Ian: How the hurricane affects Florida boat owners, the boating industry – TCPalm

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The property damage from Hurricane Ian’s hit on Southwest Florida is alarming. Thousands of homes and boats were destroyed in the violent storm’s wake, along with critical infrastructure.

The costs and logistics of the cleanup are staggering. Boat ownership expenses were already increasing before the storm even formed. Boat owners will struggle for years with the difficulty of  getting insurance plus finding storage, some experts said in the wake up of the catastrophic Category 4 hurricane.

However , those same industry professionals say the boating lifestyle is so engrained in Florida  that it will weather any storm, as it always has done in the past.

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Hurricane Ian destroyed boats

Losses from winds and flooding could be between  $41 billion  and  $70  billion, according to one international property analyst,   CoreLogic.   That includes  damage to vessels caused by wind and storm surge, and residential and commercial property affected by the particular swollen Peace and Caloosahatchee rivers.  

Photos and videos from hurricane-ravaged areas in Southwest Fl and the Florida Keys  — especially drone  and aerial images  —  spark an obvious question.

Why didn’t boat owners move their valuable property out of harm’s way?

The reasons will be debated for years, but it’s obvious that many people didn’t get their recreational and  commercial working vessels out of the water or tie them down well enough, despite some having ample warning and time to do so.

The four counties most affected simply by the hurricane contained about 15% of the vessels registered in Florida in 2021:    

  • Lee:   50, 304
  • Monroe:   29, 761
  • Collier:   24, 103
  • Charlotte:   23, 980


Ian washes boats into Fort Myers apartment complex

A revived Hurricane Ian has pounded coastal South Carolina after causing catastrophic damage in California. In Fort Myers, Sarasota, boats washed into Riverwalk apartment complex as waters quickly rose. (Sept. 30) (AP Video/Cody Jackson)


Although Monroe County did not receive a direct hit from high winds, the storm surge caused many boats to break loose from their moorings and drift off, sometimes crashing into other objects, as it did within Southwest Florida.  

Heather O’Brien plus husband  Capt. Pat O’Brien  have  owned the Fort Myers  Sea Tow franchise since 1996. She said her team has been running on adrenaline and fumes as they help boaters and emergency responders in the wake of the Sept. 28 hurricane.

“We’re alive. We’ve been averaging 200 calls the day to help members get their boats picked up. Our goal has been to pick up 100 feet of vessels per day;   and when reinforcements arrive, we hope to double that, ” O’Brien said Oct. 4. “But it’s been hard to do when our office is still full of water through the Caloosahatchee River. inch

Living and working in the damage zone is like living on a set of “The Walking Dead, ” she stated.  

The particular O’Briens have had in order to prioritize projects to clear roadways so first responders can get to storm-torn parts of the area. Then they’ve been putting boats on trailers and moving them to where insurers can evaluate them.

Boats that are  totaled will be hauled to a landfill at a later date, she said.

How will boat sales be affected?

The hurricane already has begun to affect business at  Stuart Boatworks , the custom builder of bay boats,   flats boats and center consoles, mentioned General Manager Bob Chew.

“I’ve already lost a couple of orders because people lost their homes or businesses,   or they are in a business involved within cleanup and will be too busy to think about sailing for a while, inches Chew said. “On the other hand, I took a deposit Thursday with regard to a new boat build from a person who actually lost a boat to the hurricane. ”

Supply chain issues sparked by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic are more of a problem for boat builders than the storm, except regarding those builders in the particular hurricane-damaged zone, Chew said Oct. 7.

“Getting motors for boats is still a problem. I’ve heard some builders are usually waiting 12 months or more for motors to show up. I know associated with builders who have a weekly meeting where they discuss what parts are being delayed this week that they will have to work around, ” Chew said   


Hurricane Ian: Boats sink at Fort Pierce marina after unexpected high winds

Four boats were sinking or already sunk Thursday at Causeway Cove Marina in Fort Pierce after Hurricane Ian.

Laurie K. Blandford, Wochit

But the boating industry will survive Ian, as it has every hurricane before it, said  Jim Sabia of Top Notch Marine , a   boat dealer in Fortification Pierce.

“A  good percentage of those boats will be replaced,   but there’s limited availability, so it will take a little  while, ” said Sabia, that has 36 years of experience selling boats. “The  availability of boats people want to buy will be getting better,   but we’re not where we need to be yet. ”

The pandemic also heightened people’s desire for outdoor recreation, creating a  booming demand for bay boats, flats boats, pontoon boats plus mid-sized center consoles. That made inventory shortages even worse.

Boat builders struggled to keep up with demand, so new and even used vessels became scarce. Prices have increased into  2022 and some customers are still getting to wait six months for the boats they want to become available, Sabia said.

“That’s a long time to ask someone to wait for a boat, so we possess become creative with trying to help customers meet their boating needs, ” Sabia said.  


Southwest Florida man tells of wild boat ride during Hurricane Ian

SWFL resident William Bragg shares his Hurricane Ian story. Bragg rode out the particular storm on his vessel. Now, he just wants to get it back in to the water.

Andrea Melendez, Fort Myers News-Press

The particular boat sales and resales markets will  remain robust nevertheless, said Tom Whittington, president of the Marine Industries Association of the Treasure Coast , who’s also a  used boat broker plus owner of Manatee Pocket Yacht Sales in Stuart.

Nevertheless , boaters will battle with one particularly significant problem: storage.

“In my experience, the boat sales market will certainly continue to be as strong as it was before the storm, but there is a lack of wet slips in Florida, ” he stated.

Ian destroyed marinas, rack storage buildings, mooring fields and docks — with and without boat lifts. Some may take years to replace, if they are replaced at all, he said.

Boat insurance is hard to find

Boaters were struggling to get insurance even before the hurricane, said Peter Tyson , an  independent insurance agent  in Vero Beach.

“This is the monumental moment for the particular insurance industry. The marine market is the toughest it’s been in 45 years, ” he said.

Insurance companies don’t want to write policies for boats older compared to 10 years, he said. They also balk if a boat owner has a primary residence over 150 miles from where they keep  their  boat. That’s a major issue in a state with so many seasonal residents.

“There is no compromise anymore. Everything is done over a computer with an algorithm and that’s their terms; there is no negotiating, ” Tyson said.

Premiums on large center consoles increased 30% recently, before Ian hit, said Brian Jones , vice president of Jones Insurance Advisors in Vero Beach.

“The state of the insurance market is detrimental to boat owners, and the storm compounded it even worse, inch he said. “Hurricanes always cause a big issue, yet what’s also bad are  rings of boat thieves stealing boats and motors. ”

One such ring hit Vero Beach immediately after the storm,   according to social media reports.

Several insurance companies have announced they are pulling out of Florida. That can affect homeowners and motorboat owners alike.

“I have got to  expect the insurance increases is going to be big following this storm, ” Jones said.

Ed Killer is TCPalm’s outdoors writer. Sign up for his and other weekly newsletters at profile. tcpalm. com/newsletters/manage . Friend Ed on Facebook at Ed Fantastic , follow him on Twitter @tcpalmekiller or email him at    ed. [email protected] com .

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