Bob DeGabrielle is passionate about fishing. So much so, in fact, that's he's designing his new boat on the waves of the future - to be both economical and environmentally friendly.
DeGabrielle - who now calls Jupiter, Florida, home - spent 30 years living and working as a real estate developer on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was here that he developed his love for the ocean and met and married his wife, Laurie, who is a member of the famed Tillett fishing and boat-building family.
"Omie and Tony Tillett are my father-in-laws' first cousins," says DeGabrielle.
Through the years, DeGabrielle's fishing sights have set firmly on blue marlin. He enjoys stand-up fishing on 30-pound test as well as bait and switch.
"My favorite places to fish are the North Drop and Venezuela or any other place with as many blue marlin," he says.
DeGabrielle's best fish story stars a blue marlin. It was the summer of 2003 and he was fishing off Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, with Capt. Mike Merritt at the helm when he hooked up a big blue.
"We knew we had a big fish on right from the start," DeGabrielle tells. "It came up on a teaser, we pitched the bait, it bit and started swimming away from the boat. We estimated it somewhere in the 750 to 800 pound range - big enough to pull a 55-foot Viking around by the transom."
DeGabrielle continues, "I kept the pressure on, but we never saw the fish again until 4 hours and 25 minutes later when it was up beside the boat and we measured it and released it."
Blue marlin as well as white marlin, sailfish and spearfish figure into DeGabrielle's best fishing day ever. "We were on our boat in Venezuela with Capt. Mike Merritt when I caught a Super Slam, a Grand Slam and an additional blue marlin that they estimated at over 750-pounds on 30-pound stand up," he says. "It was just unbelievable. Grand Slams aren't that unusual down there, but a Super Grand Slam is. Just an amazing day!"
In 2009, The Billfish Foundation, of which DeGabrielle currently serves as treasurer, named him the top tag and release angler in the Atlantic Ocean for blue marlin and sailfish.
Tournament fishing is something he enjoys.
"I normally fish the Venezuela tournaments and when I am in Florida and without my own boat the Treasure Coast Series," says DeGabrielle. "My favorite is the Boy Scout (USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament out of St. Thomas) because of the outstanding level of competition and the fact that it is a release tournament."
DeGabrielle won the Boy Scout Tournament in 2004 with the release of seven blue marlin - and he didn't even fish the last day! Hurricane Francis started tracking too close to the Virgin Islands and DeGabrielle decided to pull out and miss the last day of fishing rather than risk potential storm-related damages that might put him out of action for a month or more.
Over the last several years, DeGabrielle has fished an average of 100 to 120 days per year in destinations such as Venezuela, Columbia, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, St Thomas, Cape Hatteras, the Galapagos Islands, Bahamas and Florida. He fished in Cape Verde for the first time in April.
"I fish mostly by myself," he says. "Finding someone else who enjoys fishing that much and who can get the time off is difficult."
In the last year and half since DeGabrielle sold his 62' Bayliss, he's started construction on a 57' Spencer.
"Our new boat is one in which we wanted to incorporate design features and systems that were state-of-the-art and had a green feeling to them," he explains. "When we started this project our goal was to only burn a gallon a knot and have a 28-30 knot cruise boat. In order to accomplish this we turned to Paul Spencer who had previously built 2 43' express IPS boats and who supported our goal of a lightweight fuel-efficient sport fisher but warned us not to expect a knot a gallon in a 57' boat. Working with Volvo and utilizing their new IPS 900 series motors, we hope to have a boat that will cruise at 30 knots with a top end of 40 knots, weigh only 40,000-pounds and burn 42 gallons at 30 knots."
DeGabrielle continues to explain what will make his new boat special: "The carbon fiber buggy top, sun shade and tower will be built by Pipewelders to lighten the boat and Belkov Yachts has designed a super light weight interior for all staterooms and salon. Utilizing Belkov's 3D design capabilities all of our systems have been fitted into the boat prior to installation and allowed us to engineer the most efficient placement of all component parts. Humphree trim tabs will be utilized to provide automatic optimization of trim and speed as well as increased operator control of trim and list. Moritz Aerospace OctoPlex System will remotely control and monitor all AC and DC power distribution and provide complete vessel status using a NMEA 2000 network. Reasons for this system utilization are as much for weight savings in eliminating wire as for obtaining a more efficient electrical system. Paul Spencer had designed a sharper entry boat for us with a slightly narrower beam to accommodate the foam core hull construction and pod drive system. We will have 1500 gallons of fuel on board and 250 gallons of water when the boat is completed this September."
Capt. VJ Bell will take the helm of DeGabrielle's new boat.
More immediately, DeGabrielle will be fishing with Butch Cox on the Prime Time for the summer moons in St. Thomas. His plans are to take delivery of the new Spencer and head to the Outer Banks as a shake down cruise and to fish for white marlin. After that, his sights are set on the winter tournament series in Florida, Mexico after the first of the year, and then the Dominican Republic and St Thomas for the summer moons of 2010 before heading off to Venezuela for the fall and then Panama and Costa Rica for the winter season.
Considering the future of the sport, DeGabrielle says, "I think our sport has encountered a tremendous retrenching due to the economic fiasco we have suffered. You will see far fewer boats fishing in tournaments and those that can afford to still participate will do so much more cautiously. This should provide some excellent selling opportunities to those boat builders who are innovative and who incorporate functional value oriented systems in their boats."