Meet the Humans of the Keys

Meet the Humans of the Keys

Monday, June 13, 2016

Captain Jim Sharpe Jr., Cudjoe Key

“This year, I will mark my 40th year living in the Keys. My parents moved my sister and I to the Keys in 1976, when I was 10 years old from North Miami. We lived in Big Pine for a year or so while we built a house on Cudjoe. I grew up on Cudjoe Bay. I went to school here, graduated from Key West High School, and did 2 years of college down here. I went away for college and came back to work in the family charter boat business.

Most of my memories are on the water, that’s what I did. I shark fished as a hobby, I commercial fished, crawfish trapped, stone crab trapped, and fin fished for yellowtail snapper and grouper, all with my dad. I have done just about every type of fishing in the Keys.

In 1981 we ventured into charter fishing. My dad was a mate on Pier 5 in Miami back when he was a boy, about 10 – 12 years old on a boat called The Sea Boots. My dad called Buddy Carry the owner of the original Sea Boots’ and asked him if we could use the name for our charter boat. He was fine with it, so our first charter boat was named Sea Boots.

I charter fished for about 25 years, through high school and college, getting married and all. I got my captains license at 18, as soon as I was old enough! I moved from the cockpit to the bridge in May 1985.

The September after I earned my Captain’s license I caught a blue marlin, the exact same weight as the largest blue marlin Earnest Hemmingway ever caught, 468 lbs. My first marlin as a captain!

I have caught 5 spearfish along with many other billfish. Spearfish are common in the Pacific, but rare in the Atlantic. It is estimated by the International Game Fish Association that it takes an estimated 30,000 hours of trolling to get a shot at a spearfish; I have caught 5 and had a 6th one on a few weeks ago, but pulled the hooks.

Fishing in the Marathon sailfish tournament I had one of my best achievements I have in my fishing career to date. We caught an estimated 180 pound Blue Marlin on 12 lbs. spinning tackle. That was a great catch.

I have pulled, probably, 200 – 250 Cuban refugees off the water and got them to the Coast Guard.
My dad beat me with numbers though. He cheated I would tell him; he found a tugboat with about 80 people on it!! I always tease him about that!

I have had so many adventures and unique experiences on the water, but my most memorable is finding the Cuban refugees; when you back up to these Cuban refugee boats or rafts made out of just about anything and these people are just so sea sick, dehydrated, starving, scared, with eyes as big as saucers, and they don’t know what to expect from us. It just gets burned into your memory. We would throw them food and water as we contacted the Coast Guard. That is what was most memorable; to see people escaping communism and risking their lives leaving their families behind to go across 90 miles of water; some of the most treacherous water in this hemisphere. You don’t ever forget those faces.

I received a couple accommodations from the Coast Guard for helping with the Cuban refugees. One of the letters was from a 14 foot boat we found with a 2 cylinder diesel in it; there were 12 people aboard; they were slowly making their way towards the Keys. We were out in 750 feet of water when we found them, just outside the 12 mile limit. We started throwing them water and food and I asked them if they were ok. They told me there was a lady on board about to give birth. I relayed that to the Coast Guard but they were coming out of Marathon so it was going to take them about an hour to arrive. We fished around the refugees until the Coast Guard arrived. During that time I noticed a man on board that seemed to be in charge; he was a lot more aggressive than anyone else on the boat and he was dressed in fatigues. I had seen enough refugees to know this was unusual behavior. I relayed this information to the Coast Guard; he was not the norm. The Coast Guard boat had 5 guys on the bow as they approached the Refugees. They went back into the cabin and came back out in full military garb with assault weapons. They took that man off the boat first and got a medic on board for the pregnant lady. They called for a medi-vac for the lady; she wasn’t doing well. We never found out what happened; the last communication we heard was she wasn’t going to make it. The guy I cued on being not your normal refugee turned out to be Cuban military. That is what I got the commendation for.

I got out of charter fishing and got into construction and real estate. About 10 years ago I went into real estate full time with my wife Beata with Coldwell Banker Schmit Real Estate Company. The fishing industry was changing; and it was time for me to make a change. I still enjoy fishing and being on the water, but now it’s just for fun”.

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