Marian Davis clutched her pillow and blanket and headed for land Tuesday after spending the pre-Irma nor’easter and Irma on a boat with her boyfriend behind Mayport’s Safe Harbor restaurant.

 

Well aware of beach life when it comes to storms and the loss of power and keenly familiar with the sea, Davis and Vic Lloyd made the choice to leave their Atlantic Beach home and ride out the storm on Reef Radiant II, a 46-foot commercial fishing boat.

“It was windy,” said Davis.

Although the rocking of the boat wasn’t exactly the lullaby to ease one to sleep, it all worked out even better than had they stayed in their Atlantic Beach home.

On the boat they had dinner for three – their son, Brian Lloyd, also a commercial fisherman stayed on his boat, Charlotte Maria — a portable TV so they could keep tabs of the storm and fully charged phones.

Not among the vessels riding out the storm in Mayport were about 20 shrimp boats that had headed up the St. Johns River and made for an unusual sight docked near the Maxwell House plant downtown. But Tuesday they were back, having made the three-hour trip in the afternoon.

Sixty-year-old Charles Long said weathering the storm on the 75-foot Judge was a breeze.

“Just another storm,” said the man who has been hauling in shrimp for 42 years. “We fared good. It all worked out. “

If history repeats itself as it has for the past four decades, it should work out very well for Long. He said after a good storm, shrimping is great.

“I’m one of the few people that don’t mind hurricanes,” he said.

Just like carpenters and tree trimmers get plenty of business after storms, so to do shrimpers.

“I can’t explain Mother Nature and tell you why. It’s one of those weird things,” he said. “It just works that way. It’s always better after a storm. “


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Also returning to Mayport from downtown were Rachel Giron and Ronald Yow, who went home to check on the house and then headed back to their boat, the Sea King, to grab a shower because electricity still hadn’t been restored in their Mayport Village home.

“It was pretty insane,” said Yow of the nor’easter and Irma. The ships were rocking so much that the metal cleats they tie up to were separating from the concrete, he said.

“We wouldn’t have been able to weather more than we got,” Yow said.

At nearby Mayport Naval Station they had to feed a lot more through the storm — about 550 mission-essential personnel rode it out there.

But thanks to advanced planning by base officials they should be back to business as usual later this week, said Capt. David Yoder, commanding officer at Mayport.

He said some trees were knocked down on the base, but there were no serious injuries to report. Yoder said there was no known flooding at any military housing, and anyone with minor damage to homes due to tree limbs has already been notified.

There were about 2,500 family members who evacuated due to the storm who will start returning as soon as final damage assessments are complete, said Command Master Chief Bill Houlihan.

“I think normal is going to happen pretty quick,” Houlihan said.

Houlihan said the storm surge came close to breaching the dunes, but other than that it was a smooth storm at the base. The ships in the basin left well before the storm arrived and will return once the Navy issues those orders.

Those who remained in civilian vessels at the mouth of the St. Johns River maintain it was the right thing to do.

“No regrets at all,” said Lloyd, 77, a fisherman for 50 years. Davis is 75.

Even though the U.S. Coast Guard told all the fishermen to move their boats from behind Safe Harbor, Lloyd tied Reef Radiant II to the slip closest to the building for protection.

It worked.

eileen.kelley@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4104

joe.daraskevich@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4308