More than a year after Hurricane Irma left a path of destruction along Florida’s Gulf Coast, several local communities continue to pick up the pieces as the area moves closer to recovery. While many homes and businesses have been repaired, there is still work to be done in several areas – perhaps most notably within the local marine industry.
Four Gulf-area Sea Tow franchises in Fort Myers, Sarasota, Venice and Charlotte Harbor have played a key role in this cleanup – work that continues to this day. Over the past several weeks, captains from each of the four franchises have removed several derelict and abandoned boats that Irma had strewn across the previously beautiful Gulf Coast waters, causing environmental hazards as well as unsightly obstacles.
These franchises have partnered with Florida’s West Coast Inland Navigation District (WCIND) to remove countless boats that had been displaced by the historic storm. The franchises work the jobs that were too daunting and difficult for other contractors.
One job came in the form of an abandoned shrimp boat that sat in the mangroves near Charlotte Harbor. In his day-to-day duties, Sea Tow Charlotte Harbor owner and head captain Mike DeGenaro, noticed the boat had been sitting with very little movement.
Utilizing a shared pool of equipment and resources, as well as the decades’ worth of knowledge, teamwork and experience, the crew at Sea Tow Charlotte Harbor recovered the boat in less than three days after it had been sitting for more than a year.
“The support we have as Sea Tow captains is unrivaled,” Capt. Mike said. “We’ve all been doing this for years, and it’s great to be able to pair up with other captains from franchises nearby for advice, man-power and equipment. It can make even the toughest jobs seem like a piece of cake.”
Recently, Venice’s, Owner, Capt. Craig Marcum recovered a 27-foot sailboat that had sunk right in front of a local marina and restaurant. After the boat sat for nearly six months, the restaurant owners began to get impatient. Much like the job in Charlotte Harbor, once Sea Tow Venice was called in, Capt. Craig and his crew had the boat out of the water within days.
“As you can imagine, an abandoned, aground boat is never fun to look at. The restaurant owners weren’t very happy that the sailboat had been sitting for far too long,” Capt. Craig said. “They were very pleased when we got it out of the water and away from their patrons. We just love seeing those happy faces when we’re able to help out like this. It makes it all worthwhile.”
In Sarasota, Capt. Duke Overstreet and his crew have helped to recover four boats strewn across multiple counties – two of which had been sitting vagrant for over two years before Sea Tow got the call.
“Having a half-sunken boat sitting for months and sometimes years can be such an eyesore,” Capt. Duke said. “We were thrilled when we were asked to recover the four boats in Sarasota and Manatee County. We always try to be great caretakers of these waters, so having the opportunity to return them to their former beauty is something we take great pride in and take very seriously.”
While the Charlotte Harbor, Venice and Sarasota Sea Tow locations have finished all of their work with the WCIND, one job remains on the horizon for Sea Tow Fort Myers as they await the go-ahead to remove the area’s final abandoned boat.
Owner and head captain, Pat O’Brien said that it was Sea Tow’s unique expertise and extensive network of captains that led to his crew getting this final job as the area looks to close out a cleanup that has lasted well over a year.
“We’re all about constantly building relationships, whether that’s with our members, nearby Sea Tow captains or others within the local marine industry,” Capt. Pat said. “Over the past ten-plus years, we’ve been working with Lee County on a number of salvage jobs, so as soon as WCIND opened this project, they knew that we were the ones to call. “We’re very much looking forward to putting the final touches on the cleanup around the area and getting these beautiful waters back to their previously unmatched glory.”