Couple without home after Hurricane Ian sinks boat they were living on

A couple learned the boat they lived on sank Friday as Hurricane Ian pounded the North Charleston marina where it was moored.
Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 4:15 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 4, 2022 at 7:38 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Henry and Teresa Chaney have been living on boats since 2005.

When Ian was coming towards the Lowcountry, they decided they were going to ride the storm out on “The Benchwarmer,” the 38-foot boat they live on. But that was before they found out Ian had intensified into a hurricane.

“I looked at my wife and I said, are you ready to die tonight if this storm takes us?,” Henry Chaney said. “And she looks at me and she says, no not tonight.”

The couple decided to leave their boat behind at its North Charleston marina. On the day of the storm, Chaney got a call from another boat owner at the marina, who said “The Benchwarmer” sunk. That boat owner, Bryan Keil, caught it all on camera.

“It’s amazing how fast your dream can be wiped away,” Keil said.

Chaney said when he heard the news, his “heart died.” It was a total loss. But luckily for the Chaneys, they had insurance.

Now, days after the storm, the U.S. Coast Guard joined Tow Boat US and an environmental company to pump the diesel off the boat. With so much diesel onboard, they decided to take the diesel off while it was still underwater.

“We have to make sure that we identify which vessels are at risk of polluting the environment and take the necessary action to quickly get those pollutants off in a timely fashion,” Co-owner of Tow Boat US Charleston and Santee Cooper Lakes Joseph Abeyta said. “It’s a delicate environment and we need to make sure we do everything we can to protect it.”

Abeyta says they often find owners that don’t have insurance. He says that’s crucial for boat owners to have.

Soon, barges and cranes will be brought in to lift up the boat and pump out the water so it can be disposed of.

In the meantime, the Chaneys have been living in a camper in a family member’s yard.

Inside the boat are pictures of the couple’s children and grandchildren, along with items given to them from family members that have passed away. All those items are now underwater.

Chaney said he will never stop boating, despite the heartache.

“God has a sense of humor when it comes to nature,” Chaney said. “If he wants to show you who is really in charge, he will do it.”