Phil Gerber stood at the front of his pontoon boat, checking the map to make sure he wouldn’t miss where the Waccamaw River meets the Intracoastal Waterway.
The boat puttered down the river, launching from Bucksville Landing in Conway, passing homes filled with water up to their roofs. The Waccamaw River crested Wednesday at over 21 feet, flooding houses and businesses across the county.
Gerber, along with his wife, Gina, and friend Aaron Bruce, were delivering supplies to seven people who were living in their boats in Bucksport Marina. Roads leading to the marina are flooded, limiting access to and from the docks.
Living at the docks are the Gerber’s friend and employee Courtenay Starr and his girlfriend, Patti Louis.
“We told them if they needed anything, we’d drop everything and do what we could to get to them,” Gina Gerber said. “We don’t want people to think we’re doing this for fun.”
Bruce maneuvered the boat, filled with six cases of water, eggs, bread, chips, four cases of beer, cigarettes and more, down Landing Road, which was about 6-feet deep with water. Careful to not create any wakes, the boat turned onto the Waccamaw River.
The Gerbers, whose house was not flooded, were in awe of the flooded homes. One man waved at the boat, sitting on his deck, water a foot from entering his front door.
“This is total devastation,” Bruce said.
Over a half hour later, the trio arrived at Bucksport Marina, pulling up beside the sailboat Starrkiss’d.
Starr and Louis greeted them with hugs, continually thanking them for the supplies they were starting to run low on.
The Gerbers have known Starr for more than 10 years. Starr works at their company All Out Fire Protection in Myrtle Beach.
“There was seven people that chose to stay,” Starr said. “We made it two weeks on a week and a half worth of provisions.”
Starr and Louis decided to stay on the boat through Hurricane Florence, which hit the Carolina coast as a Category 1 storm. Starr has stayed on the boat through Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Irma in 2017.
“Still safer than staying on land,” Starr said.
Now, the couple is stranded on the boat until the water on the roads subsides, allowing Starr to return to work.
“This is not just a business, it’s a family,” Gina Gerber said of her 10-person operation. The Gerbers do not expect Starr to return to work any sooner than he is able to.
The group left the marina after loading Starrkiss’d full of supplies, the sound of an air horn to say goodbye.
“We’re blessed to have him,” Phil Gerber said. “That’s why we don’t want him to starve.”