NewsLocal NewsLee County


The boat removal process continues throughout Southwest Florida

Hundreds of boats removed since Hurricane Ian
Posted at 7:25 PM, Nov 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-16 19:25:38-05

ST. JAMES CITY, Fla. — Tonight we are going further into the process of removing boats here throughout Southwest Florida as thousands of boats have been spread out across roadways to backyards.

Many of our viewers have been asking: What exactly happens with all these boats? Today I found out for you... here's the process of removing everything from 900-pound jet skis to boats weighing more than 50,000 pounds.

Gary Gorman, the co-owner of RJ Gorman Marine Contruction out of Panama City Florida said, "I’ve never seen anything to this magnitude in my lifetime."

His company has paired up with Monroe Canal Marina in St. James City to make this all possible.

To explain the process the company works with insurance agencies. The boats get brought up by a towboat then straps are put on them, they are taken by crane and placed on a flatbed to be then taken about a mile down the road to another yard.

"The insurance company will make a decision on whether or not to pay the owner out fully for the vessel or pay them for the damages and then will be responsible for reloading the vessel back on the customers trailer and they can take it home and get it repaired or sell it as is," explains Gorman.

And the ones that are a total loss...?

"So, the ones that wound up being a total loss they’ll wind up being crushed the usable material be pulled out and what’s sold off at salvage and then the fiberglass will be crushed and sent to a landfill or if there’s a recycling somewhere nearby it’ll go to recycling."

Staci Stevens is the owner of Monroe Canal Marina who says she's been able to keep her employees working post Hurricane Ian. "Normally we're a local marina that does shrimp and sells bait tackle and all that stuff but after the storm we realized that wasn’t going to come into fruition. Local businesses were looking for locations to offload boats we had already started offloading supplies here and that became a natural transition from supplies for people needing food water all that stuff to actual vessels."

Staci Stevens also owns the property down the street where the boats go — formerly a palm tree farm, but a lot of it ruined by Hurricane Ian.

And don't think this process isn't emotional for not only the boat owners but even the crews helping with this entire process... as Gary said, "I was walking around the yard just up there a little while ago and it’s just pretty heartbreaking to see peoples dream boats that have just totally been destroyed and it’s just really heartbreaking."

Companies are a bit backed up as there's still hundreds more boats to get to. I'm being told here this process could take months. Between the operations here around St. James City, Matlacha, Pine Island and their other crews with another crane on Fort Myers Beach they've removed between 3 to 400 boats since they got here after Hurricane Ian.