My History, and Why
Richard Londeree, Owner Tampa Bay Saltwater
This story begins many years ago when I was just another wild and crazy 10 year
old, living near a gorgeous white sand beach, near a small town named
It seemed like just another town, like many other I had lived in. My father was
a Captain in the Air Force, stationed at a nearby new base called Cape
Canaveral, home of our nations fledgling space program, incredible sand
beaches, swimming, fishing, and diving. We lived in base housing near Patrick
Air Station which just happened to be right on the beach, just across the
Highway, US A1A.
Well this made for interesting adventures for a 10 year old kid, just a "rock's
throw" from the beach. I remember seeing our nation's efforts in space
exploration unfold before my eyes, standing on "my" beach, named "Satellite
I witnessed many a launch at the space port, as my dad would know when the
launches were to take place. The family would go to Cape Canaveral and be able
to drive right up to the canal separating us from the launch pad. We would fish
all night waiting for the launch, catching all sorts of fish, and then be
treated to the largest fireworks show in the world, the launching of a Titan
rocket, one of the worlds largest missles.
Some of them would blow up on the launch pad, some exploding a few hundred feet
in the air, and some blown up by launch control on purpose when the missle went
haywire and headed for town.
It was truly amazing fishing! We also were able to see the first launch of a
chimp named Enos into space and eventually the first 10 astronauts hurled into
space and return.
One I remember well was when Col. John Glen was the first American to orbit the
earth and return. They brought him back to Patrick Air Station with President
Kennedy. There was a small parade on base, near the hanger where they kept the
then still secret U2.
My mom had made a sign that said, "WELCOME TO EARTH COL. GLEN!" Well my family
and I were kind of embarrassed when mom took the sign with us, as it was before
anyone had signs at events like that, but she was soon surrounded by
photographers, news reels, and reporters, so she handed me the sign and the
next day there was our picture in the newspaper with Col. Glen and JFK.
My love of the beach and saltwater was born out of this and other events which
kept us out in the salt spray with the smells of the beach, the clear blue
water, the turtles nesting in the evening, and our weekend bonfires and
cookouts (of course with fishing always going on). It was one afternoon when we
were digging a pit for a bonfire when we started to unearth something strange
I was digging away in the sand when I hit something old, hard, and long. My two
brothers, mom and dad, and some friends that were with us were all soon around
the pit, digging away. We began to dig up what appeared to be a very large
ship's mast, that of a Spanish Galleon. Little did we know that in 1715 there
were a number of Spanish Galleons traveling from Havana Cuba to Spain that were
blown off course by a hurricane and sunk within yards of our feet!
As time would have it our next door neighbor on base was named Major Dan
Thompson. Dan and a group of his buddies did research in Spain and were looking
for this fleet of sunken treasure galleons. They dove the reefs between
Sebastion Inlet and Cape Canaveral searching and searching for the treasure of
the lost fleet almost every weekend. They had no success and were out of money
and ambition. But one afternoon Dan had found an inshore reef just off of "my"
beach, and persuaded the dive team to have another go at it.
They dove the area, finding nothing until until Jim turned over a piece of
rock, intending to use it as a seat which had already been examined by other
divers. There was pay dirt, the glimmer of GOLD. Encrusted in the rock were
many coins, and other treasures. Their years of work turned into the proverbial
gold mine as they formed "The Real Eight Corp" and ended up finding millions in
treasure and many more of the lost Spanish fleet. I remember playing in his
garage, sitting on cannons, stacking silver plates, and tossing coins around,
like a kid in a toy box.
Events like this and being stationed around the world visiting and diving many
different oceans and seas had a lasting life-long imprint on me; the ocean was
in my blood. My grandfather was a fisherman, my father a fisherman, and they
taught me to be a fisherman. My first real reef experience was in 1971.
I got to fly "space available" on a military aircraft to Hawaii. We stayed
right on Wakiki beach, and I was in paradise. The reef was about 100 yards off
shore and I can tell you about collecting coral heads by grabbing and hanging
on in about 10 feet of water until the next wave broke, tearing me and the
coral off the bottom and tumbling towards shore.
Upon reaching the beach, I made a nice pile of coral, but noticed many
incredibly colored fish coming out of the corals. I quickly returned them to
the water, and the next swim out to the reef, I looked at this new world that I
had overlooked before. The life was amazing! I thought to myself, this is what
I wanted to do, as I was 18 and just heading to college.
I became a certified diver in 1972 diving the coast of California and enrolled
as an oceanography major at a school in northern California. Finding out that
physics and I did not mix, I ended up an electronics major. The last year at
school found me traveling to Florida with a friend to visit my brother in
Orlando to find a summer job at the newly opened Disney World.
Well, I never made it back to California; I landed a job as a traveling
photographer. The company I worked for made a serious mistake one week by
assigning me to a shoot in Key West, Florida. Upon arriving at this small
island I found a hotel room and stood there looking out the window. On one side
was the Atlantic Ocean, and as I turned around, the Gulf of Mexico was only
That was it, the fish bit me. I retired that day, informing my boss of my
immediate resignation, and the fact that they would not see me again; please
send my last check, care of "Paradise".
There is one big problem with paradise though: you still have to make a living.
I had a house payment in Tampa and the payment on my van kept on coming. I met
a couple of fellows at the boat ramp one day, and pretty soon, with some good
instruction, was living the dream, collecting tropical fish in paradise.
But now it is time to begin this story again at the foot of the infamous Skyway
Bridge, connecting St. Petersburg and Bradenton Florida. I was there collecting
one day back in the early 1980's, as this was a spot that was loaded with
hermit crabs and calurpa. As I was pulling the Caulerpa off the rocks, a rock
came up with the plant.
I stashed it in my collection bag, and proceeded on collecting critters. Next
stop would be the wholesaler I sold to back then, Manila Aquatics. Unloading
the crabs and plants, Jerry, the owner noticed the rock and said, "hey that is
neat, get me some more."
Well this was before reef tanks, mini reef tanks, or anybody keeping live
corals in their tanks. So the next day I loaded my TR7 convertible full of the
first "Live Rock" harvested on the west coast of Florida. Having to come up
with a price for the rock, I came up with $5, $7 and $9 per rock, depending on
I sold rock this way for about 6 months, then the "Mini Reef" technology from
Germany hit the market and pretty soon live rock sales took off! Now there was
a way to keep this rock alive with these new systems, and with every tank
imported into the states, a need for live rock.
Pretty soon I was bringing in 25 five gallon buckets a day of rock to Jerry.
Things had changed price-wise also as I was charging $25 per bucket, instead of
by the piece.
I continued collecting for Jerry for about a year until I developed markets
outside of our area, where we could get a better price for the live rock.
Things changed again price-wise and we began charging by the pound, being 50
cents back then.
Soon there was another diver, Graham Carlton, on the scene and he began
collecting and selling to the same wholesaler, which in turn evolved into new
I met my business partner, Mark Caldwell about this time and we began diving
and collecting together and soon we had a boat that allowed us to expand our
collection area and venture out into the Gulf of Mexico.
Read on about to learn about the formation of Tampa Bay