group of Chippewa Falls Boy Scouts never though following their Scout
creed would involve preparing an evacuation due to a hurricane. But
that was the case Wednesday with Troop 13 of Chippewa Falls, which
found itself in the path of Hurricane Charley while at the Florida
National High Adventure Sea Base, about 25 miles north of Key West near
Big Pine Key.
Tom Dachel and the rest of the Boy Scouts of Troop 13 were snorkeling and getting ready to do some deep-sea fishing.
there was a long delay, and the group began thinking that something had
come up, said Wade Gilbert, who accompanied his son, Josh, on the trip.
something was then a tropical storm circling the Grand Cayman Islands.
The National Hurricane Center was predicting the storm would become a
hurricane as it passed over Cuba and would soon be hitting the Florida
Keys -- and a check of the direction of the storm quickly turned that
delay into an evacuation.
Scout officials said there would be no fishing trip -- or any other adventures, for that matter.
"They said we had to get back now. There were no if, ands or buts about it," Gilbert said.
days earlier the local scouts arrived at the Sea Base. They paddled
kayaks and war canoes (two canoes rigged together to seat up to eight)
for almost three hours in the Atlantic Ocean, said Dave Marten, a Scout
leader. The Scouts eventually arrived at Big Munson Island, over 100
acres that's pristine and in its natural state.
Scouts brought their own food and shelter to the island. They also went
out on the reefs. "That's where you snorkel," Dachel said. They went
shark fishing from the docks and were supposed to leave there Wednesday
morning for deep-sea fishing.
The Scouts were surprised to learn that they would be heading to the Mainland for a drive to Miami, instead.
was nice and sunny on the island, and really hot, so we thought they
were joking when they told us," said Adam Kern, a Scout who was
accompanied on the trip with his father, Al Kern.
had been on the island and weren't even aware that there was a
hurricane. We knew there had been an (storm called) Alex, so when they
told us we were in the path of Hurricane Charley we wondered had
happened to the 'B'," Gilbert added, referring to Tropical Storm
Bonnie, which was passing over Florida's west coast at about the same
But the sense of urgency regarding the evacuation convinced the Scouts it was a reality.
"I was really surprised by the suddenness," Gilbert said.
Scouts were packed up all their supplies and loaded them on rafts,
Marten said. The boys were then asked to dismantle the whole camp
before heading to shore.
"We were asked to take everything that wasn't planted in the ground," Marten said.
That included tents and picnic tables, which the boys loaded onto big boats, he said.
boys worked hard, and never complained," Marten said. "When we told
them we had to get going, they stayed very calm and were supportive."
And not even for a minute were the boys scared, Adam Kern said.
were too busy to be scared because we had to go so quickly and had to
make sure everything was done so we could leave," he said.
scouts scrambled once the decision to evacuate was given. It took about
1 1/2 hours to pack up everything into the boats. "We had to paddle
back," Tom Dachel said, and that took another two hours.
They paddled back with an added incentive, Adam said.
"We all wanted to take showers," he said.
the boys were able to avoid a big crash by a jackknifed truck that
caused a huge backup of traffic on one of the few roads out of the
Keys. They made it to Miami by Wednesday night and flew to Dallas on
Thursday. From Dallas, they flew to the Twin Cities and returned to
Chippewa Falls on Thursday night.
Dachel said the Scouts were
disappointed their stay was cut short but understood why it had to
happen. He said the Sea Base told the scouts if they would pay the cost
of air fare they can return next year for a full week.
"If another hurricane doesn't come," Dachel added.
Gilbert and the adult leaders were also disappointed to see the trip end prematurely.
"It was supposed to be a high-adventure trip that only older Scouts could go on. It was definitely that," he said.
Staff writer Rod Stetzer contributed to this report.