By Dorie Cox
Capt. Frank Holden worked about 40 years as a professional mariner and as a Conch Republic celebrity captain in the Florida Keys. His wife, Pam, and medical professionals were unable to revive him and he died on Feb. 25 in Key West, according to colleagues in the yacht industry. Details are unclear as to the cause of his death. He was 69.
Capt. Holden held a U.S. license, ran sailboat charters in the Virgin Islands, and worked nearly two decades with S/Y Windy Limerick, an 80-foot Windship Trident, and M/Y Limerick, an 80-foot Burger.
But he was known for his non-military, non-professional, fun title in the Florida Keys – Fleet Admiral, Chief of Naval Operations and 2nd Sea Lord with the Conch Republic Military Forces. The Conch Republic is described as a “state of mind,” a tongue-in-cheek micronation that staged a secession from the United States in 1982, according to Wikipedia.
Capt. Veronica Hast met Capt. Holden in the Caribbean in 1988 when she ran charter sailboats, the start of a lifelong friendship with Holden and his wife.
“He was an old, old guard captain,” Capt. Hast said. “He sailed by the waves and clouds versus having a set of updated charts.”
She described him as thoughtful, funny, and witty.
“He came up with poems from the top of his head and put cute limericks on birthday cards,” Capt. Hast said. “He was really good with words.”
Capt. Holden served as a mentor to Capt. Hast as she began her charter captain career.
“He coached me delicately,” she said. “Where I would say, ‘I messed up,’ he would say I was on a learning curve. I would say he coached me on life more than yachting.”
Capt. Glen Allen of Fleet Miami also met Capt. Holden in 1988 in St. Thomas.
“… From the very first time we talked, we both knew we would be friends forever,” Capt. Allen wrote in an email to The Triton. “Capt. Frank was the person you always thought of when you needed a friend to talk to. We had so many great times together that it is impossible to think that I will never see him again in this world. I look forward to seeing him in the next world.”
One of the more important aspects of yachting is the personal relationships, said Capt. Allen. He and his wife Suzan said that the relationship with Capt. Frank and his wife Pam topped the list.
“Or as we have always said – Pank and Fram!,” he wrote.
John DeCaro, president of All Ocean Yachts in Fort Lauderdale, was working as boat crew when he met Capt. Holden in the Virgin Islands in the 1980s.
“It was more of a passion, less of job for him,” DeCaro said. “He and Pam were passionate sailors.”
The couple were dedicated with the same boat owner.
“They’re brilliant at what they do, they have great chemistry and they were happy where they were,” DeCaro said.
It is such positiveness that DeCaro will miss the most.
“He was a person of complete joy, a person who brought happiness to friends, bosses and guests,” DeCaro said. “He was always trying to look at the best in the world.”
The Conch Republic Navy held a memorial to honor the life of Admiral Holden at the USCGC INGHAM Museum at Truman Waterfront Park in Key West, Florida on March 1.
Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments are welcome below.