The efforts of Marathon City Marina Harbormaster Rich Tanner helped turn the historic facility back into a safe and friendly place for boaters and a profitable revenue source for the city. “The most rewarding part of my experience at the City Marina is witnessing a true community develop in the mooring field,” Tanner said. “And our staff really takes their jobs seriously. Without them, this harbor would be a different place.”
“I’ve always been a dreamer,” says Marathon boat boss Rich Tanner, his arm slung over the City Marina’s polished wooden counter. Then, as an unmistakable grin stretches across his friendly face, he starts telling you why.
First, you learn that Rich is from Texas—the land of longhorns, American pride, 10-man football — and scuba diving?
“I fell in love with the ocean because I hadn’t seen it yet,” Rich says with a laugh. “When I was a kid, I got hooked on T.V. shows like Adventures in Paradise, Kon Tiki, and Sea Hunt because they were all about the ocean. I knew that someday I’d go there.”
In the mean time, the young Texan fed his craving for aquatic adventure by becoming scuba certified in a nearby North Texas lake at just 14. Still not satisfied, his love for water led him to take up competitive waterskiing and jumping when it was still a 1960’s era ‘extreme’ sport.
Polishing his glasses and continuing on, the next story Rich tells is about his first visit to the Florida Keys, and his first taste of life on the open ocean.
He first journeyed to the emerald island chain known as the Florida Keys in 1966 as a young Navy Navigator. Stationed out of Key West, the sailor found himself attached to the U.S.S. Pocono, the command ship of Florida’s legendary Gator Fleet. Spending weeks out on the water, Rich lavished in his trips back to port where he strode through the Southernmost City when it was still a sleepy fishing village. However, after serving four years of active Navy duty and developing his love for deep-sea diving, his honorable discharge led him to surprise move to Kansas.
The gentleman meets a lady
In Kansas, he quickly met and married his beautiful wife Arla after spotting the gorgeous lass from afar at a VFW dance. Wooing her from the moment they met, the gallant young gentleman walked up to her and simply asked “Do you have a date?”
After she shook her head in response, he calmly said “Well you do now.” The new couple was married less than a year later. Now together for more than thirty years, the proud parents have three children and 7 grandkids.
“I’ve really worked a number of businesses since,” Richard starts out, attempting to explain his happy, yet completely busy life since his marriage. However, after mixing stories about owning a department store in Iowa, working as a private pilot for a skydiving club in Kansa, rubbing shoulders with the race cars drivers in Florida, and making friends with professional bull riders across the country, you start to see a picture of a multitalented man destined for success and with a true love for life.
“Yep, at 52, enough was enough” Rich says, “I retired from my job at UST and headed right back to the water.” *
A brand new experience
Deciding to fulfill his lifelong dream of captaining a sailboat, Rich purchased a used Hunter Sloop and set his compass south to Florida. He convinced Arla that a move to the Keys was necessary for the couple’s brand-new lives as cruisers, and subsequently moved to Marathon— while barely avoiding the wrath of Hurricane Georges.
Upon arrival, Captain Rich proudly launched his new boat right here in Boot Key Harbor and came to a sudden conclusion.
“I knew right off the bat that I didn’t know anything about liveaboards,” Rich says with a knowing smile.
However, determined to learn as much about sailing in the shortest time frame, the soon-to-be ‘salty dog’ worked on his cantankerous boat for six months, babying the new vessel and learning to operate what he fondly calls his “floating house.”
When all was said and done, the sloop was shipshape and Rich— now an educated sailor —was ready to haul anchor. Filled with anticipation, the new captain could barely contain his excitement when planning his first real sailing trip to the Abacos islands on the northern edge of the Bahamas.
Ask him, and he’ll tell you it was his proudest moment.
“Being on my own vessel and not a big ship in the Navy was what made the experience worth it,” Rich explains. “We had a blast, and we actually spent more money in 35 mm film than we did in gas because Arla takes tons of pictures!”
A skilled operator and proven businessman, Rich’s new sailing skills were soon recognized by local boaters and Marathon City officials. Asked to take the job of Marina Manager in 2003, he accepted the title and through a number of renovations, updated the facility and surrounding harbor. It’s through his efforts that Marathon’s City Marina is recognized as a top destination for cruisers on the move, but Tanner doesn’t see it that way.
“I have been blessed with a terrific staff,” he said. “We are like family and I am proud that we have built such a successful operation for the residents and visitors of Marathon to enjoy.”
* A major distributor of wine and tobacco, UST attracted politicians, celebrities, and big businessmen back when smoking was still widely-accepted as an fixture of American pop culture.