Social media helps boat get back

In the midst of gutting houses and having more things on his to-do list than ever before, Key Colony Beach City Commissioner Jerry Ellis just wrote his boat off as a loss.

“I didn’t have a lick of insurance on it and just never dreamed I would see it again,” he said. “The story is a little hard to believe.”

The boat made an approximate 10-mile float, from 13th Street on Key Colony Beach, down the canal, through the basin, under Vaca Cut Bridge, through the flats and out to the open water of the Gulf.

While evacuated to north Florida for Hurricane Irma, the satellite photos came through with more missing from his property than expected. He looked the photo over for a second, thankful for still having a roof, but then noticed the boat gone from its lift.

Before he left, he carefully put “Sea Ellis” as high as possible on the lift and tied a rope off, just in case.

When Ellis returned, he searched the neighborhood with no luck. His neighbors Denise and Steve DeCrow’s boat was high and dry, four lots down on top of mangroves.

“I didn’t even have time to mourn the loss of the boat, and just went back to work gutting houses and cleaning up everything,” he said.

That’s when neighbor Leslie Ryder saw a Facebook post shared by Ronnie Freeman, saying: “Jarold Ellis. If anyone knows him contact me I know where his boat is.”

Marathon commercial fisherman Art Stephens stayed for the storm and started looking for his 3,000 lobster traps post-Irma, when offshore in the Gulf he spotted a rogue boat and towed it back to a friend’s house in Stirrup Key. Freeman shared the post for Stephens, and luckily, Ryder saw it.

“I wasn’t knowing what to expect when we went to get her,” said Ellis. “But, there were no scratches, no debris. The rope we tied off to the front was broke in half, but we turned the battery on and, by gosh, she cranked right up.”

FWC estimates 1,300 boats were lost, sunk, or beached during Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys.

 

 

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