Florida Sea Base staff safe after Hurricane Irma, but damage to base not yet known

All Florida Sea Base staff is safe and accounted for after Hurricane Irma leveled a direct hit on the Florida Keys, but damage to Sea Base facilities and vessels is not yet known.

Florida Sea Base has two facilities in the Keys: the main Sea Base, located in Islamorada, Fla., on the end of Lower Matecumbe Key, and the Brinton Environmental Center, located on Summerland Key.


Sea Base staff began storm preparation as soon as Irma’s path became clear. Both properties were evacuated on Wednesday — three full days before the storm’s arrival.

Mike Johnson, general manager of the Florida Sea Base, shared an update with me by email. He said he has heard from countless Scouting families who were worried about the base’s staff.

“Thank you to everyone for their prayers and well wishes. The Sea Base staff and Sea Base Committee appreciate it,” he writes. “The good news is that all staff are safe and accounted for. At this point we simply don’t know the extent of damage the Florida Sea Base and the Brinton Environmental Center have sustained.

“As of today, roads into the Keys are impassable, and emergency management and law enforcement are not letting anyone back into the Keys. The Keys have no electricity, no cell service, the lower Keys have no water, upper Keys have water with minimal pressure, none of the hospitals are open, and there is debris from boats and buildings both on the road and in the water — both oceanside and bayside.”

Brinton Environmental Center may have been hardest hit

Johnson notes that Irma came ashore on Cudjoe Key, near the Brinton Environmental Center.

He shared an article from the Miami Herald, which had a reporter in the area, that leads him to believe “damage in the Lower Keys (including Brinton Environmental Center) will be significant.”

What to do if you have a Sea Base reservation in 2017 or 2018

Troops or crews with Sea Base reservations for fall or winter 2017 or spring or summer 2018 should not call or email Sea Base at this time. The base’s staff is extremely busy and doesn’t yet have all the answers.

“It will be many weeks before the base is operational, and we’re going to be focused on the most critical priorities first,” Johnson writes. “Once we know the extent of the damage, we will let crews know if their adventures will be impacted in any way.”

Also, because the mail service has been impacted, crews should not send Sea Base payments at this time.

How to help with cleanup operations

Again, this one counts as “wait and see.”

“For anyone who wants to provide help — i.e., personally coming down to help with recovery efforts or wanting to send support — please wait until we know the damage, needs and next steps,” Johnson writes.

Final thoughts

Irma may have damaged the Florida Sea Base’s facilities, but the base’s mission has not changed.

“From its founding in 1980 by Sam Wampler, the Sea Base has been a unique and amazing place, providing incredible experiences for hundreds of thousands of Scouts,” Johnson writes “We’re fortunate to have great staff at the Sea Base to lead this effort forward as well as tremendous support from our National Service Center. Hurricane Irma will impact how we deliver program in the near future but we are committed to delivering the same exciting, quality program that the Sea Base has for 37 years.”


    • I have only heard from our captains from our STT adventure this summer – they are safe in Puerto Rico. Since there’s no physical office for SBST, and many of the captains live on their boats, we have to wait to see if the captains and their boats are okay. Hopefully Mike & Kelly are okay, too. Praying!

      • All USVI captains are safe as are Mike and Kelly. Some boats have sustained damage; at this point we do not have specifics. Most importantly all Captains and mike and Kelly are safe. Mike Johnson – GM of the FSB

  1. I was at BEC a few weeks ago as part of the last group on Munson, that island must have been hit hard, I hope Steve’s ok. It’s nice to hear that everyone made it out ok. Even here in Wisconsin I know a few scouts planning to head down to help and some of those who can’t are raising money and building care packages. It is in these moments that we must keep the light of scouting burning bright to show people that no matter what’s happening in the world or the nation there people will always be willing to help their neighbors. Wether they be next door, in the next town over, or across the country.

  2. If you look at Reed Timmers FB page, he is on road outside of Camp Sawyer Jackson. I can’t tell if there is damage from road.

