Sea Base after Hurricane Irma: ‘We’re very fortunate given the severity of the storm’

The Florida Keys partially reopened Tuesday, giving Florida Sea Base staff their first look at the facilities after Hurricane Irma made landfall over the weekend.

We already knew that, thankfully, the Sea Base staff evacuated well before the storm hit. Now we know how the main Sea Base facilities fared.

The damage at the main Sea Base in Islamorada, Fla., is “minimal given the severity of the storm,” says general manager Mike Johnson. “There are many downed palm trees, palm fronds everywhere, downed fences, lots of trash from across the street that has washed into and through our fence, mud on everything, stains on buildings from wind-driven trash, and Sargasso weed all over.”

Damage at the Brinton Environmental Center, located on Summerland Key right near where Irma made landfall, still is not known. The road is closed at mile marker 73 — nearly 50 miles up the keys from Summerland, meaning nobody is allowed down there.

“We can’t get down there,” Johnson says. “As soon as I have some information I will provide it. We’re expecting a lot of cleanup.”

Also still unknown: How Sea Base programs will be affected in 2017 and beyond. I’ll share those updates as soon as I have them.

Read on for more details on the current condition of the Sea Base.

The parade ground has lots of debris.

Overview of status of Sea Base

After taking a first look around, here’s Johnson’s report:

Buildings with no damage visible: Thomas Building, scuba dorms, sailing dorms, Adams Building (administrative building), the scuba complex, ship’s store (couldn’t see the roof), T-dock (no visible damage)

Buildings with minimal to moderate damage: Annex (missing roof panels, some siding damage), commissary/ice house (fallen tree on the commissary, missing siding on both buildings), registration building (siding damage), galley (siding damage), maintenance shed (one of the roll up doors is heavily damaged)

Buildings with significant damage: The scuba chickee hut

Staff housing: The four staff houses sustained moderate to severe roof damage. The fence around the property is 50 percent destroyed.

Vehicles: “It doesn’t seem like the storm surge was high enough to have washed into the interiors,” Johnson says.

Fuel: Neither the gas nor the diesel tanks were damaged. There is still no power at the Sea Base, but the fuel will allow staff to run generators soon.

Boats: The Dusky boats at Sea Base are undamaged.

A tree down near the quarterdeck. It fell onto the commissary/ice house.

Next steps

Once the Sea Base has power and water, Johnson will contact Philmont to get a crew that can help with cleanup. The teams at each of the BSA’s national high-adventure bases are one big family, and families help each other in times of need.

“There are easily weeks of chain sawing, power washing, basic repair, cleaning and organizing ahead of us,” Johnson says. 

As I mentioned on Monday, 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 has no power. Also, because the mail service has been impacted, crews should not send Sea Base payments at this time.

As for those volunteering to help or send supplies, the time for that will come as well. I’ll share those needs and next steps as soon as I get them from Johnson and his team.

Sunset over the base on Sept. 12, 2017.
The Thomas Building was mostly unscathed with lots of debris around it.
Lots of fences are down around the base.
View from the scuba dorms.

29 Comments

  1. Thank you for taking the time to provide an update. My son attended Sea Base for the first time in July. You guys were phenomenal… and the kids could not have had a better experience. We will keep looking for updates and opportunities to help.

  2. Thanks so much for posting, Bryan. I’ve been looking for news, the crew (and the facilities) have been much on our minds the last several days.

  3. Thank you for the update! We were the last crew to go out on the Yankee 3 weeks ago. Have you heard from Capt John? Is he and the Yankee ok?!

  4. Great to hear the damages were nominal – looking forward to status at Brinton, and hearing ftom Captains Denny and Holly down south…

  5. Am Hoping that Brinton didnt suffer much damage. My crew #145 Round Rock Tx was there in July 2017 and had the best Keys Adventure !!
    Keeping ALL of you in my prayers!

  6. Glad to hear what sounds like pretty good news. No doubt there is a great deal of hard work ahead. Please keep us informed. God Bless.

  7. Thanks for the update! Have you heard from Capt. Pete and family? I hope all are ok. He was our captain on a sailing adventure in March.

  8. Thanks for the update and it’s really good news. We sailed out of Stock Island in April and guessing there is no news from there. Our troop would like to make a donation once the needs are known.

  9. All the major structures at Brinton Environmental Center are still there. NOAA did some post Irma hi res satellite imagery of the Keys (here: https://storms.ngs.noaa.gov/storms/irma/index.html, scroll to the west end of Summerland Key), and all 7 major structures on the site that were there before are still standing, roofs look pretty good, even looks like most of the boats are still tied up in their slips.

  10. Glad that the Florida Sea Base suffered minimal damage. We vacation as a family on St John in the USVI often and always see the Boy Scout crews there while we are visiting and say Hello. That island was absolutely devastated by the storm. It will be a long time before it recovers there.

  11. How about Big Munson? Did the major trees make it through? The movie trees? What about the two Key deer? Did they make it? THEY ARE THE LAST MATING PAIR!!!

  12. Is the Sea Base and the neighborhood behind it currently accessible to residents? I understand the road is blocked further south at Anne’s beach but I’m concerned about coming down to find a miles long line of cars waiting to get to the lower Keys. Any information on that would be greatly appreciated. alex.kersha@gmail.com

  13. Glad to hear the minimal damage. I have 2 crews coming summer 2018. I’m retired, and handy. if you need help please contact me.

  14. Enjoyed Out Island Adventure in 2013. Worried about the deer, but what about the rats? We never saw any of those raccoons.

  15. Pelham Troop 1 went down 8/13/17 and are relieved that the damage, while extensive, does not seem insurmountable! I know our scouts will be glad to hear and we are looking forward to receiving any requests or news that we can otherwise contribute to. Be Safe!!

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