TBG's Hurricane Recovery Fund has provided a lot of sorely-needed help for Boot Key Harbor, devasted by Hurricane Irma. How much has been raised, what it's been used for and how you can help.

TBG Hurricane Recovery Fund

The 2017 season was brutal for hurricanes. Houston, St. Martin, the Virgin Islands (both US and British), Puerto Rico and Florida have all been devasted.

About the time Irma hit, I decided to drastically reduce the price of my Storing Food without Refrigeration ebook and use the proceeds for hurricane recovery in the Boot Key Harbor area of Marathon, Florida. Then a bunch of readers sent me donations. And I’m still donating $2 from the sale of every “No Refrigeration” book. The fund has exceeded my wildest expectations and has done tremendous good.

The purpose of this post is three-fold — and it will be updated at least once a week as recovery efforts continue:

  • report on what’s in the fund and what the money is being used for
  • share pictures of the recovery efforts and events
  • put out a DONATE button for anyone who still wishes to donate to recovery efforts in the Florida Keys

I can’t help everywhere, and I know many readers are donating or helping out in other areas. Thank you so very much wherever you are helping — and yes, the reality is that the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico desperately need help, too. But for those who wish to contribute to the recovery effort in the Keys:

IMPORTANT: You are giving money to me and you are trusting me to use it for hurricane recovery (this post and photos on Facebook are my way of being accountable). This is not an official charity and donations are not tax-deductible. It is people helping people in accordance with current needs and no red tape.

The Boat Galley Hurricane Recovery Fund (updated through 12/13/17) now totals over $6200. Roughly $2,250 of that is from the sale of my “No Refrigeration” book ($2 of every sale is still going to hurricane recovery) and the rest is from reader donations.

Just over $4,900 has been spent so far on:

  • Six lunches and a dinner following seven harbor clean-up sessions to clear hurricane debris from the mangroves lining the harbor. ($1330)
  • Materials to re-mark the dinghy channel through the grass flats ($153 spent to date; another $100 to be spent)
  • Community meals in the month following Hurricane Irma: 1 lunch and 3 dinners for the Boot Key Harbor cruisers and liveaboards ($1250)
  • Twenty $75 grocery store gift cards for community members who lost everything (boats and often cars and jobs) but haven’t received FEMA or insurance checks yet ($1500)
  • Reimbursing volunteers for out-of-pocket expenses for gas and equipment maintenance ($470)
  • Sat phone minutes for immediate response in the BVI ($100 — this is the only non-BKH use of funds)

At this point, money is being used for harbor clean-ups — we are having an “official” one about every 5 days, varying days and times so that different people can participate, and many people are working on the clean-up at other times. It is hard, dirty and exhausting work, doing things such as pulling up sunken dinghies and motors, removing refrigerators and lumber from the mangroves and additional crawling through the mangroves to find and remove all the “small stuff.” You can see the pictures below.

We’ve done a lot so far but there is just so much debris that was washed into the harbor! It’s going to be a long battle and meals after (or in the middle of) a work party go a long ways to keep people going — both the actual food and knowing that others support the effort. We typically have about 50 people working in one of these sessions; lunch for 50 people costs about $200 and dinner about $300.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed!



Towing what we think is part of a catamaran deck (complete with radar pole) out to deep water for Tow Boat One to take for disposal.

The new dinghy channel markers — concrete bases with rebar and more concrete in the PVC, solar lights and reflective tape. Total cost of the project: $250

“Rogue” Mike is making new markers for the dinghy channel (the old ones were destroyed in the hurricane); LED solar lights were donated and the Hurricane Fund bought the concrete, rebar and PVC in Mike’s skiff.

Digging through the mangroves to get to the trapped debris — we’ve now done 6 cleanup days like this.

Climbing through the mangroves to get a line on large debris to pull it out

Tow Boat One is getting full!

There is just SO much debris and it’s filthy work getting it out

Part of a fence. Dinghies tow large floating debris over to Tow Boat One, who then tows it to the disposal area back in the City Marina parking lot.

Extracting boards from the mangroves. It’s astounding how tangled they get!

How much debris can you fit on a dinghy? Obviously not enough, so you tow part of it.

Offloading debris from dinghies to a staging area; Tow Boat 1 will carry it to the disposal site.

We are finding anything and everything you can imagine! Pieces of boats, lawn chairs, kayaks, treated lumber from decks and so much more.

One of the community meals shortly after Hurricane Irma hit. So needed to bring the community back together!

Pulling up a destroyed dinghy with motor still attached. No equipment can get to it, so it’s muscle power only — while watching out for cuts on the barnacles that have flourished. Another volunteer, working in the shop area, was able to “pickle” the motor and save it!

Tow Boat 1, owned by reader Bob Harrington, towing two refrigerators pulled from the mangroves and loaded with a found fish pen, kayak, and other assorted “stuff.” I have no idea how many damaged and displaced boats Bob has moved for free or discounted below his cost of operating the boat, but it’s a lot. He got $270 to help pay for gas both for towing boats and serving as the debris station/transporter for every cleanup day we’ve had.

One boat that volunteers kept from sinking with pumps and patches. Over a dozen were saved this way!

“Jolly Holly” (center) and her team of volunteers who did so much of the early work to save boats were given $300 to cover a bit of their fuel and equipment repair costs.

Community dinner about three weeks after the storm. We used the occasion to say THANKS to the marina staff for their untiring work to get basic services (dinghy dock, water, trash, showers, laundry) back up and running.

Grocery gift cards for some of those who lost everything. About four weeks after the storm, the Red Cross and other charities left but many people didn’t have insurance settlements or FEMA money yet. This helped tide them over. Tears were shed as they were given out.

Carting out some of the debris. We overloaded the dumpster that day with “small stuff” in addition to the pile of “big stuff.”

Skimming Styrofoam out of the water. There are floats from crab and lobster pots that broke apart, foam cups from destroyed houses and businesses and who knows what else. It’s mind-numbing and back-tiring work, hunched over docks and dinghies but we’ve made huge progress. I no longer see big rafts of plastic floating by the boat.

Boards are everywhere, from virtually every building that was damaged or destroyed. And they all have nails or screws still in them! We’ve pretty well cleared them from the parking lots and walking areas, but they are strewn though and tangled in the mangroves. It’s not unusual for it to take 10 minutes or more to get one board out (full of nails and screws, too) — and the bigger ones (2 x 8’s or 10’s, anywhere from 8 to 12 feet long) have to be towed to the staging site one at a time.

Clambering through the mangroves you never know what you’ll find. Chairs, line, coolers and plastic bags by the thousands.

One of the boats saved from where it ended up against the “Bridge to Nowhere” — patched, pumped and towed to safe place by Jolly Holly and her crew.

Another dinghy raised, bailed and towed to shore. All that barnacle growth makes bailing a real pain!

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  • John Liniger
    Posted at 21 November 2017 Reply

    Money well spent! Are you doing a Thanksgiving Community Feast?

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 21 November 2017 Reply

      Yes, we are. Someone else is organizing that and got turkeys, hams and wine donated 🙂

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 21 November 2017 Reply

      Also, I’ve had a couple of specific donations for Thanksgiving that were used for more turkeys and other groceries. So T-day is looking good!

  • Lynne Rainforth
    Posted at 21 November 2017 Reply

    Good luck. Well done. The world needs more peoples like you.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 21 November 2017 Reply

      Thanks! There are lots of people working on the cleanup!

  • Gill Chidgey
    Posted at 21 November 2017 Reply

    All these people doing such a great job – the boating community supports each other around the world, giving a little helps a lot!

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