Attention, Mr. and Mrs. North America and all the ships at sea. Be on the lookout for Larry Capune, 30, of Balboa Island, Calif., alias Larry Lifeguard, 5'11", 171 pounds, blond hair, wearing red bathing trunks. When last seen, Capune was in the Atlantic Ocean off New Jersey hand-paddling a 17-foot surfboard from Boston to Miami. He is carrying a transistor radio, a bag of smoke flares and a waterproof World War II knapsack containing a change of clothes, an extra bathing suit, insect repellent, jars of vitamins, road maps and a pair of shoes. If Capune comes ashore to knock at your beach cottage door, do not be alarmed. He is harmless, indeed affable, though he may suddenly swat himself and shout, "Goddamn green flies!" Capune is interested in promoting a "Wet Alliance" whereby youngsters could discover themselves and their environment by paddling surfboards up and down the coasts of the U.S.
Capune is an old hand at this mode of transportation. In 1964 and again in 1967 he paddled 542 miles from San Francisco to Newport Beach, once obliging Vandenberg Air Force Base to delay missile testing for 48 hours. In 1965 he set out from New York to Miami, but his trip ended after a fishing-pier owner in Morehead City, N.C. threw Coke bottles at him when he paddled under the pier, allegedly scaring the fish. One bottle struck Capune in the head, resulting in 25 stitches and a staph infection. Capune sued and won an $11,000 judgment in a case that went all the way to the North Carolina Supreme Court, but he has yet to collect a nickel because the pier owner put all his assets in his wife's name. On his current trip south, Capune plans to put in at Morehead City to ask his lawyer, Harvey Hamilton Jr., how the case is going.
A college dropout, Capune has worked as a lifeguard and as a jack-of-all-trades for a neighbor, Buddy Ebsen—Jed of Beverly Hillbillies and himself an enthusiastic seafarer. When Capune told Ebsen he would be taking three months off to complete the 2,400-mile Boston-to- Miami voyage, Ebsen said he would write the Coast Guard commandant to ask that he look after his young friend. Capune needs all the looking after he can get.
On a good day Capune can travel 35 miles, and he usually paddles from half a mile to nine miles out. He carries no food or water with him, but comes ashore in the evening and knocks on doors until he finds a place to eat and sleep. Because his body is wet, he doesn't get thirsty except on very hot days.
Capune launched into the Atlantic on July 1 at Nantasket Beach in Hull, just south of Boston. He had planned to launch in Boston Harbor, but the fog was so heavy he feared he would keep running into islands. Capune made Brant Rock the first night, but got caught by an incoming tide the next morning in Plymouth Bay. He bought two Cokes and some cookies for lunch at White Horse Beach and paddled on before stopping at Manomet to spend the night. The third day out Capune spotted a fat man in trouble on a Sunfish three quarters of a mile from shore. "My lifeguard instinct took over," says Capune, "and I paddled over to him. When I got close, I could see it was a new Sunfish with the dealer's sticker still on it. The fat guy said to me, 'How do I get this thing back where I came from?' He had sailed in circles so many times the main halyard was wrapped around the mast. I finally had to cut it, and the tub of lard was indignant. Here I am saving his life, and he's angry because I cut a $1.25 rope!"
Capune towed the fat man ashore, a task made somewhat difficult because the man wanted to go where he had started out and kept steering the Sunfish in that direction. Capune spent the night at the tip of Sandy Neck with a friendly professor and his family. On the way up the inside of Cape Cod to Provincetown, Capune misjudged the tide and ran aground on Billingsgate Shoal. "I picked up the board, stepped on a skate, hit my head on the board and had a headache for a day," he says.
Reaching Provincetown, he put up at a hotel. He spent the next night at the Coast Guard Station at Race Point, where he was kept awake by a drunken coastguardsman who fought with his shipmates until three in the morning. Beginning to suffer from a heavy cold, Capune set off around the Cape with the water temperature 52�. His morale was equally low, but it got a lift when he landed at Marconi Beach and met the head lifeguard, Dana Hathaway, who said that he had once paddled a kayak from Florida to North Carolina. Capune's morale got another boost when the people on Nauset Beach clapped and cheered as he paddled by, having read about him in the local papers.
At the end of the first week, Capune rounded Cape Cod inside of Monomoy Island. A yachtsman going through the cut invited him to spend the night, but with a four-knot current against him, it took Capune an hour to go a mile, even at 85 strokes a minute.
Setting forth from Chatham to Cotuit, Capune ran into a 30-knot wind and small craft warnings. Deciding to go ashore he spotted a small beach between rocks and headed in. A maid answered the door of the house back of the beach and called an older lady.
"What town is this?" asked Capune.