"Captain's Last Voyage"
By Seth Stapleton
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2019





A man who dedicated his life to the sea has concluded his final voyage.

Captain Fred Davis, 80, of Port Austin, died from cancer Saturday. He will be remembered for his passion and knowledge of all things that involved the waters of Lake Huron.

"If you knew him, there just is no way you wouldn't like him," said good friend Gordon Miller. "He would help anybody out."

Davis, whose career on the water spanned many decades, also had strong area ties on land. In his early years in Port Austin in the 1970s, he served on the local school board, village council and and area fire department for over 28 years.

Davis loved his family and enjoyed times spent on the water with wife, Pat, and daughters, Lori, Lynn, Leah and Lucynda. The family's fun-filled weekend getaways and extended cruises to distant ports were always special to him.

Aside from family, the sea was most important to Davis.

Davis taught power squadron and Coast Guard Auxiliary classes, and served as Division 15-09 Vice-Captain. Following his tenure with the Coast Guard, Davis assembled a group of talented mariners and formed a salvage and towing company called Thumb Marine, saving many boats and lives in the process. Miller, who has known Davis for over 30 years, began working for Davis and the two quickly became friends.

Miller said Davis' knowledge of the business was second to none.

"That was one of the things that really amazed me — all of the knowledge he had of all of the different powerboats and sailboats," Miller said. "He knew every boat and all the different things about them."

In addition to operating his salvage business, David launched the 30-passenger charter vessel the Miss Port Austin, which took generations of people perch fishing over the years.

Chris Roth captained the Miss Port Austin for a time, working for Davis over five summers. During that time, he said he was able to pay for a substantial amount of his college tuition. Just as important, he said he picked up an invaluable amount of marine knowledge he still uses to this day.

"It was very educational, but Fred was also a tough cookie to work for," Roth said. "He was very knowledgeable and very firm on the way he wanted his business run. He really expected the most out of everybody, and we all grew because of that."

During his career, Davis also served as a sales representative and test boat operator for Henry Smith Co., served as an arbitrator for BoatU.S. and was a member of Boating Writers International.

Davis was perhaps best known for his writing endeavors. Over the years, he shared tales of his exploits at sea in numerous publications.

Tom Campbell, managing editor at Woods-N-Water News, has known Davis for almost 30 years, when Davis began writing his Boat Smart column for the publication.

"Fred's been writing his Boat Smart column for us faithfully every month — I don't think he's ever missed in those 30 years," Campbell said. "He was just a great writer, a great guy, and a master for the top of the Thumb."

Campbell said what made Davis stand out to his readers was his obvious enthusiasm for the subject.

"He was so passionate about what he wrote about, and you could read that," Campbell said. "That says a lot about him. He had a passion for the water and to help people enjoy the water safely."

Davis was also published in Mid-America Boating since 1999, wrote his “As I See It” column for the Huron Daily Tribune since 2005, and had his “Tips for Boating” column appear in the Great Lakes Scuttlebutt since 2012. His columns also appeared in Go Boating, Sea Magazine, Lakeland Boating, Trailer Boating, Boating World, Heartland Boating and Mad Mariner’s online publication.

In total, over a span of 30 years, more than 3,000 columns have appeared in print. Additionally, “Perils of the Fresh Water Seas,” a compilation of many of his most exciting exploits on the water, is in the process of being published

"With all the articles he wrote for all the different boating magazines, there's so many people that knew him," Miller said. "He might be gone, but he's not going to be forgotten for a long time."

Added Miller: "He was a nice man, I enjoyed his company. We had a lot of laughs. I'm going to miss him."

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