HOMOSASSA, Fla. — The Homosassa community is coming together to help their beloved “Bait Lady” get back on the water after her boat sank in August.

  • Van Allen is known as "The Bait Lady"
  • She has been selling bait from her boat for over 20 years
  • Allen was out in the gulf when a storm hit, damaged her boat
  • More Citrus County coverage

“It makes me move, and I’m 80, and I’m still very healthy,” said Bonnie Van Allen.

Van Allen, known as “The Bait Lady,” has been selling bait from her boat in Homosassa for over 20 years.

“It’s really good for me physically. It’s good for me spiritually, because I’m around all these wonderful people,” she said.

But when she was out in the gulf on August 30, she wasn’t able to get back to shore before a storm hit.

“I looked up and the left front side of my boat was going under,” Van Allen said.

“I saw that these huge tanks full of water and bait were beginning to fall over, and I knew they would hurt me so I jumped off,” she added.

She treaded water for two and a half hours until rescuers could get to her.

But it didn't take long for the Homosassa fishing community to come together to help. They pulled her boat from the water and are now working to get it repaired.

“We stripped the boat down to bare wood fixed all the soft spots in the floor. We’ve repainted it, and now we’re getting ready to re-do all the electrical and all the mechanical,” said Joe Finn with Storm Port Boatworks, Inc., who is leading a group repairing Van Allen’s boat.

“I’ve known her forever. She’s just part of the community that everybody, if they could be here, they’d be here too,” Finn added.

They’ve been working seven days a week on the repairs and don’t plan to stop until it’s ready to go.

“I am so happy I live here. I had no idea when we bought this little island that these people were so generous and kind and wonderful,” Van Allen said.

Their goal is to have all the repairs completed by the end of October.

There is also a GoFundMe set up to help with the costs of getting the boat back on the water.

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