By Dorie Cox
Eng. James “Jimmy” Cascella died Dec. 7 from injuries sustained in an accident on Interstate 95 at Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, Florida, on Dec. 3. The motorcycle Mr. Cascella was driving was involved in a crash with a car; the incident is under investigation by law enforcement. He was 34.
Mr. Cascella held a 200-ton captain’s license and had worked on the 130-foot Westport M/Y Three Sons, the 112-foot Westport M/Y My Maggie, the 103-foot Cheoy Lee M/Y Ohana, and the 121-foot Benetti M/Y Pure Bliss.
Mr. Cascella grew up in Central Florida and was an aviation hydraulic and structural engineer in the U.S. Navy for five years before joining yachting about six years ago. He also had several businesses, including a tree and landscaping company, a sign company, a lotion company and a freelance engineer business.
“He was always talking about his goals, he was driven,” said roommate and friend, Deckhand Donovan Fouche of M/Y Amarula Sun. “People didn’t expect it, because he’s laid back. But he actually works really hard, he just doesn’t come forth with what he can do. He always had high goals. He wanted to change things for the better.”
The two met when they both earned captains licenses at Professional Yachtmaster Training in Fort Lauderdale about three years ago.
Kettra Ferda said that although some of his businesses didn’t work out, he continued to have ideas. She met Mr. Cascella during the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show six years ago. The two began dating and he got her a job on M/Y Ohana, his first yacht job. The couple later worked at Ocean Reef Yacht Club in Key Largo, Florida.
“He went through lots of phases,” she said. “He was a boat manager with a fishing fleet.”
But one thing never changed – he loved to help people, Ferda said.
“He took people under his wing. I can’t count how many became a yachty because of him,” she said.
Close friend, business partner and engineer Tim Cooper was one of those people. Mr. Cascella hired him as second engineer on M/Y Three Sons. Cooper is now on M/Y Maggie.
“He was a very patient teacher,” Cooper said. “He made you use critical thinking and figure it out. He asked, ‘What do you think?'”
Mr. Cascella was drawn to Cooper’s degree in environmental science and the two worked on ideas for renewable resource opportunities for yachting, including using efficient and attractive solar panels onboard. When the yacht needed new name boards, the two built them and incorporated a company called Vision LED early this year. Cooper said he will miss his friend and mentor.
“He was more the brains. Jimmy was always my go-to for questions,” Cooper said. “My first reaction is to call him.”
Mr. Cascella worked with H2O Yacht Co. for more than a year and a half, said company CEO and principal broker Capt. Paul Triporo, who was his friend. The brokerage, which employs yacht crew who share proceeds with humanitarian and ecological causes, was a good fit for Mr. Cascella, Triporo said.
“Jimmy was involved in many of his own businesses that raised awareness to our pollution problems in the ocean, lack of education within our youth and personal health being fitness and diet.” Triporo said. “I love Jimmy. He made me think about what it was I would do with the rest of my life after meeting him for the first time, and the relationship grew over time to bigger and better ideas.
“I know Jimmy would want to be remembered as a selfless human being – in fact, many of our late night conversations in cultivating a better world together always led to that assumption,” Triporo said. “He always put himself second and let his mind rest at ease before speaking – he would allow others to speak as he would listen to understand and not to reply. Jimmy was a legend.”
His real skill was fixing things, Ferda said.
“He was a born engineer. He could do anything,” Ferda said. “He taught himself; he loved intaking information. He worked so much, he ran himself ragged putting in hours to get ahead.”
That energy and excitement were infectious, she said.
“He was contagious, he was so smart and amazing to see work,” Ferda said. “He was so excited and passionate.”
His mother, Bonnie Kraai, said her son grasped how things worked. Where other people would give up on fixing, he would keep trying.
“When he was 3 years old, he kept walking into the ocean and the waves would push him over,” Kraai said. He just got up each time, unafraid. Even if he fell and got hurt, he always saw it as a positive experience, she said.
She called him her water baby. “He loved anything and everything about the water; pool or beach or river. As a teenager he walked the beach selling timeshare appointments, but he had his surf board with him for if the waves were good.”
Mr. Cascella enjoyed being active and healthy, and he told his mother he had registered as an organ donor about eight months ago. His accident primarily damaged his brain, but his wish was fulfilled.
“He was a health fanatic,” she said. “So they were able to use his heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys, eyes and skin grafts.”
Roommate Benjamin Mack met Mr. Cascell years ago and began working with him installing yacht signs.
“He was a strong supporter, like a human guardian angel,” Mack said. “He said, ‘You’re better than where you are, you’re limiting yourself.’ He got in my head, and my move here was the best thing I ever did. I took his spot installing signs – he left me a future, a steady job.
“He had a heart of gold and it’s running diesel,” Mack said. “This kid was the momentum and waves in the ocean. The ripples will continue forever.”
A memorial service for Mr. Cascella is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, at Marina 84 Sports Bar and Grill, 2440 W. State Road 84, Fort Lauderdale (33312).
Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome below.