Date: 1 February 2014. Boat on Fire!
31 January 2014 at 1939 (7:39 p.m.)
I'm 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's 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 responded. Bob's not a local but 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 many years aboard do not.
Those who have not spent decades afloat tend to shut down
everything when they pull into port. It's 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've been? Definitely.
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 didn't see lights from
the pilothouse windows so assumed it was aft, versus in the living spaces
of the shrimp boat.
I wasn't 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.
Jerry's shop/dock Just Right Marine
and Gypsy Rose and Fire on Crystal Starr!
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.
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's a
work of art. But then again, it is a Bertram31, and really, the 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's room
to bring in the big ones.
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's 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'm 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 danger
involved, 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'm 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
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.]
Heaters Debunked ~
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