Boaters told to clear out boats from Fort Myers Yacht Basin

Reporter: Justin Kase Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

Boaters who once called the Fort Myers Yacht Basin home said they don’t know where to dock their boats.

A letter from the City of Fort Myers posted on the fence of the basin said owners have to get their boats out of the marina by Thursday night. But some boaters told WINK News they haven’t been able to find a long-term solution on where to dock after.

Without help or options, the people who called the yacht basin home other than to leave and try docking elsewhere. The City of Fort Myers entered into a lease agreement with Suntex Marinas to revitalize the marina five months after Hurricane Ian.

Leases at the marina were pulled in March, and people were told they had until Thursday night to leave.

For over a year, people calling the Yacht Basin home feared being forced out if the City of Fort Myers leased the marina to a developer. And their fears have come to fruition.

Fort Myers Yacht Basin with signs not approving of SunTex. (CREDIT: WINK News)

“Just throwing us out and shunning us off and just, ‘go your merry way’ don’t work,” James Bayless said.

Bayless, his wife, and their children called the Yacht Basin home for 12 years.

“I’m not against the Suntex sale. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about business. I’m a businessman myself. But in a situation like this… this is a major disaster. You’ve got to handle it with kid gloves. You can’t just throw people out left and right, especially when you got kids involved,” Bayless said.

Bayless, along with other boaters WINK News spoke with, said it’s nearly impossible to find another marina with space available to dock their liveaboard boats. Many others are full or also suffered damage from the storm.

“This whole thing has turned me off so much to living aboard… living on a boat. And I’ve decided to go ahead and sell the boat,” Dave DuVall, a former Yacht Basin resident, said.

DuVall’s lifelong dream was to live on the water. And after what’s happening on Thursday night, he feels as if it’s been taken from him, forced to give it all up.

“I called as far north as 100 miles north of Clearwater. I couldn’t find anything… and nothing locally,” DuVall said.

DuVall is in a temporary slip in Punta Gorda. He and Bayless told WINK News they couldn’t understand how the city could do this to people still recovering from the hurricane’s destruction.

“To not have a little bit of compassion in the midst of all this, it’s disconcerting,” DuVall said.

WINK News reached out to the city and didn’t hear back on Thursday, but we did speak with Councilman Liston Bochette who voted against the plan and hopes the community will open their hearts to the people being forced out.

For people who could not meet Thursday night’s deadline to leave, a phone number is listed on the letter sent to boaters.

WINK News spoke with the city employee that explained they are giving people more time on a case-by-case basis as long as people can show they are taking steps toward removing their boat.

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