The beached sailboat is not just a pleasure craft, it's Capt. Jay's home.
John Burki, 66, known as Captain Jay, wanted to be there on Wednesday to help move his home off the shore at Gulfport Beach.
He was not but scores of others did show up. A combination of moxie, hard work and goodwill enabled them to safely move the craft from a sand bar, where it had been stuck since June.
"This means a lot to me," Jay said from a hospital bed at Bay Pines VA Hospital. Although Jay's jaw is wired shut, he was able to share his feelings of gratitude for Steve Smith and dozens of volunteers who donated time, supplies and equipment to save his home.
Capt. Jay is a beloved figure around town, an old salt known to many, one of those larger-than-life individuals that give character to this coastal town.
But Capt. Jay has been sidelined since he was assaulted by a stranger who exchanged words with him on the beach. Capt. Jay was KO'ed and has yet to recover. But Gulfport residents were not about to let him or his sailboat go down.
While Captain Jay is recovering in the hospital, people from across Tampa Bay answered the call for help: SOS!
Tropical Storm Debby beached the boat more than a month ago and Captain Jay was given until Aug. 1st to remove his boat or have the City of Gulfport move it for him.
Steve Smith and Andrew Cheney organized the event and asked anyone able to come out and help. In all, about seven boats lined up outside the swim zone while volunteers worked to tie the mast, tip the boat on it's side and lift the bottom off the shore.
Jennifer Smith, Steve Smith's wife, said volunteers started around 7 a.m. and finally got the boat to float around 1:30. It was at about high tide, about 12 p.m., when people walked into waist deep water and began pushing the sailboat while a dingy drove back and forth, creating waves, on one side of the vessel.
Jennifer Smith says they accomplished their goal; get the boat off the beach. It's now anchored in Boca Ciega Bay waiting for Captain Jay when he's released from the hospital. Jay he expects to be released in about three to four days. His dog and cat are currently staying with a friend in town.
donated lunch for about 60 people at the event.
"Skip" Frank wants to thank Home Depot's District Manager Mark Alexander for donating the use of a pump and putting the deposit on his personal card.