Florida Keys News
Friday, December 27, 2013
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Longtime Key Wester loses boat in fire
Boating community helps woman get back on her feet

It's some solace that Sally Gugino happened to take her dog Madeline out to play the night of Dec. 12 -- the night her 35-foot houseboat burnt nearly to the water while dockside at Stock Island Marina Village.

Gugino wiped away tears while standing near Robbie's Maritime Center where the deepwater marina gives way to the Atlantic Ocean, and the charred hull of her 1971 Silver Queen now sits, waiting to be repaired.

Gugino and Madeline were gone when the fire caused by a suspected electrical failure started about 12:30 p.m. near her bed.

"It's tough," Gugino said. "I'm a pretty tough person and I know it's just stuff, but it's tough. People are really helping out, and I appreciate the help."

There were no injuries in the fire that was extinguished by Monroe County Fire Rescue crews from Stock Island and Big Coppitt Key, said Chief Jim Callahan. Crews kept the fire from jumping to nearby boats, but everything inside Gugino's boat, including her clothes and possessions, was lost, Callahan added.

Gugino, a massage therapist at the Pier House and Doctor's Spa in Duval Square who also works as a cruise ship line handler for Caribe Nautical Services, was working on the boat on Tuesday.

"Thankfully, I still have the floor," the 20-year Key West resident said, "but not much else."

Neighbor Tomilee Harding said Gugino has been living with friends, trying to scrap money together for repairs. The boating community at Stock Island Marina Village has banded together to help her.

"We're all boaters and we understand that your life is on your boat, and that it's just like losing a house," Harding said. "We all have limited resources and try to help each other out. People on boats really depend on each other."

Gugino wondered about the future, but tried to stay positive.

"I still have three jobs and am thankful for that," she said.

Her neighbors are organizing a benefit to help Gugino get her boat back to a livable state, but the event is on hold until everyone returns after the holidays, Harding said. Until then, Harding asked those who wished to donate to the reconstruction costs to go to www.gofundme.com/5wd0mw.

Gugino just wants to get back on the water.

"I was a mess for a few days, but what are you going to do?" she asked. "You can sit around and cry about it, or you do something about it."

This holiday season, Gugino's neighbors are hoping other residents are willing to do something to help her. They've currently raised $50 on the website. They're hoping for much more, Harding said.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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