Charter boats suffer at the hand of Michael

Tina Harbuck
Ken Anderson, left, and family members fish out some of the railing stuck in a net at Capt. Anderson’s Marina on Tuesday morning. The marina is home to 44 fishing vessels. [TINA HARBUCK/GATEHOUSE MEDIA FLORIDA]

PANAMA CITY — What usually is a safe haven for charter boats turned out to be a hot spot for disaster.

With Hurricane Michael set to hit the Gulf Coast somewhere between Port St. Joe and Panama City, several of the charter boats and headboats took cover in Watson Bayou, while others went to Miller Marine in Southport and a few went even farther to Orange Beach, Alabama, to the west.

Capt. Anderson’s Marina off Thomas Drive in Panama City Beach is home to 44 fishing vessels and as of Tuesday morning most were accounted for.

“A lot of us had taken our boats to Watson Bayou. That has always been secure for up to a Cat 3, and that’s what we thought we were dealing with. So we tied up there,” said Pam Anderson on Tuesday morning as she stood in the parking lot at the marina.

“The big head boats wound up on land and damaged quite a bit,” she said.

“And we have some charter boats sitting on top of charter boats over there. That’s where the worst damage was for boats,” said Anderson, who is operations manager for the marina.

As of Tuesday morning a handful of the boats that had gone to Orange Beach had returned to their slips at the marina, while the majority of the slips remained empty.

Anderson said some of the boat captains pulled their boats out and went to Miller Marine in Southport.

Capt. Mark Kelley of the Lady Kelley and Kelley Girl was one of those captains.

“We’ve got damage on both boats,” Kelley said, estimating $30,000 to $40,000 in damages.

“They’re floatable … but we’re done for the season,” he said.

He said the charter boat season only had about three or four more weeks to go, but he has already called and canceled the rest of his trips.

“But we’re alive and breathing. My home and kids, everybody is fine,” Kelley said.

As for the marina, Anderson said they have some building damage and are waiting on engineers and the claims adjuster to check on the stability of the building before they can get back to work.

Anderson said the boat owners are checking in one by one.

“If we had known it was a Cat 4 or 5, we would have headed west, but we had no idea. We hardly knew it was going to be at 3. We just didn’t have time to leave,” she said.