Two by Sea

“Barry!” Ed Butler barked. “Come over here!”

This was the summons I’d learned to respond to on cue.

“I need you to go to the white church. I’ve got a delivery coming in from Don Aronow. I need you to lead the guys to Stanley’s.”

To say my curiosity was piqued would be an understatement.

Don Aronow was the powerboat racing legend, and the most successful powerboat builder of all time. I knew Ed Butler and his brothers knew him personally, and had visited with him in Miami. But nothing prepared me for what was about to arrive.

Two brand-new Toyota FJ Land Cruisers pulled up. One was towing a 28’ Cigarette SS and the other was towing a 27’ Magnum Starfire.

The Cigarette was bright red and white with a red and white interior, teak and holly deck in the cockpit, and a pair of big 350 horsepower Mercruisers. The Toyota pulling it was red and white with the Butler family nautical flags on the front doors.

The Magnum was yellow and white — as was the Toyota pulling it, of course — with the same power, but without all the fancy trim. This one was made to go fast. Magnum Starfires were built on the same hulls as the Cigarette boats, but were cut down to the bare bones, with no usable cabin. The idea was simply that it would go like hell.

I led this impressive caravan to Stanley’s Boat Yard, almost out of my mind with excitement.

Have I mentioned that the gasoline running through my veins was drawn to toys that ate up salt water just as much as to those that tore across asphalt?

Ed Butler had my number. He was a tough guy to work for, demanding an impossible 110% in all areas.

But here’s the thing I’ve realized with age: for those of us enthralled with things that go fast, it’s not really about the cars or the boats or the motorcycles or whatever.

I mean, it is, sure—but not entirely.

It’s about finding your people. It’s about connecting with those who share your particular passions, the folks who understand why the jolt of acceleration or the feel of wind drawing tears from behind your sunglasses gets your pulse racing. It’s about feeling understood, spending time with people who really “get it.”

In Ed Butler, I found a man who got it. There were many sides to him, and he had one hell of a temper, but the part I connected with instantly was the big kid playing with the world’s most expensive toys. He did with his fortune exactly what 18-year-old me would have done: he had an absolute ball.

Tearing around Narragansett Bay in that Cigarette racing boat gave me the thrill that made me willing to be at Ed Butler’s beck and call 24/7.

And of course—he knew it.

Next week: Favorite Son

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The legendary Don Aronow

The legendary Don Aronow

Not Ed Butler's boat...but close. You get the idea.

Not Ed Butler's boat...but close. You get the idea.

Can you even stand how sexy this boat is?

Can you even stand how sexy this boat is?