‘Everyone rode the storm out really well’: Gulfport boaters weather through Hurricane Elsa on water

Pinellas County

GULFPORT, Fla. (WFLA) – “We definitely learned from Eta and we were really prepared for this one,” said Lithia Castillo on Wednesday.

Castillo has called her boat “home” for three years. While all is well Wednesday, just 24 hours previous on Tuesday she told 8 On Your Side, that her anxiety was all the way up to a 10 ahead of Hurricane Elsa.

She told 8 On Your Side she spent three days preparing to weather Elsa on the water, packing her boat with supplies, and securing the vessel with chains and anchors.

“Sometimes we feel safer on your boat because you’re not dealing with power lines or flooding so it’s kind of pros and cons,” Castillo said.

Castillo said everytime it started to get hairy during the storm, the storm fizzled out.

“This storm was very disorganized, we all kept in touch on the radio,” Castillo said.

She said they had an emergency messenger chat group between the 15 families who stayed on their boats, and that they weathered the storm as a community.

“Everyone rode the storm out really well,” Castillo said.

Ed Novess said he spent 3 hours securing his boat and slept on land.

“I’m on the mooring ball, I took part of the bimini down and take the mainsail and wrap it around the mast,” Novess said. “I’m sure glad to see my sweetheart boat out there this morning, haha, she and I have been through a lot.”

Novess said sleeping on the boat or not, keeping the vessel in a harbor is the safest choice.

“If you try to outrun a hurricane, that’s never a good idea,” Novess said.

Novess said as soon as the wind dies down he’ll make his way out there on his dingy, but from what he can see from land, there’s no damage to his boat.

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