It's "That Time"

by Capt. Gene Chrzanowski

FishMonster Magazine- Capt. Gene Chrzanowski

68! Used to be that number only had meaning to me because it was the year I turned 20 (i.e., I was no longer a “teenager” and, at least in the eyes of the law, I was on the verge of becoming an official “adult”). Now, however, that number has become something even more significant. It’s my damn age!! In that regard, anyone who tells you that age is “just a number” may not be giving you full disclosure. It’s definitely also, at least for most people, a state of being. Sure is that for me!

I’ve had many experiences in my life – most of them very good or better, and just a very few not so good or worse. Fortunately, the former far outweigh and overshadow the latter, but I’ve tried to learn lessons from all of them. One of those lessons is that I’ve seen family and friends who didn’t want to accept the reality and limitations of aging try to do things that not only were foolhardy but, also, a danger to themselves and others. Because of that, I had a discussion with our mate, Jerry Pope, sometime after I turned 65 and became that dreaded thing known as a “senior citizen.” I asked him to please let me know if he ever saw me becoming “that guy.” I guess it’s the former liability defense lawyer in me, but I have just always tried to take the safety of others, including our customers, my mate, our boat and, yes, Captain Gene himself, too, very seriously and give it precedence over profit concerns or personal wishes. Jerry promised me at that time that he would do so, but also swore to me that he hadn’t yet seen any sign of that happening and had never felt concerned about my ability to do my job fully and capably.

Speaking of Jerry, I’ve mentioned in previous articles and discussions with friends that I’ve won the lottery several times in my life. The three biggest jackpots were all on the same date – October 22,1948 – the day I was born healthy; the day I was born in the USA; and the day I was born to Stan and Jean Chrzanowski. There were other big occasions, however, when I also feel I won substantial lotteries as well. One was on March 23, 2005, when I was just plain lucky enough to be looking for a charter boat when the old “Fatal Attraction” was for sale in this slip and I was smart enough to buy it. Another was when I replaced the “Fatal” with the “High Class Hooker” on December 16, 2010. A third definitely has to be August 31, 2013 – the day Jerry Pope first came to work on this boat.

Each one of these three events has helped make the last twelve years of my life as happy and as rich as they could possibly be. I’ve awoken with a smile on my face every day, and I can’t say enough about the role that Jerry has played in that. I never got married or had kids, but if I had one and he grew up to be like Jerry, I’d be damn proud. If he married a girl like Susanna, that would just be icing on the cake. Not only is he a GREAT fisherman, it’s sheer pleasure to work with him. I never have to worry if he’ll show up. He loves what he does and that translates to everyone who comes in contact with him on and around our boat. Our customers all love and respect him and it’s an absolute joy to watch the way he deals with them – especially the younger anglers. Every time I hear him speak with those customers and potential new ones, I swear that it is me talking, as I hear the same things I would say, often said better than I, myself, would say them. 

So, while I’m kind of sad that I’ve made a certain life decision, I’m also very happy with the ultimate result to which that decision will hopefully lead. After some careful thought and soul-searching, I’ve decided that it’s the right time for this 68-year-old charter captain to turn the “High Class Hooker” over to someone young enough to do the job the right way--someone who will want to, and can continue to, offer the kind of personalized fun fishing experience our customers/friends have come to expect and enjoy. 

It became apparent to me in the last several months that my aging body just isn’t capable of providing the quality service our customers deserve. The old eyes don’t see a hundred yards ahead what Jerry sees a mile away, so I probably miss signs of fish that younger eyes would detect. The old bones dread crawling in and out of our cramped engine room space to do necessary maintenance, which means I may start to not do it as often, or as well, as I used to and/or should. Also, the aches and pains that activity and the activity of daily living create, probably distract my attention from being as focused on finding fish as I should be. 

While none of these things have yet made me incapable of handling my duties and responsibilities, I’ve come to realize that such time is definitely fast approaching and the time for transition should be sooner rather than later. If that is the “bad news,” the “good news” is that a big part of this decision is that Jerry has indicated to me that he and his wife Susanna want to buy and keep running the “Hooker” to our same high standard of service and they feel capable of doing so at the present. Nothing would make me happier, and I think that all the repeat customer friends we have developed – many of whom refer to us as “family” and vice-versa - will be the ultimate beneficiaries. That makes this decision almost a “no-brainer.” I’ve already told Jerry that I would do whatever I could to make such a deal work, and I’m confident that is what will happen over the next few months. I also told Jerry that I would be more than willing to stay around and lend whatever assistance I could for as long as needed, through what will hopefully be a very smooth transition period, and we are both looking forward to continuing to work together in that regard for the foreseeable future. 

So, that’s the “latest news.” I hemmed and hawed about the best way and time to alert our friends and customers about this anticipated development, and just decided that this made the most sense, as it would get the message out to the greatest amount of people in the shortest time possible. 

To all those customers who have said that they consider me to be a close friend and/or family, this is no time to be sad, and nothing would please me more than for you to look forward to beginning to, or continuing to, feel the same way about Jerry and Susanna. I hope that they will be the first ones you think about calling for your fishing charter needs and honestly believe that you will be totally pleased if you do so. If that is my ultimate “legacy,” I’ll consider my 12 years here a total success. Also, to all those same people, thank you from my innermost self for making this last 12 years the amazing “E-ticket ride” it has been. If you guys had just half the fun enjoying the service we provided as we did in providing it, you had a blast. I hope to stay in touch with as many of you as possible and will always look forward to having a beer or three with any of you so inclined to do so. That’s what friends and family do, right?




Capt. Gene Chrzanowski
Capt. Gene Chrzanowski

Author

The “High Class Hooker” is docked in Key West at the A&B Marina, 700 Front Street. You can find Capt. Gene on the web at keywestclasscharter.com



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