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  1. #1
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    "Letters from Heaven" Miami 1960's 70's and 80's

    After reading Steve's notes and stories from Lake X I think its time to record some stuff from the boat racing scene in South Florida from the 60's
    I was only around and racing for about 5 years, but some of the guys I met back then are still some of my best friends today.
    I am still in touch with:
    Butch Stokes: a top racer and one of the best Mercury mechanics in Florida.
    When Carl K came to town, Butch would work on his boats ,even with the Lake X guys along. Butch's wife Treasure was the most famous female driver back then. She and Rosmary Young were both Raveau drivers and were also the two best looking ladies in the Miami circut. \
    Butch has a great memory of this period and I am sure we can get him to add to the discussion.
    Oliver Land: Oliver was the man, when it came to props. He could never make up his mind if he wanted to live in Florida or Georgia. He was also a great driver and now lives in Columbus Ga.
    Jimmie Sewares: Jimmie was a Power Cat driver. All of the young guys wanted to be like Jimmie. He was the Fonz of the OPC racing in Miami.
    Dave Craig: I have not been in contact with Dave, but several of my buddies have and he is doing great and lives in central Florida. Dave owned Skyway Marine and was Carls right hand man in So. Florida.
    When something new came out, Dave got to race it even before the Lake X guys! Butch worked for Dave as a teenager and got to test drive all the cool boats like twin bubble Powercats with speedmasters and stacks.
    Dave was also World Champion Water Skier in the mid 50's and along with Dick Pope Jr, invented barefoot waterskiing. Dick's father owned Cypress Gardens where he and Dave worked, so guess who got the credit.
    Barry Evans: Barry had a new 14 foot Raveau and I had a Merc 500. Several times we teamed up with my motor and me driving. His boat was really fast and when we got together we did pretty good until a race in the Miami Marine Stadium. I used to practice starting and got pretty good at leading at the first turn. With Barry's boat , I jumped to an incredible lead over the pack. Going down the backstretch I was already celebrating my win, when the next thing I knew I was swimming! The steering cable snapped turning the motor fully to its stop in a micro second. The boat did a complete barrell roll throwing me out and coming out upright! Its a good thing I had a big lead or I would have been run over by the pack. Barry is still kicking and lives in Texas.
    Some of the other name from back then are:
    George Griley: George and I were good friends until he passed away last year.
    George was one of the great characters back then. If anyone watched the "Wedding Crashers" That was George and Dave in the old days!
    Both had at least 3 to 4 girls friends at the same time.
    Stories to come in the Future!
    Herb Reeves The guy to beat in the 50 HP OPC
    Jimmy Watkins Herbs buddy and also a great 50 HP racer
    Tommy Sheldon Ran everything from OPC to 280 Hydros. I heard from Butch that he is still involved in vintage race boats in Florida.
    Rees Schmidt Got a Switzer wing from Dave Craig, Like to drink, have fun with the guys and drive his boat every once in a while.
    Don Pearson: Don worked with Butch at Dave's Skyway Marine. Don became one of the best mechanics also and went to work for Jack Wilcox Engine's building Race Engines mostly Chevies. Don and I became best friends, but I lost touch with him when he went to work for Ryder Trucks years ago. If anyone knows anything about him I would appreciate getting it.
    Phil and Rosmary Young: Phil owned Young Electric. He also owned about 6 boats. Rosmary, Treasure , Richie Baiz, Butch Stokes and Fred Click all drove his boats during the sam time period in the early 60's
    Fred Glick: Drove a outboard for Phil Young and worked with another of my best friends Richie Baiz.
    Richie Baiz. I knew Richie in highschool before I started racing. He was skinny as a rail and about 5'6" tall. He was not only a great driver he became one of the best boat repairmen in South Florida . He was also a great guy and very funny. We were friends from the late 50's until around the early 90's. I had just found out where he was, when I found he had recenly passed away.
    Boy, I would just like to talk to him one more time.
    Steve Malone: Steve was just a teenager when his dad got him a twin cat.
    Steve won almost everything for a year or two before he was twenty. I saw him a few years after I quit and he had gotten hurt very serverly in a tunnel boat blow over.
    Art Deroaches (sp?) Art owned a big machine shop in Miami.
    He race several different cats including the Raveau cat that I got hurt in.
    That happened labor day of 64 and I still have the scars and stiff leg.
    Art Wahl aka "Bugger Red" : Red raced different OPC classes and got hold of the Powercat Hydro driven by Chuck Merceau to set the Outboard Drag record in California around 1962. Bugger tried to get Carl to give him some engines, but Carl would not as Bugger was not known as the best driver.
    He got hooked up with Scott. They had a new race motor that was supposed to be the Holy Grail of Outboards. Red raced the 9 hour in Miami and the boat went about 40MPH. It was so slow, I think Scott pulled him out and left with their tail between their legs. The motors were removed and the boat was dumped in the woods next to George Griley's duplex, where it stayed until Richie and I dragged it out, modified the bottom and popped a mold off of it.
    Marcel Raveau: Every once in a while Marcel would come to a race. He was a little French guy and was one of the best craftsmen in the boating world. He could build a 14 foot Raveau from scratch in a week! When I first started he would charge around $325 for a boat completed and painted.
    That all of the names I can remember from Miami, but I have a great scrap book and I will get it out in a couple of weeks and review.
    Of course being in Miami and hanging around Skymarine (I would have to hide from Dave as he didn't want too many guys around to keep real work from going on) we met and saw Odell Lewis, Bill Sirois, Johnny Bakos and so on.
    Charlie Wolff known as Leonard back then
    Last edited by velox; 01-17-2010 at 08:30 PM. Reason: change Title
    Charlie

