Jill Story

Hurricane_KatrinaIn November of 2004, SeaSense was invited to do three days of instruction “On Your Own Boat©” with Jill MCCarthy aboard her boat Car Lei VI.

The boat is a 60 foot steel hull, custom built, twin engine Trawler located at a marina on Bayou Caddy near Bay St Louis, MS. Jill wanted to learn how to dock her boat. While her husband went to work, Jill, with her parents Margaret and Larry as crew, and I, set out to make her the Captain!

The weather cooperated, the marina facilities were brand new, we had many good laughs, good food and with each day Jill became more proficient at boat handling. The day I left her, I knew that we had accomplished our goal – Jill could dock and maneuver that 60 foot boat!
Several months later she told me about some of their boating trips after her class. She said that her husband was happy to hand over all the docking to her and she was loving it.

Fast forward to August 29, 2005 and Hurricane Katrina.

I saw the path that this massive storm had taken and knew that Car Lie VI and Bayou Caddy were right in the epicenter. About a week after the storm, Jill called. Her husband Sean had tried to make his way to the marina and had met someone walking back that told him not to bother, that there was no marina – no boats!

The McCarthys had no idea what had become of their trawler. The boat was finally found by searching a satellite image system provided by a NOAA web site. It was located 3.5 miles due north of the Bayou, in the middle of a pine forest. The photos from outer space were clear enough to see that she was sitting upright on her keel! They eventually made their way through the woods and found that the boat had settled right into the forest with the receding water and was being held by the pine trees. It had many scrapes, a bent rail, a broken window, missing antennae – but there she was! Now, how do you get a 30 ton boat out of the forest and back to the water? It took a whole lot of planning!

“Yes, I am glad we have a steel boat!” Jill proclaimed. “After seven months, the salvor cut a road through the woods and dragged (!) the Car Lei VI closer to civilization.” According to Jill, “Car Lei VI settled in the woods about 300 feet from a railroad spur, the crew cut down the trees and brush between the boat and railroad track, made a level dirt surface and, since she was steel, just drug her out on her own bottom, minus props and rudders, which were replaced before they put her back in the water. They put her on a rail car and shipped her to the Port Bienville coal docks, where coal barges are unloaded onto rail cars. She was put in the water at the coal docks, along with her rudders and props.” The boat traveled from Mississippi to Mobile, AL, on her own bottom, where she has undergone some well deserved repairs. Last heard, Car Lei VI made it back to the bulkhead at Bayou Caddy on April 29, 2006, eight months to the day from when Katrina took her away.

We are sharing this amazing story about Jill McCarthy and Car Lei VI because it speaks to just how unpredictable and indiscriminate mother nature can be. We’re also telling this story because with so much misfortune it feels good to tell one story with a happy ending!

A year has passed since Hurricane Katrina and all the destruction and tragedy that she caused. Our hearts go out to all the people who are trying to rebuild their lives.