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    Memories of John Crouse
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    Icon/Founding Member Top Banana's Avatar
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    I just finished my move from Montana back to Florida for this winter and I noticed a notebook John Crouse had given me just before he passed away. John was affected by Alzheimers in his last days and some of his writing was repetitive, but he always dreamed of doing a second book after SEARACE. He already had a title for it...The Legends. This notebook contains his writings for that book. With the permission of the Serious offshore community, I will share some of these stories over this coming winter.

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    The Legends, was intended to be the stories of the people themselves. SEARACE was the stories of the actual races, with mentions of the people. John found that there was a great interest in the real people behind the race story. So to honor my friend John Crouse and to keep his memory alive a little longer, here are some of the stories of the people that began modern offshore racing.


    Don Aronow who stood 6 foot 3 inches, had a 5 foot 6 inch riding mechanic by the name of Knocky House. Knocky had a knack of keeping his bosses engines running and that played a major role in the many races they won. One time in Italy, they were preparing to put the new 32 foot Cary in the water. The name of the boat was The CIGARETTE. The race was the Viaregio - Bastia - Viareggio and one of the dock workers was trying to shake Knocky down for some extra cash to lower the boat into the water. Knocky smiled and went back to tell Don what was going on. Don walked back to the dock worker and pushed the dock worker off the dock into the water. He then calmly climbed up onto the crane and promptly lowered the boat into the water himself.

    Knocky was an Olympic wrestler as well as a Navy diver who worked on some of the damaged ships in Pearl Harbor right after the December 7, 1941 attack. During the Miami to Nassau race, the 27 footer that Aronow and Knocky was racing, the boat exploded and caught fire just three miles from Nassau harbor. Don yelled at Knocky and told him to stop bleeding because there were sharks in the water.
    Last edited by Admin; 11-14-2013 at 08:15 PM.
    Light travels faster than sound....that is why some people appear bright until we hear them speak!!
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    Founding Member Bobcat's Avatar
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    More please !
    Today’s Democrat party is closer in ideology to Lee Harvey Oswald than JFK
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    Charter Member old377guy's Avatar
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    Thanks Charlie
    People we meet in life are either a Blessing or a Lesson
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    Founding Member / Super Moderator Ratickle's Avatar
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    Really cool information.
    Getting bad advice is unfortunate, taking bad advice is a Serious matter!!
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    Competitor / Contributor jetcruzr's Avatar
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    Yeah, this stuff is "Gold". Love to hear these stories. More Please!
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    Great stories. Thanks for taking the time to type it out and share. Hope for more.
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ID:	76730Thanks and I appreciate the fact that people still like to hear the old stories.

    As many of you know, John Crouse was the voice of offshore racing through his column in Powerboat magazine. Not many know that he was actually on a winning Miami - Nassau race boat back in the 50's. Here is the story of that race in John's own words.

    Sam Griifth was the modern era of offshore powerboat racing's first hero as he and world famous yachtsman Dick Bertram won four of the first five Miami - Nassau races, the last two in revoluntary Ray Hunt designed deep vee MOPPIE and GLASS MOPPIE hulls!

    I was doing PR work for Dick Bertram's prestigious yacht brokerage firm and was the boating editor for the now defunct MIAMI DAILY NEWS when I first met Griffith in 1956.

    The following year, 1957, I would ride with he and Bertram in the 34' wooden Enterprise hull DOODLES III in my baptism of fire to offshore powerboat racing.

    Although as a second year Midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, I had crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the giant battleship MISSOURI in the worst storm in 13 years, it wasn't even close to the pounding we took that day on our way to Nassau.

    Arriving at the docks that morning with a blue suede jacket on and clutchig my portable typewriter, I had no idea what I was in for.

    Immediately after leaving the docks in Miami and heading out the Miami Ship Channel, Sam reached up and yanked the wires out of our boat's radio speaker. When I asked him why he did that, he answered...."so they can't call us back." The race rules at that time called for cancellation of the race if the winds were less than 10 knots or more than 18 knots.

