An unorthodox boating calendar - Soundings Online

An unorthodox boating calendar

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Images in the Bentboat calendar depict damage from hurricanes Charley, Frances, Jeanne and Ivan

Many would rather forget the 2004 hurricane season, but memorabilia collectors, or those just plain awed by a hurricane’s power, may be drawn to Sully Sutherlin’s 2005 Bentboat.com calendar, which chronicles some of the havoc that Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne wreaked on boats and marinas in Florida and the Caribbean.

“It’s a collector’s item,” says Sutherlin, who had filled more than 1,000 orders for the calendar. “It’s kind of a unique Christmas gift.”

It certainly isn’t the traditional marine calendar featuring stock photography of impeccably restored classic yachts and exotic cruising locales, yet Sutherlin says people are buying it.

“Those hurricanes touched a lot of lives, some in not very nice ways,” he says. “But there wasn’t anyone [in Florida] who didn’t get blown on some. Everybody feels a personal kinship to them.”

Sutherlin, of Fort Lauderdale, took the photos of sunken and wrecked boats and boats piled up in heaps while surveying storm damage. His USauctions.com gathers up hurricane-damaged boats that are deemed total losses, and stores them in salvage yards. Then the company auctions them off for the insurer over eBay, the Internet auction site. Sutherlin says he has auctioned more than 500 boats totaled in the four hurricanes that ripped into Florida last summer and fall, and he expects to auction 400 more.

He says he got the idea for the calendar from a marine surveyor who designed one as a gift for his insurance company clients. “He did it as a kind of spoof,” says Sutherlin, who decided to do the same for his customers. Then, on a friend’s suggestion, he started selling them.

“I’ve always known that damaged boats are interesting to people,” he says. “The media coverage of hurricanes always centers around the wrecked boats.” People seem to be drawn to the fiberglass carnage.

The calendar cover is an aerial shot of the Fort Pierce City Marina, which took the brunt of Frances. Inside photos include the Bahamas and Puerto Rico, as well as Fort Pierce, Hutchinson Island and Jupiter Inlet in Florida. Also included are two non-hurricane boat images: a shot of the 157-foot Newfoundland Explorer, which burned and sank at its dock in Fort Lauderdale last April, and a shot of a raceboat that flipped in the offshore powerboat world championships in Key West.

Sutherlin says he plans to move USauctions.com off eBay early in 2005 and use VB-2, a real-time virtual auction for the Internet that enables bidders to see competing bids on-screen right up to the end of the auction and find out immediately who submitted the winning bid.

The Bentboat.com calendar is available for $11.95 at www.bentboat.com.