Thousands of recreational boats broke free, grounded or sank during two powerful hurricanes that struck Texas and Florida weeks apart in late summer — and some owners have walked away rather than opting to pay for repairs.
Damage was heaviest in Florida, where Hurricane Irma displaced more than 2,500 vessels after making landfall Sept. 10. Almost seven weeks later, at least 1,100 were still awaiting salvage, according to the Coast Guard. The term “displaced” refers to boats that moved from their original position during the storms.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Harvey displaced nearly 700 vessels in south Texas when it made landfall Aug. 25 near Corpus Christi. Damage was most concentrated between Corpus Christi and Port Lavaca, where about 500 boats were affected, the Coast Guard said.
“Devastation was enormous,” said Peter Davidson, marina superintendent for the city of Corpus Christi, where two vessels sank and a third broke free. “All the marinas along the Gulf Coast from Port Aransas, Island Moorings, Ingleside, Aransas Pass, Cove Harbor and Rockport pretty much were totaled, including large dry stacks.”
“These marinas, including surrounding areas, lost in excess of 650 boats,” he said in mid-October.
The Coast Guard is working with the Texas General Land Office to remove damaged vessels. As of Oct. 30, more than 50 were awaiting removal. Response teams overseen by the two agencies removed or refloated another 121, Coast Guard Chief Susan Blake said.
Workers in Florida remove vessels damaged by Hurricane Irma.
Hurricane Irma made landfall Sept. 10 in Cudjoe Key, Fla., with winds exceeding 120 mph. More than 1,766 vessels were displaced in the Florida Keys alone, according to the unified command consisting of the Coast Guard, federal EPA and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). In the three other regions of the state — Jacksonville, Miami and St. Petersburg — there were at least 163, 295 and 301 displaced vessels, respectively.
In most cases, vessel owners arranged for salvage and removal. But Coast Guard Spokeswoman Elizabeth Bordelon said at least 11 people have signed their boats over to FWC. She believes that number will grow in the weeks ahead.
Sean Cannon, ports director for the city of Marathon who oversees the Marathon City Marina, said the storm was one of the most devastating in some time. The marina’s dinghy dock was destroyed, and other parts of the facility also were damaged.
“We lost a lot of boats in the mangroves,” he said. “Some sunk, some were just high and dry, and we had half a dozen boats in our canal that took out our dinghy dock inside the canal.”
David Hawthorne, marina manager for the city of Key West, said about 10 percent of the City Marina at Garrison Bight was damaged, and countless vessels sank in and around the harbor.
Roughly 60 boats broke free from the marina’s mooring field during the storm.
“Our damages were bad,” he said, “but for the kind of storm that it was … it could have been much worse than we actually got.”