When John Correnti wants to get away from steel, he heads for his 40-foot Baja power boat and the fresh waters along the Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi borders.
"It's a good way to kill a Saturday afternoon," said the chief executive officer of SeverCorr LLC, Columbus, Miss. "It's enjoyable, it's a good way to get away from business and the water has a soothing effect on you."
Named My Dawn after Correnti's wife of 27 years, the high-powered craft can hit 60 miles per hour in the water. The muscle cars of recreational boating, Bajas are known for their speed and power, Correnti said. "For a big, 40-foot-long boat, that's really fast. Most boats go 30 to 35 mph."
The Baja is a far cry from the 18-foot boat—an unnamed Sea Ray—the couple used for water skiing in the late 1970s. That's when Correnti, now 60, first got into boating. At the time, he lived near Lake Corpus Christi in Texas while he helped to build uranium plants for U.S. Steel Corp., Pittsburgh. The Sea Ray set Correnti back $8,000 in 1976. He declined to disclose the price of the Baja.
When Correnti moved to Utah several years later to work for Nucor Corp., Charlotte, N.C., he swapped water skiing for skiing the fresh powder of the Rocky Mountains. He said he still tries to make it back to the mountains to ski at least once a year.
Correnti moved to Mississippi in 2005 as head of SeverCorr, a joint venture between JSC Severstal, Cherepovets, Russia, and a group headed by Correnti. The company expects to enter the market with its own steel this fall.
"I really let it go, but I started getting back to it when I moved to Mississippi," he said. "The boating season is so much longer down here. You can really boat from March until the end of November."
Correnti particularly enjoys cruising the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and Pickwick Lake—about 130 miles north of Columbus, where SeverCorr is located and where Correnti currently calls home—with his 24-year-old son. "Mainly we just water ski and run around. We swim off it, sun bathe off it, and it goes fast—so in 90-degree weather, it really cools you down."
Correnti no longer water skis, but he likes to jet ski. And he also competes in "poker runs," where competitors motor from one station to another, taking one card at each stop. "You might have 200 boats in it, and at the end of the day the best hand wins," he said.
From the balmy southern waterways, it would be possible to travel north through Kentucky and follow the Ohio River all the way to Pittsburgh. But Correnti doesn't plan such an epic trip anytime soon. "That would take too long—too many locks to go through."