The smiling yachtsman on the opposite page has every right to be happy. He has just launched his $100,000 dream boat Eugenie VIII, the finest offshore sports fisherman that experience and money could make.
To Uncle Lou Marron ("We have no children, so adopt every kid we can find"), the 56-year-old, 200-pound chairman of the board of Coastal Oil Company of New Jersey, it marks the crowning achievement of a lifetime's fishing experience.
For half the year Uncle Lou is an oil man, with a passion for fast cars (he has an air-conditioned Cadillac town car, a Jaguar, a Lincoln Continental, a Cadillac sedan, a Chrysler Imperial and a Chrysler station wagon), but for the other half he lives to fish, averaging some 30,000 air miles a year to do just that. In the 30 years that he has been fishing he has caught more big game fish and won more trophies than any other man, and, what is even more remarkable, the same can be said of his diminutive ("I call her the Mighty Mite") artist-wife Eugenie, for whom he has just named his dream boat.
Mr. and Mrs. Louis Edward Marron, of New York, Brielle, N.J. and Palm Beach, would in fact rather fish than eat or sleep or work. No other man-and-wife team has ever come near to their achievements in the sport of hauling the biggest fish out of the sea. In the 30 years of their marriage they have fished the entire Western Hemisphere, as well as Iceland and the Kattegat between Denmark and Sweden, and have caught everything worth catching in the best place to catch it. Their specialty is giant tuna and the bill fishes (marlin, swordfish and sailfish), and Uncle Lou has three times been elected to fish on the American team in the International Tuna Tournament at Wedgeport, Nova Scotia. His favorite fish, however, is the swordfish—he claims it is the hardest to catch—for which he currently holds the world record, a staggering 1,182 pounds.
Along the way the Marrons have bought or built 16 boats, beginning with a 30-foot, 100-hp Chris-Craft in 1929. In those days there was virtually no big game fishing north of Florida. Then, in 1936, the giant tuna that had quietly disappeared from its old New Jersey feeding grounds suddenly came back. The Marrons were among the first to spot the great fish in their area. Catching a 600-pound tuna is like pumping up by hand from a water-filled Grand Canyon a double-decker bus with the doors open. Grown men have been known to faint in the process of it; inexperienced men confronted with the situation very often throw up. Uncle Lou excelled at the sport.
As invitations to fish poured in from all the big game hot spots, the fishing Marrons carried off more and more trophies, tournaments and records. And all the time they were constantly experimenting with equipment. Mrs. Marron remembers some of the experiments with misgivings.
"When it comes to boats, Uncle Lou takes over. He has these terrific ideas. When he does something, it's powerful, strong. It suits his nature. He wants 'em powerful, but at the same time fast and light so he can maneuver—and right there you have a contradiction. So we had 16 boats. Some were too heavy and didn't maneuver. Others couldn't carry the equipment. One, the Eugenie IV, we had to extend the stern four feet. After that we had a terrific boat. He wanted it short to be maneuverable. Then he put everything into it. It wouldn't move. It pushed down in the water and made a big wake, so we extended it to give it more buoyancy so she would have some get-up-and-go."
In the early boats there was no such thing as a fighting chair. For a substitute the Marrons rigged an office chair mounted on an iron pipe, with a beer box for a footrest. One rough Atlantic day, with a big tuna on the hook, Uncle Lou remembers, "The beer box broke up, smashed to smithereens, and I wound up fighting the fish on my stomach. I got the fish, but I was laid up for two weeks.
"We didn't have any refrigeration in those days," he went on. "It was all ice. And we didn't have any intercom or ship-to-shore radio. We were using homing pigeons to deliver messages to shore."
Having two expert fishermen in the same family and boat can and often does cause a temporary estrangement between the Marrons. "There's a crisis a minute," confesses Mrs. Marron. "We fight. You can hear us 17 miles away, fighting over how to catch a fish. The captains laugh at us—you can ask them. Uncle Lou is always telling me how to fish, and of course I'll have none of it. He's always getting under my feet. He won't give me any room. There's just no sense in it." Currently Mrs. Marron holds four world records (see box) and is writing a book soon to be published titled Albacora.
"Lou and I were among the forerunners in light tackle fishing—3 thread and 9 thread," she went on. "People said we were crazy and called it trick fishing." Whatever it was, Mrs. Marron went on to rack up some 12 records and Uncle Lou at least five.
In 1951 Uncle Lou suffered his greatest defeat. Fishing off Bimini, he tied into a huge blue marlin and, after an hour and 10 minutes' struggle, boated it. The world record at that time, held by Aksel Wichfeld, was 742 pounds, 12 feet 10½ inches long, 68 inches in girth, with a 48-inch tailspan.
Uncle Lou's fish was 13 feet long, 69 inches in girth and had a tailspan of 49 inches. But by some curious misfortune the commissioner could not be found to come and weigh it for over an hour. Uncle Lou's world-record breaker finally tipped the scales at one quarter pound less than the existing world record.
Uncle Lou has his own tackle shop set up in his 14-room Brielle, N.J. shoreside home. It is here he keeps his 200 rods, mostly custom-made, some 58 reels (seven of them $300 to $600 Fin-Nor reels); thousands of hooks of all sizes; tens of thousands of feet of linen, nylon and dacron line; hundreds of coils of cable and wire leader; giant spools of monofilament; boxes and drawers full of sinkers, swivels, teasers, lures and feathers; a 35-caliber Remington Game Master shark gun; two big drawers of rod butts and one full of 11 cameras.
