(WSPA) – Over the last three years Philip Collins, better known to his neighbors as “Captain Phil” has made it his life’s work to share the unique history and culture of Cedar Key.
Born and raised in Greenville, S.C., Collins moved to the small island off the Florida coast a few years ago. He said he was drawn there by the area’s natural beauty and deep history. He took over a small business, Tidewater Tours, which takes hundreds of visitors on boat tours of the island chain.
“I get to show them an hour and a half tour, give the history and tour of each island here. We have 13 islands in our national wildlife refuge,” said Collins on Friday. “The history goes back into the 1850’s, and each island has a specific history.”
And he was good at it, too.
Tidewater Tours, boasts a near-perfect rating on tripadvisor.com, with reviewers often complimenting Collin’s friendly nature and wealth of knowledge about the area.
His passions might have been washed away this week by the floodwaters of Hurricane Idalia. The storm, Collins said, was his first experience with a major hurricane. As part of the tiny community’s volunteer fire department, he remained on the island as the storm washed over the area, bringing 100-plus-mile-per-hour winds and storm surges of 11 feet.
“We have a lot to be thankful for. This could have been much worse here,” said Collins.
It took 24 hours for waters to recede enough for Collins to fully asses the damage done to his home and business. The former, he said, survived the storms intact. When he got to the dock which once held his business, however, Collins said he was brought to tears.
“My business location was in a rubbish pile in the parking lot. It’s totally gone,” he said. “It was heartbreaking. I love this community and my business was a big part of tourism here. I am the only true touristy thing to do, and love what I do.”
Collins said his business was not insured, and he is not able to afford the cost of rebuilding the dock and building the place on his own.
“With that location gone, I don’t know if I will be able to continue to operate the business,” he said.
Brandon Grant, Collins’s nephew, has created a gofundme to help raise money to aid in the effort to rebuild the business.
Collins doesn’t know what the future holds for himself or Cedar Key, but the support the tiny island community has received already has been heartwarming, he said.
The way this community and the whole country is wanting to come in and clean up and grab a shovel, get the mud out of these homes and businesses and try to help…that outpouring of love and support from people who have been to Cedar Key is overwhelming,” he said. “But this will be a long road to recovery.”