|The Legend of Carl C. Canova
Nov. 4 1881-Dec. 29 1956
by Mike Usina
Every one of our Minorcan Families, some where in their past had some one that stood out and left his mark either large
or small. The Usina family had Captain Michael Phillip Usina who was a Confederate blockade runner who was never
caught and was called the sly fox. The Canova family also had such a special person by the name Carl C. Canova.
His story starts out as he was a sea faring man, a carpenter, fisherman, guide, boat builder and cast net maker. Carl
was always a man of great strength and vitality, It was Tuesday January 29th. 1907. Carl was hoisting a large boat
Anchor that was really too heavy for two men by him self and by hand. The strain was too much and later as he bent
over to get a drink of water in the St. Augustine Slave market, he stood up and was blind. Carl would spend a year or
more under the care of Doctors who pronounced him totally and incurably blind.
Not being one to ever give up, Carl Canova the Blind Boat Man of St. Augustine would resume his life as the lure of the
ocean would call him back to the only life that he knew. He bought a new boat and began to take out fishing charters, at
first it was difficult as he had to depend upon the eyes with him to get his bearings. Carl was totally familiar with the
waters around the coast, and he knew where to find the fish. Soon he was less dependent on help and was considered
one of the best guides in Fla. His services were in demand. People were astonished at his ability to navigate the waters
around St. Augustine, build and repair boats. Carl did his own fish cleaning, cooking, mending and house cleaning,
going bare foot he could feel a grain of sand on the floor.
At the age of 42 and being blind for 15 yrs. Carl owned two cottages, a large motor boat that would carry over a dozen
people, a sail boat that would carry seven or eight people and twelve good sized rowboats that he rented out. Carl
believed that work was the only salvation for a blind man. He worked an average of sixteen hours a day.
In his later years Carl was living on a house boat named the Rowdy Boy that he could move around the waters of St.
Augustine, His Nieces and Nephews fondly remember the good times that they spent with Uncle Carl. They too were
astonished at what he could do. Nephew Kenny Delany remembers him rowing his boat from Carcabas creek north to
Wrights landing to take him fishing. Over 3 miles one way. Carl Kept his house boat along the east shore of North River
just south of Usina’s fish camp. From here he would row his row boat south with the falling tide down to the St. Augustine
inlet to fish and row back home with the in coming tide. Carl had an old friend, Leon Carrera that lived in a little house
just a short distance ashore from where he kept the Rowdy Boy anchored. Leon kind of looked after Carl as they spent
a lot of time together.
As the legend goes Carl Canova also after going blind continued to knit Mullet nets, again his Nieces and Nephew’s
were amazed to go visit Carl and watch him knitting on a mullet net. Two of Carl’s Nephew’s Thomas and Kenny Delany
would start the nets for him and after two or three rows Carl would take over and finish the net blind.
I can tell you that as a cast net maker my self for 65 years it was no easy task for Carl to accomplish such a feat. Glenda
Frawley remembers going to visit Carl as a little girl and finding him in the dark house knitting on a mullet net. Not
thinking she asked him Uncle Carl what are you doing in the dark, he replied if you need light turn it on.
Gracie Delany as a little girl remembers Carl knitting, sitting in a chair and asked her if she would like to learn to knit. Al
Canova remembers Carl sitting on the edge of his bed knitting with the net tied on the door knob.
Kenny Delany tells the story about some one needing a net real bad and Carl knitted for 36 straight hours without
stopping to knit him a net.
Jack Usina told as a young boy how he would remove sinkers from old net’s and slide them on a new foot line so Carl
could sew them on the new net. Carl had a brother Leon Canova that helped him with sinkers, cow horns and other
things. Leon in his own right was quite a fisherman, he ended up in Mayport running charters for many years.
Carl would also repair nets, now this was much harder than knitting a new net. He asked customers to put a close pin
where the hole in the net was so he could find it. Making a new net you have a gauge to form the meshes, patching a
hole you have nothing to gauge your repair by. Carl lived in the time when cast nets were made out of cotton and that
made it another challenge as cotton would brake easy while knitting if you were not careful.
In summery Carl Canova due to health issues lived the last few years away from the life on the water. Carl left behind a
life time of memories for a lot of people, I can not see their ever being another Carl Canova the blind boat man of St.
|Minorcan History and Culture