Having reached the zenith in big game fishing, the Marrons are now turning to the science and mystery of the sea as their all-consuming hobby. They have provided the financial backing for and have taken part in a three-year study of bill fishes being carried out by the University of Miami's marine laboratory, and have been working with MIT scientists on the study of giant squid nerve fibers. The first assignment for their new boat will probably be a combined sportfishing-scientific venture for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to study the sounds made by whales. In the not-too-distant future they hope to make a fishing trip to China.
At the launching party for the $100,000 Eugenie VIII a friend asked Uncle Lou if he were not impatient to take out and try his new dream boat. "Well," said Uncle Lou, "remember how you felt when you kissed your first girl? How you looked forward to it and how it felt, that first time? And how you feel now kissing a girl? It's the same with boats. This is the 16th one I've built. You get used to it. But I hope this one isn't really perfect. Think how dull it would be if you had anything perfect. I look forward to the challenge every year, trying to produce something that's new."
BIG BOAT FOR BIG WATER
When the Marrons planned Eugenie VIII they were aiming for a boat that could carry nine people—six fishermen and a crew of three—across the Caribbean or out into the Pacific on a nonstop, five-week cruise. She had to be rugged enough to take the long swells off Chile, or the cross chop at Soldier's Rip off Nova Scotia. And she had to be big enough to hold the outsized freezing equipment the Marrons use in their marine research. But at the same time the boat was meant for fishing, so she had to get up speed quickly, and turn on a dime to get her stern clear of a runaway tuna that might try to cross under her keel and snap the fishline. By all marine traditions, this combination of virtues was impossible.
Like another famous seaman whose dream boat was shot full of impossible contradictions, Uncle Lou picked the right designer. Marron's man was Floyd Ayers of Bay Head, N.J., a builder of Jersey fishing boats for 35 years. Ayers gave Uncle Lou everything he wanted. To carry the equipment, they worked out a 54-foot 6-inch hull with a fat, 15-foot beam. They put in white oak frames every eight inches, double-planked the hull with Philippine mahogany, and covered the planking with plastic reinforced fiber glass. They gave her 28½ cubic feet of freezing capacity, and enough electrical gadgets, oversized bunks, gear lockers, etc., to bring her weight up to 20 tons, compared to 13 or 14 tons for an average boat her size.
For engines they picked a pair of 235-hp GM inclined diesels that give her power to move and fuel economy to carry her through a 1,000-mile cruising radius. Finally, Ayers worked a little alchemy on the bottom, designing a compromise between the carrying capacity of the conventional V-bottom and the buoyancy of the conventional round. Forward, just at the waterline and below, Ayers reversed her full curves to let her slice cleanly through the water. The result was a superb contradiction—a boat with weight, beam and power that nevertheless moves and handles like a 30-foot skiff. She is, in fact, a fisherman's version of Carleton Mitchell's fat, fast yawl Finisierre (SI, June 18), as Uncle Lou discovered one night six weeks ago as he lay in bed reading SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S story. When he came to the paragraph on Finisterre's fine waterline and good speed despite her weight and extreme beam, he shook Mrs. Marron awake. "See," he said, thumping the magazine. "That's what I mean. That's what's new in boats."
Everything a fisherman needs is built into Eugenie VIII. Her cockpit, with only 36 inches of freeboard to make gaffing easier, has a live-bait well, a refrigerated fish box and spotlights for night fishing. There is a quick-access ladder that allows the captain at the topside controls to be down in the cockpit in five seconds, literally, to grab the wire leader when a fish is brought alongside. The deck house is light, airy, uncluttered by dual controls, since the Marrons found a second wheel unnecessary. The owner's cabin is wider and more comfortable than the staterooms on many a liner; and on the foredeck Mrs. Marron designed a chrome-railed lounge that can be made up as a double bed for sleeping out on hot tropic nights.
bottles (dotted lines)
23 Radio cabinet
24 Electrical switchboard cabinet
25 16-hp. auxiliary diesel for compressor and bilge pump
26 Five-ton compressor for all refrigeration
27 235-hp GM inclined diesel with aluminum head
28 Settee berth with drawers beneath
29 135-gal. center fuel tank
30 Port bank of four 8-volt batteries (dotted line)
31 Live-bait well
32 270-gal. port fuel tank
33 2-ft. white oak keel aids stability, protects prop. Draft, 4 ft.
34 2-in. Monel shaft for port propeller
35 Heavy cast-bronze V-strut
36 25-in. port propeller with 30-in. pitch (3 blades)
37 1-sq. ft. cast-bronze port rudder
38 Worm steering mechanism with bronze shafting
40 Fish roller
41 Teak transom with white oak frame
42 Port fishing chair
43 Gaff and gear storage locker under side deck
44 Chrome bronze rod-holder on coaming
45 Salt-water tap
46 Refrigerated fish box
47 Port side 50-watt cockpit floodlight
48 Chrome bronze hand rail
49 Sliding door to deck house
50-in. sliding Solex (tinted glass) windows
51 Bridge seat with storage beneath
52 Reversible backrests
53 Radio antenna
54 200-foot and-fathom depth recorder
55 Wheel and steering mechanism
56 Bendix automatic pilot
57 Radio direction finder
58 Sea water temperature
60 One-mile-beam searchlight
61 Metal-framed windshield
62 Fiber glass-covered mahogany plywood deck house top
63 35-watt auxiliary ship-to-shore phone
65 18-ft. tube aluminum lookout mast with two-man crow's nest
66 White anchor light
67 50-candle-power port spreader light
68 Deck sun lounge and double berth
69 Cooking gas storage
70 Outboard storage
71 Aluminum hatch to owner's quarters
72 Fiber glass-covered mahogany crown flush decks
73 Aluminum hatch to crew's quarters