This is a feel-good post about people who came together to help someone who was in need of help, and it has a happy ending.
John Burki, known to his friends as Captain Jay, lives aboard the sailboat Promise, in Gulfport with his dog Dreamer. When Tropical Storm Debby blew through the state, Burki's boat was driven onto the beach, its keel buried in sand. A former Navy SEAL, he is retired and has been living on the Promise for the past two years.
Burki was in a bind: the town of Gulfport wanted the boat off the beach, and began fining him, but Burki could not afford to hire a company to move the boat off the beach. Gulfport told Burki that it would chop up the boat and haul it away as scrap unless a way was found to move it.
So Steve Smith organized volunteers to push the boat off of the sand and anchor it in deeper water.
Captain Jay was in the hospital with a broken jaw, having been attacked two nights before by a felon with a long rap sheet. He saw the activity on the news from his hospital bed.
At 8 AM, the Promise lays grounded just feet from the shore.
The keel, anywhere from seven to twelve feet long, was buried in the sand and this meant Promise would have to be rolled onto her side. Two large straps are wrapped around the hull fore and aft.
Several lines are attached to the Promise, tied to boats anchored further off shore. It is critical that all lines are taken up equally, so that the weight is evenly distributed as the vessel is pulled.
A flooded aluminum rowboat will provide an additional counter weight to help pull out the keel
Rain falls across the bay as volunteers coordinate their efforts
The beachfront park was crowded with spectators, news trucks and the curious
Keeping the rowboat filled with water...reverse bailing in action
An old dingy holds a pump that will be used to suck sand away from the keel, using a long hose
Steve Smith supervises the volunteers' efforts aboard the Promise, which looks like it's smiling
Volunteers assemble to begin pushing the Promise from the underside. As they push, the slack from the lines attached to boats anchored offshore will be continually tightened, so that Promise does not slip back into the sand.
Two teams push on the bow and stern in an attempt to rock the keel out of the sand. Shouts of "HEAVE!!" and "HO!!!" fill the air, mingled with the grunts of exertion, as volunteers push with all their might
A motorboat races back and forth to generate waves that will help free the Promise.
Below: two larger boats raced around in circles to generate larger, rolling waves to help the volunteers
The efforts are paying off; the angle of list is much steeper
The barnacle encrusted propeller shaft becomes visible behind the rudder. Below, much more of the underside of the vessel is now visible.
The Promise floats away from the sand bar, but gets hung up on a second sand bar. Undeterred, the volunteers continue their efforts
A tired but happy group of volunteers celebrate their success in saving a man's home. There is nothing like the feeling of helping someone. It just brightens your whole day.
Below, the Promise in its new mooring.