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Date: 1 February 2014. Boat on Fire!


31 January 2014 at 1939 (7:39 p.m.)

I am sitting at my dinette in the galley and looked out over the harbor as is my usual habit. Directly astern of me I saw a fire. From my angle initially I thought the second sailboat back, Gypsy Rose, was ablaze. Immediately I got out the binoculars to take a closer look. And yes, there was a fire, but fortunately not on an occupied boat.

The white arrow is Just Right Marine's [http://justrightmarine.com] dock with Jerry's Bertram31, and, FIRE!

Through the binoculars it appeared to be aboard one of the two shrimp boats that raft to each other along the Carrabelle River at some old docks. My vantage point in the harbor offered a good clear view of both the steel Crystal Starr (at the red arrow) and the B.J. Henry she is rafted to.

Next I got on the VHF, Channel 16, and asked if anyone in the Carrabelle Harbor was listening. Within seconds Sanderling, a boat docked at C-Quarters Marina responded. Cap'n Bob is not a local however he was monitoring VHF 16. 

Aside: Over the years afloat you can almost be certain the individuals whose VHF is never off are what I consider the old timers. They are ready to respond to calls, and interested in the world outside the boundaries of their hull. Experienced boaters listen constantly whereas, generally speaking, the folks without quite so many years aboard do not.

Those who have not spent decades afloat tend to shut down everything when they pull into port. It is their way -- not wrong, but different than mine.  When underway the radio is on for newer cruisers, but not otherwise.  It's odd, and perhaps different in your region but where I have been?  Definitely, this is what I have observed.

Cap'n Edwin does most of his cruising aboard S/V Concorde.


In this age of cell phones I believe we are in danger of losing
the "party line" effectiveness of good VHF communications.

Neither of us (Sanderling nor self, on Seaweed) were sure the exact location/address of the fire. He thought it might be on shore. After checking with his binoculars Bob believed it was a grill burning out of control.  To me the fire appeared to be coming from the cargo hold of the Crystal Starr.  I say that because I did not see lights from the pilothouse windows so assumed it was aft, versus in the living spaces of the shrimp boat.

I was not sure if 9-1-1 on my cell phone would work for a location so I called Kim who works at C-Quarters Marina where Sanderling is docked. By telling her "blue shrimper rafted to larger shrimp boat near Just Right Marine" she knew the boats I was describing. And better still, she knew how to communicate that to the local authorities.


Initially I thought the fire was on Gypsy Rose. That's the boat at the black arrow with the dinghy tied alongside. It looked like her generator was engulfed, until I got out my binoculars. They bugged out when the weather was so miserable, staying with friends ashore and just returned to their boat a couple days ago.

Kim is amazing. She answered the phone right away and when I told her the location of the boats involved, she hung up!  Her hubby was out the door while she was dialing 9-1-1 from her house.  Because she's a local she knows what stuff is called and in less than a minute I saw a blue light flashing as the police department arrived on scene.

This is Kim:


Harold, Kim's husband, also drove over and the volunteer fire department was there too.  Later I found out that Russell from TowBoatUS was on scene as well. That's small town living, when so many pull together to make sure everything turns out okay.

While on his way Harold phoned Jerry, the owner of Just Right Marine (my mechanic) who has his business close by. Jerry also has a Bertram31 out back at his docks.  That vessel could easily be a showroom piece.  The woodwork on the interior is fabulous. It is a work of art.  But then again, it is a Bertram31, and really, those boats are a masterpiece of go-fast sport fishing for the testosterone contingent.  Jerry's is no different. The owners are a bit rabid about their Bertrams, and for good reason.  Low to the water, they ride well and fast to the fishing grounds.  With an expansive cockpit, well, there is room to bring in the big ones.

This is a picture of Just Right the Bertram31 underway in the Carrabelle River.


Apparently a couple of homeless men with no sense whatsoever thought making a fire in a 55 gallon barrel on a boat was a good idea. Yes, staying warm is important. Still, it is best to remember that folks who burn up boats go to Hell, so they might just have gotten real toasty. And to imperil the livelihood of fishermen is wrong on so many different levels I am fighting hard to not let 'em have it with both barrels.

Thankfully by 2010 (8:10 p.m.) all visible signs of the fire were gone. The Crystal Starr remains rafted to the B.J. Henry and all is well on the waterfront.

Addendum:  2 February 2014.  What I did not know when I wrote the article is that my initial call on the VHF was heard by more than Sanderling. The TowBoatUS gent Russell also was listening in.  Russell knew the location of the boats and immediately went to the dock where they were tied.

At this point I'm not certain if it was Kim or Russell whose call first alerted 9-1-1 of the fire aboard Crystal Starr. Both certainly were heroes in this whole episode.  They not only realized the immanent danger, but quickly got help en route. 

In any event, listening in made a difference and quick action by the locals averted a sure disaster. One thing I am certain of is this: if the Crystal Starr were not steel the damage would have been far more extensive. We might have been looking at one of those sad "burned to the waterline" stories.

Fortunately that did not happen.  "Three cheers" for the Volunteer Fire Department of Carrabelle, plus Russell and Kim.

P.S. - Does anyone reading have a picture of the fire-fighters? Email me please!

Have you ever been involved in a fire?
When was the last time you checked your fire extinguishers?  [I check mine on the 1st of every month.]

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2014, 2023

Categories: Boat Talk, Boats, Characters, Locations
Linked: http://cruisersnet.net/134927/  and http://ghtacruising.com/2014/02/

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