by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
Captiva Cruises launched the first public cruise aboard its restored flagship vessel, the Lady Chadwick, one year after Hurricane Ian made landfall. Passengers happily boarded the boat Tuesday for a ride to Cabbage Key with time for exploring or lunch before returning to McCarthy’s Marina.
When the massive Category 4 storm hit on Sept. 28, 2022, the Lady Chadwick was in dry dock at Gulf Marine Yacht Works on Main Street in Fort Myers Beach for her biannual Coast Guard hull inspection. The storm surge floated her about 450 feet from the dry dock, and she came to rest with a building collapsed around her.
Captiva Cruises Co-Owner Bob Rando said it was a lot of work to rescue and restore the 65-foot Lady Chadwick to its original state, down to the blue carpet. “We really couldn’t start working on it until February, where we could get to it everyday.”
They first had to wait for the debris to be cleared from around the boat before she could be put back up on blocks by a crane. Then the welding, sandblasting, painting and the rest of the repair work could commence. Rando said the cost of repairs was upwards of $200,000 or about 10 percent of the boat’s replacement cost.
“The whole interior had to be replaced, and the hull had some damage – bent rudder, bent keel,” he said.
In preparation for the storm, Captiva Cruises sent its two 45-foot motorized catamarans – Santiva and Playtime – up the Caloosahatchee River to be moored in Alva, where they ultimately survived without a scratch.
“That is where the Lady Chadwick would have been, if it had not been in dry dock,” Rando said, “but so much of it had been taken apart (for the inspection) there was just not a way to do it.”
While the Lady Chadwick awaited rescue at Fort Myers Beach, the Santiva and Playtime aided in initial recovery efforts. Hurricane Ian had washed away sections of the Sanibel Causeway, cutting off the two islands from the mainland.
“In October and November, we were running recovery workers from Tarpon Point Marina to Captiva,” said Rando. “With the Santiva and Playtime, we could run 98 workers a day from Cape Coral to South Seas to help in the recovery process.”
In January, the Santiva and Playtime returned to their regular lineup of cruises, albeit on a limited schedule and with few passengers. Now, the Lady Chadwick is home and the fleet is whole again.
Day trips start at $35 for dolphin tours and $45 for trips to Cabbage Key and Useppa Island. View the cruise lineup and book at captivacruises.com or call 239-427-5300 for more information.