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Charter fleet at Islamorada resort told not to return

This is charterboat row at the Postcard Inn of Islamorada, seen after damage from Hurricane Irma. Longtime fishing captains at the former Holiday Isle Resort and Marina have been told not to return, pending repairs of uncertain duration. Safety is the key issue, says the resort general manager.
This is charterboat row at the Postcard Inn of Islamorada, seen after damage from Hurricane Irma. Longtime fishing captains at the former Holiday Isle Resort and Marina have been told not to return, pending repairs of uncertain duration. Safety is the key issue, says the resort general manager. First Choice Charters

Hurricane Irma “devastated” one of Islamorada’s best-known and iconic charterboat marinas, leaving more than 20 offshore and backcountry captains looking for a place to dock.

A marina manager for the Postcard Inn Beach Resort and Marina at mile marker 84 sent an email to its charter fleet last week alerting them that “no boats will be able to return to the marina until the [repair] work is done or until further notice from management.”

The Postcard Inn previously operated as Holiday Isle Resort and Marina before being sold to the Carlyle Group in September 2014. Repairs to the oceanfront property and marina could take more than six months, the notice to captains says.

“We supported that place for years. I still can’t believe they did this to us,” said Kevin Brown, captain of the Gold Reserve, docked at the marina for 28 years. “The last thing I expected was for them to put me out of business.”

Chuck Schimmelman of the Dee Cee, working from the former Holiday Isle since 1983, said the loss of his longtime dock berth “leaves a bit of sour taste.”

“I wish the resort was locally owned, but it’s corporate-owned,” Schimmelman said. “We could find a way to work around the construction.”

Postcard Inn General Manager Eddie Sipple said Tuesday the damage to dock pilings, finger piers, buildings and utilities makes it too hazardous to allow boats to return. One charter boat, Island Time, sank at the dock.

“Safety is the priority and right now it’s just not safe to go into that area,” Sipple said. “We don’t know what’s in the water. There could be downed power lines. We can’t say until we get a safety assessment, and that could be a few weeks away.”

“We received a lot of damage. It’s going to take a lot of work to put it back together,” Sipple said. “We will rebuild and get everything up and running.”

A field team from USGS is racing time to document the storm surge from Irma that slammed the Keys. They are tracking high water marks from Key West to Key Largo, trying to get an accurate read of the surge since sensors often fail during a storm's

Several captains at the Postcard Inn pointed to other charter docks, including the nearby Whale Harbor Marina and Bud ‘n’ Mary’s Marina, that are making repairs while providing space for charter vessels.

“We could have cleaned that marina in two days, and done the work for free,” Brown said. “We have divers and people who know what they’re doing. It’s what we do for a living.”

“None of us are happy.... They slammed the door in our face,” said Larry Wren, a 12-year captain of the First Choice. “Holiday Isle was built on family vacations and charter fishing. There were probably 45 independent businesses based there that are now left out in the cold. How dare they turn their backs on us.”

A.J. Stewart, captain of the charter boat Priority, said, “I hope they do the right thing. It’s hard to find places to put a 61-foot boat. It’s amazing how other marinas made room for their charter boats, but we’ve been pushed aside.”

“It’s very sad,” Stewart said. “It’s a community that’s been there forever. We’re not getting any answers so it’s been tough.”

Whale Harbor Marina “was a mess on the first day back at the dock,” said Skip Bradeen of the Blue Chip Too. “Howard Brody, our property owner, went right at it; he attacked it. Now it’s totally safe and we’re looking forward to bringing people down to go fishing.”

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206

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