For Randall Listrom, Monday was a good evening to live on a boat.
The temperature was 77 degrees, seas were calm and the Topeka native had taken a stunning photo of the sunset from his trawler, Thin Blue Line, anchored off shore in Charlotte Harbor near Punta Gorda, Florida.
But with Hurricane Ian approaching the Florida Gulf Coast, Listrom realized all hell was about to break loose.
The National Hurricane Center predicted Ian wouldn't make landfall in Florida until Wednesday, but Listrom said Punta Gorda was expected to start feeling its effects Tuesday afternoon.
If the storm is as bad as anticipated, his boat won't survive, the 67-year-old former Topeka police officer told a Capital-Journal reporter by phone.
On Tuesday morning, Listrom reinforced his boat's anchoring system and loaded most of his belongings into his SUV.
"Last night was one of the most gorgeous sunsets I have seen, but this morning I bid Thin Blue Line farewell as I do not expect to see her floating when I return," he said. "I am off the back and headed east to ride out the storm."
Former Topekan Randall Listrom's life includes dolphins and storms
Living on a boat is the latest adventure for Listrom, who's seen his share of interesting experiences.
A native Topekan and graduate of Topeka High School, Listrom served with the Topeka Police Department from 1977 until he retired in 2005. Most of his assignments involved narcotics enforcement and criminal intelligence.
Listrom was then a contractor for the U.S. State Department, working with the U.S. military on assignments in Iraq from 2007 to 2009, Afghanistan from 2009 to 2013 and the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Jordan from 2013 to 2019.
Listrom said he's now quasi-retired but working to help the State Department develop international policing standards.
In January 2021, Listrom bought and began living on Thin Blue Line, a fishing boat used for trawling that's 35 feet long at its water line. The boat has no sails. It runs on diesel fuel and can go no more than 7 mph, Listrom said.
Thin Blue Line sits anchored 1,000 feet from shore, he said.
"About 30 of us live in our boats out there," Listrom said.
By Monday evening, the number of boats still out in the area where Listrom lives was down to 10, and the number of owners still present down to three, he said.
Lightning strike narrowly missed former Topeka police officer's head
Listrom likes living on a boat.
He told in a Facebook post last July of how he awoke to see dolphins playing in the water beside his trawler, and they followed him as he rowed to shore in his dinghy.
But there's also occasional danger.
Listrom told on Facebook last December of how he managed to get his damaged trawler to a marina after spending two and a half hours battling a surprise storm that brought three tornadoes, 78-mph winds and six-foot waves.
A lightning strike that day narrowly missed Listrom's head, he said.
Randall Listrom's boat lacks a working engine
Last December's storm put Listrom's boat's engine out of commission, he said, adding that the insurance company didn't decide to replace it with a new one until earlier this month — and the new engine hasn't even been ordered.
So as Hurricane Ian approaches Punta Gorda, Listrom's boat lacks a working motor.
Listrom said he tried to arrange to have it towed in to a nearby marina, but was told that facility was only allowing entry to boats that could come in under their own power.
He said he could have also had his trawler towed into the nearby Peace River and tied to a mangrove, which is a shrub or tree with very strong roots.
But Hurricane Ian is expected to bring a storm surge of five to seven feet, which would almost certainly sink Listrom's trawler if it were tied to a mangrove, he said.
'I guess that's just the price tag'
So Listrom is leaving Thin Blue Line in the harbor.
"I have given her a chance to survive," he said. "She has a 44-pound Rocna anchor that has been buried in mud for eight months. She has a brand new anchor bridle to help absorb the waves, and 200 feet of chain laid out to help hold her."
Fortunately, Listrom said, his trawler is fully insured for any storm damage it might sustain, though the policy involved only allows for him to recover 80% of the losses if the storm has been named, as is the case with Ian.
On Tuesday morning, Listrom paddled his dinghy to land and loaded almost all his belongings into his SUV to drive inland.
Listrom spent Tuesday night at a truck stop at Fort Pierce, Florida, along the state's Atlantic coast, and "may just hang out there," he said Wednesday morning in a Facebook post.
When he returns to Punta Gorda later this week, he said, he doesn't know what he'll find.
Listrom said he might temporarily return to Topeka if his boat becomes lost.
He was anxious but philosophical Monday about that possibility.
"It is what it is," Listrom said. "You can't change it, so you just live with it. I guess that's just the price tag that comes with the exotic nature of this lifestyle."
Tim Hrenchir can be reached at (785) 213-5934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Projected hurricane path includes boat on which a native Topekan lives