  3. If you watch this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KXEJbgEAs0) the front end loader moving sand at 3:11 into the video is the next street along US 1 from the Sea Base on Lower Matecumbe Key at the entrance to the Bar Harbour area. Let’s hope that this modest amount of sand and the road intact bodes well at least for the Lower Matecumbe Sea Base (fingers crossed)

    • That video is heartbreaking. All those boats tossed about and ruined, that is income for so many on the Keys. Praying that all are safe and recovery is quick.

  4. We had three crews from our troop on the Out Island Adventure in August. Our boys are already asking how they can help. Please keep us posted.

    Ann Deckers
    Troop 201
    Plover, Wi

  5. Thank you for the update!
    Praying for the recovery process.
    My boys certainly enjoyed their time there last year!
    Mom of 3 Eagle Scouts.

  6. An echo of the above comments…. I was there with my son and our three crews from T201 in Plover, WI just a month ago.
    I have been riveted to the reporting hoping to get word on the condition of the staff and the base. Glad everyone is safe. I hope Steve is safe!
    We all want to know how we can help.

  7. We have a crew coming July 2018. We are due to send our first half payment by 10/1. Please keep us posted on when it will be okay to send the payment. Continued prayers for speedy recovery and gratitude for safety of staff and captains.

  8. My scout and his fellow Venturing Troop mates (Fort Worth, TX) had an epic-life changing experience at Sea Base this past June. Please allow us to assist!
    Judy Gaudet
    Jesse Kimmerly

  9. Thanks for writing this blog- I shared with some other alumni. Keeping our fingers crossed and waiting to hear of anyway we can help.

  10. So happy to hear that the staff is safe. As soon as the damage has been assessed please let us know how we can help out.

    Troop 755
    Northville, MI

  11. Any news on the Jolly II Rover (Capt Rhon) or other boats that host the Scout Treks? We has an amazing time last year and hope everyone is as good as could be! We had flooding here in JAX (into our garage, inches from our doorstep and roof leaks), but I’ll take that over the difficulties the Keys are facing to rebuild…My thoughts go out to you all!! YIS, Always!

  12. Thanks for the update Mike. I will share with the staff alumni I know. Let us know if we can be of assistance. We like to be helpful.

  13. Thanks for the update. We were the last crew out this summer and i hope that damage was minor and more folks get to experience the amazing program summer of 2018!

  14. We have been organizing/coordinating Serve Journeys (volunteer teams) to Key Largo area for 8 years. We are already in full swing organizing volunteer teams for 2018. If you have a group or team to serve message us. 15+ on a team preferred. Will provide all details and coordination for hearts that want to serve and love on our partners in the keys. Connect@led2serve.org. We are not first responders. Teams are for after January for long term support.

  15. It is completely understandable that repairs, damage and reopening schedules are uncertain in the first week of a disaster like this. However, having phone calls, mail and emails rerouted to another location (even scout headquarters in Dallas) takes minutes and should have been part of the emergency plans of this facility. Payments can easily be made electronically without disruption to finances.

    This is why you have an Emergency Response Team structure at headquarters step up to help locations with problems like this. Local staff are busy but other BSA resources can be used to lighten the load.

    As disaster consultants, if you have specific problems or issues getting your plan going or solving other current problems, please feel free to contact us. (888) 723-3897 or shull@safetystore.com.
    Crisis Management Systems, Inc.

    • I’m a little confused? I see the thumbs down icons.
      Why would the Sea Base not want help from BSA?
      Why would my offer and potential donation of thousands of dollars of assistance be a negative thing for people to see?

  16. My son and his troop from Columbus, Ohio had three crews on Munson last summer. It was truly a life changing experience for them all. My son is also concerned about Steve and the other key deer on the island!

    Several families vacationed in the Keys before the trip and while the boys were on the island. The Keys are so beautiful and we have been so worried about everyone there. Please continue to update us and let us know what we can do to help! You all remain in our prayers!

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