Marisa Nuñez, Marisa Hair, Long Island City, NY

Jason and Wendy Peterson

Coco's Boat Rentals LLC

Marathon, Florida

“Thank god we found you.” –Jason Peterson

As black clouds gathered on the horizon and hurricane warnings flooded the airwaves, Jason Peterson was preparing for disaster. As the owner of Coco’s Boat Rentals and a lifelong boater himself, Jason knew what horrors Mother Nature could be capable of on the water.

“I don’t think anyone was ready, but we did the best we could,” says Jason.

He hired a forklift company to haul all of their boats out of the water, and he tried his best to protect their property and equipment from the destructive flood waters that were sure to come. He found safe shelter with his wife Wendy, and prayed for the best. Then, on September 10th, 2017, Hurricane Irma struck South Florida, and sent their livelihood into critical condition.


Keeping calm on choppy waters comes naturally to Jason, who learned boating from his dad as a kid growing up in Minnesota. When not on the water, Jason worked as a mason, but his income wasn’t enough to make ends meet. In 2011, he finally quit his job and moved down to the Florida Keys with his wife Wendy to pursue his true passion fulltime, and they launched Coco’s Boat Rentals in 2015.

The business came naturally to Jason, who knew what to expect from the years he spent out on the water with his dad. But nothing could prepare them for what they would face in the wake of Hurricane Irma.


After the hurricane had passed, Jason went back to work to assess the damage, fearing the worst. His fears were realized. The boats were scratched and gashed, and short-circuited by the salt water. Their storage shed had been completely destroyed, and the equipment inside lost for good. A tree had fallen on their trailer, punching a large hole in the top. The damage was extensive, and widespread.

“It put us back to square one,” he says. “It felt like we were starting over.”

The hurricane affected not only his business, but also a number of the resorts Jason partnered with to accommodate his customers. “No one was calling to rent boats. Instead, people were calling to ask about what it was like and how we were doing.” He estimates they lost 48% of their business and about $25,000 ­– $30,000 worth of equipment.

At first, Jason and Wendy had to manage the cleanup on their own. Their sole employee couldn’t come back to work for lack of safe shelter, so Jason and Wendy graciously opened up their home to him. Even as customers began to return, Jason still needed funding to keep his doors open and support himself and Wendy. They used the money they had saved up before the hurricane to find a safe place to live and for living expenses during the hurricane’s barrage.


Jason and Wendy went to the banks in their area in search of capital, but their business still too new to qualify for financing. The fear of having to close the business crept in, and their search became dire. Then, they found out about Ascendus from a friend and applied for an emergency Hurricane Irma Relief Loan. They were approved, and started rebuilding the business.


Receiving the loan from Ascendus has enabled Jason and Wendy to keep their business open and stay on the island that they’ve grown to love. In the process, they’ve built stronger relationships with the businesses in their community. “We’ve all helped each other out. Everyone’s in the same position – no one’s making any income right now,” says Jason. He expects business to return to normal in early 2018.

In spite of everything, Jason still considers himself lucky. “Thank god we found you,” he shares. But luck may only be part of the picture – Coco’s Boat Rentals wouldn’t have stayed open if not for Jason and Wendy’s determination, and the strength of the community to which they belong. As flood waters recede, what’s left after every natural disaster is the community that weathered the storm. Ascendus is honored and humbled to be a part of resilient communities that feature brave entrepreneurs like Jason and Wendy.

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