The Hurricane Island Outward Bound School on Big Pine Key was hit hard by Hurricane Irma this fall. Knowing that the basecamp was in need of some helping hands, the Harvey Gamage anchored nearby and sent students and crew ashore for a day of work.
This base operates one- and two-week trips aboard pulling boats (shallow draft rowing and sailing vessels) in the Florida Keys and Everglades. Last year, they purchased a new house to use as a center for program leaders to live in and for students to camp for a day before trips start. The space has tents, tent platforms, gear, boats and an office to run sailing expeditions.
Unfortunately, Hurricane Irma brought 4 feet of seawater into their location, flooding the house, ripping out the fence and covering the yard with mud. All of the drywall had to be ripped out of their new space. Mattresses, wood, refrigerators and everything that you could imagine were piled up alongside the curb.
The Gamage crew and gap students shoveled and raked mud from the yard into a big pile by the road. They rebuilt a fence, cleaned the inside of the house and helped with interior painting. A group washed the grime from the storm off of the windows, while another group disassembled a wooden floor of a house that washed into the yard. They carefully removed the nails from the floor so that the lumber could be used to build new tent platforms.
After a hard day of work, the Gamage joined the Hurricane Island Outward Bound organizers for a thank-you barbecue. They also had a rowdy game of catch with a coconut that had fallen from a tree.
While things are slowly starting to get back to normal in the Keys, and Key West was largely spared, much of the other islands are still recovering. Rubble remains alongside the road and families remain displaced from their homes. As the holiday season approaches, the students and crew are thinking of the thousands of people across the Caribbean whose lives were turned upside down by storms this fall.