Sanibel is the larger of two islands in the Gulf of Mexico off of Fort Myers, Florida. The smaller island is Captiva and my family has a history there.
Around 1934, my grandfather built a house on Captiva, which was, back then, connected to Sanibel by a modest wooden bridge with a span of perhaps 70 or 80 yards. Captiva wasn’t easy to reach in those days. There was a ferry that took a few cars at a time to Sanibel and you had to drive the length of Sanibel—that took about 15 minutes, as I recall—to the wooden bridge. Once over the bridge and on Captiva, it was a short drive to my Grandfather’s house.
The house itself was considered inappropriate and ostentatious by some of the locals when, in fact, it was a rather modest three bedroom dwelling. It did have what we would call “design elements” today: It was U-shaped which created an outdoor patio that was enclosed by a low wall with a decorative gate. It was located in a narrow part of the island, facing the Gulf of Mexico perhaps 75 yards away, with the bay perhaps twice that distance away, behind the house.
There was an outdoor patio behind the house which was built above a cistern which was fed by rainwater that flowed into it from the rain gutters on the roof. That was our drinking water. At the end of our stay, my father would dig a large pit which is where the trash and garbage accumulated during our visit would be buried.
My mother and father honeymooned on Captiva and, according to my younger brother—he gleefully did the math—I was very likely conceived there.
In time and much later—after the island had become discovered by the “snowbirds” from up north—the populations on Sanibel and Captiva had increased to the point that a 40-minute ferry ride was no longer acceptable. Bowing to the pressure, the Lee County government had a causeway constructed linking Sanibel to the mainland.
The causeway provided access to the two islands and opened both up to mainlanders who enjoyed coming out to the two islands for the day.
No more . . . at lease not for a while. The hurricane destroyed several sections of the causeway and, according to several news reports, caused some 6,000 permanent residents to be isolated with little food or water and—I have not heard any media reports—with people already wondering how long they will have to go without th basic necessities.
Based on my prior knowledge, however, I’m of the opinion that there are probably only a handful of people left on these two islands. Permanent residents knew hours ago that it was time to “get out of Dodge”. Without the local experience and insights, the tourists are less well informed and more likely to treat the experience as if it were a grand adventure.
It’s a mess.