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Here We Go Again

Hurricane Nicole, a rare November storm, made landfall along Florida’s east coast around 3 a.m. and headed across the state to the Gulf Coast. Downgrading to a tropical storm once over land, its winds will clock at 55 mph today, and dealers and marinas in the storm’s 400-mile-wide path are still facing flooding and other damage.

Unlike Hurricane Ian in late September — one of the deadliest storms in the state’s history — those of us in Nicole’s path are fortunate that it was downgrading to tropical status and will not cause the same catastrophic damage.

That said, Nicole is a reminder to continue supporting the post-Ian efforts of all who are salvaging thousands of damaged or destroyed boats and rebuilding marinas and related facilities in southwest Florida.

Here’s an update:

In a report this week to members, the Marine Industries Association of Southwest Florida & Tampa Bay said there are signs that things are returning to some semblance of normality more quickly than had been hoped.

Even in hard-hit areas like Pine Island, businesses are beginning to get back up and running. There’s still a long way to go, but just to be open on any level only a month after Ian is amazing. Marinas on Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island are executing plans to rebuild as quickly as possible, the association report noted.

Downtown Fort Myers was hit very hard, and the association could not produce the boat show that would have run next week. However, the Fort Myers Boat Show is rescheduled for Jan. 5-8.

“We walked the downtown boat show site and felt very comfortable that the city will be ready to welcome us in January,” show manager Kyle Good said. “It was unreal when we watched video reports of several feet of water careening through the downtown streets and the marina disappearing. Yet now we see more stores and restaurants reopening daily, and we have no doubt a show in January will work very well.

“The mayor, city manager, staff and local businesses are committed to making our boat show the first of many major downtown events in 2023,” continued Good. “Dealers and exhibitors are already very supportive. While there will not be in-water exhibits because the City Yacht Basin suffered extensive damage, several in-water exhibitors will occupy space in the new amphitheater being completed at the show site, and Centennial Park and the streets along the waterfront that surrounds the Caloosa Sound Convention Center are already back.”

Said Tom Papesh of York Road Marine on Pine Island: “Our employees have been amazing, working non-stop to get the boatyard reopened. This week, we pulled out our last damaged boat that was 300 yards back in the mangroves. I cannot believe how everyone on the island has pulled together, and I can’t wait to get to the boat show and let everyone know we are open and ready to sell boats again.”

MIASWFTB vice president Tom Hansen, of The Boat House, shared that enthusiasm. “It’s important to our industry, to downtown Fort Myers and our businesses that the show has been rescheduled,” he said. “I believe we’ll see great enthusiasm from visitors, and our sales team is looking forward to kicking off the new year with a successful show. We also very much appreciate the efforts of the city and convention center to shift things around to make this show happen.”

In addition to getting dealerships back in operation and marinas rebuilt, there’s a continuing effort to recover thousands of damaged and sunken boats that are choking waterways, roadways, backyards, parks, school yards, mangroves and more. But the watchword mantra is: “We’ll get it done and be back!”

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