Some men dream. It might be of cruising around the world in search of a monster marlin. Or, it might be of taking a victory lap through the harbors of Freemantle after winning the America's Cup. Or, it could be riding cross-country on a custom-built Harley motorcycle with a beautiful woman at their side. Then again, there are other men who live their dreams - and these are just a few of the dreams come true lived by Stuart, Florida-based Jim Edmiston.
Born and raised in the Midwest, Edmiston started his career working in sales and marketing for companies such as the National Biscuit Co. and Hines. After that, he became a self-made entrepreneur.
"I visited my parents one Christmas when they were living in California. We went swimming on Christmas Day, and coming from Chicago, that was really cool. So, I moved to Los Angles and joined the family business of manufacturing the equipment used to make swimming pools. Back then, you could buy a pool for $3500 and everybody wanted one. This was the boom time of the 60s and 70s. Everyone had a house in the suburbs, kids, dog and pool."
Edmiston's love of fishing started early. "There was a picture on the wall of our home of me at age 5, standing along the shoreline of Lake Nokomis in Minnesota fishing for sunfish and crappie. Those were big fish to me back then."
In 1984, Edmiston got the idea that we wanted to be the first angler in history to catch a 2000 pound blue marlin. He was willing to travel the world to do so, and did. "Few original records were still standing at the time. But one was for a 1650 pound black marlin caught off Peru back in 1967. This gave me the idea to break the record and go for a double grander."
To set out in search of his feat, Edmiston bought a long-range commercial fishing vessel. "El Zorro measured 100-feet by 28-feet and weighed 160 dead tons. I wanted something solid under my feet to travel the world's oceans," he says.
Renovations he made to the vessel included pairing the bunks down from 50 to 11 and making the interior more comfortable. Most important, however, was the addition of a 31-foot sports fisherman, El Zorro II, and a crane to launch it. "That's what really made the boat unique," Edmiston relates.
It was August of 1986 when he turned on the keys and drove El Zorro from west to east, leaving from San Diego en route to what would be a four year, 70,000 mile, 40-country trip.
"We first loaded on 13,000 gallons of fuel and went to Hawaii. It was a good place to re-fuel and the trip was a good shake down cruise. We then left Hawaii and cruised 11 days to Christmas Island some 1,000 miles to the south. We fished there for a while and then headed to Micronesia. The government had invited us to come to popularize sports fishing in the islands, so they gave us a guide. It was great," Edmiston tells.
Though meat fish abounded, Edmiston didn't view the fishing was 'good' unless there were marlin. "I can be singular. I only wanted a 2000-pound marlin. If we were catching tuna and dolphin, then we left."
Interestingly, a transformation occurred along the way. "What happened," says Edmiston, "is that it became 50 percent fishing and 50 percent people. The old phrase 'you get what you give' is true. Fishing is like a universal language, a universal disease. We'd seek out the local fishing clubs and find kindred spirits. For example, one time we had a bank president clad in T-shirts and shorts waiting for our cook on the dock at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning to take him shopping at the local market."
Edmiston continues, "we made friends all over the world. And, it the trip was a chance to see the world not at a tourist, not as a backpacker either. Our fishing friends invited us into their homes, their ranches and even to their weddings. It was an awesome social experience."
From Micronesia, El Zorro traveled to New Guinea, and then to Northeast Australia. "It was the fall of 1986 by then. We caught a 1260 black marlin off Cairns, and that was the biggest of the trip."
Edmiston navigated El Zorro to Freemantle next, where he met up with fellow Californian, Dennis Conner. "We became one of the host sponsor boats for the America's Cup finals. That meant we'd take the sponsors out on the water and offer them music and food. We got to anchor right near the race boats, so the viewing was fantastic."
When Connor, and his Stars & Stripes crew, won the Cup, Edmiston was one of the team members who enjoyed celebrating. "I was in a rubber raft winding on a victory lap through the harbor behind Stars & Stripes. It was like being in the Los Angeles Coliseum with 30,000 people cheering for you. You're heart's just fluttering. It's an awesome feeling. It's heart-rendering."
From Australia, Edmiston deck loaded another 13,000 gallons of fuel and cruised west over 4,000 miles in 30 foot following seas to Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. "We stayed there quite a while. Then we finally headed north to the Seychelles. I think I'm the only man in the world to tag and release a marlin in the Gulf of Oman."
Unfortunately, while hooking the marlin, the El Zorro II's starboard shaft shattered and left the boat able to only go in a circle. Heaving seas made on the water repairs only temporary.
"We steamed to the ex-French Colony in Djoubti. There, about 500 Muslims helped haul the boat out of the water and into a Naval repair yard. The job cost me $12,000. They asked me for the money and I told them I didn't have it on me, but could telex it. They said that was fine and away we went. They were so trusting. We developed such a camaraderie."
The next leg of the trip took El Zorro through the Red Sea to Egypt, the Mediterranean and Gibraltar. "We went into the shipyards in Gibraltar and did some work on the boat. From there, we followed down the West African coast to the Canary Islands, then Cape Verde and the Ivory Coast," Edmiston describes.
At the Ivory Coast, El Zorro's appearance as a commercial vessel brought them scrutiny from officials. "They couldn't figure us out. We told them were a private vessel. Yes, we caught fish. But no, we released them. They looked at us like we were idiots. So, they came on board and slapped it to us by asking us to provide a full inventory of the boat, which would have been a huge undertaking. This was a Friday afternoon, so we asked them it we could come back on Monday. In the meantime, we found the local fishing club, met the folks there and ultimately there was no Monday meeting with the officials."
From the Ivory Coast, El Zorro headed to Brazil, then north to Venezuela and to St. Thomas by 1989. "It took me three years to go from San Diego to St. Thomas," Edmiston says.
He adds, "We went back to Africa from St. Thomas because we felt that the big one, the big blue marlin, was there. I think we saw it three times, but we never did get it."
For the next ten years, Edmiston lived in St. Thomas and fished six days a week. "My personal record is catching seven blue marlin in a day," he says.
His fishing efforts also earned him two-time AFTCO blue marlin champion title and one time sailfish champion.
Along the way, he hosted Navy League, Rolex Regatta and Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club parties.
Six years ago, Edmiston left St. Thomas and moved to Florida. "I haven't put a rod in the water for 10 days since," he says.
Instead, he pursued other dreams like caring for his mother in her elder years and riding cross-country over 10 weeks on a Harley with his girlfriend.
"I've had success in business and I've done difficult business dealings like bankruptcies and mergers and acquisitions. I've literally fished everywhere in the world. My motto is 'live for today'," Edmiston says. "All dreams are just that, and don't count, unless you live them."
04/01/06. As this is being posted - Jim is terminally ill with cancer. We will share the note that he recently passed along to his friends:
"Just a note to let you know, I have been diagnosed with terminal cancer. It's a nasty bit, spread to 5 organs - class 4 and untreatable. With some therapy radiation and a drug program (light doses at this point) I'm still fairly functional. I just can't do as much, as long, as hard as my energy slips away on me. I still go to work each day, thank God I've got time to wrap up my affairs as best as possible so my daughter doesn't inherit a total mess. I'm under hospice care as there was no medical treatment possible."
"I have two requests of my friends (1) think of a funny shared experience that we had, write it down, put it the memory box and pull it out once in a while and laugh about it and (2) we don't need to discuss the medical condition as there aren't 5 words in the world that can change it and it only makes me think about it more than I already do."
"I've led a good life, accomplished a lot more than others and had fabulous experiences that others just dream of. So, I'll pass with more memories than dreams. It's just my time now as it will be for all sometime."
Jim Edmiston passed on April 24, 2006