Sanibel Rising

Southwest Florida marinas, yachting resorts and more are reopening two years after Hurricane Ian hit the area.
Sanibel Island
Anyone looking to bareboat can contact Southwest Florida Yachts on the mainland in Cape Coral, where operations are resuming this spring. [scott]/

Hurricane Ian was a monster when it struck Southwest Florida in September 2022: Category 5, winds up to 162 mph and damage that topped $100 billion.

The good news for boaters is that the waterways are once again clear, with marinas and services coming back online for transient cruisers. Some spots are fully reopened, while others are partially back in business. Overall, Southwest Florida is eager to welcome yachtsmen once again.

“Our docks are open and available,” says Brandon Skinner, marina manager at Sanibel Marina, which takes transients up to 80 feet in length overall. He says that the ship’s store and the restaurant, Gramma Dot’s, are expected to reopen by the time this issue publishes. “Their kitchen is larger now. The menu is going to stay pretty similar. Everybody loved it, so it’s going to come back.”

Over on Captiva Island, John Wankel, assistant dockmaster at the Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa, says that some of the local marinas have services such as shore power but are still working on restoring others. Tween Waters, which takes transients up to 100 feet, is fully operational. “We have everything on-site, including all the restaurants, back up and running,” he says. “The rest of the island is starting to come back together too.”

Anyone looking to bareboat can contact Southwest Florida Yachts on the mainland in Cape Coral, where operations are resuming this spring. “Thanks to the support, thoughts and prayers from our cruising family, we have been able to rebuild our company,” co-owner Barb Hanson announced. “We will be adding to our fleet as we proceed.”     

Sanibel Lighthouse
It took five months to relight Sanibel Lighthouse after Hurricane Ian smashed into it. This lighthouse was first lit in 1884. Local residents called the relighting a beacon of hope for the area’s recovery. [henryk Sadura]/

The Recovery

  • Damage from Hurricane Ian was extensive. Florida’s governor recently issued an update to help people understand the scope of recovery efforts.
  • National Guardsmen numbering 5,000 strong were brought in for search and recovery.
  • Utility linemen were involved at a level of 43,000 individuals from 30 states.
  • Cubic yards of wet debris removed numbered 931,000.
  • Zero-interest emergency loans totaling more than $37 million have been awarded to more than 900 small businesses.
  • Habitat restoration is underway for more than 200 acres of damaged mangrove forest in Collier County, as well as nearby oyster habitats and wetlands.
  • Beach erosion is being repaired, with more than $14.6 million awarded to property owners along the shoreline.