Still Shaking After All These Years

A visit to Shake-A-Leg Miami leaves the crew of Ocean Watch impressed with the facilities, staff, and wide-ranging programs. "Herb's Watch" from our November 25, 2009, CW Reckonings.

November 19, 2009

368 Harry Horgan

In Miami, Shake-A-Leg founder Harry Horgan (center, in the blue shirt) shares a laugh with the crew of Ocean Watch: David Thoreson (left), Mark Schrader, Herb McCormick, and Dave Logan. Courtesy Of Herb Mccormick

Back in the day in our shared hometown of Newport, Rhode Island, Harry Horgan and I could raise some serious Cain. I had a few years on Harry (whose family owned Christie’s, an iconic waterfront restaurant well-known to many a visiting sailor), but for a while we worked construction together, and I got to know him fairly well. But I hadn’t seen him for a few years in the time leading up to that night in the early 1980s when he was in a car accident and became paralyzed from the waist down. Ironically, I lived right down the street from the scene; I remember hearing the ambulances.

Unfortunately, at that point I knew far more than I wanted to know about spinal-cord injuries. A couple of years earlier, one of my best friends in the world, Jack “Jack Mack” McKenna, was in a diving accident that left him a quadriplegic. I was a few feet away from him when it happened.

All this came back to me very recently when Ocean Watch called in Miami on our ongoing voyage Around the Americas ( The crew was invited to the remarkable facilities of a group called Shake-A-Leg Miami, right on Biscayne Bay. Both skipper Mark Schrader and I spoke to a couple of groups of youngsters that day. The executive director of the organization introduced me and even invoked the name of Jack Mack.


The director’s name? Harry Horgan.

I could write a book instead of a blog about all this, and maybe someday I will. But for the time being, I’ll stick to the salient facts. The saddest thing about spinal-cord injuries is that young, active people largely incur them, “kids” in the prime of their youth. Harry and Jack could’ve felt sorry for themselves; I reckon I would’ve. Instead, Harry formed Shake-A-Leg to help folks overcome devastating injuries and physical disabilities, largely through sailing. Jack Mack and I even sailed in one of the early Shake-A-Leg regattas, and I did a piece in Cruising World about it. In Harry’s introduction the other day, he mentioned all that. I have to admit, it got pretty misty there for a minute.

Several years ago, Harry and his wife, Susie, moved to Miami and continued the work they’d started in Rhode Island all those years ago. Today, Shake-A-Leg Miami is a far grander, more ambitious, and far-reaching institution than the one Harry originally conceived. Frankly, we on Ocean Watch were astonished and impressed with the facilities, staff, and wide-ranging programs that are all part of the association today. In these challenging economic times, fundraising is always a challenge for non-profit organizations, and I’d urge everyone who might have the means and be moved to contribute to visit Shake-A-Leg Miami’s website ( for more information on their goals, facilities, and programs for young people in South Florida.


The Around the Americas voyage is meant to be a voyage of discovery. In Miami, it was wonderful to discover a pair of old friends, Harry and Susie, doing so well.


More Uncategorized