The pink Cadillac looks like it made a wrong turn from the Florida Keys Overseas Highway and ended up in the ocean. Yet, it glides serenely along on the flat-calm waters of Florida Bay. Visitors at the oceanfront Lorelei Restaurant and Bar, where it is docked when not chartered, register surprise and then a smile as they pull out their cameras and focus on this unusual site… a floating NautiLimo, as it is called.
Joe Fox of Islamorada, Fla., a former electronics engineer, is the mastermind behind this seaworthy work of art. Set upon a 19-foot Carolina Skiff hull, Fox built the 21-foot long cruiser and chick magnet 15 years ago. The draft is 10 inches. Using a Yamaha four-stroke 100-horsepower engine, the captain usually meanders at a speed of five to six miles per hour but the limo can go 20 mph, if suddenly challenged by a leather-jacketed drag racer out at sea.
Fox used to live in St. Croix while he designed technology for tracing Russian submarines and worked on research vessels. Then, he moved to Mangrove Marina (formerly Campbell’s) in the Florida Keys and lived in a two-story houseboat. He’s been in the Keys ever since. About 15 years ago, driving down the Overseas Highway with his wife, he saw a classic 1978 stretch Cadillac limousine. “It drove by and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I started building [the NautiLimo] the next day. I replicated that car.”
Initially, the floating limo was white, but after three years, Fox got another crazy idea. He said he grabbed the Sawzall and cut off the roof of the car. It became a convertible, so much the better for enjoying the wide open vistas of Florida Bay. Also, with the popularity of Bruce Springsteen’s song “Pink Cadillac,” he couldn’t help but paint the limo pink.
The Nauti-Limo is a natural choice for weddings. “I’ve married about 15 couples on the limo,” he said, and other couples have arrived at or departed from their ceremony aboard the unique craft. Other limo cruisers enjoy a typical eight-mile ride on the bayside of U.S. 1 which passes by the working marina used in the popular Netflix series, “Bloodline,” as well as Islamorada Library Park, Worldwide Sportsman and Robbie’s Marina where guests might want to stop and feed the tarpon. Fox usually incorporates a trip around “Bird Island” in his voyages for guests to see a multitude of avian species. “They love it,” Fox said.
Possibly, boaters have seen a similar limousine on the waters around Fort Lauderdale. Their eyes have not deceived them. Fox said that the chair of the Fort Lauderdale Boat Parade had to have one. When he couldn’t buy Joe’s, he asked him to make another one. Fox built it in four months.
Fox’s mind and tools are always creating. Five years ago, he created El Zorro, a pirate ship, aboard a 27-foot Carolina Skiff that is 32-33 feet long and accommodates 12 passengers. Fox said a year before starting El Zorro, he had been invited by the owner of the company, Joe Driscoll, to tour the boat factory. After the tour, looking at the latest skiff produced, Driscoll said, “You’re taking this home.” It was a gift to Fox for using a Carolina Skiff as the base of the Nauti-Limo which had garnered coverage in the Sunday edition of the Miami Herald. Driscoll had called Fox after reading the article, saying, “You made our day at the Carolina Skiff Co.”
Fox’s latest creation is the Golden Sea Horse, another pirate galleon. It is about 40 feet long and four feet wider than the El Zorro and can accommodate 16 passengers. His friend and fellow war veteran, Capt. Bobby Richendollar, will run that charterboat out of the Islamorada Fish Company at Worldwide Sportsman.
Fox’s website is www.uniqueboattours.com.