the anchor and we blasted out of there. Throttles down, balls to the walls.
There was an island that my mom and I loved to swim at with crystal clear water and lots of cool shells to collect. My mom was swimming and I was eating a sandwich, so I asked my dad because I was curious, what he would have done if one of them would have stepped on our boat. He calmly stated “I would have killed all three of them” and then gave me a pat on the back and told me I had done a good job today. He said, failure to commit would have resulted in possible loss of life for my mom and I, which wasn’t acceptable. I asked even the guy driving the boat, he said he was as much a part of the event as everyone else and could of have chosen another course of action. He wouldn't even give him a chance because it could again result in the loss of our lives.
What YOU Can Take Away
There is a small difference between excellent and elite, however, for those that strive for it, work for it, fight for it, my mom and I needed my dad to be a leader. We needed him to be elite, we needed him to be our protector. Leadership comes in many forms whether its leading a company, business deal, a field trip for children, military operation, law enforcement operation, search and rescue, or teaching a class when an active shooter starts hurting people. Nothing is more precious than life. You can recover from most everything else unless lives are on the line. You might have a lot of hard days, but never any bad days, unless lives are lost. My dad was a husband and a father that day, he was prepared to make the hard decisions.
We all think what would we do if? However, there is what you wantto do and what you haveto do, and they are generally very different. When others are counting on you, if it’s one thing I’ve learned, don’t second guess and fully commit!