    They were actually much more than 18 knots. By the time we reached the middle of the Gulfstream they were blowing 40 knots and on top of that we had a blinding rain storm that dumped over 4 inches of rain on us that day.

    Oh yes, my world class seaman friends didn't have any lifejackets out and having just come out of the boatyard at 4 that morning, the boat didn't have enough rope cleats either. Looking forward to reaching Bimini which was about 50 miles as the seagulls fly, I anxiously awaited getting my feet on something that didn't move and going to a rest room. I didn't get the chance to do either.

    After some commands from Sam, three huge natives loaded three 330 pound drums of high octane aviation gasoline in the back end of the open deck and we took off. Never safety conscious and with an attitude that there were always special angels hovering over him, Sam just hit the throttles and we were back in the race.

    Meanwhile the fuel drums started to dance around as we climbed and fell off the giant waves. Another crew member and myself, after a frantic search, found enough rope to make a half ass attempt to secure a thousand pounds of fuel drums and ourselves.

    Lying on the deck by the tramsom was the 57 year old owner of the boat, Oklahoma oil man Jim Brueil Sr., who kept groaning...."don't break up the boat Sam," a sorrowful plea which Sam ignored.

    The course was from Miami to Bimini, crossing the treacherous Gulf Stream then over the mile deep tongue of the Ocean then on into Nassau. About halfway over the Tongue of the Ocean, Sam slowed the boat and attached a wobble pump into one of the fuel drums, handed me the fuel hose which he had inserted into the fuel tank opening alongside the forward cabin. My job was to keep the nozzle in the opening, which was a bitch since every time the boat dropped off a sea my arm came down hard on the edge of the cabin!

    I was made all the more nervous when I realized that any fuel spilled over could possibly fly down into the big V8 engines under the deck which were now exposed after the plywood hatch covers had popped loose.

    Somehow, after 10 hours and 42 minutes at sea, we arrived in Nassau where we learned we won the race. Our average forward speed was only 17.2 MPH! The bad part was we spent much of that time dropping off mammoth seas generated by the 40 knot winds! I would ride in another Nassau race 4 years later but this time under ideal sea conditions in one of the new fiberglass Bertram 31' deep vee that took only half the time of the '57 race.

    When I finally got into my room at Nassau's Pilot House after the '57 race and took my blue suede leather jacket off I discovered I was dyed blue from my waist to my Adam's apple. I tried everything to remove the color, but it stayed that way for about a week.
    Light travels faster than sound....that is why some people appear bright until we hear them speak!!
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    Icon/Founding Member Top Banana's Avatar
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    I think that I will do a little editing on this one and leave some names out to protect the innocent.

    Once upon a time in Europe at one of the races, a European racer who was very wealthy invited the American teams to attend a party he was giving on his large yacht that night in the harbor. Everything was going fine and everyone was having a great time until a launch pulled up to the yacht and the owner's wife got off and came up the gangplank.

    Apparently she was a bit miffed that the owner was giving the party with his mistress in attendance rather than her. When she arrived at the party deck, she pulled a little sliver pistol from her purse and began waving it at the mistress. Someone took the gun out of her hand and threw it overboard.

    Faced with a situation where she began to become a joke, the wife followed the path of the gun and threw herself overboard from the third deck up, where the party was being held. It was quite a drop to the water level. Everyone stood there shocked to have witnessed this surreal event. Don Aronow finally broke the stunned silence when he dove over the side and proceeded to save the woman's life. Remember he was the head lifeguard at Coney Island beach when he was growing up.
    Light travels faster than sound....that is why some people appear bright until we hear them speak!!
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    Charter Member old377guy's Avatar
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    People we meet in life are either a Blessing or a Lesson
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    So Cool! Thanks again, Charlie!
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    Founding Member fund razor's Avatar
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    These stories are a gift beyond price.
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    Busy week last week, I was at both the Key West races and the OFF meeting up in Tavares. Had a great time at both and saw a lot of old friends and made some new ones.

