A Big Fish Painter,
Amazon Boating, And Law Enforcement Goes Deep
Guy Harvey — The Midas (And Michelangelo) Touch
Art, science, research, angling, conservation, diving, and now resort management, courtesy of a partnership in the Big Game Club in Bimini — years ago the name Guy Harvey ceased to belong to just one man. Instead it's morphed into a mega-brand in the marine consumer industry. "Very much so," agrees 10th-generation, Jamaican-born Harvey, in his slightly British accent (an overthrow from his schooldays there) at the suggestion that he's as much product as person these days.
The fingers in many pies, he says, are largely because of his scientific background. His undergraduate degree is in marine biology and his Ph.D. is in fisheries management. "Not many people cross both those disciplines but everything begins with the art," from which, still, his heart and most prolific output stem. "If you were to ask me which comes first, it's definitely the art. It's what generates all the income by which you can conduct the science."
The self-taught painter started out drawing cattle and tractors on his father's Jamaican beef farm before progressing to the fish he'd catch at the coast 20 miles away. As a small child, he'd go with his father in their 26-foot dugout canoe carved from a tree trunk. "Bamboo outriggers and an outboard engine, that was our 'bus' for catching fish," he recalls. "It was the boat of choice in Jamaica for many decades until fiberglass hit the scene."
When he was 14, Harvey graduated to a 13-foot Boston Whaler, inherited from a cousin. "I did a lot of diving and caught a couple of marlin and a lot of wahoos from that. I had that boat all the way through university, right up until about 1994, when I finally got a 26-foot Dusky. I still have that boat."
Three years ago he got a 28-foot Scout, which resides at his home in Grand Cayman. "Here we don't have great distances to go, and I've a lot of diving and near-shore fishing to do. It's deep close to shore so you can catch blue marlin here right off the beach."
In 1985 while teaching at a university, Harvey depicted Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea in a series of 44 original pen-and-ink drawings and displayed them at an exhibition in Jamaica. The result was a hobby morphing into a profession. In 1988 he started painting full time. By then he had a contract with a T-shirt company in Fort Lauderdale. "I'd tested the waters with a couple of art shows in Fort Lauderdale and Miami and was pretty certain this would go. I'd a lot of support from people in Florida, not by way of investment, but good assistance from people in the business. So it was just a matter of putting my head down and getting on with it," he says.
That's what Harvey's been doing virtually every day of the past 25 years, with huge success and at hurtling speed. The day we talked, he was catching a flight to Nassau to meet with government officials about protecting their shark resources. Just a day previously, he'd gotten back from a six-day documentary shoot on the spawning aggregations of grouper in Little Cayman; two days later, he would head to Jamaica for work, and at the end of the week to Los Angeles for a fishing and trade show.
A typical day when he's home is spent painting. "I work from around 7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the studio, painting, doing administrative work, or fielding phone calls, then I go to my gallery for a couple of hours. There are always people to meet and I'll do a little work there, too, in between customers. Then it's back here by at least 2 p.m. and I work right through to the end of the day. After that I'll take some form of exercise, play squash, or take the dogs for a walk."
While Harvey says good business sense and a great backroom team have been a large part of his success, the rest he attributes to good old-fashioned hard work. "I don't know anyone, apart from [Robert] Wyland [fellow marine artist and sometimes collaborator], who works as hard as I do." And with that we imagine he put down the phone and picked up his paintbrush.
The Babineaus — From Boys In Blue To The
If David Babineau sounds like he's bragging when he says, for instance, "We have a pretty doggone good life," he can be forgiven. Mostly because he's probably right. David and his wife Cheryl retired from the San Jose Police Department to a life in Santa Cruz, California, that revolves around the water. He's a divemaster and licensed captain, and she builds fishing rods under the trade name Alibi Custom Rods, but they each take part in the other's business.
"Most of the people in our line of work, they'll go back into the District Attorney's office. Or private investigator, or the sheriff's department working as a bailiff or a federal marshal or that type of thing," David says. "We decided that while we were raising a family and pursuing our primary career, we had put things off, so we went in an entirely different direction."
