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Happy Returns

The Florida Keys are rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

December 23, 2017
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Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Aoldman

The 8-foot wall of water that tore across Islamorada during Category 4 Hurricane Irma smashed right into Bud N’ Mary’s, an iconic marina that has been welcoming boaters since the 1940s. By the time the sea receded, the long, outer dock was gone — along with lots of other docks like it throughout the Florida Keys.

“Everything on the ocean side, for the most part, didn’t do so good,” says ­Victoria Siesto, office manager at Mangrove Marina in Tavernier, toward ­Islamorada’s north end. “The bay side is pretty OK, especially from Key Largo to Tavernier. From Marathon on down, it’s worse.”

Even still, in the weeks immediately following Irma’s wrath, signs of hope were appearing. Mangrove ­Marina was fully operational as of late September, along with Islamorada Marina and ­Galleon Marina on Key West. Tavernier Marina was planning to reopen ahead of the winter season, as was Sea Bird Marina on Long Key. Snowbirds cruising to the Keys early this winter should have a place to tie up, or at least to get fuel and supplies. And Bud N’ Mary’s said that it expected to be back in business this month, with everything from ice and bait to beer and snacks on hand.

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Snowbirds, however, aren’t the only boat migration this season will see: The area’s charter fishing boats will be heading from the Keys’ bay side back to the ocean side as their slips are rebuilt.

“Right now, we don’t have many transients, so the slips are full with the displaced boats,” Tim Evans, ­property manager at Islamo­rada Marina (on the bay side) said in late September. “By December, we should have some transient slips opening up.”

WHAT TO EXPECT

Occasional Debris: Hurricane Irma destroyed about 25 percent of homes in the Keys, and hotels took a beating too. Cleanup will continue for months, which means boaters should watch out for floating debris.

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Flights on Time: The Key West and Marathon airports were reopened by the end of September.

Park Restorations: Nine state parks in the Keys closed in Irma’s wake. Call ahead before planning to go ashore.

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