Destin's charter boats ride out Hurricane Sally in harbor

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Some untied and pulled off extra ropes, others unloaded hurricane anchors and chains, while some sat and waited for the power to come back on.

Either way, Destin charter boat captains and deckhands were thankful they survived Hurricane Sally mostly unscathed.

"We lucked out," said Capt. Scott Robson of the charter boat Phoenix at HarborWalk Marina. 

Usually when a hurricane threatens in the Gulf of Mexico, Destin's charter fleet takes cover in Choctawhatchee Bay or the bayous, or even over in Freeport or up the Intracoastal Waterway.

But with the initial track for Sally not a threat, captains decided to leave their boats in their slips along the Destin harbor.

Capt. Eric Thrasher of the charter boat Game On was busy Thursday morning untying all the extra ropes he put on his boat during the hurricane.

"When it started to wobbling this way, it was too late to leave," said Capt. Eric Thrasher of the charter boat Game On at Fishing Fleet Marina. "Plus it was at night ... you can't move.

"There was no leaving; just tie up the best you can," Thrasher added, who noted that he tied on eight extra ropes.

As for the water, it was rough and rising. At the end of the docks near the Fisherman's Coop fuel pumps and Thrasher's boat, he said the water was about knee deep.

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And before it was all said and done, the water was up in the parking lot. 

Thrasher pointed to a spot about 10 feet from the boardwalk in the parking lot and said, "That was the tide line."

Deckhand Justin Brantley and Capt. Scott Robson pull the hurricane anchors off the Phoenix on Thursday morning.

On Thursday morning the water had dropped, but the boats were still sitting high in their slips with the names on the back of the boats visible as you walked up and down.

Several of the captains were just waiting to get electricity back on the docks.

"We've been having to run generators," said Capt. Robert Hill of the Twilight.

The captains depend on the electricity to keep all their batteries charged and for their live wells.

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Down at HarborWalk Marina, the boats were still sitting high in their slips as well. However, Robson said the parking lot had been flooded and the water had risen all the way to the food trucks that line the back wall at the marina.

"We really missed a bullet," said Robson, who noted the destruction to boats over in Orange Beach, Alabama.

"The surge is what spooked me. ... It's that sea surge that gets you," he said, noting that he'll leave for the next storm that threatens.

Robson's deckhand, Justin Brantley, was at the boat off and on during the storm.

"I could barely stand up," Brantley said of checking on the boat and adding extra ropes.

He said he sat up in the bridge of the boat so he could see what was going on.

"The ropes were stretched out as far as they could be," Brantley said.

The charter boat Missin Pieces rolled onto side in its slip at East Pass Marina some time during the storm.

One interesting tidbit that Brantley saw during the craziness was cockroaches.

"Cockroaches were up on the pilings and on the tables (trying to get away from the water)," he said.

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Capt. Josh Glidden of the Just Reel at East Pass Marina came down Tuesday night as Sally was blowing through to check on his boat and others. 

"I stayed up in the breezeway of the two buildings (and just watched)," Glidden said.

The only damage he had was to his sign.

Deckhand Justin Brantley and Capt. Scott Robson of the charter boat Phoenix take a break on the docks Thursday morning after trying to get everything back together after Hurricane Sally.

"I found it in the back of the parking lot," said Glidden, thankful that was the only damage.

The charter boat Missin Piece that moors on the back dock at East Pass didn't fare as well. It was flipped on its side and pretty much sunk in its slip. Some of the captains said they had checked on it as early as 6 a.m. Wednesday and it was still upright. So some time after that it had rolled on its side.

As for the boats that dock behind AJ's Seafood and Oyster Bar, they appeared to be intact.

"We just put on a few extra ropes," said Capt. Joe Quaranto of the Silver Lining, who noted that he did not stay on the boat.

A deckhand aboard the Anastasia was busy washing down the deck Thursday morning.

"I'd rather have my life than the boat. ... You can always buy another boat," he said. "You never know ... but once we knew, it was too nasty out (to move the boat)."

Instead, he stayed at home with family. At one point he got them all in a closet because of threats of tornadoes.

"Got to be more prepared next time for the uncertainty. The next one I might run up to Freeport," Quaranto said.