More than a decade ago, Austin DiRenzo and his father were docked at Burdine’s. The pair was readying themselves for a dive trip to the Bahamas where they planned to explore a recently discovered wreck.
“We found a couple of cannons, some artifacts,” he remembered. “It wasn’t quite the Atoche or anything, but my dad found the wreck the year I was born.”
Austin, the City Marina’s Assistant Ports Master, claims Florida as his home, but his early childhood was spent in Southern California. He fondly recalled swimming through the kelp forests just off the coast with weekend trips out to Catalina Island.
“My brother convinced me that if I got a strong enough start, I could run right across the top of it,” he laughed.
His teenage years were spent in Arizona, but after high school, Austin couldn’t wait to get back near the water. In South Carolina, he reunited with his brother and picked up odd jobs on and around boats. He even sailed with a friend up the East Coast to Long Island, New York.
For more than five years, Austin’s been an integral part of the staff at the Marathon City Marina and been an integral part of the marina’s renovations. This week, The Marathon Weekly sat down with Austin to recount some of his most memorable happenings in and along the shores of Boot Key Harbor, like a couple of years ago when the term “floater” took on a whole new meeting for the marina’s resident computer guy. He got the call over the VHF, and by the time he, along with other local responders made their way out into the harbor, it was too late.
“I learned later that her friends had helped her get into her dinghy after several drinks,” he lamented.
Austin admitted what never ceases to amaze him are the cast of characters that pass through or permanently reside in the harbor. He told of the former corporate executive that maintained a steady six-figure salary for the majority of his adult life, but by the looks of him, you’d never know it.
“He just wants to relax and enjoy the rest of his life living aboard his little sailboat,” Austin chuckled.
When Austin’s wife Debbie began talks of relocating their family from Marathon back to her home state of Georgia, he was skeptical. For 10 years, she was a part of the Dolphin Research Center family. They gave birth to their own little Conch, Mason, three years ago on their wedding anniversary in Key West.
“I miss it here already,” he confessed. “I’ll likely never feel at home in any other community as much as I do here.”
At Tuesday night’s city council meeting, council and staff recognized his years of service at the marina, where he’s witnessed the 180-degree turn around of one of the city’s greatest assets. Though his duties have ranged from establishing and maintaining the marina’s website and technological network to manning the pump out boat, Austin admits he still has some unfinished business to which he needs to attend.
Computer networking just came naturally, he explained, adding that disassembling and reassembling computers quickly became part of his responsibilities.
“I like IT, I just don’t want to be stuck in an office at a desk,” he confessed.
Debbie recently completed her practicum at Stanley Switlik, and she will return to her hometown just outside Atlanta to seek a permanent teaching position. Austin’s just a few credits shy of a network engineering degree, which he plans to earn in Atlanta as well.
Before Debbie reports to work in the fall, and Austin and Mason begin school, the family will embark on a cross-country tour of state and national parks along the way to Oregon to visit relatives.
This family adventure began on the banks of Boot Key Harbor 11 years ago, when Debbie and her parents were docked next to Austin and his father.
“We’ve even considered cruising for a year and home-schooling Mason, but we’ll probably wait until he’s a few years older,” Austin pondered. “It will be good to get off the rock for a few years, but that doesn’t mean we won’t ever come back. I once heard someone describe it as a place with small town hospitality and big city intellect. Like I said, we will miss this place tremendously.”
Both the Marathon City Council and Nearshore Waters Committee were singing DiRenzo’s praises Tuesday evening. Marine Deputy Willie Guerra even handcuffed DiRenzo to the giant tiki hut in one final attempt to keep him in town. City Marina Ports Director Richard Tanner and his staff (L-R) Jeff, Ann, Austin, Jenny, and Sean during his farewell gathering.
Austin at docks
Assistant Ports Director Austin DiRenzo has witnessed the 180-degree turnaround of Marathon City Marina in his five and half year tenure. Among the many improvements are the recently completed dinghy docks.
The Marathon community will sorely miss Debbie, Mason and Austin DiRenzo. We wish you guys the best in the next chapter!