Ben Stein & family lose their boat to Hurricane Ian

Ben Stein and his family evacuated from Fort Myers on Tuesday night, that’s the great news. But at about 7 pm last night their beloved boat and home-on-the-water Have Another Day sank in her slip at a well-engineered marina 14 miles up the Caloosahatchee River, as Ben watched the aft bilge pump try to keep up via remote monitoring. Here in Maine, I’m near tears at their loss.

Speaking for myself, there used to be conflict built into grieving for a lost possession. Heck, the last time my phone went missing, it felt like a death in the family, and then came a bit of shame because of course it wasn’t even close. But I’ve come to terms with that conflict.

I think it’s absolutely true that no missing “thing” compares to a lost loved one, but also equally true that losing a major thing can really hurt, with grief quite possibly required. Moreover, this is especially true of a home, and maybe even more so for a home that’s also a boat that you and yours have long voyaged in. And perhaps even more so for the sort of person who lavishes an unusual amount of time on maintaining and improving such a boat… like Ben, and me, and many Panbo readers.

But Ben Stein is wise beyond his years, and when we spoke today he seemed at peace with simultaneously feeling quite fortunate and quite sad.

The fortunate side: The Stein family got across Florida to safe refuge despite Tuesday evening’s tornados; the small house they bought in Fort Myers survived Hurricane Ian intact, even became refuge for a neighbor; and so far there’s no known damage to their “land yacht“, the 22-foot Panbo(at) on its trailer, or Ben’s recently established install and testing shop. So they already have a new home and more awaiting, unlike many in Ian’s path.

That said, many of Ben’s ongoing marine electronics tests and Panbo entries may suffer for a while. But I’ll add that in recent years he’s quietly become an accomplished part-time installer/consultant — ABYC certified too — and I think we’ll see that new expertise blossom in his writing once his work life is back on track.

But here’s the sad part: What sunk to the flybridge was, in Ben’s own Facebook words, “our floating home for the last six years, my testing platform, our chariot around the Great Loop, and so much more.” The “so much more” includes most of the clothing, mementos, and little things that made the boat such a home to Ben, Laura, and their two daughters over those years, but importantly also the marina community that motivated them to settle in Fort Myers in the first place.

Incidentally, though the rugged construction of Legacy Harbor Marina had already survived serious weather, the hurricane surge and wind took out “one of the largest ‘floating breakwaters’ on the Gulf of Mexico” (check before and after Twitter videos from nearby highrise). But it will take time to understand exactly how many of the resident boats sank, including Have Another Day, which was positioned close to shore and tied to concrete floats and steel piles with over 20 dock lines.

Ben guesstimates that it will take years to replace the marina, if it is rebuilt. And the hurricane’s intensity brings up bigger issues, well analyzed, I think, by Bill McKibben in the New Yorker.

But today I write largely to inform Panbo readers of what happened and mostly to extend my condolences to the Stein family. Ben is quite explicit about not wanting sympathy, but I trust that many of us can’t help but share some of his pain. It’s not the boat itself, and there can be another boat if they want. But all the family love and adventure shared on Have Another Day, and hence the accumulated feelings of specific place and safety every time they stepped aboard, that loss deserves mourning.

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

16 Responses

  1. Kim Russo says:

    Thanks for this article. The Stein Family is part of the larger Great Loop family and we are heartbroken for them.

  2. Adam Morris Adam Morris says:

    What a sad moment. I have followed your content for years, and can’t imagine the heartbreak. My parents unfortunately had a good amount of damage to land house, and I guess the solace is that everyone is safe. Best wishes to everyone that had to go through this.

  3. Gregoire Outters says:

    Thanks Ben for giving us news on Ben and his family. Firstly, I am glad to see they are all safe. The destruction of their boat/home is extremely sad. I know how important this boat was for Ben to test and evaluate products and new technologies. But it was way more than this. The destruction of a family home is tragic. I hope they will be able to recover some of their belongings. Best wishes to the 4 of them.

  4. Our (almost) worst fears realized 🙁 At least they are all OK and their land homes are alright. I’m sure they’ll be back on the water again soon!
    Hartley & Lesley

  5. William says:

    Sad to see the destruction in that marina and many others; in this storm and many before it. Unfortunately a lot of people who aren’t in or around the boating industry will just write it off as ‘rich people problems ‘. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is many people work and save their whole life just dreaming of a simple boat, and then finally achieve their goal, only to have it taken away like this. I think the real problem is that marinas can’t be built the way they need to be, with large rock break waters. Local governments, environmentalist, and lawsuits always prevent proper construction of a truly protective yacht basin. So floating concrete docks and some sort of seawall is put up, which does work most of the time. But you have to ask yourself this question, what does more damage to the environment, a large rock wall, or shredded up fiberglass and tens of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel dumping into the bay???

  6. Butch Davis says:

    Feeling sympathy in the circumstances is virtually automatic. It’s hard to imagine any silver lining. The only possible plus to such a loss is the adventure of finding the next boat. All the lessons learned from “Have Another Day” will go into the next boat. I hope Ben will share that adventure with us.

  7. Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

    I wanted to take a moment to thank Ben Ellison for writing this. When he wrote it, I simply didn’t have the mental strength to talk about it. Our boat was our home on the water for six years. We’ve owned it for 8 and a half years. We’ve put 1,600 hours on her and she served us extremely well through all of it.

    We’ve been through a few bumps and bruises together. Learned some stuff about shallow water and then some stuff about repairing props. But, I never thought it would end this way.

    I’ll write more in the coming days about the experience. For now, I will leave you with this. We will be fine, we will be back on the water, but we sure don’t know when, where, or on what.

    -Ben S.

    • Joseph Pica says:

      Ben, we are so very relieved and so please you and the girls are safe. This life volume may have closed, however now begins a new volume which will offer so many more adventures for your and your very so charming family. Thank you for contributions on Panbo and hope to enjoy more while you all fill this new volume with your thorough and sage analysis and advice. All the best for you and yours.

  8. Fred Murphy says:

    Sorry Ben. The feelings of loss when your boat is destroyed like this. No amount of preparation could have save your boat. Only luck! There will be another!

  9. Val Vechnyak says:

    Very sad news. It’s not so much the loss of the fiberglass and engine, etc but I can feel the pain for the loss of the memories, work and time put into the boat. My heart goes out to you and your family. New memories will be made!

  10. Brian says:

    With the support of the Panbo family I expect
    We will see a wonderfully story of rebuilding.

  11. Ben, very sorry and very pleased to hear you and your family are all safe.

  12. Richard West says:

    So sorry Ben. We love you, The crew of Legacy (now in Oz)

  13. Richard Galasso says:

    Sorry to hear this Ben. Having lost 3 boats in my life I can surely sympathize. Your family is safe, that is the most important thing, by far. The upside is that your drive and passion for our industry and lifestyle will make the next boat even better. Call on all your many friends and connections to help you with the next one. We won’t let you down.

  14. Alan Jones says:

    I am really sorry to hear about this, Ben. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to lose a boat, a home, and a community all at once. I am glad everyone is OK.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *