The Road Ahead
John Burki, known to many as Captain Jay, rides up on his bike to one of the pavilions on Gulfport Beach with a cheerful and welcoming attitude on Wednesday.
"Little by little, I'm getting myself back together so I can go back to my boat," Jay said.
Captain Jay was released from the Bay Pines Hospital on Tuesday and has been tracking down his items and getting things in order to fix up his boat Promise. Just one week ago, the now floating sailboat, was stuck on Gulfport Beach. Jay says Tropical Storm Debby grounded his home in June and after several failed attempts to tow it out into the bay, a local sailor took action and helped organize a mini "army" to get Jay's boat off the beach themselves.
"What this community did was fantastic. (Steve Smith) knew exactly what he was going," Jay said.
Local sailor Steve Smith heard about Jay's situation in July and rallied about 50 volunteers on August 1st at the Gulfport Beach. Together, they literally waded in waist and shoulder deep water to push the boat out.
"Everything has been a blessing," Jay said.
Jay was not able to participate because he was recovering from a broken jaw in the hospital.
Jay has taken the time to share his gratitude and story with Gulfport Patch in the attached video interview.
A Fresh Start
Volunteer Coordinator Steve Smith says he took charge mainly to get the boat off the beach. Smith said he had several reasons for dedicating his efforts to this cause. He didn't want the City of Gulfport to be forced to remove it and spend money to do so. He also didn't want to see Jay end up on the streets.
"I had a genuine concern for the man himself, I don’t want to see him abandoned,” Smith said.
Smith says he's also concerned for Captain Jay's well being, citing possible issues with alcoholism.
“I hope he gets a fresh start and takes advantage of the opportunity and becomes a more responsible, boater (and) pet owner. He has a lot of people caring about him. If he’s willing to accept that, he can start over and maybe has a chance to become a more responsible person, that’s what I’m hoping.”
Smith has shared other concerns, reasons and special thanks on Cruisers Forum online.
Jay says there's no need for concern. He's been sailing for more than 50 years and hopes to fix his boat, get settled again and head out in the open water with his dog "Dreamer" and cat "Cocina". Jay says both animals are being cared for by a friend.
Update: Thursday, 10:20 a.m.: When asked about his dog's condition, Jay explained that a concerned community member and acquaintance took "Dreamer" to the Gulfport Veterinarian for medical care. He said Dreamer was due to see the vet before Debby hit. According to Jay, Dreamer is deaf and only understands hand signals, he says the dog has a problem with his eye that he was born with and says Dreamer has allergies to certain foods.
"He was fed the wrong food and he broke out. He's on an anti-inflamatory drug now," he said.
He understands that people have donated funds to the Gulfport Veterinarian for Dreamer and says he's thankful for the help. In the meantime, he says Dreamer is staying with a friend in town.
Editor's Note: We did not hear back from Gulfport Veterinarian regarding this story.
Although Jay is optimistic about his plans to return to his boat, Smith says the boat is in bad shape. "It has some major, major work to be done. I won't call it derelict but it's near that condition."
Citations and Compliance
Captain Jay says the Gulfport Police Department cited him several times for having the boat on the beach. The fines add up to nearly $2,000. Jay will appear in Pinellas County Court on August 16 to address the first of many tickets.
Jay says officers have contacted him about the condition of his boat and he hopes to repair it as soon as possible. However, major improvements will likely take several months to complete. The boat does not have an engine or sails. His first priority is to examine the boat and repair the sails. He estimates that it'll cost about $10,000 for repairs. Jay says a donation page has been set up if anyone is interested in helping him with the cost of fixing his boat. The website is www.gofundme.com under "Grounded in Gulfport."
Editor's Note: Gulfport Patch did not hear back from the Police Department regarding this update story. We will update this article once we hear back.