Sanders' Boat Yard

Dated: April 17 2019

Views: 84

At the end of the 19th century, Estero Island was nothing more than a fishing camp.   However, in 1894, a sawmill was built at the south end of the island and run by the Koreshan Unity.  The Koreshans needed wood for the homes they were building at their settlement up the Estero River in what is now Koreshan State Historic Site.  The men would cut pine trees and transport the trees to the sawmill where they were turned into lumber to build the settlement.  The lumber was also used to build boats and docks as the only way to get to and from the island was by boat.  

George Sanders was a member of the original Koreshans who settled in Estero, but he left the settlement and moved to Estero Island where he opened a boatyard and a small store where Snook Bight Marina and Publix are now.  The store was also home to the post office where mail was delivered three days a week.  Sanders purchased interest in a schooner to grow his business as he supplied goods to towns from Tampa to New Orleans. 

By 1915, Sanders and his sons were shipping goods with boats run by gas engines.  They also ran goods to Fort Myers via the Caloosahatchee River which was a six hour trip each way.  The boats were built and repaired at Sander’s boatyard.  

After World War II, Sanders’ business increased as more and more fishing and shrimp boats used the boat yard for drydock and repairs.  By the end of 1960, the property was purchased by Steve and Carol Terry who cleared the land and built Mid Island Marina which offered covered storage for boats, as well as gas and bait.  James and Debbie Figuerado purchased the property in the 1990s and they operated the full-service marina, boat sales, and a restaurant called the Rusty Pelican. 

In 2003, Publix purchased the front section of the property for a grocery store and Snook Bight Marina and Bayfront Bistro are now located on what was once the old Sanders boatyard.

My memories of this property go back to when it was still Sanders’ boatyard. My dad was an avid fisherman so we would take our boats there for repairs.  In the 1960s and 1970s Mid Island Marina was the go-to place for getting gas and bait for our skiing and fishing adventures. 

In the 1990s my husband sold boats for Jim Figuerado out of the Marina’s sales office.  Today, I still enjoy going to Bayfront Bistro by boat.  Even though the old boatyard is long gone, I love sitting out on the docks and enjoying the same bay view that I remember as a kid. 


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Ellie and Bob Bunting

Ellie has returned to real estate sales after spending the last 40 years teaching English at Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Myers She has teamed up with her husband, Bob, who has been a....

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