If you have to die -- and there don't seem to be any viable alternatives as of yet -- you might consider going out like Capt. Daniel E. Davis.
Yesterday afternoon, a flotilla of family and friends set sail from Davis' Dead Eye Saloon in the shadow of the Hanover Street bridge, intent on paying their last respects to the 58-year-old marina operator, a feisty free spirit who had proved you can fight City Hall. And the Coast Guard, and the city liquor board, and just about anyone else who tried to cross "Captain Dan" over the years.
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Family members and some of those closest to him led the way on the Nymph, Davis' boat, bought for $1 and furnished with his trademark taxidermy.
The aptly named Bon Voyage, piloted by Davis' lawyer, John Glenn, was close behind, packed with more friends. In all, almost 20 boats joined the flotilla and more than 300 people thronged the Dead Eye at the height of the wake.
Davis needed a lawyer in recent years. He has had skirmishes with the city over his lease for the Baltimore Yacht Basin and attempts to yank the Dead Eye's liquor license.
But he had gotten an eight-year lease for the marina in August 1995, and things had been pretty quiet on the southern front since then.
Davis died of a heart attack Sunday. Was it really just a week ago Saturday, his friends on the Bon Voyage wondered, that they drank a toast of blackberry brandy to his new granddaughter? Just a week ago that he managed to get banned from Fells Point's Cat's Eye Pub for life?
Not that the ban would have stuck. Robin Stevenson, a friend for 24 years, remembers the time she banned him from the Whistling Oyster for three years, back when she still owned the place.
"He was one of the Fells Point characters," she said sadly of the friend who was always there for her, through marriage and motherhood, illness and widowhood.
Stories, they all could tell you stories. The one about the palm trees. The one about Duck Island. The one about the forklift. Many of the stories center on women, but far more on his generosity.
"With Dan, you only got half the story," said John Del Alcazar, known as "Young John" in this close-knit crowd that shares a love of Fells Point and the water. "I'd stop by on my dinghy, he'd ask me to take a keg outside. I'd do it. Then he'd ask me to get a few cases from the back. Next thing I knew, I would be carrying six cases around."
Davis was born in Mount Pleasant, Mich., not far from Lake Michigan. He couldn't stay away from sailboats, according to his older brother, Gary Davis, who came from Michigan for the wake. Some of Captain Dan's happiest memories dated from the four years he served on the USS Hornet, an aircraft carrier.
For almost 25 years, he worked with computers, first for IBM and then on his own. He sold his business in the early 1980s to start a yacht charter operation, which led to his fiefdom at the Baltimore Yacht Basin.
The Dead Eye will stay open, his son, Lincoln Davis, promised yesterday.
"We'll change some things, but it will have the same look, feel, taste, smell," he said. "We're going to keep the spirit."
The spirit of the Dead Eye was clearly Davis' freewheeling spirit. Richard Elmy remembered how Davis was wont to announce to his customers that he was heading into Fells Point for a drink and they could join him on the Nymph. So Davis' bar would empty out while he used his boat and his gas to take his customers to the Cat's Eye or the Whistling Oyster.
"Let's give him a Fells Point cheer," his friends on the Bon Voyage decided, chanting a toast best not repeated here. The boats toured past Davis' beloved Fells Point, then slowed as they neared Fort McHenry.
It requires a permit to throw ashes from a boat in Baltimore's harbor. Over the years, Davis was known to flout that law, with the scattering of the remains of many.
"He always did things you weren't supposed to do -- but he did them anyway," said Sandy Holmes. "That was Dan."
So if anything besides flowers were thrown from the Nymph yesterday -- well, Captain Dan would have approved.
Pub Date: 8/22/97