Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

No age limit on adventure for WaterTribers

Tampa’s Bill “Jarhead’’ Fite, 73, has a much greater appreciation of sleep and Ramen noodles.

WaterTribe.com

Tampa’s Bill “Jarhead’’ Fite, 73, has a much greater appreciation of sleep and Ramen noodles.

Bill Fite is no stranger to adventure. But the 73-year-old Tampa man, who just sailed and paddled 1,600 miles around and then across Florida, doesn't like to talk about himself.

"I'm an old guy in good shape for my age who can sail pretty well," said Fite, who goes by the nom de guerre "Jarhead." "I just think you should live your life to the fullest."

When contacted recently about his latest accomplishment, Fite mentioned a dozen other WaterTribe contestants — America's Cup sailors, Olympians, Hall of Famers — more deserving of a story.

"It would be embarrassing to be compared to those guys," said Fite, who spent more than 27 years serving in the Marines. "Write about WaterTribe and how much we all love it."

The organization, a loose-knit group of canoeists, kayakers and small-boat sailors, sponsors a variety of open-water races, including the 300-mile St. Petersburg to Key Largo Everglades Challenge, as well as the new Coastal Challenge that Fite recently completed in 26 days, 3 hours and 45 minutes.

"He started at the Alabama-Florida border then paddled around the state, then up the St. Marys River at Fort Clinch," said Steve "Chief" Isaac, who founded the WaterTribe in 2001. "Then there was the 40-mile portage and the paddle down the Suwannee River to Cedar Key to close the loop."

Fite, one of only a few Marines to have the distinction of completing the British Royal Marines' Commando Course, read about Isaac's initial race, the Everglades Challenge.

"I thought, 'Wow, Fort De Soto to Key Largo with no motor, wish I was good enough to do that!' " Fite recalled. A few years later, he went down for the start, which occurs the first Saturday in March, and "was hooked."

Fite teamed up with an old Marine Corps buddy in 2007 but their boat hit pilings in the dark at the railroad trestle near Boca Grande and they had to leave the race. He came back the following year and finished. Then he did it again, this time alone.

"I love the challenge of it," Fite said. "Being out in the wilds makes me feel more alive, more like I'm getting the most out of the time I have. I love it all — the wading birds, the live oaks, Spanish moss, otters, manatees, sea turtles, gators, storms, sunsets/sunrises."

When he's racing, Fite said the enjoyment of all good things seems to be enhanced. "The chance to sleep is heavenly," he said. "Nearly everything you eat tastes wonderful. When you are cold and wet, Ramen noodles seem like a gourmet dish."

Fite used two vessels on his most recent adventure, a 21-foot Sea Pearl sailboat for the ocean legs and a Krueger canoe/kayak for river travel. "The 'Bama to Fort De Soto first leg, which is the new part that others have not yet done, was 440 miles," Fite said.

Then he joined the rest of the fleet at Fort De Soto, the starting point for the annual Everglades Challenge, which finishes in Key Largo.

"When this year rolled around I couldn't resist trying again to do the full coast of Florida, this time alone," Fite said. "It was kind of a bucket list thing."

Non-sailors might think a trip down the coast in a small, open sailboat sounds easy. "But with no motor, headwinds, heavy winds, light winds, calm, shoals, currents and tides, inlets, bridges, powerboat traffic, etc. … even with good luck on the weather the trip will call upon all the skills most sailors have and maybe a few they don't have," he said. "So the term 'challenge' really fits."

But Fite, like so many other WaterTribers, decided to train for his first "challenge" after reading about it in the newspaper. Have what it takes? Visit watertribe.com and find out.

No age limit on adventure for WaterTribers 04/25/16 [Last modified: Monday, May 2, 2016 7:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Ronde Barber: Want intimidation? Look at past Bucs teams

    Bucs

    Ronde Barber says these days "it's hard to find throwbacks, where you go, 'That guy is a badass.' Where do you find that now? It's such a show-off sport." (Times 2012)
  2. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  3. Rays journal: Steven Souza Jr. gets extra day off to let hip heal

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RF Steven Souza Jr. ran in rightfield before batting practice under the watchful gaze of the Rays training staff and manager Kevin Cash. Afterward, Souza told Cash he could use one more day of rest before playing on the left hip he strained Wednesday in Oakland.

    Steven Souza Jr., hugging Mallex Smith after Smith’s solo home run in the eighth inning, feels relief after tests are negative on his injured hip.
  4. Rays vs. Rangers, 7:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Rangers

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: FS1; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)