    There was a guy who tried to make some kind of documentary movie at OFF and he sat a bunch of us down to tell him stories of days gone by. Sammy James started telling the story of one of the Gold Coast Marathon races. The Gold Coast Marathon was a race from 79th St in Miami to Palm Beach over the waters of the intracoastal. You could pretty much bring anything and they would find a class for you to run in.

    Sammy had a hot new flat bottom inboard with a big Chrysler engine in it. He said he caught a good start and had some clean water and really took off. He had run about 3 or 4 miles and looked back and didn't see anyone closing on him, so he started settling down and began to work on his acceptance speech for the awards ceremony. The next thing he said was his goggles had fogged up and looked like they were covered in water....they were. Odell Lewis and Johnny Bakos had two of the new Switzer Craft wing boats with the latest from Kiekhaefer's Mercury outboards and they just passed Sammy on both sides of his boat at the same time.

    Odell said they got a late start and he and Johnny tried to stay together until they got to some clean water. After passing through most of the fleet carefully, they finally got clear and had some room to run these new boats. They both opened up the throttles at about the same time and they could just feel the boats lift up off the water and start to fly. This wasn't an exageration, the boat design actually lifted the boat up and the only thing that was in the water were the lower units of the outboards. The wing worked just like a wing on an airplane and goave a lift to the boat.

    They saw a coupleof boats out ahead of them and quickly passed them and then there was just one....it was Sammy. When they realized who it was, they ran on either side of him real close and ended up covering him in spray from their boats. Sammy said he just saw his goggles fog up and by the time he got them clear again, all he could see of those two boats were rooster tails going around a bend in the waterway.
    Light travels faster than sound....that is why some people appear bright until we hear them speak!!
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    Icon/Founding Member Top Banana's Avatar
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    Sammy also told of the race in Key west when he was runing a new 38 foot Beertram and Jack Stuteville was his throttleman and they were leading on the last leg of the race back towards Key West. In the old days the course ran from Key West out to Dry Tortugas and back. An area known for producing big water.

    Ther was a research ship out there from NOAA and they had all kinds of ways of documenting wave heights and current flows etc etc. After the race Sammy got a hold of them and asked what the seas were in that area. The report came back that the seas were running 18 feet with occasional waves over 20 feet.

    Now look at the picture here...double click so you really see it ....and notice the exhaust water spray....the boat is on the way down....Sammy said that was an unusual wave and it was big. When the boat landed again it cracked along the chine and the water started coming in. They had about 30 miles to go and they kept it going and were running all the bilge pumps to keep the water out. They won the race and when they tied up to the dock to get the trophy, the Governor walked over to mak the presentation. Sammy jumped off and ran to find one of his crew to get the boat out of the water before anyone notices it sinking.

    So they get the trophy from the Governor and have their pictures taken while the crew is movng the boat back to the lift, Sammy turns aroudn the see the boat with a few inches of freeboard left and the boat almost onplane in the harbor. They made it and no one ever said anything about the boat. I asked what he did with the boat. He laughed and said....I sold it to Preston Henn! When ever we damaged a boat Preston would buy it cheap and fix it up and run it. We had a nice little chain of control going there. Preston always made the boats stronger after I finished with them, so it was good.

    Gentlemen......this was real open ocean offshore racing. If we old guys sound like we are whining because of the style of the new "offshore"racing....you make the comparison and see if you think they are the same.

    Taking nothing from the racers of today, they would race anywhere, just the organizations that promote the new style racing....they have really lost something.
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    Last edited by Top Banana; 11-14-2013 at 12:34 PM.
    Light travels faster than sound....that is why some people appear bright until we hear them speak!!
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    This is great stuff, Charlie!!

    I, for one, really appreciate you taking the time to share.
    Thank you.
    "Keep the bottle on the bar Ira, I won't be long".
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    Great stuff
    People we meet in life are either a Blessing or a Lesson
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    Today’s Democrat party is closer in ideology to Lee Harvey Oswald than JFK
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    My autographed copy of Searace is something I will always be thankful for. What an amazing writer and historian of the sport. As Charlie chats about some of the notes John left him for the second book, which I believe we should work on publishing, I'd like to pass on an article I remembered from back when John passed a couple years ago. I actually believed it summed up the guy pretty well for such a short announcement.

