Tag Archives: Florida Keys

The Legend of Captain Sonny

My wife’s birth father was named Sonny. She never knew him very well, as he left when she was very young. She can barely remember him, but she’s searched for his legacy throughout her life.

Sonny was a fisherman and boat captain. Early on, he ran an offshore boat out of Ocean City Maryland. Kim would spend her vacations at the beach trolling the marinas and fishermen bars looking for him, or someone that knew him. She never picked up his trail.

Then one day when she was twenty, she got a call from law enforcement in North Carolina. Sonny was dead. Could she come to identify his body? She didn’t know what he might look like at this point, but she went. She saw him there in the morgue and collected his meager belongings.

The picture below was in his stuff. The identity of the woman is unknown.

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Two years ago, we decided to look further into the life of a man neither of us knew. We knew that he had fished out of Bud & Mary’s Marina in Islamorada. We traveled to the Keys aboard out boat and began our research. At Bud & Mary’s we learned the names of a few guys that had fished with him years ago. One of them was still fishing. He was based out of the LoreLei these days and lived on Plantation Key. We tracked him down.

John Kipp was good friends with Sonny back in the 70’s and early 80’s. He knew a lot about Kim’s father. We also found another friend, Bert Rogers. Sonny worked on Bert’s father’s boat for ten years. The two became good friends and stayed in touch over the years. The two of them provided us with a picture of the man.

He wasn’t cut out for marriage, and obviously shirked his duties as a father. Though he did keep a worn picture of Kim in his wallet. He was a fishermen and boat captain. That was his life. He could find the fish. He could run any kind of boat. He won the very first White Marlin Open in Ocean City.

He’s on the right:

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Even after he moved to the Keys, he returned each year to fish the White Marlin Open, which is now the richest billfish tournament in the world.

For a while, he made it work. He paid his slip rent on time at Bud & Mary’s and put up with the tourists. Finally, hard living caught up with him. He suffered a massive heart attack while commercial fishing for tuna out of Oregon Inlet. The boat was loaded with yellowfin. He was in his young forties.

His friends hinted at drug use and maybe a few stints at smuggling. Every story highlighted his ability to catch fish and handle a boat. That’s what he did. That who he was.

On one occasion, Sonny and John Kipp were hanging out with some “ladies” who invited them to a party on a sailboat in Coconut Grove. They arrived to find that the boat’s owner was David Crosby of Crosby, Stills and Nash fame. Crosby brought a young friend who played guitar and sang some songs. No one had ever heard of him at the time, but his name was Jimmy Buffett.

Sail on, Captain Sonny.

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Key West: Tequila, a Pinch of Salt and a Quirky Slice of America

A gem of a book by Jon Breakfield is what this is. 

What would you do if you were on holiday and your better half said ‘Let’s not go back’? Would you stay? Would you stay if staying meant giving up everything back home in the UK to live on the backwater island of Key West, Florida? Come with me to this oddball, bacchanalian corner of the world where anything goes, the closest major city is Havana and where my wife and I lead an eye-popping, adventure-filled life until it is all ripped asunder by a catastrophic hurricane. KEY WEST: Tequila, a Pinch of Salt and a Quirky Slice of America is a lyrical portrait of a couple from the UK integrating themselves on a startlingly picturesque, joyously wacky island that is more Caribbean than it is American. More neurotic than it is sane. More corrupt than it is law-abiding. And more prone to hurricanes than it should be. This book is a celebration of life, love and adventure—an enchanting account of a couple who weren’t afraid to jump off the hamster wheel and have a go at a dream.

It’s an honest look at a quirky island that puts you right in the scenes and right next to the “characters” of Key West. A very pleasant and engaging story about Jon and his wife who do what many of us, especially Parrotheads, would love to do – just ditch it all and live on Key West.

As many of you know my wife and I ditched it all and moved onto a boat, so I just had to get this book. I was not disappointed. 

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Buy it at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Key-West-Tequila-Quirky-America/dp/0985639806/ref=pd_sim_b_1