The “Eights & Aces” precariously perch on land near the Trico Shrimp Co. in Matanzas Harbor. Under the shadow cast by the shrimping boat’s black and white hull, sailors Oriel Martinez Alvarado and Javier Allan Lopez took a breather.
Dozens of flip flops and HEYDUDE boat shoes — paired and unpaired — had floated in likely from a store in Times Square in Fort Myers Beach. They and others collected their finds on Friday afternoon amid lumber, furniture and toys strewn about the shipyard, and placed them on a concrete pole that had toppled over in the storm.
The shrimping industry’s long history in Fort Myers Beach came to a crashing halt as Hurricane Ian’s storm surge tossed around massive boats like bath toys, most of them now stuck on land.
As the area is home to the largest commercial shrimping fleet in the Gulf of Mexico, the work was reliable. But now, Martinez, Lopez and other shrimpers are out of a job indefinitely.
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“We have family waiting on us, and we have nothing. That’s our worry,” Martinez said in Spanish.
Ahead of Ian, it was too late to evacuate. So they passed the entirety of the storm on the shrimp boats.
“There wasn’t any time to leave or move away because the highway was already congested,” Martinez said. “If we were hit while on the highway, we could have been killed, so we couldn’t leave. We were stuck there.”
During the storm, Martinez and Lopez worried that the boat they were on, the Miz Shirley, might sink. So they crossed onto the Big Daddy with two other sailors.
“The whole boat was turning round and round,” Lopez said.
The passage was dangerous. Martinez hit and injured his leg. They prayed for their safety.
“All you could do, believing in God, because it was life or death,” Martinez said.
“Nothing else left to do,” Lopez added.
In the storm’s wake, information is limited. They haven’t heard from their employer, and any news is brought from passers-by.
“For now we’re thinking of staying here because they said a project is coming. So we’re hoping to get some work,” Martinez said.
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They can’t leave if they wanted to, as transportation is limited.
“We want to at least work ashore,” Lopez said. “Whatever it may be. If we can, we’re there.”
Hannah Morse covers consumer issues for The Palm Beach Post. Drop a line at email@example.com, call 561-820-4833 or follow her on Twitter @mannahhorse.
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: During Hurricane Ian, shrimpers rode out the storm on boats. Now they’re left without work