    Passing of a legendary powerboat writer
    • Fri, 16 Apr 2010
    • Ray Bulman
    American powerboat writer, John Crouse, has died from a fall after suffering Alzheimer disease over the past three years. He was 79.

    A larger than life character he was involved with modern offshore powerboat racing almost from its start in 1956. A close friend of the legendry Sam Griffith, he became custodian of the Sam Griffith Memorial Trophy which remains the official award presented annually to World Class I Offshore Champion.

    He was one of the pioneers of the sport in the US both as a promoter and journalist whose monthly column in the American Powerboat Magazine was avidly read by everyone connected with offshore racing. His most famous work was Searace, an enormous tome on offshore racing listing short reports and results of the majority of events held world-wide since the late 1950s.

    He regularly campaigned against what he felt were poor rules giving an advantage to those with the largest cheque book. He also took on the many contestants in America paying for their sport via drug running operations; a notorious law-breaking career for many offshore powerboat crews in the 1960s-80s. He refused to compromise his campaigning style of journalism.

    John took a break from writing but later came out of retirement with a controversial column distributed by subscription via his own website. Once again, it caused resentment when he accused certain race organisers of corruption. It resulted in a court action for libel. Although the case was later dismissed he withdrew entirely from the sport so ending his journalistic career for good.


    Read more at http://www.mby.com/news/451053/passi...rZBoQ8AixzH.99

    Charlie can tell us a lot more about his friend of so many years, but this little summation of what John stood for says a lot. A special personal thanks to Charlie for passing these stories on, plus an great big offshore thanks to John for bringing us this history of the sport. RIP and thanks for the memories.
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    Charlie,

    I don't suppose you had a chance to stop by the Swap Shop? Preston's 962 and 935 are there.
    He also has some of his offshore trophys on display.

    Jeff
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    Icon/Founding Member Top Banana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anchored View Post
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    Charlie,

    I don't suppose you had a chance to stop by the Swap Shop? Preston's 962 and 935 are there.
    He also has some of his offshore trophys on display.

    Jeff
    Actually I have not. Now that I will be in Florida for the winter, I will make the effort to get over there. Once the two boats teams, cat and deep vee, started coming into offshore, some of us left for the endurance racing world of IMSA. Preston and Sandy Satullo were the first, I came over later in the 80's. Those guys had moved up through the smaller classes and were now running top classes. But I started in the smaller class of Firehawk Endurance IROC Camaros. We have some photos on the banana boat co website www.bananaboatco.com Look under racing, go down through the boat racing and you will come to the car racing.

    When I was ready to move up to a bigger Porsche, it was at the Sebring race. Preston had won the Daytona 24 hour race that year with Aj Foyt driving for him. He had a 962 and I was looking at some used models of that race car. I can still remember it as if it were yesterday...Preston and I walked over to the Porsche supply trailer as he needed a new alternator for his 962. Yes, they said they had the part and the cost would be $5,000.00 We looked at each other and I decided right there, I didn't need this kind of overhead to have fun.

    I sold my Firehawk cars and put down a deposit on the new Porsche Carrera Cup series that was coming to the USA. A couple of months of delays and Porsche pulled the plug on the series in America. So thanks, I will make the time to get over and visit with Preston and see his cars and trophies.
    Last edited by Top Banana; 11-15-2013 at 11:48 PM.
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    Charter Member h2oMag's Avatar
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    Charlie after Jeff [anchored] & I left the so called Worlds @ Key West last week we went on our own offshore reality tour. Our first stop was @ Magnum to see Harold & where it all started, very cool.. Next stop was to see my old friend Mr Sheer Terror Bob Sheer @ his Hacker boat dealership in Ft Lauderdale, it's a nice place next to the old Harbor One. Bob had some more great stories of real offshore racing like floating in a life raft for many hours after the LONG SHOT Cig sank in a South America race. A Russian freighter pick them up only to have them stay on board for many days till they made there port, how would today's racers handle that ???? When you are in Florida stop by and see him he looks good, better than I thought he would after all he been going through lately. Mark
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