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Seasoned sea captain passes through Captiva

By Staff | Nov 25, 2009

In the early hours of the day a couple of weeks ago, the sun casting its first rays of morning light onto Pine Island Sound, Dave Jensen of Jensen’s Marina spotted an unusual and altogether unexpected vessel tied up to the docks – a tugboat.

On a mission to deliver the somewhat dilapidated little tug from South Carolina to New Orleans was Captain John Squarisich, a Louisiana native, who had tied up at the docks over the course of the evening looking for fuel.

“As the sun rose, I stood on the dock looking up at the wheelhouse of the

tugboat, carrying on a conversation with Captain John. He had a great

voice and a way with words. Soon a crowd of fisherman and early morning

manatee seekers started to gather. He shared some of his life’s philosophies with us and then departed,” Jensen said.

‘Though he experienced his first unofficial captain’s gig as a 10-year-old standing on a stool steering a commercial vessel looking for oysters, Squarisich has been navigating the waters of North, Central and South America as a professional boat captain for 35 years.

“I’m supposed to be retired. But I don’t believe it because I’m working harder now than I was before I retired!” Squarisich said with a laugh.

Squarisich considers himself a true mariner, at home on the sea.

“This is a trade you basically have to be born to. True mariners really love their work,” he said, adding that most mariners have a natural ability when it comes to working their way through the water.

“When you get the saltwater in your veins it’s hard to get it out,” Squarisich explained – even when the mission is dangerous or seemingly impossible, like braving horrendous weather or delivering machinery in secret.

“I would take jobs that a lot of people would turn down, but I looked at it this way: if there was a 25 percent chance I could make it, I’d do it. I’ve done quite a few risky things People say, ‘Man, you’re crazy.’ I say, ‘No, I’m adventurous,'” chuckling in retrospect at his own tenacity.

“People would not believe some of the things I’ve done. I would take these jobs and, a lot of times, I don’t even know if I even thought about what the probability of my success would be,” Squarisich said, adding that with the help of a few prayers and “150% concentration,” he always made it through.

“It gives you a rush you can’t believe. Makes your whole body tingle when you pull it off. I’m under extreme pressure when I take these real dangerous jobs. It really makes me come alive.”

But to call Squarisich reckless would be completely inaccurate.

“I’ve always got an alternate plan. If something happens, I’ll mull it over and mull it over and I don’t rest until I come up with a solution. A bunch of little mistakes can gang up on you and make one big mistake, but I always correct my mistakes if I’m able to.”

And just as Squarisich relies on his own quick wit and abilities, he places perhaps the most value on his crew.

“I can’t do these jobs without the crew around me. I’ve never got a man hurt on my crew in my 35 years. I watch them. And I tell them they have to watch each other’s back,” Squarisich said, evoking the acronym for TEAM: together everyone achieves more.

And how did Squarisich’s latest delivery mission compare to decades of adventure?”Piece of cake!

“I’ve been to a lot of places and met some pretty good people. I’ve met some real swell people on this last delivery trip. They have renewed my thinking to where I know there’s still good people out there,” Squarisich said, adding that he’s getting ready to make his way down to Central America for a commercial fishing expedition.

But, even when he’s working, Squarisich is always ready for a good laugh.

“Cajuns love to have fun and they love to joke around. We like having a good time. We do get serious, but we enjoy life.”

So how long can we expect Squarisich – who is just as much a witty philosopher and incredible storyteller as he is an experienced captain – to continue on in his series of adventures?

“Well, I’m like that rabbit – if the battery holds up, I’ll keep on truckin’!”