About The Gracie Rae

About the Gracie Rae

This is the true story about the Gracie Rae.

Lowe Smith wasn’t one to be superstitious and the rumors that The Gracie Rae was “cursed” didn’t faze him. What he knew was that the fishing boat was mechanically sound and seaworthy despite the previous fires that plagued the vessel. For Lowe, The Gracie Rae was an opportunity to provide local as well as visitors the chance to experience fishing in the gorgeous gulf waters off of Bay County.

But the curse hit too close to home one night in 1953. Lowe got a call from the Coast Guard that The Gracie Rae was in trouble. A fire in the engine room had Captain Oakleaf radioing for help and the passengers panicking and scrambling for life vests, fearing the boat was going down. When the call came Lowe ran from his home, above the old Shrimp Boat Restaurant, down to the marina and jumped on the Coast Guards patrol boat that stayed docked at “Smith Yacht Basin”. The news that his boat was in jeopardy was made all the more urgent by the realization that one of Lowe’s own brothers was among the passengers. The scene on the Gracie Rae was grim, with the loss of power and the smell of smoke & fuel filling the air the passengers were beginning to turn on one another with a sense of “every man for himself.”

One of the crew members, Buster Dekel, took matters into his own hands and with little more than a wet t-shirt wrapped around his head and face, fought his way through the smoke, battled the flames and saved everyone from what looked to be a certain disaster. Unfortunately, the boat was still powerless and adrift in the Gulf of Mexico, engulfed in darkness, with nothing but water for miles and miles.

When the Coast Guard found the boat that night, Lowe remembered the panic he saw in the eyes of the passengers. “Things had gone bad”, he recalled later, telling of the fear he could feel and the readiness among the group to begin sacrificing one another in the name of survival. He decided then and there that if the Gracie Rae made it back to shore, he was done with her.

Thankfully, everyone made it home and the only one worse for wear was poor Buster Dekel. He suffered some second degree burns and smoke inhalation, but he made a full recovery. When Lowe asked him what compelled such bravery, Buster Dekel confided that he had stashed a month’s worth of pay in a pair of pants hidden in the engine room. The only way to save his pants and his pay was to put out the fire. Buster Dekel wasn’t sure he would have been quite so brave without that particular motivation.

True to his word, Lowe repaired the Gracie Rae and made sure she was in top shape and seaworthy, then sold her as fast as he could. But, the boat had a date with destiny and during a trip down to the Tampa bay area, she caught fire once again, and this time and no one could save her. The crew escaped unharmed and now the Gracie Rae sits, where she seemed intent on being all along, at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.