'We are ambassadors': Windes loves being part of the fishing community

Tina Harbuck
Mary Anne Windes poses recently at her real estate office in Destin.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For the next few weeks leading up to the October Destin Fishing Rodeo, The Destin Log will be taking a look at some of the women behind the men that make their living on the water and what it’s like to be their helpmate.

After 31 years, Mary Anne Windes is still proud to be a wife of a Destin charter boat captain.

“One of the things I love most about being a captain’s wife is the camaraderie of the fishing community,” said Mary Anne, who is the wife of charter boat Capt. Kelly Windes, aka Killer. “They fish hard, work long hours, compete with each other, fight with each other, and support each other fiercely.

“They are all for one, and one for all,” she added. “When one goes down, they all jump in to support that family and take care of their own.”

Mary Anne and Kelly met while she was working an accounting job with Gail Grimes (now Starling) for various business enterprises of Frank and Mary Starnes King. Kelly sold fish to the Kings for one of their restaurants and had seen and asked about her.

“We almost got off to bad start because every time he asked me out, I couldn’t go because I was either giving horseback riding lessons, teaching aerobics, tutoring someone in math, or something else,” Mary Anne said. “The final straw was one day when he called and I said I was having my dog photographed at Olin Mills, which I was.”

Kelly thought she was dismissing him because he couldn’t believe anyone was that busy.

She invited him to go along for the photo shoot of her dog, Michelob. Although he declined, they went out the next evening she had available at Pandora’s.

“Michelob and I both fell in love with him and the photograph of Michelob still sits in my office to this day,” she said.

Mary Anne is the broker/owner of Real Estate Professionals of Destin Inc., located in the heart of Destin.

Being the wife of a fisherman can be a bit different from the 9 to 5 businessman.

Kelly, who still fishes but also serves on the Okaloosa County Board of Commissioners, would take 12-hour trips minimum and run seven days a week, unless their was bad weather.

Mary Anne was Ok with him being away.

“Since I’m an only child, used to being left alone, self-directed, and love my independence, I think it’s great,” she said. “If you don’t feel that way, it can be a tough and lonely life.

“The only problems we had was when he was used to being in charge all day on the boat, and I was used to being in charge all day at the house and the office, so when he would come home, there was some confusion as to who was in charge at times. We laugh about it now.”

As the wife of a charter boat captain, Mary Anne has spent time on the boat fishing.

“Before the kids were born, I spent as often as I could (fishing) on the weekends when I wasn’t working,” she said, noting that the trips were always 12 hours or longer. “Honestly though, I preferred sunbathing on the bow or in the tower. He’s not happy that I cry when I see a fish struggle. I’ve been known, more than once, to get between a billfish or a cobia and a Billy club to protect the fish. Guess what, that doesn’t go over well.

“But it doesn’t bother me at all when they are already dead on the rack,” said Mary Anne who worked as the dock photographer for a number of years. “After the kids were born, I didn’t have time to sleep much less go fishing. He did his thing, and I did my job, the kids, the house and the volunteering. We are both happiest when we are busy.”

In the early days, Mary Anne and the kids would meet Kelly at the boat almost every night, especially during the October Destin Fishing Rodeo.

“They were both good students, but I would tell their teachers every year that in October, our lives were different,” she said.

Capt. Windes was known for being one of the last boats to weigh-in at the Rodeo each night and almost always boasting a huge catch of some sort, and still does today.

Now that the kids, Trey and Missy, are both grown and married, Capt. Windes doesn’t fish as much as he used to. But fishing is still very much part of their lives with Trey, the captain of his own boat and chairman of this year’s Rodeo. Trey also just had the Windes first grandchild, a boy named Charles K. Windes IV, and daughter Missy is due on Dec. 24 with a girl, who has already been named Ava Anne.

One of the things she has liked the least of being the wife of a charter boat captain has been the ringing of the phone at all hours of the day and night.

“We answer the same questions over and over and over … with a smile day after day, year after year,” Mary Anne said. “I can’t tell you how many times your standing there with the phone in your hand, your kids are waiting never patiently, your dinner is burning, your other line is ringing, you’ve got a million things to do, and this superhero angler is on the line telling you every fishing story he knows before he gets around to actually telling you why he’s calling.”

But she listens and smiles and then tries to direct him to where he needs to be.

“Because in this business, as I see it, we’re not just charter boat wives, we are ambassadors of an entire community and of Destin itself,” she said.