All sailing captains who work with BSA’s Sea Base in Florida and in the U.S. Virgin Islands are safe and accounted for after Hurricane Irma passed over the Caribbean and the Florida Keys.
That’s the latest bit of good news from Mike Johnson, general manager of the Florida Sea Base.
Johnson and his team are still unable to drive to the Brinton Environmental Center, located on Summerland Key right near where Irma made landfall.
But based on photos he has seen, Johnson is “guardedly optimistic” about its status. Another good sign: The Federal Emergency Management Agency is using the Brinton Environmental Center as a staging area for relief efforts. This was part of an agreement with the Monroe County Emergency Management Department.
Scouters who are fans of Sea Base — which includes pretty much everyone who has been there or has sent a son or daughter there — have been sharing their comments, questions and warm thoughts after Irma hit.
Johnson previously shared news that the Sea Base staff had evacuated well before Irma arrived. He also shared that damage to the main Sea Base in Islamorada, Fla., was minimal, though significant cleanup will be needed.
Today he asked me to share these additional updates with readers:
How are the sailing captains?
All captains both in Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands have been accounted for and are safe. This includes Mike and Kelly Lucivero who direct the USVI Sailing Program.
What about the sailboats?
Coral Reef boats departed the Sea Base dock by Sept. 1 as part of the Sea Base’s standard storm preparation for the fall.
The sailboats in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a smaller fleet, have been accounted for, but there are reports that some have sustained significant damage.
“Until the Sea Base is operational and can communicate with all captains, it is difficult to know the status of all and or specific sailing vessels,” Johnson says.
How are the U.S. Virgin Islands operations?
Based on news reports, St. Thomas was hit very hard by Irma.
Sea Base St. Thomas runs out of the Sapphire Marina and owns no buildings or other infrastructure. At this time Johnson doesn’t know the status of Sapphire Marina.
How is the Brinton Environmental Center?
Irma came ashore only a few miles away from the center, and the property experienced very high winds and storm surge.
Based on aerial photos, Johnson says, “we will be guardedly optimistic that BEC has not sustained major damage.”
Still, he says, “it is important to note that while the photo shows roofs intact and boats in the marina at BEC, it is difficult to know the extent of damage.”
Of the five Newton diesel dive boats at Brinton, four were taken to yards in the Keys including Marathon as part of the maintenance plan as well and for safety.
The Newton that was tied up in the canal behind the Sea Base is fine.
When will volunteers be needed to help with cleanup?
This is the message that the Sea Base staff is sending to all who want to help with the cleanup efforts:
Thanks for your concern about the staff and Sea Base and willingness to help with clean up efforts, it is much appreciated. We can confirm that the Sea Base has sustained minor damage but will need significant cleanup. We do not yet know about the Brinton Environmental Center as the authorities are not letting people down past MM 73.
At this time the Sea Base does not have power or cell phone coverage, water pressure is minimal, there is concern over the sewer system backing up, all water must be boiled before drinking and fuel is scarce.
Until we have the basics of power, water and fuel are restored we are not bringing people to either property for clean up or cleanup and repair efforts. Once we are operational with those basics, we will communicate the plan and opportunity for you to help in the clean up effort.
What’s the latest on how this will affect Sea Base reservations?
Given that the main Sea Base has sustained minimal damage, Johnson is “hopeful that overall there will be minor disruption to programs.”
Much will depend on damage to Sea Base boats (dive boats and Dusky boats), damage to Coral Reef and USVI sailboats and availability of boats that can be chartered.
- Fall 2017: Those with Fall 2017 adventures (including nine crews scheduled for October), will be given additional information by Sept. 20. If the program you signed up must be altered, those changes will be communicated. If you do not want to participate in a changed program, Sea Base will discuss refund options with you. If your program cannot be delivered at all, Sea Base will refund your fees.
- Winter/Christmas 2017: Those with Winter 2017 adventures will be given additional information by Oct. 30. The same process as noted above will be followed regarding changed or cancelled programs.
- Spring/Summer 2018: At this time, keep your plans for programs. If there are any changed programs, Sea Base will communicate those to you well in advance.
More updates as I get them
Thanks to Mike Johnson for getting these updates out to the Sea Base family. Even as busy as he is, Johnson has been reading your comments and wanted to answer as many of your questions as he can.