© 2013 Troy Gilbert
A spider high up in the rigging of his 46′ Creekmore Sloop, Antigone, was his only companion, other than the clouds of mosquitoes following him anytime he crawled out of the companionway to comb the shoreline. His back crooked and sore from living aboard in a constant state of crabwalking due to the strange angle his vessel had come to rest in the sand and mangroves. His clothes filthy, drowned in old bug spray and sweat from the heat in the tropical sun, he dared not wash them in the ocean for fear of being drained by the mosquitoes. He lived marooned like an animal, with no fresh water or electricity and very little food.
For ten months, Bud Maddock’s beard grew long as he read Greek philosophers and studied French in the humidity. At night he would talk to the spiders, the only light coming from the moon and the lights of Miami only 30 miles to the north. Maddock lay shipwrecked on Elliot Key in Biscayne Bay after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, trapped first by the storm and then by the Federal Government.
Maddock, then 50, had run into a string of bad luck. Three years earlier he had lost his job as an engineer and then spent his life savings on the Creekmore, moved onboard and began wandering the southeastern seaboard. Hurricane Andrew caught him anchored in Biscayne Bay and the Coast Guard extricated him as the first storm bands came through South Florida. He assumed his boat was lost, but within two weeks discovered the Antigone washed ashore on Elliot Key and resting on her side. Having nowhere else to live, he waded ashore and moved onto his wrecked boat.
Stranded on a deserted island, miserable and desperate to figure out a way to re-float his boat, the situation went from bad to worse when he was served papers from the National Park Service. A long, narrow island, Elliot Key is part of Biscayne National Park and the official documents notified him that he had 30 days to remove himself and his vessel or risk arrest and the confiscation of his boat. With only a few thousand dollars in emergency FEMA funding to his name, he was trapped. If he were to abandon his boat and possessions – he would become homeless on the streets.
Compounding his issues, the National Park Service then demanded Maddock sign a permit in order to remove his boat. The catch was that by signing the permit, Maddock would then be financially responsible for the mangled mangrove trees around his foundered boat – on an island full of hurricane mangled mangroves.However if he didn’t sign the permit, he would not be allowed to remove his boat that the Park Service was demanding he remove and it would be confiscated. The certain fines would easily equate to several thousand dollars – money he did not have. Maddock was trapped in a bureaucratic knot.
With nothing but time to kill, mull over his predicament and try to delay, the engineer began to devise a method of returning his 35,000 pound boat to the water. Over a period of months, Maddock slowly built a wooden cradle for his boat and using a hand cranked 6-ton winch, methodically stood it upright until it rested on a sled with several wooden runners leading to the sea. Then using an anchor and the winch and progressing a few inches a day, he hand cranked the 46′ sailboat over the sand.
Weekend boaters started spotting Maddock and would donate their provisions, and a fisherman even began running a weekly laundry service for him. His plight came to the attention of Dan Montgomery who had come to South Florida for work after the hurricane. Montgomery went out to the key and befriended Maddock and eventually took on the task of arguing Maddock’s case with the government – but to no avail.
The media in South Florida picked up on the story and suddenly Maddock was swarmed with boaters running him supplies and bug spray. A local fireman from Key Largo started trekking out to Elliot Key and assisted him in building a more sophisticated system of tracks and the two eventually got the Antigone into the ankle deep water surrounding the island. Unfortunately, water deep enough to float the sloop still remained hundreds of yards away.
Without much notice, a new park superintendent was appointed to oversee the national park and he inherited the Maddock situation. Understanding that the Park Service was getting a huge black eye over this, the new superintendent requisitioned a mere $2,400 and contracted a barge and crane to remove the Antigone.
After ten months of battling with the government and living in squalor, Maddock watched as the barge and crane lifted the sloop from the shallow waters and removed her to the deepwater – miraculously the Antigone floated. Maddock and his boat were towed to a marina on the Miami River where he started making repairs and was reported to be writing a book on his ordeal. He eventually sailed off to parts unknown.