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  3. #2
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    Welcome,and please tell us more.Stories like you have make this website great.

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    On the initial post I said more to come about George Griley.
    George and Dave Craig were room mates in the early 60's ,so George was able to get hold of good equipment.
    In 1962 or 63 Dave and George both had 14' Bubblecats with Twin merc 800 and Speedmaster equiped.
    These thing were an accident waiting to happen!
    To get on a plane you had a hand pump to a large plate between the motors on the transom. After pumping the plate down, you got onto the front deck and laid down on your stomach with your feet pointing forward. Steering with one hand you worked the throttle with the other. After giving the engines full throttle and possibly steering back and forth the thing would cavitate like hell.
    You could hear the sound start to change as the boat would begin to plane.
    At just the right time you slide back into the cockpit and turned the valve to release the plate before you nosed in. This was quite a sight and everyguy watching dreamed of the chance to drive one of these rigs.
    One of the biggest races of the year was the Sam Griffin Gold Coast Marathon . If you won this race you were "The Man". Everybody that raced entered almost every year. The race ,held mid summer and started on Saturday went about 60 miles in the Inland Waterway to West Palm Beach.
    Saturday night was party night, and I mean party!. The race continued, headaches and all on Sunday heading back to Miami.
    There were around 200 boats and numerous classes from guys with a kitchen table powered by a small outboard up to 7 liter inboard hydros.
    This thing was a real happening.
    Now for the story about George
    On trip to West Palm George did pretty good and had an excellent chance of winning. In West Palm the race starts in a calm area of the Inland Wateray and stays that was until a short streach in Ft Lauderdale. After that you come into Biscayne Bay for about 10 miles. Biscane Bay can really get rough if the winds are blowing , which is almost everyday.
    On the return trip George is leading the race when he gets to Biscayne Bay. Everybody that ever drove a Bubble cat knew if you ever pumped the plate down you would nose in. Everyone that ever drove a bubblecat thought they were the one guy that could just give it a pump or two in rough water to keep the nose down. Everyone that ever pumped the plate down found out that they were not the guy to get away with it.
    Guess what George did in rough water leading the famous Gold Coast Marathon and tasting victory?
    Damn, how did you guess?
    When he nosed in at around 85 MPH he broke the boat in half. The complete nose for the first 6 feet was GONE!
    The Ride Guide steering was still there but just barely.
    To this day no one knows how George got this thing back on plane, but he did. George continued the race and came in second overall!
    Now for the good part.
    Pelican Harbor had a long boat ramp ending up at the entrance road to the club.
    After George finished the race he made a large circle and headed for the ramp full bore. He hit the ramp slid about 100 feet up it and ended up in the middle of the entrance road. He then calmly took off his helment got out of the boat , lit up a cigarette and headed for the bar leaving the boat where it sat for the next hour or so. Every newspaper guy around was in the bar interviewing George.
    I don't know who won that year
    Last edited by velox; 09-24-2006 at 10:34 AM.
    Charlie

