Not Knowing Could be Worse

By: Capt. Tim Ramsey

People sometimes say, “what you don’t know can’t hurt you.” There’s a certain kind of flag I’d like to wave to that. People who say that obviously haven’t been away from their boat when a hurricane rolls through the area where you keep it. You know that thing with the outboard motor some men’s wives say they care more about? The one my wife, the “fabulous first lady of fishing” threatened me with bodily harm if I ever sold. The boat where she consistently out-fishes me and the thing that gets us back into the mangrove backcountry we love so much. My Skeeter.

Recently, during Hurricane Ian, I was in New Jersey doing my best to let striped bass avoid everything I threw at them while catching every bluefish in the ocean. All was well, then came Ian. An unwelcome, intrusive, destructive, remorseless, uninvited guest. I didn’t tell him to go to Goodland. People also say you never know how many friends you have until you buy a house in Florida, a house at the beach, or a boat. Well, I never invited him to Florida or to go boating, but he came anyway.

As the storm moved through, I sat riveted to the TV, hoping to get some news on the status of Goodland, and more specifically, the status of Safe Harbor Calusa Island, and more specifically, my boat parked there on the trailer. No luck. I searched social media far and wide, and found some Goodland news, but nothing on the marina. The power was out. The marina was closed. The bottle of Tums got depleted. I went online and double-checked my insurance policy.

Meanwhile, my brother had issues getting to the marina. Unlike during Irma, the power stayed on, but the car was having problems. For days I waited. Then someone on Facebook had a link to a NOAA satellite photo. I opened it and my hair stood up. A boat was washed onto the street. Others were clear around the other side of the marina. Two more boats were washed down where my boat should be, and my boat was gone.

Did it wash away? Was it under the mangroves and I couldn’t see it in the overhead photo? Did some opportunist brave the storm’s aftermath and take it? What I didn’t know was killing me. Well, not literally. I don’t want to diminish the tragic loss of life caused by the storm over a stupid boat, but figuratively, the waiting and not knowing were brutal. The government said for people to not come down to inspect their properties or possessions. The airport was closed. Hotels were destroyed or full or without power and someone needing shelter from the storm was sleeping in my bed. The marina began sending “we’ve had major damage. We’re closed. We’ll let you know more when the power comes on. Call your insurance company” mass emails. I felt like I caught a gaff hook in the nether regions.

Then, ten days after the storm, my brother snuck into the marina and searched for my boat. There it was! It was still on the trailer; reeds and debris sat in piles on the trailer fenders. There was a distinct scum line all around it, but the cover was still on, and it appeared intact. It had rolled backward under the mangroves and hidden from the overhead photo. All manner of dirt washed into the bilge, but everything seemed miraculously unscathed. The marina moved it a couple times and then put it back right where it was before the storm.

Then, on October 16th, the marina manager sent me a text that read “she made it out okay.” I think that was when my heartbeat went back to normal. So, I’ll get back to Florida and see for myself. Well, if you’re reading this, it’s December, so I’ll have to update you later. Who knows what I’ll discover when I finally see it, or when I get into the storage unit I have near the airport.