MARATHON, Fla. — National news reports out of the Florida Keys largely have been optimistic in the wake of Hurricane Irma, but they have mostly focused on Key West and neglected to mention other, less nationally recognized keys.
Big Pine Key, which Trade Only Today reported about on Friday, was extremely hard hit, and there were varying degrees of damage all the way to Miami Beach, leaving many homeless and even more without power, particularly in Big Pine Key and Marathon.
The eye of the storm hit between Big Pine Key and Cudjoe Key, putting Big Pine in the nasty northwestern quadrant of the storm.
“We were crying for people in Hurricane Harvey, and we haven’t cried for ourselves,” Shelly Breedlove, manager of Driftwood Marina and Storage in Marathon, told Trade Only Today on Thursday. “Living here, we expect hurricanes. It’s a lot of work, but we know things like this happen.”
Many of the 150 boats at the facility were left in a jumble after the storm surge lifted them up and dropped them, and a tornado hit Driftwood’s high-and-dry facility.
This video shows a boat stuck in a tree, as well as a jumble of boats left in Irma’s wake.
Perhaps counterintuitively for those outside the region, boats remained a top priority and concern for residents here — often ranking just below food, water and safety, but well above homes.
“Some people live on these things in the water,” Breedlove said. “There are a lot of fishermen who had to pull their boats out because it’s their livelihood.”
Cleanup of the many sunken and battered boats was well under way at Dinner Key Marina in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami on Friday, but many other boats remained submerged. Several sailboats had wound up in the nearby man-made mangroves, and several masts stuck out from the waterline at awkward angles.
A 6-foot storm surge caused some boats to drift loose from their pilings and get carried away by 110-mile winds, creating what BoatUS public affairs vice president Scott Croft calls “a bowling ball effect” and smashing into other vessels.
Several boats remained entirely or partly submerged at Dinner Key Marina on Friday.
Several boats had extensive damage to rubrails from battering pilings all day, but owners of those boats believed they’d escaped the worst.
Mark Decker was reloading all of the equipment stripped off his 34-foot Mainship trawler Jerry Sue on Friday, saying, “I got lucky, man. We were prepared to lose it.”
Bob Patrick, 90, stood next to his 37-foot sailboat, but was unable to board because the dock leading to it had crumbled. “It’s just some rubrail damage,” Patrick said, although it was obvious that he was longing to board her to check for potential damage to the cabin. “If these pilings had been higher, we’d have very little damage."
Patrick, who owns a shop called Marine Specialties in Provincetown, Mass., and had watched his boat on camera through the storm, stood next to his boat for close to an hour until a squall came through and his wife gently persuaded him to leave the dock.
Tracy and Michael Woodring, who live aboard their 1989 46-foot Nordhavn, believed they’d also escaped the worst — an extra relief since Michael Woodring has spent about 60 hours a week for the last year and a half customizing the boat, doing upgrades that wouldn’t be covered by insurance.
“For a while we saw her on cameras, and then on YouTube videos — and that didn’t necessarily make me feel better,” Tracy Woodring said.
But until they checked out the boat beneath the waterline, they weren’t quite placated.
“We’re really concerned about debris,” Tracy added. “We’re going to have Sea Tow come and pull her over there so we can check the stabilizer and prop and all the stuff you can’t see.”