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  6. #4
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    Velox, those post are just to long for a bunch of gear heads!!!
    “The bitterness of poor quality & service remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”

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    Sorry, I will try to shorten them or write faster!
    BTY I design build Competition Aerobatic Airplanes and one of them was lost at Lake Norman a couple of years ago in spectacular crash!
    Luckily the pilot Dan Macann a close friend of mine survived.
    Charlie

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    Great stories

    Velox, I think your stories are great and not too long. Keep them coming. Any length. There wasn't any womanizing going on in those days was there. Thanks. Smitty

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    Quote Originally Posted by velox
    Sorry, I will try to shorten them or write faster!
    BTY I design build Competition Aerobatic Airplanes and one of them was lost at Lake Norman a couple of years ago in spectacular crash!
    Luckily the pilot Dan Macann a close friend of mine survived.
    I herd a rummor about that!
    So it's true!

    Plane still in the lake?
    “The bitterness of poor quality & service remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”

  10. #8
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    Thumbs up

    http://www.powercatboat.com/race/GC_64.html

    Charlie:
    Check out the photos at the link above....
    ( got these from Butch )
    Danny Leger
    Austin, Texas

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    Dan was over the lake doing full power flat spins. He did 17 turns when he remembered the water. He had drifted over land with the tall trees and did not have enough elevation to fly out. He put the plane into a nose straight up attitude a nd applied full power. He held the plane in that position until the plane hit a hanger, riping the engine and most importantly the fuel tank off.He and the rear of the plane flipped over the hanger and landed just outside while the fuel ignited the inside. A couple of guys ran over and pulled him to safety with only minor injuries!
    It made national news for a couple of days.
    Check out my website www.veloxrev.com to see what kind of airplane it was.
    Charlie

  12. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Powercat
    http://www.powercatboat.com/race/GC_64.html

    Charlie:
    Check out the photos at the link above....
    ( got these from Butch )
    Danny Leger
    Austin, Texas
    Hi Danny,
    That's me in George Griley's Bubblecat.
    I borrowed the engines from Phil Young.
    They were Merc 700's and were completely frozen just a couple of days before the race.
    I got one to turn by pouring oil into it. The other was so frozen I pulled it apart and rebuilt it. I was working part time for Dade Marine and they had a crankshaft. I worked all night rebuilding the engine with what ever parts I could dig up.
    Without any testing I ran the race and the engines never even coughed!
    The boat could only go about 70 MPH at the most. Ran wide open the complete race and averaged almost the same as the top speed.
    Came in about 6th or 7th overall out of around 200 boats.
    Not bad for a 22 year old college kid with absolutely no money and a borrowed boat and engines!
    Charlie

  13. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by ssmith007
    Velox, I think your stories are great and not too long. Keep them coming. Any length. There wasn't any womanizing going on in those days was there. Thanks. Smitty
    For all of the real young guys like Richie Baiz, Don Pearson, Butch Stokes and I ,there certainly wasn't any womanizing because Dave Craig and George Griley had the market cornered.
    Both of them had numerous girl friends and female admirers. They were in their early thirties and had lots of money. The young pimple faced guys, that were broke could only watch from the sidelines!
    Both of them dated girls our age. The girls would hang and flirt with us, but when Dave or George snapped their fingers, they would jump and walk away from us.
    George had the most girlfriends , but Dave had the best looking ones.
    George did not care too much ,how good looking they were as long as they were young, willing and able.
    The fun would begin when more than one of the girls George was dating would show up at a boat race at the same time.
    During a race at the Miami Outboard Club, my future wife was using the facilities, when she heard two girls talking. One of them told the other that she and George were engaged, the other said BS, George and I are engaged.!!!
    Within seconds a real cat fight broke out with fists, hair pulling and screams,
    My wife just hid in a stall for about 10 minutes until the fight was over.
    Of course George had them both back in a week or so!

    www.veloxrev
    Charlie

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    Stories

    I love stories like that (LOL). I also love the story of the student who borrowed everything and stayed up all night to rebuild one of the engines and finished strong. Man you gotta love that. Probably left several high budget teams scratching their heads. Thanks for the stories and keep 'em coming. Smitty

