Captain A. A. Whiticar, with his wife, Kate, and family, began their "snowbird" activities in 1917. They had three small sons, I, Curt (George Curtis) was the oldest at the age of 6, Johnson in the middle, and Jack was the "baby." We boys grew up starting school each year in New Jersey, migrating to Stuart around October, then going back to finish the school year in the spring in New Jersey.
Dad was in the commercial fishing business in Stuart, and at the time, there were no charter boats available for the northern visitors who came for their vacations during the winter. As the tourist industry developed, a man named Irving Bonbright begged Dad to take him fishing. Dad kept refusing, giving him reasons such as, "There is no room in my boat," "I have no chair for you to sit in," This is a really bloody, messy business," and "I know you would hate it." Finally, to get him off his back and because he offered to pay him a lot of cash, Dad agreed to take Mr. Bonbright out for a day with him on his commercial run, and, well, Mr. Bonright loved it!
As the commercial fishing became less profitable, Dad went into the charter fishing business. My two brothers joined him, and after my short career with the Western Electric Company, I decided to make it a complete family business. We named ourselves "The Whiticar Fleet," and at one time, we had a total of seven boats.
The picture to the left shows the "catch" from one day of charter fishing with a boat in the "Whiticar Fleet." The picture on the right shows Dad and his three sons, Johnson, Curt (me), and Jack.
Although sport fishing included many kinds of fish, the Stuart area became famous as the "Sailfish Capital of the World." Some other boats also offered charters in the area, and we formed "The Stuart Sailfish Club" as a branch of the Chamber of Commerce. We designed a flag for members of the club to fly from their boats and then decided to offer a citation and a button, in the form of a small pin, to those who caught sailfish. I designed the pin, and we actually offered three pins to represent three different sizes of sailfish caught. This was good for business; however, many people brought the fish in for photographs. In order to encourage a release program, we decided to make another more expensive button for releasing a sailfish.
This pin was very successful and as a result, the club was going broke, so, we decided to give the citations and allow the purchase of the button for those who caught the sailfish.
We operated our fleet of boats for many years, interrupted by WW II as I went to Detroit to build sub chasers, Johnson joined the Coast Guard, and Jack served in the Navy. Although I eventually went into building boats as a fulltime career, Dad, Johnson, and Jack operated their boats until they each retired. Dad retired at the age of eighty-six from this many years as a charter boat captain.
The picture below shows the fleet during the "heyday times" when we had seven boats in our group.
Both the Maritime and Classic Boat Museum of Florida (www.mcbmfl.org) and the Stuart Heritage Museum (www.stuartheritagemuseum.com) have displays of memorabilia from The Whiticar Fleet.