Tom Caruso has kept the spirit of performance boating alive in lower Fairfield County with his Total Marine Dealership, which features new Fountains, Donzi boats, sport fishing boats and more. Caruso grew up in the boat business with his father starting Total Marine when he was just 11.
“I remember reading his copies of Powerboat Magazine and I was so infatuated with the offshore racers—(Don) Aronow, (Robert) Magoon and (Sandy) Satullo,” Caruso said. “I got to meet a few of them at the New York Boat Show back then and I was awestruck.”
Caruso started racing in 1986 in a pleasure Chris Cat with triple 200-hp Mercury outboards. Although the boat was fun, it wasn’t fast enough so they upped the power to triple 2.5 Mercury, gutted the interior and turned it into a full-blown race boat.
“It became obvious by the mid-1990s that the Chris Cat needed to be retired, since it was an open-cockpit 30’ boat competing against canopied 35’ and larger boats, so we sold it and sat out a few seasons,” he said.
After becoming a Formula dealership and he raced a 38-foot Formula FAS3Tech on the APBA national circuit for several years. Caruso retired from offshore racing after the first race in 2003 when his good Jack Stoerrle died after his boat barrel-rolled in their wake.
“I had just become a dad a few months prior, and my obligations as a father outweighed my desire to continue racing, so it was without question time to put racing behind me,” Caruso said. “Poker running seemed like a good idea to still go fast, but without the ‘balls to the wall’ impulsivity that racing can sometimes give you.”
Asked about being named a Legend, Caruso joked that it meant he was getting old.
“I was fortunate enough to meet some real legends of this sport and industry during my racing and boat sales careers,” he said. “If I made a small contribution along the way, I’m not sure. I now have to let my sons have the same opportunity that my Dad gave to me of letting me pursue my dreams in this crazy sport and hobby.”