The Babineaus met 32 years ago, as dive partners, and celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in 2010. When Cheryl retired in 2001, she took a class in rod building, and talked the instructor into taking her on as an apprentice. A custom rod can take about a month of labor to produce, but it's usually longer as she waits for the customer to make decisions about a hundred different details.
"I think every rod builder will tell you this," she says. "You really need to get a lot of enjoyment out of it, because if you break it down by the hour, you're probably making – what do you think, Dave – about 10 cents an hour?"
He laughs, but declines to put an hourly figure on craftsmanship.
"We're producing something that should last a person's lifetime," he says, then qualifies it a little, "as long as they stay away from ceiling fans and car doors."
They've led dives in Fiji and the Galapagos Islands, and in March, they're headed for Cozumel, but nearby Monterey Bay remains a favorite dive spot. They spent two-and-a-half months of 2010 cruising Mexico in their 28-foot Grady White Sailfish, fishing and spearfishing for most of their food, and anchoring in secluded coves and islands off the Baja coast.
Back in December, they were working to get fishing rod orders done in time for Christmas, and gearing up for a new challenge — teaching SCUBA to disabled divers. They've already worked with a school for the blind, diving with a blacked-out mask obscuring their vision to understand what the students would experience, and next they'll be working with a diving program for disabled veterans. In between, they'll find time to fish, or catch Dungeness crab for themselves and their neighbors. When they get back from Cozumel, it will be time to catch Humboldt squid — for food, bait, and donation to a biology program at a local high school.
"We spend a lot of time on or under the water," David Babineau says. "We've got a wonderful life."
— Published: June/July 2011
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Joe Diaz — On The Fly On The Mighty Amazon
BoatUS member Joe Diaz had to lay up his pride and joy, Spanish Fly, at the Riverfront Marina in Monroe, Michigan, when he volunteered to work in South America on a medical-research mission. But that hasn't stopped him from doing what he loves best — getting out on the water — whether it's Lake Erie or the Amazon River.
Water, the fresh, salty, or drinking kind, is very important to Diaz. The retired Navy man, and former mayor of hometown Carleton, Michigan, served in the mine forces in Vietnam, driving a 172-foot minesweeper. In 1982 when he was ordered back on active duty, teaching small-boat combat operations to the Navies, Coast Guards, and police forces in Central and South America and the Caribbean, he'd rent sail and powerboats in his time off to keep up his recreational boat skills.
The only mission where he couldn't get out on the water was when he was sent to Iraq in 2004. "We were too far from the river and the only water I got to see there came in trucks!" he says. So when Diaz retired from the Navy after 40 years in 2007, and bought his 27-foot Sea Ray Spanish Fly, he was looking forward to peaceful cruises on Lake Erie, strictly for his own enjoyment. Except he'd made a promise to his friend, fellow boater, and comrade in Iraq, Captain (and doctor) John Sanders, that he'd volunteer for three years setting up a project to help move medical supplies and personnel throughout South America.
In 2009 he set off to Peru to work out the logistics of the program. Much of the program's transport is done by water and every time Diaz takes doctors or scientists into the Amazon rain forest, he uses whatever watercraft is available — and even manages to fly the BoatUS flag! "I've navigated seven rivers down here, including the Amazon River, in everything from high-speed powerboats to slow moving 'peki-peki' (local wooden boats). I've even gotten to take the helm of a Peruvian Coast Guard boat, and a wooden dugout canoe!"
Besides his "day" job, he's taken on other personal projects that mostly involve water. He's fixed the water system for a town's health center and installed a water tank and cleaned the cistern. He's repaired a diesel generator in another local town, and in yet another he's run a fresh drinking-water line and helped build a couple of houses. He's also started to build a clinic in Puerto Maldonado, Peru, near the Bolivian and Brazilian borders. His volunteer time doesn't officially end until March 2012, but he still dreams of the day he'll be back on his own boat.
"It's been great but I'm looking forward to getting back to Michigan just in time to get the Spanish Fly from her storage and getting every day of boating season on my own boat."
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