HARTWELL, GA (FOX Carolina) – A retired US Marine and his fiancé are trying to put together a path forward after the boat they had called home for more than a year sank in Lake Hartwell this week.

Stephen Forrester said he had been gone for a few hours running errands. When he returned to his houseboat, he said something just felt off. Within an hour, his home for the past 14 months was completely underwater.

Forrester said he knew something was wrong when he stepped aboard.

“When I walked inside, it felt like I was walking downhill,” he said.

A few minutes later, he realized his engine compartments were underwater. Less than a minute later, the water was already up to his knees. So, he called the marina manager, who sent over a crew with pumps to help. But he and the pump crew quickly saw that they were fighting a losing battle.

“For every gallon we pumped out, it seemed like 50 more were coming in,” Forrester said.

Forrester said he was able to get his dogs to safety and retrieve a safe that contained a lock of hair belonging to his fiance’s late daughter, who passed away at a young age. But all of their other possessions went down with the boat, including an item that was dear to him: his Marine Corps ring.

Photo of Salena Kelley, late daughter of Stephen Forrester's fiancée

Photo of Salena Kelley, late daughter of Stephen Forrester's fiancée

“I thought it was lost for good,” Forrester said of the ring. However, dive teams that came out to lift the boat on Friday were able to locate it.

Marine ring found after house boat in Hartwell, Ga. sank

Marine ring found after house boat in Hartwell, Ga. sank

Forrester said family members are helping them, and some crowdfunding efforts have ben launched, but it is costing about $14,000 just to get the boat back to land, leaving Forrester and his fiancé charting uncertain waters. You can donate at this link.

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