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.