A month and a week after Category 4 Hurricane Irma slammed the Florida Keys, causing widespread damage in the Middle and Lower Keys and lesser damage elsewhere in the island chain, the process of removing damaged or sunken vessels at Monroe County’s largest publicly managed harbor is underway.
“There is a pile of boats over there,” said one resident of the Boot Key Harbor City Marina in Marathon, pointing to a parking lot on the east side of the marina.
“Every organization you can think of is over there,” Sean Cannon, city ports director at the marina at U.S. 1 and 35th Street, said over the sound of cranes moving boats, some of which have been sitting on the ocean floor for five weeks now.
The storm ruined two-thirds of the 300 boats docked at the marina prior to its Sept. 10 landfall. A harbor liveaboard, Fred Hoehn, 81, was found dead on 28th Street on Sept. 11.
Cannon said Tuesday the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the U.S. Coast Guard, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among others, are working to stage the boats in one spot before they’re taken away.
“They’re giving people time I think to get their personal things out of them before being signed over to the FWC,” he said of about 12 boats that have been pulled out of the water in recent days.
Before the government agencies showed up, Cannon said insurance companies pulled out about 36 boats.
As of Tuesday, he said there were about 100 boats still anchored in the harbor with people living on them.
“Some people pulled boats out of the mangroves and saved them. It’s getting back to a new normal,” he said.
The marina clubhouse building was flooded with about two feet of water but is back up and running.
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219