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February 09, 2006

Charley's Crab and the death of Chuck Muer

Chuck Muer grew up in Michigan and opened a restaurant there in October of 1964. Later, he opened a restaurant named Charley's Crab in Palm Beach, Florida. Their seafood is indescribably good and I've been scarfing meals at the Charley's Crab in Palm Beach for over a decade. Predictably, word about the food leaked out, so more Charley's Crabs popped up in South Florida like mushrooms after a spring rain.

The tragedy is the story of poor Chuck's demise. Here's a guy that had everything to live for. Here's a guy that was making money hand over fist, living in Palm Beach Florida. Bought a sweet 40 foot boat and named it "Charley's Crab". He sailed back and forth between the Bahamas, which is pretty much the thing to do on the Treasure Coast.

In the summer, crossing over to the Bahamas is a cake walk. You could cross over to Grand Bahama Island in a 14 foot flat bottom boat with an outboard and a few jerry cans of gas. Plenty of people make the crossing without the aid of a GPS receiver. My brother-in-law said he and his brother used to do it all the time with nothing more than a compass. Accounting for the Gulf Stream, they'd just head East South-East for 4 hours across the open ocean in a 20 foot boat and watch for Memory Rock on the horizon.

In the winter, the seas are rough, but in the summer, unless there's a hurricane, the oceans are generally calm and the crossing is a cake walk.

Chuck Muer had a big boat. A 40 foot boat is a large boat. Now, I know, there are bigger boats. However rich you think you are, South Florida can be an humbling place. You pull into the dock and some guy next to you anchors his yacht and he's got rescue boats the size of your boat hanging from cranes over the stern of his vessel. But a 40 foot boat is a big boat. I've made the crossing more times I can count in boats ranging from 27 feet to cruise ships. But a 40 foot boat is a large boat and is certainly capable of making the crossing in anything shy of a full-blown hurricane.

On March 13th of 1993, Charles and Betty Muer and their friends George and Lynn Drummey attempted to cross back from the Bahamas when a freak storm blew up. The storm hit much more quickly, further South, and with greater intensity than had been forecasted. By the time the freak March storm left Florida, it had killed more people than Hurricane Andrew and done $500 million in damages. Then Governor Childs wrote a scathing letter lambasting the National Weather Service for their poor forecasting.

Chuck Muer's party had probably nearly completed the crossing before they heard any forecast of an impending storm on their marine radio. By the time they knew of the storm, it was too late. Battling 30 foot seas and 70 mile per hour winds in the pre-dawn blackness, Chuck Muer placed two calls at 4:25 a.m. and 4:27 a.m. to Palm Beach County's emergency center. But each time, there was only the crackle of static on the line.

They never found a trace from the wreck, and they searched like it mattered. They mounted a massive search and rescue operation, because the guy was as rich as Croesus, so they searched for him like it mattered. This wasn't a Coast Guard search for a Hatian clinging to a palm tree in the Gulf Stream. This was a "Holy Sh1t a jillionaire is missing calling-all-cars search-and-rescure" and they never found a trace of him. Nada.

Later, the freak storm would be called the "Storm of the Century", the "Superstorm", or the "Storm With No Name". (This was not the "Perfect Storm" of October 1991 that sank the Andrea Gail.)

In the aftermath of the tragic deaths, we are predictably left with a cacaphony of reverberating wrongful death lawsuits revolving around General Maritime Law and the Death on the High Seas Act. In September of 2002, that dreadful blight of corporate cuisine known as Landry's acquired C.A. Muer Restaurants.

Rest In Peace Chuck Muer, Betty Muer, George Drummey, and Lynn Drummey.


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Posted by Peenie Wallie on February 09, 2006 at 09:42 AM


Lynn drummey was my grand mother....I loved her deeply....my family spent months on helicopters searching. Nothing was ever found...which is very bizzare.... My mother has never fully recovered but my grand parents and the Muers will be in my heart forever.

Posted by: grand daughter on April 06, 2006 at 03:59 PM

I worked for Chuck Muer Restaurants for almost 20 years as Payroll Administrator for his Pittsburgh restaurant. Chuck was the kind of guy who might have been rich but he was approachable,..down to earth and you could talk to him. When he came to town, he made the time to listen and talk to anyone who came up to him whether it was a manager or a dishwasher. In his restaurants all employees and their jobs were important. I can still recall that day, March 13th, 1993 when one of our new Vice Presidents got off the phone and told me of Chuck's disappearance. Even months after that we half expected him to walk in the restaurant at any time. Tillman Fertitta could never fill Chuck Muer's shoes, I don't care how many restaurants he buys up. It's not the same since Landry's took over. They are all about the money,..Chuck was all about the customer, the employees and the best service we could provide.

My heart still goes out to the Muer and Drummey families on their loss.

Posted by: Adrienne Franco on April 08, 2007 at 03:51 PM

my late husband's father and mother, Dick and Ellie Davidson were the captains for the Muers - what a very sad loss, I remember that Chuck had young children at the time. Dick and Ellie are also deceased. Dick was a talented ship model builder and had his ships displayed at Chuck's restaurants. I am wondering where the models are now. I have a 20 year old son who would love to see them. thanks for any info.

Posted by: barbara davidson on March 03, 2008 at 12:18 PM

'The Troy Hilton in troy mi. had many of these models....a charleys was attached tjo the lobby entrance....if thats any help....

Posted by: robert savitski on April 03, 2008 at 08:44 AM

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