Beaufort comes together to help local fisherman
A group of locals has launched a fundraising effort to help put a well-known Beaufort shrimp boat back on the water.
Four crew members on the Gracie Belle were rescued in a May 23 storm by U.S. Coast Guard helicopter after making a distress call.
The damage to the Gracie Belle was severe and it’s affecting Sea Eagle Market’s ability to continue providing local seafood to Beaufort and beyond.
The Gracie Belle suffered a broken mast and lost one of its outriggers. It will cost upwards of $50,000 to repair.
“We have to get her back into the water,” owner Craig Reaves said. “My ability to tell the story or take pictures cannot begin to really explain what we went through to keep from losing Gracie Belle that day. In my 30 years on the ocean I haven’t seen a day like that one.”
Jodie Miller and Ginger Wareham got together and decided to tell the story. A GoFundMe page has been set up to accept donations. Go to SaveGracieBelle.org or the Save Gracie Belle page on Facebook.
Gracie Belle is really the boat’s second name. The 80-foot trawler was built at Holden Beach, N.C., in 1973 and named the Backman Elizabeth.
“The Backman family are legends in the seafood industry with a fleet of five vessels in the glory days of the industry,” Reaves said. “But as with so many others in the late ’90s and early 2000s, the days turned very difficult and the whole seafood industry struggled to keep their businesses and boats going.”
Reaves said his father Laten received a call from Junior Backman asking for help after the boat sank at the dock on the opening day of the 2000 shrimp season.
“After the phone call, Dad assembled a crew consisting of himself, nephew Jeff Gunther and I to help the Backmans get the boat floating again,” Reaves said. “It was a daunting task, but the crew was able to patch and repair the boat and got it floating again within seven low-water tides.”
Laten Reaves bought the boat “and renamed her Gracie Belle after my grandmothers Gracie Reaves and Ina Belle Fulford,” Craig Reaves said.
“We restored Gracie Belle to working condition just in time for the 45th annual Beaufort Water festival.”