Volunteers get veteran's boat back on the water - FOX 13 News

Volunteers get veteran's boat back on the water

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  • Want to help pull a boat off Gulfport Beach on Wednesday?

    Want to help pull a boat off Gulfport Beach on Wednesday?

    Sunday, July 29 2012 8:01 PM EDT2012-07-30 00:01:30 GMT
    If you've been to Gulfport Beach lately you've probably noticed a large addition left behind by Tropical Storm Debby. A 45-foot-boat called ‘Promise' has been stranded their since she went through the
    If you've been to Gulfport Beach lately you've probably noticed a large addition left behind by Tropical Storm Debby. A 45-foot-boat called ‘Promise' has been stranded their since late June.
GULFPORT (FOX 13) -

Tropical Storm Debby beached a large sailboat in Gulfport and it's been sitting there in the sand, for more than a month, until Wednesday.

Neighbors teamed-up to free the boat and it's owner, Captain Jay Burki, could not be happier.

Burki is actually in the Bay Pines V.A. Hospital, recovering from facial injuries he got when a complete stranger cold-cocked him in the jaw Sunday night.

And despite his jaw being wired almost shut, he wanted to thank all of the volunteers who helped free his sailboat.

"Oh yeah! And I wished I had been there to thank everybody and I want to get a formal thanks out to everybody that helped me get that boat off," Burki said.

It hurts to talk, but 66-year-old Burki said he is so grateful for all of the support.  And, that a nightmare he joked he's been enduring since a bad "date" with Tropical Storm Debby, is finally over.

He is counting his blessings.

"Yes, I can," said Burki humbly. "In many, many ways."

Police said he was attacked Sunday night by 32-year-old John Michael Lees, near the beach, while Burki waited for a ride.

"This guy comes running around the corner, flying, I wanna talk to you!," recounted Burki.  "And boy he nailed me.

"Did you know this guy?," we asked. "No!," he said.

Burki's lips are bloodied and swollen from eight hours of surgery to wire his jaw and repair the broken bones. His jaw is broken in three places and he's lost all of his upper teeth.

"Well, he's just hitting a bad spell I guess, very unlucky spell, on top of what he's had losing his home and being here," said a close friend, Paul McPartland.

"It's not like I wasn't trying, all this time to get that boat off," said Burki. "They say I wasn't."

To his critics who charge he wasn't doing enough to free his boat called, "Promise", he is sympathetic.

"Who the heck wants that big, old nasty boat sitting on their beach," Burki said.

It was nothing short of a Herculean effort Wednesday, as friends and strangers jumped in the water to help free the 45-foot long boat's keel stuck in the sand.

They wrapped slings all the way around it, then attached them to winches on three other boats.

"As it works its keel out of the sand, that boat is gonna start to bounce off the beach," said one of the organizers.

Together, they bounced and rocked it, and with the help of the high tide, finally freed it from its sandy confines.

His boat and the water are this U.S. Navy veteran's life. He says he can't wait to get back to it, but first, he's facing some steep fines.

"Ninety three dollars a day for every day I've been on that beach," said Burki.  "Got over $2,000 in tickets."

"What are you gonna do?," we asked.

"Go to court and hopefully, they'll dismiss ‘em," he said.

Gulfport Mayor Mike Yakes said there may be some wiggle room.

"We'll work with him," said Yakes.  "We have a magistrate to be fair."

"When you go through life, you get drawbacks, this is one of ‘em," said Burki, who hopes to be back on his boat by this weekend.

Friends donated spare anchors to keep it locked in-place until he can get back on it again.

All of his personal belongings were removed and friends are keeping an eye on them for him.

Burki is due in court August 16th, to see what can be done about all those fines.

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