Horizon Bound

Fri, 03/27/2020 - 10:00am

John Walmsley grew up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and spent his summers at Point Judith’s Breakwater Village. Walmsley started angling at the age of four and would fish the east wall or go out on his dad’s boat. (I remember his grandfather, Samuel Walmsley, when I was growing up in the Village — he lived in the house behind ours.) John Walmsley was mentored by the late Steve Carpenter, Steve and his brother Bobby who I also came of age in Breakwater Village. These brothers were hunters in the truest tradition and loved fishing the waters off Point Judith. They were very knowledgeable guys of the local fishing grounds; especially the east and west breakwaters, and the center wall. Moreover, we both have powerful and fond memories of Steve and his wife Nancy; they were an inseparable couple on land and they fished together — they loved each other and loved to fish. John shared these memories with me while in the Standby lot a couple of years ago. Once he mentioned his coming-of-age in the Village and his connection with Steve, it became abundantly clear that this guy had an unbridled passion for the ocean, boats, and fishing. When you get talking with John, his enthusiasm will recruit you to listen and want to learn more about angling — and Point Judith.

Then, we got talking in more detail about the middle wall — the Apex — and how time, wind, waves and the ocean’s power are unhinging this important barrier of rock and clever engineering; over the past 115 years the walls of the Harbor of Refuge have been repaired a few times. The next time you’re heading to Block Island, look to the east and see what the ocean is doing on its own terms to move tons of rock in an arbitrary manner—the ocean is not interested in man’s agenda and timetables. The time was flying by with this guy, and then he got a spot on the three o’clock boat with his Jeep Wrangler which was filled with fishing gear. “Hey Joe, great meeting another guy from Pawtucket and Point Judith,” he said. “I’ll send you some pictures from a helo that I took last week, and you can see how beat up the wall looks these days. It really needs some serious work.” Meeting John was a sweet trip down memory lane and as he was leaving to get over to the ferry dock, he yelled, “I was in the Coast Guard! See you around, buddy. I’m sure we’ll talk again.” We did.

John’s grandfather would take him for breakfast at George’s when he was a kid. “After breakfast we would watch the fishing fleet heading out to sea,” he said. “Followed up with the Coast Guard 44MLB, and the 41UTB either going out for training missions or for a Search and Rescue Operation.” These times with his grandfather must’ve conjured up powerful images for an impressionionable young kid being completely absorbed in a powerful moment, which would lead to something else — something bigger and something profound. It did. While in his 20s, in May of 2005, Walmsley joined the United States Coast Guard, and graduated in July. Subsequently, he was attached to Station Sandy Hook, where he served as a Search and Rescue Coxswain and a tactical Coxswain aboard a 41UTB, 47UTB, and a 25-foot Defender RBS. In 2010 John returned to Station Point Judith as a reservist. Furthermore, he was activated to Louisiana for the cleanup detail in the area of Grand Isle, after the Deepwater Horizon incident.

Unfortunately, beginning in 2014, John’s reservist career could not advance because of some serious and life-threatening internal organ issues, which was followed by complex back surgery. These setbacks, along with the sudden death of his father — whom he found — set John Walmsley on a quest to reevaluate, redefine, and expedite an aggressive plan as to how he would conduct his life in a businesslike and an altruistic manner. It was a complete values clarification which involved starting a business — a line of fishing clothing — and donating substantial portions of his profits to various cancer charities. John feels strongly about giving back something in the helping others for whom life has dealt a tough hand. His generosity, determination and hustle are inspiring things to witness. It appears that his upbringing near the ocean in Point Judith, his skill sets and discipline in the Coast Guard, along with his life’s difficulties have led this man to put all of his effort into a strong desire to succeed in his endeavors.

Over the Horizon — OTH — in fishing parlance means heading offshore to pursue fish. In Coast Guard parlance, when one mentions OTH, according to Walmsley, “This refers to Coast Guard vessels that give chase to and track go fast drug boats in the Caribbean and South America.” This was the genesis for the name of his apparel company. Moreover, Walmsley wanted to help a young boy named Dylan Berio — and his family — who is battling brain cancer. “In my first six months in business, I was able to raise $5,000 to help Dylan and his family,” he said. “I’m a veteran working to better myself and to help those who need it.” This man’s personal story informs his desire to be constantly horizon bound, and working to move forward in his professional life. Finally, John Walmsley works as a police dispatcher; March 9 marked the first year for this tenacious man’s passion and endeavor.

Nothing is going to stop this guy chasing the horizon — nothing.