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    Quote Originally Posted by ssmith007
    I love stories like that (LOL). I also love the story of the student who borrowed everything and stayed up all night to rebuild one of the engines and finished strong. Man you gotta love that. Probably left several high budget teams scratching their heads. Thanks for the stories and keep 'em coming. Smitty
    Smitty, Thanks for your interest.
    The very next year was even better.
    Richie Baiz and I shared a shop in Miami. We were so poor we had to scrape together the $100/month to pay the rent. To save money Richie lived in the front office and bathed outside with a garden hose.
    We both loved the Switzers so much we stole (I mean Borrowed) The Red 3 point Powercat Hydro that Chuck Merceau used to set the world record for outboard drag boats. It had been in the bushes next to George Griley's duplex for about 6 months. I designed it into a 4 point Hydro and he and I did the modification. We borrowed George's Speedmaster/Merc 100's and entered the 1964 Gold Coast Marathon.
    I drove the first leg from Miami to West Palm Beach finishing about 5 or 6th overall.
    After we got to West Palm, I was talking to Odell Lewis when Carl Kiekaffer walked up. Carl would fly over the race to watch how his boats were doing.
    He asked Odel "who the hell was driving that red hydro?" Odell told him I was. Carl grabbed Odell by the shoulder and stomped off, not saying a word to me. Carl did not even want a non factory boat to beat one of his, even if it was Merc powered! It seems he watched from his plane as I beat one of his fiberglass Switzers driven by either Bill Sirios or Roy Riggel(sp?)
    What Carl never knew was, he had paid for almost everything I was racing.
    Chuck Merceau was a Mercury driver and Carl had paid for the boat.
    The engines were comp'ed to George and the Speedmasters were given to George when we visited Lake X the year before. The Steering and fuel tanks also came from "the Lake". About the only thing Carl had not paid for was the trailer and fuel.
    After that day Carl would never talk to me. His drivers were all great guys and most of them idolized Carl, but I saw the other side of him
    Boy , he reallywould have been pissed if he knew he had paid for everything I raced that day!
    Charlie

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    http://www.powercatboat.com/race/GC_65.html
    Charlie:
    Well that would be this one I guess...
    ( link above )
    Danny Leger


    Quote Originally Posted by velox
    Smitty, Thanks for your interest.
    The very next year was even better.
    Richie Baiz and I shared a shop in Miami. We were so poor we had to scrape together the $100/month to pay the rent. To save money Richie lived in the front office and bathed outside with a garden hose.
    We both loved the Switzers so much we stole (I mean Borrowed) The Red 3 point Powercat Hydro that Chuck Merceau used to set the world record for outboard drag boats. It had been in the bushes next to George Griley's duplex for about 6 months. I designed it into a 4 point Hydro and he and I did the modification. We borrowed George's Speedmaster/Merc 100's and entered the 1964 Gold Coast Marathon.
    I drove the first leg from Miami to West Palm Beach finishing about 5 or 6th overall.
    After we got to West Palm, I was talking to Odell Lewis when Carl Kiekaffer walked up. Carl would fly over the race to watch how his boats were doing.
    He asked Odel "who the hell was driving that red hydro?" Odell told him I was. Carl grabbed Odell by the shoulder and stomped off, not saying a word to me. Carl did not even want a non factory boat to beat one of his, even if it was Merc powered! It seems he watched from his plane as I beat one of his fiberglass Switzers driven by either Bill Sirios or Roy Riggel(sp?)
    What Carl never knew was, he had paid for almost everything I was racing.
    Chuck Merceau was a Mercury driver and Carl had paid for the boat.
    The engines were comp'ed to George and the Speedmasters were given to George when we visited Lake X the year before. The Steering and fuel tanks also came from "the Lake". About the only thing Carl had not paid for was the trailer and fuel.
    After that day Carl would never talk to me. His drivers were all great guys and most of them idolized Carl, but I saw the other side of him
    Boy , he reallywould have been pissed if he knew he had paid for everything I raced that day!

  17. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Powercat
    http://www.powercatboat.com/race/GC_65.html
    Charlie:
    Well that would be this one I guess...
    ( link above )
    Danny Leger
    You are right Danny, thats the boat. Richie and I are standing next to the boat at Pelican Harbor on 79th st in Miami.
    Richie is the thin guy on the left I am the handsome guy on the right.
    Note the great start we made!
    Those are 125 MPH 266 Hydros just catching us at the 125 th St Bridge, about 5 miles from the start.
    I had a special Gold Coast Starting system and led the race for the first few miles almost everytime I ran it.
    Charlie

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