Two years ago today I was sitting by candlelight, listening to the hum of the generator, reeling after the passing of category four hurricane Irma. My prayers had been answered, the storm slipped past a direct hit to our beloved Reef. It was mostly a wind event, old growth trees had toppled, blocking the roads, and there was flooding and salt intrusion in the lower lying areas.
Much to the chagrin of my social media friends, Ted and I had stayed to weather out the storm and I was onsite for photos of the immediate aftermath. For the most part, these photos were the first link to the outside world as to what damage had occurred here.
September 10... the second anniversary... we are in the peak of hurricane season and it will be over when it’s over. Thankfully we’ve had clear skies, escaping hurricane Dorian which devastated the Bahamas. My heart goes out to those who have suffered. They will never be the same.
Here's a look back.
“Twenty-five years ago after hurricane Andrew, I told everyone that hurricane would be a once-in-a-lifetime event; now after Irma, I figure this means I’ve lived two lifetimes.” Ken Reda, Marine Max General Manager
On Monday, September 11th, the day after Irma flooded the the Fishing Village, and after his first glimpse of the result of more than 3 ft. of water in Marine Max, Ken was wondering what it would take to get back into business. The entire operation was affected. Inside the store, there was tackle floating in the aisles; outside, the boatyard launching office was flooded up to the second floor, and the storage yard dumpster had floated across the boatyard and onto the dock. Every space was affected. Bait, parts, sales and service and retail, and some $330,000 in inventory. With no electricity for the bait coolers, they were faced with the smelly reality of what do you do with pallets of defrosted bait and 60 cases of chum. They uncased it, removed the plastic and fed it to the fish! The following day they brought in generators to power lights and fans. On the Wednesday after Irma, they were able to launch the boats of the USCG Auxiliary and FWC. Ken said, “As we were cleaning the mold, we were trying to help those people, whose activities at Ocean Reef were very limited. When it came to boating, we wanted to say yes, even when everyone wanted to say no.” We were working on the premise: give the boaters what they want, need and expect, they will all understand. As long as the fishing is good.
Fast forward two months AHI, in the area they now call FISH TOWN, a temporary Marine Max, which opened Nov. 3rd, is located dockside, on 10 former parking spaces west of the Raw Bar. I happened upon it a few days ago, while on my “two month After Hurricane IRMA” photo tour. I couldn’t contain my excitement. This is a real fishing village. It is reminiscent of my hometown Ft. Lauderdale circa 1960… when all the bait and tackle stores were dockside. As a kid, we’d ride our bikes over the Las Olas Bridge, take a right on Seabreeze Blvd., past the fishing boats, and onto the docks in Bahia Mar. The live wells with shrimp and crab were always a source of fascination. Barb Perdue who grew up at Ocean Reef, shares a similar memory, as she recalls playing on top of the wooden bait boxes on the dock. (Her father Pete owned the marine store Perdue Dean).
After Irma, It was some clever thinking outside the box that got the boating community up and running. Ken Reda, General Manager and Robert Diaz, Operations Manager of Marine Max came up with a plan to use containers as a place to store the salvaged inventory, and eventually serve as an interim marine store. Not even sure it was possible, they defied all odds when they used their forklift to hoist the containers over a fence, and then stacked the containers two high, and then rearranged three different times, to minimize the impact of space. They installed temporary shelving for parts and retail, and filled them with inventory they were able to salvage.
The Marine Max “Tackle Shop” has been re-invented. The containers are well appointed with skin mounts on the exterior siding, and house a tackle shop, parts and service department and sales. It is not like shopping, where you stroll the aisles, but more like a concierge; ask and they will find what you need. There are tables with umbrellas for visitors to sit or share a fish tale or two.
Many members returning to the Reef, after seeing the Club for for the first time, tell me it looks pretty good. They say the Club “lowered our expectations”. I suppose because there are some pretty “high expectation” people running this place. It truly is amazing where we have come two months after hurricane Irma. The accompanying photos were taken Oct. 27 - Nov. 11, 2017. Carol Ellis
And we’re not talking about Yellowfin Tuna.
October 1st It’s normally the time to plant my garden, and pretty up the yard; a time when we imagine a few degrees cooler temps in the morning. Instead we are sweating, clearing debris, viewing the brown piles along the road and golf cart path, and when fortunate, getting back a few loads of that beautiful hardwood mulch.
Brown has never been my favorite color, I don’t even think it is a color. I for one could use some relief… The good news is it's been raining the past few days and we have gotten re-leaf. It feels like Spring with all the new shoots popping out.
I rather like driving around the Reef on Sunday to survey the progress that's been made. First of all it's a lot safer, fewer heavy trucks and service vehicles with which to share the road. You are also more likely to see someone you know in a golf cart and stop to chat. I remember seeing Teresa Holmes two Sundays ago, we stopped in front of the Chapel. I knew this was not going to be the kind of anniversary year she had envisioned as Chairman. I asked how it was going, she’d been here since Day Four AHI. She said she had amazing and talented people on both sides of her and from above, referring to her late first husband, who instilled in her the principles she abides by: the willingness to work hard, and to learn all there is to know about a subject. That combined with her relentless spirit; she seemed ready for the task.
Teresa texted me over a photograph taken shortly after she arrived. The photo was taken in front of the Inn, all boarded up, the bell stand desk empty. As she stepped behind the desk; her expression says it all. “This is the saddest thing… Ocean Reef without its people.”
Everyone is doing hurricane related tasks, from the top level leaders, directors, and management to every Associate, many performing job assignments outside their normal range. The Ocean Reef Community Foundation on Day 17 AHI began conducting help sessions for anyone in the Community who had a loss. A team of pros are literally translating both in language and in terminology, the very confusing government forms for FEMA and other forms of aide. They are filling out the applications online, and determining what help is available.
There were a number of firsts this Third Week AHI, Barry Reed turned the “Closed” sign to “Open” at the Raw Bar on Friday, and Reef Treats opened for Ice-cream for everyone, including the students of the Academy, whose first Day of school was at the beginning of the week.
More than once AHI, I have heard an ORC Associate say, “I have never been as proud, anywhere I have worked, in my entire life, as I am for this organization - OCEAN REEF CLUB - ”
Good people are making it happen. And with a smile, for that we say thanks; and the worker responds with an even broader smile, “I don’t have a choice.”
This photographic website provides me the opportunity for self-expression, for sharing