Boat Retrieval post Ian messy, mind boggling

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Real Estate


 Mark H. BickelFort Myers News-Press
The sunk boats now being retrieved from the Matanzas Pass don't look like they have been under water for a year and a half.

More like decades.

This has been a different kind of boat parade. Muddy, rusty, bruised and battered. No. You can't call them boats now. They are disfigured, hideous, unrecognizable hunks of junk. What they really are is a hellish reminder of the fiercest and deadliest hurricane to ever cross over Southwest Florida.

And that once in a lifetime Category 4 storm called Hurricane Ian has presented a once in a lifetime opportunity to see what a sailboat or a tugboat or a pontoon boat would look like after spending more than 500 days in a watery grave, resting on the floor of the busy waterway near to Fort Myers Beach.

At times, it can feel like all of the boxes on the post-Hurricane Ian "to-do" list will never be checked . And while significant strides have been made from Fort Myers Beach to Sanibel, the removal of the boats that at one time were tied to the docks at the popular Bonita Bill's restaurants and bar, has been a particularly lengthy process.

Katie Semmer is co-owner of Bonita Bill's along with her brother and sister. Back in March she said the goal was to have the remaining boats removed by the end of this month. Semmer said one boat was removed last September. What was left were 11 unclaimed boats (uninsured) and one (insured) boat stuck under a pile of abandon boats, Semmer said.

At the time of being interviewed for this story in March, Semmer said there were three or four boats left to be fished out of the water in front of her business. This did not include the massive Bertram yacht called the Batchelor Pad that was tossed around by Hurricane Ian's historic 15-foot storm surge. It was spared from sinking like the other boats, but it ended up impaled on a couple of dock posts right next to the main dining area at Bonita Bill's.

Eighteen months later the 42-foot-long Batchelor Pad, weighing 20 tons (40,000 pounds), has been embraced by the Fort Myers Beach community and tourists, serving as an oddly entertaining reminder of a horrible catastrophe that took place. Writing a message, or just simply signing the boat's hull has become as popular as ordering fried the Grouper sandwich.