Removal of shrimp boats begins near Fort Myers Beach waters

Published: November 4, 2022 3:31 PM EDT
Updated: November 4, 2022 4:40 PM EDT

Shrimp boats that were damaged during Hurricane Ian were removed from San Carlos Island on Friday.

It was a bittersweet moment for shrimpers who could finally see just how badly they were damaged.

The first boat, the Double E, was finally lifted after being thrown onto its side during Hurricane Ian.

Wayne Romano has worked on the Double E for 18 years.

“It gives me promise that maybe soon we will be back to work,” Romano said.

Seeing the boat like this is heartbreaking for him.

And when he got onboard to get his clothes, it made him seasick for the first time in his life.

“I only made it four foot inside that boat and I had to lay down because it throws, it throws your whole equilibrium off and everything,” Romano said. “It felt like the boat was going to flip over.”

Wires had to be tied around the boat with the captain underwater in a dive suit helping.

Once they get it upright, there is still a long way to go before Double E can get back on the water.

Same can be said for Robert Blake’s boat Perseverance One, which is submerged in the water.

Crews got to work on removing shrimping boats around San Carlos Island on Friday. (CREDIT: WINK News)

“It’s got to be overhauled, the engines, two engines,” Blake said. “The freezer’s got to be redone. Inside has to be redone. It’s a whole lot of work.”

But the shrimping community knows this is the first step to getting back to work.

“I want to go fishing,” Romano said. “You know, I mean, I have truck payments, car payments, house payments. I mean, just like anybody, I’m just a normal person.”

Romano said it would take a miracle for his boat to be back upright on Friday because it’s such a dangerous job.

Getting a boat that weighs more than 200 tons out of the water is no easy task.

Jody Ellerbee has been a co-owner of the boat Double-E since 2005.

With a boat like this out of commission, he and so many others don’t have income. While it’s tough to see the boat on its side, he still considers himself lucky.

Crews got to work on removing shrimping boats around San Carlos Island on Friday. (CREDIT: WINK News)

“It could have been worse. Could have been like a lot of these boats way up on land,” Ellerbee said.

Ellerbee said it could take months, or even years for all of the shrimping boats to get back on the water.

There are a lot of shrimp boats like that around San Carlos Island, where people not only work but also live.

“This is our trailer park,” said David Hutchins. “We just get to take our trailer and go offshore with it.”

Some of them rode out the storm on them.

Richard Browne, Gulf Star captain, said it was terrifying.

“All I did was pray,” Browne said.

Many of them watched the work being done to the Double-E

“To see this, it’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Blake said.