Treading water: Marina devastated after Hurricane Ian

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Downtown Fort Myers is often regarded as one of the top destinations for boat living and leisure. Now this boater’s paradise is devastated. 

Charles Suroski has worked at Legacy Harbour Marina in downtown Fort Myers for about 10 years. In the 19 years he’s lived in Fort Myers, he said he has not seen anything like the destruction Hurricane Ian has left behind across the area and at his workplace.

“We had Irma go through, and it was just a joke almost compared to this,” he said.

All that remains of the boating yard and marina is a rubble-filled wrecking yard. Boats are destroyed, piled up on top of each other. 

“Some people say a thousand words can explain it. Some people say no words can explain it,” Suroski said.

 A large yacht was pushed out of the water by Hurricane Ian. (Kendall Brandt/WUFT News)

Legacy Harbour Marina was once home to 131 boats. Suroski said about half of the boats in the marina served as homes for boaters. Now those who live on the water in Legacy Harbour will have to find a new landing spot. 

“A lot of these people live on the boats in Legacy Harbour here, and they have lost everything,” he said.

Less than a mile away, Fort Myers Yacht basin fared better than Legacy Harbour. But at least five boats sunk during the storm.

Hundreds of pieces of debris were floating in the water at the yacht basin. Parts of boats, personal belongings and tree branches could be seen on the water’s surface. The air also reeked of fuel. Gallons of diesel fuel contaminated the river. 

Parts of boats and other debris are seen floating in the Caloosahatchee River. (Kendall Brandt/WUFT News)

Boat owner Bob McKewen was walking around downtown Fort Myers with his family to see Hurricane Ian’s aftermath. One of the first things he took notice of was the fuel on top of the water. 

“If somebody should throw a match in there, I mean, we have all seen the movies with gasoline on the water and somebody throws a match,” McKewen said. “What happens? Bad things happen. All of these boats could catch on fire.” 

Back at Legacy Harbour Marina, community members stopped and stared in shock at what used to be a downtown landmark torn to pieces. 

Fort Myers resident Marta Sanchez said she used to come to Legacy Harbour every year for the Fourth of July and New Year’s celebrations. Now her favorite celebration spot will have to be replaced. 

Passerby Roxanna Montilva stood outside Legacy Harbour Marina for an hour. She said she could hardly believe her eyes when she saw the destruction. 

Hundreds of boats are piled up on top of each other at Legacy Harbour Marina. (Kendall Brandt/WUFT News)

“I have no words. You have to see it to believe it,” Montilva said. “It is truly sad to see a town that I love so much just into pieces.”

Montilva said one beautiful thing has come out of all of the pain and devastation Hurricane Ian has left behind. 

“I do love to see how we are coming together as a community to help each other,” Montilva said.

Suroski feels the same way. He said he was glad to see no one hurt or killed at the marina. 

“I was hoping when I got out here it wasn’t going to be a blocked-off crime scene,” Suroski said. “I was praying. So it is good to see that nobody is hurt.”

Employees at Legacy Harbour are still treading water, but they’re hoping to get their feet back on solid land again.

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